A Father’s Love:  The Sacred Heart and Holy Hands

By Deacon John William McMullen


Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened…” (Matt. 11:28).

The statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was the first thing you’d see when you’d go to Mamaw and Papaw’s. That statue has been in our family for nearly 90 years, a gift from Father Henry Joseph Doll. As pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Vincennes, he gave it to my paternal grandparents, John Louis and Maureen McMullen, after the death of their first son by miscarriage.

Jesus’ hands bear the nail marks from His crucifixion. His right hand is extended in a blessing, as he holds out a large black-beaded rosary; His left hand points to His heart.

As I reflected upon the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – the wounded heart and hands that so loved the world – I thought of my own Father’s heart and hands.

When I was a child, I would sit in my father’s lap, with my ear to his chest. I could hear his heart beat. He would often tenderly sing to me, “You Are My Sunshine.” Dad would read to me and hold me close. I remember my tiny hands were dwarfed by his hands.

I grew up watching Dad work with his hands: gardening, baking, water color and oil paintings, sketching, woodworking; in prayer, his hands grasped the beads of his rosary and turned the pages of his missal or bible.

My paternal grandfather was a woodworker; when he retired from the railroad, he and my father began to build grandfather clocks and other crafts.

Dad was a pharmacist, and his hands were essential in filling prescriptions. But, in 1975, Dad lost part of his left thumb in a table saw accident as he was working with Papaw on a project. The surgeon was able to rebuild the thumb, but it was disfigured for the rest of his life.

About a year later, a lightning strike in the Old Cathedral cemetery severed the left hand of the crucified Christ of the crucifix that marks the grave of the Jean François Rivét. Monsignor Leo J. Conti, then-pastor of the Old Cathedral, asked my father to repair the severed hand. Dad welcomed the opportunity, and I accompanied him as he worked.

My grandfather died in 1990, and my Dad inherited the Statue of the Sacred Heart.

When my wife, Mary Grace, and I married in 1992, my Dad began to work on building a grandfather clock for our home. When Dad presented us with the clock, he told us that when he went to Papaw’s workshop, he discovered that, before Papaw died, he had already begun work on a walnut clock casing. My Dad then incorporated Papaw’s work into our clock; in effect, both he and Papaw built the clock.

In the summer of 2016, Dad’s last year with us, he wanted me to have some starts from his garden’s flowers and plants. We knelt in the garden and, lovingly, he worked the soil with his hands, carefully removing the lilies, bulbs and florae, and gently placed them in small pots and bags.

Throughout his life, my father revealed the love of his heart through the work of his hands.

Jesus reveals to us the Father’s love by his Most Sacred Heart and the work of His Healing Hands.

One of the last times I was with my dad, in his hospital room, he reached out and held my hand.

It was late at night, and Dad wanted me to be careful driving home. He said, “Watch for deer.” His three-word phrase had a double meaning: I love you.

These were his last words to me.

The Sacred Heart statue is still in our family. I am a child of the Sacred Heart; and every time I behold the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his wounded hands, I am reminded of the Father’s love.

May we each allow our hands to reveal the love of our hearts.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.