ON PROMOTING DEVOTION TO THE MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD
OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
Pope John XXIII
June 30, 1960
To his Venerable Brother Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops,
Bishops and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion
with the Apostolic See
Venerable brethren: greetings and apostolic blessings.
From the very outset of our pontificate, in speaking of
daily devotions we have repeatedly urged the faithful (often
in eager tones that frankly hinted our future design) to
cherish warmly that marvellous manifestation of divine mercy
toward individuals and Holy Church and the whole world
redeemed and saved by Jesus Christ: we mean devotion to his
Most Precious Blood.
From infancy this devotion was instilled in us within our
own household. Fondly we still recall how our parents used
to recite the Litany of the Most Precious Blood every day
The Apostle's wholesome advice comes to mind: "Keep watch,
then, over yourselves, and over God's Church, in which the
Holy Spirit has made you bishops; you are to be the
shepherds of that flock which he won for himself at the
price of his own blood." Now among the cares of our
pastoral office, venerable brethren, we are convinced that,
second only to vigilance over sound doctrine, preference
belongs to the proper surveillance and development of piety,
in both its liturgical and private expressions. With that in
mind, we judge it most timely to call our beloved children's
attention to the unbreakable bond which must exist between
the devotions to the Most Holy Name and Most Sacred Heart of
Jesus -- already so widespread among Christians -- and
devotion to the incarnate Word's Most Precious Blood, "shed
for many, to the remission of sins."
It is supremely important that the Church's liturgy fully
conform to Catholic belief ("the law for prayer is the law
for faith"), and that only those devotional forms be
sanctioned which well up from the unsullied springs of true
faith. But the same logic calls for complete accord among
different devotions. Those deemed more basic and more
conducive to holiness must not be at odds with or cut off
from one another. And the more individualistic and secondary
ones must give way in popularity and practice to those
devotions which more effectively actuate the fullness of
salvation wrought by the "one mediator between God and men,
Jesus Christ, who is a man, like them, and gave himself as a
ransom for them all."  Through living in an atmosphere
thus charged with true faith and solid piety the faithful
can be confident that they are "thinking with the Church"
and holding fast in the loving fellowship of prayer to
Christ Jesus, the high priest of that sublime religion which
he founded and which owes to him its name, its strength, its
The Church's wonderful advances in liturgical piety match
the progress of faith itself in penetrating divine truth.
Within this development it is most heart-warming to observe
how often in recent centuries this Holy See has openly ap
proved and furthered the three devotions just mentioned.
From the Middle Ages, it is true, many pious persons practiced these devotions, which then spread to various dioceses
and religious orders and congregations. Nevertheless it
remained for the Chair of Peter to pronounce them orthodox
and approve them for the Church as a whole.
Suffice it to recall the spiritual favours that our
predecessors from the sixteenth century on have attached to
practicing devotion to the Most Holy Name of Jesus, which
in the previous century St. Bernardine of Siena untiringly
spread throughout Italy. Approval was given first to the
Office and Mass of the Most Holy Name and later to the
Litany. No less striking are the benefits the popes have
attached to practicing devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of
Jesus, whose rise and spread owe so much to the revelations
of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. So
highly have all the popes regarded this devotion that again
and again in their official acts they have expounded its
nature, defended its validity, promoted its practice. Their
crowning achievement on this devotion are three splendid
Likewise the devotion to the Most Precious Blood, which owes
its marvellous diffusion to the 19th-century Ro man priest,
St. Gaspar del Bufalo, has rightly merited the approval and
backing of this Apostolic See. We may recall that by order
of Benedict XIV the Mass and Office in honour of the divine
Saviour's adorable Blood were composed. And to fulfill a vow
made at Gaeta Pius IX extended the feast to the whole
Church. Finally, as a commemoration of the nineteenth
centenary of our redemption, Pius XI of happy memory raised
this feast to the rank of first-class double, so that the
greater liturgical splendour would highlight the devotion
and bring to men more abundant fruits of the re deeming
Following our predecessors' example we have taken further
steps to promote the devotion to the Precious Blood of the
unblemished Lamb, Jesus Christ. We have approved the Litany
of the Precious Blood drawn up by the Sacred Congregation of
Rites and through special indulgences have encouraged its
public and private recitation throughout the Catholic world.
Amid today's most serious and pressing spiritual needs, may
this latest exercise of that "care for all the churches"
proper to our sovereign office awaken in Christian hearts a
firm conviction about the supreme abiding effectiveness of
these three devotions.
As we now approach the feast and month devoted to honouring
Christ's Blood ---- the price of our redemption, the pledge
of salvation and life eternal -- may Christians meditate on
it more fervently, may they savour its fruits more
frequently in sacramental communion. Let their meditations
on the boundless power of the Blood be bathed in the light
of sound biblical teaching and the doctrine of the Fathers
and Doctors of the Church. How truly precious is this Blood
is voiced in the song which the Church sings with the
Angelic Doctor (sentiments wisely seconded by our
predecessor Clement VI  ) :
Blood that but one drop of has the world to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin. 
Unlimited is the effectiveness of the God-Man's Blood --
just as unlimited as the love that impelled him to pour it
out for us, first at his circumcision eight days after
birth, and more profusely later on in his agony in the
garden, in his scourging and crowning with thorns, in
his climb to Calvary and crucifixion, and finally from out
that great wide wound in his side which symbolizes the
divine Blood cascading down into all the Church's
sacraments. Such sur passing love suggests, nay demands,
that everyone reborn in the torrents of that Blood adore it
with grateful love.
