February 14, 2017

Saint Claude de la Colombiere, Jesuit Missionary and Apostle of the Sacred Heart

St. Claude de la Colombière
February 15th is the feast of St. Claude de la Colombiere (1641-1682), the 17th century Jesuit priest, preacher and missionary to England. He is best known as the confessor and spiritual advisor to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque to whom our Lord revealed the treasures of his Sacred Heart.

In the course of Christ’s appearances to her, Margaret Mary was overcome with anguish and uncertainty. Jesus promised her "my faithful servant and perfect friend" to assist her in carrying out her divine mission. That "faithful servant" would arrive a short time later in the person of Father Colombiere. He would reassure Margaret Mary as to the vision’s authenticity. Due to his support, Margaret Mary’s superior came to believe, and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was soon promulgated throughout France.

Claude de la Colombière was born the third child of Bertrand and Margaret de la Colombière in in St. Symphorien d'Ozon, France. His family was pious and of high standing. Claude was schooled in rhetoric and philosophy from an early age. His penchant for the ways of God coupled with a brilliant intellect portended a future religious vocation of great distinction. His devotion grew, sustained by prayer.

At the age of 17, he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Avignon. In 1660, he moved from the Novitiate to the College, also in Avignon, where he pronounced his first vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Afterward he was a professor of grammar and literature in the same school for an additional five years.

In 1674, after 15 years of Jesuit life, he professed a vow to observe all the constitutions and rules of the Society of Jesus. He discovered in this regimen of sanctity an experience of inner liberation and a greater ability to open his heart to others in ministry. So magnificent did this ideal seem to him that he adopted it as his program of sanctity. This he practiced perfectly in imitation of the Savior.

Claude was named rector at the Jesuit college at Paray-le-Monial, France in 1675. Such an out of the way appointment for such a promising priest raised eyebrows. The reason soon became clear. While in Paray, Colombiere became the spiritual advisor for Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Jesus was revealing to Margaret Mary visions of his compassionate heart for the world, and now, Fr. Colombiere would prove invaluable in helping to spread that message to France and to the world.

Because of his remarkable gifts and judgment, he was sent to England, to be court preacher to the duchess of York, wife of the future James II, and took up residence in London. His radiant personality and splendid gifts were noted by everyone. When the alleged "Popish Plot" to assassinate King Charles II shook the country, Blessed Claude was accused of complicity in the plot and imprisoned. Through the intervention of Louis XIV of France, he was released, then banished from the country. He spent his last years at Paray-le-Monial, his health broken.

During the summer of 1681 he returned to Paray, in very poor condition. Then, on February 15, 1682, the first Sunday of Lent, towards evening Claude suffered the severe hemorrhage which ended his life. On June 16, 1929 Pope Pius XI beatified Claude La Colombiere, and Pope John Paul II declared him a saint on May 31, 1992. Grant, almighty God, through the yearly observances of holy Lent, that we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effects. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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