Corrado Giaquinto (1703–1766). Sainte Marguerite Marie Alacoque contemplant le Sacré Cœur de Jésus, 1765, 171 X 123
Sainte Marguerite-Marie Alacoque
Religieuse visitandine à Paray-le-Monial (✝ 1690)
Elle est née, le 22 juillet 1647, en
Bourgogne Elle devient orpheline alors qu'elle a douze ans et ses tantes
qui gèrent la famille font d'elle un véritable souffre-douleur. A 24 ans, elle
peut enfin réaliser sa vocation: répondre à l'amour intense de Dieu. Les grâces
mystiques qui accompagnent ses épreuves culminent en 1673 dans plusieurs
visions du Christ: Voici le cœur qui a tant aimé les hommes jusqu'à s'épuiser
et se consumer pour leur témoigner son amour. Guidée par le Saint jésuite Claude
de La Colombière, elle parviendra à promouvoir le culte du Sacré-Cœur
d'abord dans son monastère de la Visitation, puis dans toute l'Église
Catholique latine. Elle meurt le 16 octobre 1690.
Béatifiée d'abord par l'opinion populaire à cause de tous les miracles obtenus par son intercession, les pressions jansénistes puis la Révolution retarderont sa béatification jusqu'en 1864 puis sa canonisation en 1920. Les foules continuent d'affluer à Paray le Monial. Plusieurs Papes ont souligné l'importance de son message: l'immensité de l'Amour de Dieu révélé dans un cœur d'homme, et proposé à tous.
- vidéo de la webTV de la CEF, Chronique des saints: Marguerite-Marie Alacoque.
Mémoire de sainte Marguerite-Marie Alacoque, vierge. Entrée à vingt-quatre ans au monastère de la Visitation à Paray-le-Monial en Bourgogne, elle avança de manière admirable sur le chemin de la perfection. Pourvue de dons mystiques, elle se préoccupa avant tout de la dévotion envers le Sacré-Cœur de Jésus, et fit beaucoup pour promouvoir son culte dans l'Église. Elle mourut le 17 octobre 1690.
En vous oubliant de vous-même, vous le posséderez. En vous abandonnant à lui, il vous possédera. Allez donc, pleine de foi et d'une amoureuse confiance, vous livrer à la merci de sa Providence, pour lui être un fonds qu'il puisse cultiver à son gré et sans résistance de votre part, demeurant dans une humble et paisible adhérence à son bon plaisir.
Lettre à une religieuse
National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Solemnly Consecrated June 15, 1985, on July 2, 2000, Dedication of New Altar Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila Sacred Heart Street List of barangays of Metro Manila, Legislative districts of Makati, Barangay San Antonio, Makati City.
SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/sainte_marguerite-marie_alacoque.html
Le Sacré-Coeur de Jésus et Marguerite-Marie Alacoque. Vitrail datant de 1916. Maitre-verrier : Charles Champigneulle, Eglises d'Ivry sur Seine
Sainte Marguerite Marie Alacoque
Armand Cambon, Vision de Margaruerite Marie Alacoque, sœur de la Visitation, 1863,
Ce divin Coeur est un abîme de bien où les pauvres doivent abîmer leurs nécessités ; un abîme de joie où il faut abîmer toutes nos tristesses ; un abîme d'humiliation pour notre orgueil, un abîme de miséricorde pour les misérables, et un abîme d'amour où il nous faut abîmer toutes nos misères.
Dites dans chacune de vos actions : " Mon Dieu, je vais faire ou souffrir cela dans le Sacré Coeur de votre divin Fils et selon ses saintes intentions que je vous offre pour réparer tout ce qu'il y a d'impur ou d'imparfait dans les miennes. " Et ainsi de tout le reste.
Ne nous troublons pas, car les troubles ne servent qu'à augmenter notre mal. L'Esprit de Dieu fait tout en paix. Recourons à Lui avec amour et confiance, et il nous recevra entre les bras de sa miséricorde.
Vous demandez quelque courte prière pour lui témoigner votre amour ; pour moi je n'en connais point d'autre et n'en trouve point de meilleur que ce même amour, car tout parle quand on aime, et même les plus grandes préoccupation sont des preuves de notre amour.
A la vérité, je crois que tout se change en amour, et une âme qui est une fois embrasée de ce feu sacré, n'a plus d'autre exercice ni d'autre emploi que d'aimer en souffrant.
