Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles will lead the nation’s Catholics in praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart on Good Friday to “seek healing for all those who are unwell, wisdom for those whose work in halting the spread of the coronavirus, and strength for all God’s children.” 

With churches closed for Holy Week due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the prayer service, which will be livestreamed over YouTube and Facebook, “offers a special moment of unity for the faithful,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in an April 2 statement. 

“I remember learning, when I was a kid, that beautiful aspiration: ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you,’ ” said Archbishop Gomez. “I think it might be beautiful that all of us, in this challenging time, together, go to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, finding peace, and understanding that we have to love one another as Jesus loves us.” 

Archbishop Gomez will lead the litany at 9 a.m. Pacific time (noon Eastern, 11 a.m. Central, 10 a.m. Mountain) Friday, April 10, from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. The bilingual service will include Scripture readings and a short homily by Archbishop Gomez, followed by the recitation of the litany. The service will be livestreamed on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles website and on the USCCB Facebook page. Catholics can read the prayer in English and Spanish on the Los Angeles archdiocesan website.

A plenary indulgence, which removes the temporal punishment due to sins, is offered to those who join in praying the litany in accordance with the recent directive from the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See.

Faithful who wish to receive the indulgence need to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart on Friday, be truly repentant of any sins they have committed, pray for the intentions of the pope,  and receive the sacrament of confession at the earliest opportunity.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became popular after St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th-century nun, received a series of visions from Jesus. He told her that he wanted to show humanity his love for them by encouraging a devotion to “the heart that so loved mankind.” 

Many refused to believe St. Margaret’s account of her visions, but her spiritual director, St. Claude de la Colombière, kept a record of what she had seen. Eventually, the Church reviewed these accounts, but it was not until 1899 that Pope Leo XIII approved the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for public use.

The litany begins, as do others approved by the Church, with petitions to the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. It contains 33 invocations to the Heart of Jesus, with the response, “Have mercy on us,” and closes with the prayer to the Lamb of God.

The image of Christ’s heart pierced with thorns, but still burning with love, is widely associated with this devotion.