St. Peter Canisius shows that the Church had a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus before the apparitions to St. Margaret Mary in the 1670's. St. Mechthilde of Hackeborn, a Benedictine nun who lived in the 1200's, wrote a book of prayers to the Sacred Heart. St. Peter Canisius made a copy of these prayers, carried them with him wherever he went, and held fast to them on his deathbed.
He is known as the second apostle of Germany (after St. Boniface) and when he was about to set out to begin his mission there he wrote the following prayer:
"My Savior, I seemed to be gazing at the Heart of your Sacred Body with my own eyes. It was as if you opened it to me to drink from it as from a spring, inviting me to draw the waters of salvation from these springs of yours. I was filled with longing that the waters of faith, hope, and charity would flow from your Heart into me. ... Then I dared to touch your beloved Heart and bury my thirst in it; and you promised me a robe woven in three parts to cover my naked soul and help me greatly in my undertaking. These three parts were peace, love, and perseverance. Secure in the protection of this garment, I was confident that I would lack nothing, and that everything would turn out for your glory."
Peace, love, and perseverance: gifts from the Heart of Jesus. They allowed St. Peter to write a popular catechism and to explain the doctrines of the Catholic faith to Protestants and Catholics alike during a time of upheaval in Germany. May the Church today receive these same gifts from the Sacred Heart of Jesus!