Le Seigneur ne fait sa demeure que dans la paix d'une âme qui aime fortement de se voir anéantie, pour demeurer comme toute perdue dans l'amour à son abjection.
Vous ne trouverez de paix ni de repos que lorsque vous aurez tout sacrifié à Dieu.
Ne nous troublons pas, car les troubles ne servent qu'à augmenter notre mal. L'Esprit de Dieu fait tout en paix. Recourons à Lui avec amour et confiance, et il nous recevra entre les bras de sa miséricorde.
La sainteté d'amour donne à l'âme un désir si ardent d'être unie à Dieu qu'elle n'a de repos ni jour ni nuit ... Dieu se faisant voir à l'âme et lui découvrant les trésors dont il l'enrichit et l'ardent amour qu'il a pour elle.
Sainte Marguerite-Marie Alacoque
Quand l’homme veut agir, il choisit l’instrument le plus capable de la fin qu’il se propose. Si un souverain souverain choisit un ministère, il le prend ou essaye de le prendre tel que ses fonctions le réclament. Si un homme veut faire son portrait, il s’adresse à un peintre, pas à un cordonnier.
Quand Dieu veut agir, il prend le procédé directement contraire. Il choisit l’instrument le plus absolument incapable. Il est jaloux de montrer qu’il agit seul et va chercher la faiblesse la plus extrême pour que nous ne soyons tentés d’attribuer la force à l’instrument. Déjà du temps de saint Paul, il avait choisi la faiblesse pour confondre la force, Saint Pierre, qui devait le représenter, lui à qui la puissance allait être donnée, la puissance officielle, le gouvernement, Saint Pierre qui allait lier et délier, saint Pierre, le maître des clefs, chargé d’ouvrir et de fermer le ciel, saint Pierre est désigné par une faiblesse incalculable : il renie trois fois, par peur d’une servante, celui dont il avait vu la face resplendir sur la montagne du Thabor. II faut scruter cette faiblesse et pénétrer dans cet abîme, si l’on veut savoir à quel point saint Pierre représente la force ; car l’abîme appelle l’abîme, et il représente la force avec une réalité divine d’autant plus grande que sa faiblesse humaine fut plus incommensurable.
Un jour saint François d’Assise rencontra un religieux qui lui dit : - Pourquoi donc, pourquoi donc ce concours de monde vers vous ? Pourquoi cette foule ? Pourquoi ce respect ? Pourquoi se presse-t-on sur vos pas ?
Saint François répondit :
-Dieu a regardé le monde, cherchant par quel misérable il pourrait bien manifester sa puissance. Ses yeux très saints, en tombant sur la terre, n’ont rien trouvé de si vil, de si bas, de si petit, de si ignoble que moi. Voilà la raison de son choix.
Vous voyez que c’est toujours le même procédé.
Cependant il restait dans Pierre et dans François de grands dons naturels. C’étaient des âmes élevées. François avait quelque chose de naturellement sublime dans l’esprit et de naturellement héroïque dans le coeur.
Mais si nous regardons Marie Alacoque, qui fut chargée d’une grande oeuvre, nous contemplerons un des chefs-d'oeuvre de la misère humaine sans compensation. Ce n’est pas une grande nature égarée par de grandes passions ; c’est une petite nature, étroite, sans attrait, sans lumière naturelle, sans style, sans parole. Elle n’avait qu’une chose, l’amour, le dévouement. Mais telle est la pauvreté de ses moyens naturels que l’amour même la rend rarement éloquente. Elle bégaye, elle ânonne, elle hésite. Elle ne sait pas. Seulement, elle aime et elle obéit. La voilà dans la gloire. Elle est choisie.
« Je t’ai choisie, lui dit Jésus-Christ, comme un abîme d’indignité et d’ignorance pour l’accomplissement de ce grand dessein, afin que tout soit fait par moi. »
En fait d’ignorance, il est difficile d’aller plus loin
M. Louis Veuillot a fait le parallèle de Dante et d’Angèle de Foligno.
Même comme oeuvre humaine et comme poésie, il préfère infiniment Angèle de Foligno, et il a raison.
Les foudres du coeur éclatent dans Angèle.
