Maria Droste zu Vischering was born in a German palace, the daughter of a count, and educated by private tutors and in the finest schools. Her life was comfortable and pleasant. Maria was as comfortable in castles as she was in open fields, where, as a girl, she’d run and hike until her fine clothes were mud-spattered and torn.
But Maria was always most comfortable among the poor, the needy, and the vulnerable. It was among them that she found Jesus Christ. And, in 1888, volunteering with poor women in a German hospital, Jesus called her to religious life. Maria heard the Lord say “you shall be the wife of my heart.” Shortly thereafter, she entered the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
She was given the religious name Sister Maria of the Divine Heart, and assigned to work with poor girls in need of love. Eventually, she was sent to Portugal, to work among poor families. And as she worked among the poor, Sister Maria became ever close to divine love—to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.
Sister Maria discovered the Sacred Heart of Jesus as she discovered the meaning of love and sacrifice. She found that the more she sacrificed for the women she served, the more she loved them. She realized that Christ’s love was the same—that it was Christ’s suffering—expressed in his pierced, bleeding, enthorned heart—that was the expression, the meaning, and even the source of knowing his love. “I began to understand,” Sister Maria wrote, “without the spirit of sacrifice, the love of the Heart of Jesus is merely an illusion.”
Sister Maria discovered that the sacrificial love of the Sacred Heart was enough to transform even hardened, broken, suffering human hearts. She knew that the merciful love of God could transform the world. But she was surprised when, in the midst of prayer, the Lord told her to write to Pope Leo XIII, and to ask him that the whole world be consecrated to the Sacred Heart.
She wrote to the Holy Father in 1898, asking him to consecrate the world to Christ’s sacred heart. The pope did not respond. And so she wrote again, with words the Lord had given her. She told the Holy Father that she knew he had been ill—but that the Lord would care for him. She told him that he would live long enough to consecrate the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Sister Maria’s letter was powerful. And just six months later, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “In the Sacred Heart,” he wrote, “all our hopes should be placed, and from it the salvation of men is to be confidently besought.”
Pope Leo XIII called the consecration the “most important act of my pontificate.”
Sister Maria Drochte was a simple religious sister. Her life was devoted to prayer, and to sacrifice. In sacrifice, she discovered the merciful heart of Christ. In suffering, she discovered redemption. And in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she discovered a love that transformed hearts, transformed families, and would transform the world. On June 27th, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, and everyday, may we offer our lives in sacrifice as we love the Sacred Heart of Jesus.