Apostolic Letter of Pope John XXIII
ON PROMOTING DEVOTION TO THE MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD OF OUR LORD JESUS
To his Venerable Brother Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops
and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic
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 during July.
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 Christianns -- 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 dignity.
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 prac ticed 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 prac ticing 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 practising 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 encyclicals.
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 Blood.
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 ffor 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 works. 
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 lasts.
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 Catholic
26 (1928): 221-235; "On Devotion to the Sacred Heart,"
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.
1. 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, 471-472.
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.