« Si un ange, dit-elle, me prédisait la mort de mon amour, je lui dirais : C’est toi qui est tombé du ciel Et si quelqu’un, n’importe qui, me racontait la Passion de Jésus-Christ, comme je la sens, je lui dirais ; C’est toi qui l’as soufferte (Visions et révélations d’Angèle de Foligno). »
Ses anéantissements, quand le nom de Dieu est prononcé devant elle, dépassent les transports des plus grands poètes anciens ou modernes.
Sainte Thérèse, quoique très inférieure à Angèle, est cependant une femme hors ligne. Renan l’admire beaucoup. L’imagination de sainte Thérèse est ardente et son esprit est subtil.
Mais Marie Alacocque est un défi jeté à l’esprit humain. Personne n’eût songé à la choisir, personne excepté Dieu, qui voulut priver ici son instrument de toutes les splendeurs humaines, sans en excepter une. Aussi pauvre d’intelligence que de fortune, elle ne sait comment rendre compte de ce qui se passe en elle. Son dévouement est sans bornes, son amour est généreux jusqu’au plus complet et au plus déchirant sacrifice d’elle-même tout entière. Et cependant son biographe, le R. Père Giraud, supérieur des missionnaires de la Salette, dit à propos d’une de ses révélations :
« Ce langage paraîtra peut-être au pieux lecteur peu digne de Notre-Seigneur. Il faut l’éclaircir sur ce point, afin de dissiper en lui toute impression défavorable...
« Ce qui a paru petit et puéril dans l’expression, au jugement de quelques censeurs, ne sera pas attribué à Jésus-Christ, mais à la simplicité de la personne qui fait parler Jésus-Christ, et on n’attribuera au divin Maître que le fond et la substance des pensées et des sentiments. »
Pour les détails de sa vie, nous renvoyons le lecteur au livre du père Giraud (1), qui, s’effaçant autant que possible, a laissé parler la Bienheureuse elle-même, s'appliquant seulement à expliquer et à commenter sa vie et ses paroles. Il serait difficile de rencontrer un plus digne commentateur ; car l’esprit de la Bienheureuse le pénètre si parfaitement que c’est à peine si elle cesse de parler, quand le père Giraud parle.
Cette pauvre fille, absolument dépourvue d'imagination, voit Jésus-Christ et l’entend lui dire :
« Mon divin Coeur est si passionné d’amour pour les hommes et pour toi en particulier, que ne pouvant contenir en soi les flammes de son ardente charité, il faut qu’il les répande par ton moyen. »
Quelques-uns croiront que la pauvre religieuse travaillait à s’exalter et qu’on travaillait autour d’elle à l’exalter ; c’est le contraire qui arrivait.
Ses voies extraordinaires ne convenaient pas, lui disait-on à la Visitation de Sainte-Marie, et il fallait y renoncer.
On lui donne à garder une ânesse et son ânon, pour occuper et distraire son esprit. Elle répond : « Puisque Saül, en gardant des ânesses, a trouvé le royaume d’Israël, il faut que j’acquière le royaume du ciel en courant après de tels animaux. »
Suivant la remarque intéressante du père Giraud, cette pauvre fille, qui ne sait rien, cite sans cesse l’Écriture. Elle en a même une intelligence tout à fait au-dessus de sa nature.
On attribue tantôt à la nature, tantôt au démon les phénomènes qui se passent en elle. On lutte par tous les moyens possibles contre elle et contre eux. Elle se fait, par obéissance, la complice des erreurs que l’on commet sur elle. Tout conspire contre elle, y compris elle-même. Elle n’a ni talent, ni intelligence, ni autorité, ni prestige. On intéresse sa conscience à lutter contre ses visions.
Contre elle, elle a tout. Pour elle, elle n’a rien. Cependant elle a triomphé, elle triomphe et surtout elle triomphera. Sans armes, sans industrie, sans génie, sans allié, elle a conquis la gloire, qu’elle fuyait. La gloire la fuyait ; elle fuyait la gloire, et cependant les voilà unies l’une à l’autre dans le temps et dans l’éternité.
