October 15, 2017

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

Optional Memorial - October 16th

Occasionally, we get so caught up in the holiness of saints — sometimes to the point of thinking that we could never be like them — that we forget that they, like us, often suffered misunderstanding, criticism, and ridicule for the things they said and did. This was true with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the Visitation nun whose visions of the Sacred Heart were at first largely dismissed as delusions.

Margaret Mary’s childhood was far from idyllic. Born in the village of L'Hautecour, France in 1647, she suffered the death of her father at an early age. That event, coupled with the unscrupulous actions of a relative, resulted in the family being left poverty stricken and humiliated. After her First Communion at the age of nine, Margaret Mary herself became ill and was paralyzed for four years. Her health, along with the desperate situation the family found itself enduring, caused her emotional anguish. “The heaviest of my crosses,” she later said, “was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering.”

During her illness, Margaret Mary developed an intense devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and made a vow to the Blessed Virgin that, if she recovered, she would enter religious life.  Consequently, when her health returned in 1671, she entered the Order of Visitation nuns at Paray-le-Monial. There she was known primarily for her slowness and clumsiness, although one of her fellow novices also noted that she was kind and patient, even when being harshly corrected. Her patience under persecution would end up serving her well in the years to come.

On December 21, 1674, this humble nun began to receive a series of revelations from Christ, who asked her to become the instrument through which He would convey His great love for all humankind. At first, she was afraid that she might be deceived by these experiences, yet as they continued over a period of a year and a half, she came to believe and live the devotion that Christ had invited her to.

Jesus showed Margaret Mary His heart, the symbol of His love, surrounded by a crown of thorns.  “Behold this heart,” He told her, “that has so loved men that it has spared nothing.”  In return, He said, He has often been treated, not with love, but with ingratitude and coldness; He called upon Margaret Mary to make up for this rejection by “frequent and loving Communion, especially on the first Friday of each month, and by an hour’s vigil of prayer each Thursday night in memory of His agony and isolation in Gethsemane.” He also asked that a special feast of the Sacred Heart be established on the Friday after Corpus Christi.

When the visions stopped, it seemed that Margaret Mary’s troubles had just begun.  Many of the sisters in the convent were hostile to her, and theologians declared her to be “delusional.” Even some of the parents of the children she taught reviled her, calling her unorthodox and an imposter. It wasn’t until a new confessor, a Jesuit by the name of Saint Claude de la Colombiere, came to the convent that her genuineness, holiness and personal veracity was recognized.

Following her death in 1690, there was continued discussion surrounding her devotion to the Sacred Heart.  Everything she said, wrote, and did was examined scrupulously by the Sacred Congregation and, finally, in March of 1824, Pope Leo XII pronounced her venerable. She was beatified in 1864 and canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV. Known as the “Apostle of the Sacred Heart,” St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s feast day is October 16th. Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us.

No comments :