The Blood of the new and eternal covenant especially
deserves this worship of latria when it is elevated during
the sacrifice of the Mass. But such worship achieves its
normal fulfilment in sacramental communion with the same
Blood, indissolubly united with Christ's eucharistic Body.
In intimate association with the celebrant the faithful can
then truly make his sentiments at communion their own: "I
will take the chalice of salvation and call upon the name of
the Lord. . . The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my
soul for everlasting life. Amen." Thus as often as they come
worthily to this holy table they will receive more abundant
fruits of the redemption and resurrection and eternal life
won for all men by the Blood Christ shed "through the Holy
Spirit." Nourished by his Body and Blood, sharing the
divine strength that has sustained count less martyrs, they
will stand up to the slings and arrows of each day's
fortunes -- even if need be to martyrdom itself for the sake
of Christian virtue and the kingdom of God. Theirs will be
the experience of that burning love which made St. John
Chrysostom cry out:
Let us, then, come back from that table like lions breathing
out fire, thus becoming terrifying to the Devil, and
remaining mindful of our Head and of the love he has shown
for us. . . This Blood, when worthily received, drives away
demons and puts them at a distance from us, and even summons
to us angels and the Lord of angels. . . This Blood, poured
out in abundance, has washed the whole world clean. . . This
is the price of the world; by it Christ purchased the
Church... This thought will check in us unruly passions. How
long, in truth, shall we be attached to present things? How
long shall we remain asleep? How long shall we not take
thought for our own salvation? Let us remember what
privileges God has bestowed on us, let us give thanks, let
us glorify him, not only by faith, but also by our very
If only Christians would reflect more frequently on the
fatherly warning of the first pope: "Look anxiously, then,
to the ordering of your lives while your stay on earth
You know well enough that your ransom was not paid in
earthly currency, silver or gold; it was paid in the
precious blood of Christ; no lamb was ever so pure, so
spotless a victim." If only they would lend a more eager
ear to the apostle of the Gentiles: "A great price was paid
to ransom you; glorify God by making your bodies the shrines
of his presence." Their upright lives would then be the
shining ex ample they ought to be; Christ's Church would far
more effectively fulfill its mission to men. God wants all
men to be saved, for he has willed that they should all
be ransomed by the Blood of his only-begotten Son; he calls
them all to be members of the one Mystical Body whose head
is Christ. If only men would be more responsive to these
promptings of his grace, how much the bonds of brotherly
love among individuals and peoples and nations would be
strengthened. Life in society would be so much more
peaceable, so much worthier of God and the human nature
created in his image and likeness.
This is the sublime vocation that St. Paul urged Jewish
converts to fix their minds on when tempted to nostalgia for
what was only a weak figure and prelude of the new covenant:
"The scene of your approach now is mount Sion, is the
heavenly Jerusalem, city of the living God; here are
gathered thousands upon thousands of angels, here is the
assembly of those first-born sons whose names are written in
heaven, here is God sitting in judgment on all men, here are
the spirits of just men, now made perfect; here is Jesus,
the spokesman of the new covenant, and the sprinkling of his
blood, which has better things to say than Abel's had." 
We have full confidence, venerable brethren, that these
fatherly exhortations of ours, once brought to the attention
of your priests and people in whatever way you deem best,
will be put into practice not just willingly but
enthusiastically. As a sign of heavenly graces and our
affection we im part our most heartfelt apostolic blessing
to each of you and to all your flocks, and particularly to
those who respond with devout generosity to the promptings
of this letter.
Given at St. Peter's in Rome, the eve of the feast of Our
Lord Jesus Christ's Most Precious Blood, June 30, 1960, the
second year of our pontificate.
1. Acts 20:28.
2. Matthew 26 :2&
3. Encyclical "On the Sacred Liturgy," America Press edition
(New York: 1954), No. 46.
4. I Timothy 2:5-6.
5. Acta Sanctae Sedis 18 (1886) :509.
6. Cf. Office for the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of
Jesus, 2nd nocturn, lesson 5.
7. "On the Consecration of mankind to the Sacred Heart of
Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII (New York: 1903),
454-- 461; "The Reparation Due to the Sacred Heart," The
26 (1928): 221-235; "On Devotion to the Sacred Heart," The
Pope Speaks 3 (1956): 115-149.
8. Decree "Redempti Sumus," Aug. 10, 1849, Decreta
Authentica S.RC. (Rome: 1898), II, No. 2978.
9. II Corinthians 11:28.
10. Bull "The Only Begotten Son of God," Jan. 25, 1343, The
Sources of Catholic Dogma (St. Louis: 1957), No. 550.
11. Hymn "Adoro te devote." Translation from Poems of Gerard
Manley Hopkins (Oxford: 1930), No. 89.
12. Luke 22:43.
13. Hebrews 9:14.
14. "Homily 46," Commentary on Saint John the Apostle and
Evangelist (Fathers of the Church, New York: 1957), 469,
15. 1 Peter 1:17-19.
16. I Corinthians 6:20.
17. Cf. I Timothy 2:4.
18. Cf. Genesis 1:26.
19. Hebrews 12:22-24.
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