Son nom est connu partout ; beaucoup s’en moquent, il est vrai. Mais ceux-là même le connaissent. Leur moquerie, comme leur colère, est un hommage d’autant plus frappant qu’il est involontaire. C’est un hommage rendu de force à cette inconcevable célébrité, qui n’a pas d’explication humaine. Si ce n’est pas Dieu qui l’a glorifiée, qui donc l’a glorifiée, et par quel prodige une telle petite fille, si parfaitement dépourvue de dons naturels, par sa pauvreté intellectuelle, par sa pauvreté sociale, par sa pauvreté religieuse, incapable de toutes les manières, désirant en outre l’obscurité, qui semblait à tous les points de vue lui être assurée ; comment cette pauvre fille, dont nous ne devrions pas savoir le nom, est-elle à la fois glorieuse et célèbre, glorieuse dans l’Église, célèbre dans le monde ? On se moque d’elle, bien entendu. Mais, si elle eût été livrée à l’oubli naturel qui l’attendait nécessairement, il serait aussi impossible de s’en moquer que de la vanter. Car on ne se moque pas, après deux siècles, dans le monde entier, de la première petite fille venue. On l’ignore, et voilà tout. Si Marie Alacocque eût cherché, par une maladresse insigne, la réputation, jamais elle ne l’eût rencontrée. Par dessus toutes les disgrâces réunies de la nature et de la société, elle porte un nom qui dit lui-même une disgrâce. Ce mot : Alacocque, prête à la plaisanterie.
Toute la vie de la bienheureuse Marguerite-Marie Alacocque est une lutte entre la grossièreté de sa nature et l’élévation qui lui est conférée. Un jour, elle veut faire une pénitence corporelle sur la nature de laquelle elle ne s’explique pas, mais qui lui donnait, dit-elle, grand appétit par sa rigueur. Jésus-Christ le lui défend ; car, dit-elle, étant Esprit, il veut aussi les sacrifices de l’Esprit.
C’est simple et clair ; mais elle était incapable de penser cela naturellement.
Une autre fois, Jésus-Christ lui dit : « Je te rendrai si pauvre, si vile et si abjecte à tes yeux, et je te détruirai si fort dans la pensée de ton coeur, que je pourrai m’édifier sur ce néant ».
Remarquez ce mot : dans la pensée de ton coeur ; c’est le style de l’Écriture. Voilà Marguerite-Marie qui parle admirablement. Comment donc s’y prend-elle ? Et qui donc lui apprend à penser comme saint Paul ?
Mais qui donc lui apprend aussi à penser comme Moïse ?
Jésus-Christ lui montre un jour les châtiments qu’il réserve à certaines âmes, ennemies de Marguerite-Marie.
« Je me jetai, reprend Marguerite-Marie, à ses pieds sacrés, en lui disant : - O mon Sauveur ! déchargez sur moi toute votre colère, et m’effacez du livre de vie plutôt que de perdre ces âmes qui vous ont couté si cher ! Et il me répondit : - Mais elles ne t'aiment pas et ne cesseront pas de t’affliger. - Il n’importe, mon Dieu ! pourvu qu’elles vous aiment, je ne veux cesser de vous prier de leur pardonner. - Laisse-moi faire, je ne les peux souffrir davantage. - Et l’embrassant encore plus fortement : Non, mon Seigneur, je ne vous quitterai point que vous ne leur ayez pardonné. - Et il me disait : Je le veux bien si tu veux répondre pour elles. - Oui, mon Dieu, mais je ne vous paierai toujours qu'avec vos propres biens, qui sont les trésors de votre Sacré Coeur. - C’est de quoi il se tint content. »
Ne reconnaissez-vous pas Moïse? « Lâche-moi ? - Non je ne vous lâcherai pas. »
La vie de la bienheureuse Marguerite-Marie, commencée par elle, est terminée par le P. Giraud. Il n’eût pas été facile de choisir un plus digne historien. On pourrait croire que le P. Giraud a été le directeur de la Bienheureuse, tant il la connaît profondément. Il ne la connaît pas seulement avec la pensée de son esprit, il la connaît avec la pensée de son coeur. Il a puisé aux mêmes sources. Il ne faut pas insister plus longtemps sur lui, dans la crainte de lui déplaire, car il est de ceux qui aiment le secret.
1. (1) La Vie de la bienheureuse Marguerite- Marie, religieuse de la Visitation, écrite par elle-même. Texte authentique de ce précieux écrit, accompagné de notes historiques et théologiques, et suivi du récit des dernières années de la vie de la Bienheureuse et d’une neuvaine en son honneur, par le Père S. M. Giraud.
