He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands and Heart

It’s one of those things that happens to me, from time to time, and if my Facebook timeline is any indicator, it happens to others, as well: the sudden prevalence of a saint, or a devotion appearing before me, insisting on getting my attention until I give in and invite this new prayer or holy person into my life.

Last year, it was the Infant of Prague. For months, wherever I turned, there he was — as a bookmark in an old Bible; on the funeral card of an elderly friend; even in the bakery, above the cash register. I was feeling hunted by the Infant of Prague and did not understand why, until I finally gave in and purchased a small Infant for my office.

Now, every day I look up at him on the high shelf as I do my work, and I feel strangely comforted and “kept company.” I talk to him when work is not going well, seeking out his support. I sit back with coffee when I need a break and study his molded, regal robes — the orb topped by his cross in one hand, his other hand held up in a sign of peaceful blessing, the reassuring crown of his kingship — and he provides a strong counterweight to the distressing headlines I read all day in my job. He helps to quiet my mind when it is racing, and to bring a godly perspective to each day.

The Infant of Prague has become my daily companion, and I thank him often, in a familiar way, as I exit my desk at day’s end, singing, “He’s got the whole world in his hands; he’s got the whole wide world, in his hands … ”

The reason I knew enough to pay attention to the Infant when he began to show up all around me was because the previous year the very same thing had happened with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A devotion to the Sacred Heart had not been part of my upbringing and so, while I “got” the symbolic image of the heart aflame, surrounded by thorns and topped by the cross, I never really understood what it meant for humanity. As an adult, I read about the visions of St. Margaret Mary, and enthronements, but it all seemed rather quaint to me — something Catholics used to do — and the doe-eyed depiction of Christ that went with the heart seemed overly sentimental. No, the Sacred Heart of Jesus wasn’t speaking to me.

But then I began to feel stalked by the Sacred Heart, in unusual artworks that first grabbed my attention and then pulled me in; they made me sit up and study the image with new eyes. I saw a crude, but beautiful, image of the Heart nailed to a tree; another was drawn in a raw manner such as one might see in New Orleans — bright, jagged colors surrounding the Heart and pulsing out from it. Separated from the soft-focus images of Christ, the boldness of the Sacred Heart came through to me in surprising and instructive ways. One night, pondering this now-enthroned heart as painted by a gifted friend, I wrote in my journal:

“Why is everyone so afraid? Don’t we realize that fear is the foundation that supports so much of our sin? I’m stupid, and sometimes I will not be afraid when perhaps I should be. But I’d rather be stupid, naive and bumbling than so afraid all the time.

“Every day, I ponder the Sacred Heart of Jesus before me — ‘abode of Justice and Love … enriching all who invoke thee …’ — and I realize that every concern can be placed into that huge heart, and left there, in complete trust, because his Heart (like Christ himself) is ever-faithful.

“Nothing is safe or pure. Everyone will have a turn in the crucible. But the Sacred Heart is a self-immolation, never consumed. It is there, in the crucible with us. What is there, then, to fear?”

Christ’s heart beats with ours. In the Litany of the Sacred Heart we discover prayer with a pulse, one that aligns our rhythms to His, and we can remember: He’s got my whole world, in His heart.

Elizabeth Scalia, Obl.O.S.B., is editor-in-chief of Aleteia.org’s English edition and the author of “Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life” (Ave Maria Press) and “Little Sins Mean a Lot” (OSV). She is married and lives in New York.