Ernest HELLO. Physionomies de saints.
SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/17-10-Ste-Marguerite-Marie
Sainte Marguerite Marie, église Saint Augustin de Paris
Margarita Mary Alacoque
Margherita Mary Alacoque
Marguerite Mary Alacoque
Healed from a crippling disorder by a vision of the Blessed Virgin, which prompted her to give her life to God. After receiving a vision of Christ fresh from the Scourging, she was moved to join the Order of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial in 1671.
Received a revelation from Our Lord in 1675, which included 12 promises to her and to those who practiced a true to devotion to His Sacred Heart, whose crown of thorns represent his sacrifices. The devotion encountered violent opposition, especially in Jansenist areas, but has become widespread and popular.
What a weakness it is to love Jesus Christ only when He Caresses us, and to be cold immediately once He afflicts us. This is not true love. Thouse who love thus, love themselves too much to love God with all their heart. – Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
The Twelve Promises of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary for those devoted to His Sacred Heart
I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
I will establish peace in their families.
I will console them in all their troubles.
They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of their death.
I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
Tepid souls shall become fervent.
Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.
I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.
– from Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque’s vision of Jesus
Look at this Heart which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love Me in return. Through you My divine Heart wishes to spread its love everywhere on earth.” – from Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque’s vision of Jesus
The sacred heart of Christ is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble so as to free them and prepare them to lead lives according to his good pleasure. From this divine heart three streams flow endlessly. The first is the stream of mercy for sinners; it pours into their hearts sentiments of contrition and repentance. The second is the stream of charity which helps all in need and especially aids those seeking perfection in order to find the means of surmounting their difficulties. From the third stream flow love and light for the benefit of his friends who have attained perfection; these he wishes to unit to himself so that they may share his knowledge and commandments and, in their individual ways, devote themselves wholly to advancing his glory. This divine heart is an abyss filled with all blessings, and into the poor should submerge all their needs. It is an abyss of joy in which all of us can immerse our sorrows. It is an abyss of lowliness to counteract our foolishness, an abyss of mercy for the wretched, an abyss of love to meet our every need. Are you making no progress in prayer? The you need only offer God the prayers which the Savior has poured out for us in the sacrament of the altar. Offer God his fervent love in reparation for your sluggishness. In the course of every activity pray as follows: “My God, I do this or I endure that in the heart of your Son and according to his holy counsels. I offer it to you in reparation for anything blameworthy or imperfect in my actions.” Continue to do this in every circumstance of life. But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure. In order to preserve it there is nothing more useful than renouncing your own will and substituting for it the will of the divine heart. In this way his will can carry out for us whatever contributes to his glory, and we will be happy to be his subjects and to trust entirely in him. – from a letter by Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
“Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque“. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 August 2020. Web. 16 October 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-margaret-mary-alacoque/>
Monument of the Sacred Heart, Cerro de los Ángeles, Getafe, Madrid, Spain: "The church in triumph"
Monumento al Sacro Cuore, Cerro de los Ángeles, Getafe, Madrid, Spagna: "La Chiesa trionfante"
Monumento al Sagrado Corazón, Cerro de los Ángeles, Getafe, Madrid, Spain: "Iglesia triunfante".
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
Revelation of the Sacred Heart to Marguerite Marie Alacoque,
Ballylooby Church of Our Lady and St. Kieran South Transept South Window
Copyright © 2020 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque was born at Terrau, in the province of Burgundy, France, on the 22d of July, 1647. Her family was highly respectable; her father having held the office of judge for Terrau, as well as for several of the neighboring towns. From an early age little Margaret showed great devotion towards the Blessed Virgin. When eight years old she lost her father, and, as she was the only daughter living, she was placed at school with the Dames Urbanistes, a title given the Religious of Saint Clare who followed the mitigated rule sanctioned by Pope Urban VIII. At the end of two years her mother had to remove her, as she was visited with a severe illness which lasted four years. The bones pierced her skin, and she almost lost the use of her limbs. She says, in her own Life, that a promise was made that, if she was cured, she would belong to the Blessed Virgin and be one of her daughters. She had no sooner made the vow than she was cured.
In her twenty-third year she entered the little convent of the Order of the Visitation at Paray, on 25 May 1671. It contained at that time thirty-three choir sisters, three lay sisters, and three novices. To go into the details of her convent life would take up too much space. A valuable biography has been written by Father Tickell, S.J. Her whole life was devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion founded by her. All through her life she was particularly favored by our divine Lord. She died in the odor of sanctity, on 17 October 1690, in the forty-fourth year of her age, in the arms of the two sisters to whom she had herself predicted this several years before. Her body was deposited in the burial-place of the community, but in 1703 the coffin was opened, and the precious bones collected and placed in an oak case near the same spot, where they remained until the expulsion of the Sisters by the Revolutionists of 1792.
Paray-le-Monial has lately attracted much attention in consequence of pilgrimages being made to the Blessed Margaret Mary’s shrine. On 16 June 1823, the present monastery was dedicated, and the relics of the Blessed Margaret Mary placed in an oratory adjoining the choir, but were afterwards put in a tomb, where they remained until her beatification. The decree establishing her heroic character was prepared in May 1S46, by the present Pope, Pius IX, who visited the monastery in August of the same year, Orders were given for the prose cution of the cause in April 1864, and on 24 June the decree of beatification was published; on 6 September 1866 His Holiness signed the order for resuming the cause of canonization. A pilgrimage from England, under the lead of the Duke of Norfolk, and with the sanction of the hierarchy of England, to Paray-le-Monial, took place in September 1873, and attracted special attention everywhere.
“Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque”. , 1874. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 January 2017. Web. 16 October 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/illustrated-catholic-family-annual-blessed-margaret-mary-alacoque/>
Christ appearing to Saint Margaret Mary, Church of the Sacred Heart, Coshocton, Ohio, stained glass
Margaret Mary was born at Terreau in Burgundy, on the 22nd July, 1647. During her infancy she showed a wonderfully sensitive horror of the very idea of sin. In 1671 she entered the Order of the Visitation, at Paray-le-Monial, and was professed the following year. After purifying her by many trials, Jesus appeared to her in numerous visions, displaying to her His Sacred Heart, sometimes burning as a furnace, and sometimes torn and bleeding on account of the coldness and sins of men. In 1675 the great revelation was made to her that she, in union with Father de la Colombiere, of the Society of Jesus, was to be the chief instrument for instituting the feast of the Sacred Heart, and for spreading that devotion throughout the world. She died on the 17th October, 1690.
Reflection – Love for the Sacred Heart especially honors the Incarnation, and makes the soul grow rapidly in humility, generosity, patience, and union with its Beloved.
In the baptismal register of the parish of Verosyres can still be read the following entry: ‘Margaret, daughter of Monsieur Claude Alacoque, royal notary, and his wife, Philiberte Lemain, was baptized by me, the undersigned Cure of Verosyres, Thursday, 25th of July, 1847.’ – This is the beginning of the story of a wonderful life of grace. The child’s birth had taken place three days previously, on July 22nd. It was in the pleasant land of Burgundy, in the small town of Lautecour, that Margaret Alacoque was born and grew up. She had four brothers and two sisters, one brother and one sister being younger than herself. Two sisters died young, so she was left an only sister among four brothers. We have very few of those details about her home, her early years and later, about her surroundings when she was a religious, which gave such a human interest to the life of Saint Therese of Lisieux, for instance. In the account of her life, which she wrote when she was 38, at the command of Pere Rolin, S.J., her director, she confined herself almost entirely to the relations between her soul and God.
CHILDHOOD’S HAPPY HOURS
She was a happy and lively child. But God early showed that He had special designs in her regard. Our Lord, when on earth, had special affection for little children, and He remains the same always. Children seem often to be in close touch with God and the supernatural. So it was with little Margaret. Sin appeared to her something horrible, as indeed it really is. An ebullition of natural high spirits on the part of the child could always be checked by telling her that she would offend God. When she was quite small, she repeated one day at Mass the words, ‘My God, I consecrate to You my purity, and I make a vow to You of perpetual chastity.’ Where the child got the idea, we do not know. She tells us herself that she did not know the meaning of ‘vow’ or ‘chastity’ at the time. It may have been the result of some pious conversation which she listened to in the family circle, or an echo of her catechism; but, more likely still, God was speaking to her heart in secret.
Her godmother, a great lady who lived in the castle of Corcheval, four miles away, often had Margaret with her between her fourth and eighth year. The pine-clad hills, the rocky gorges, the music-making streams about Corcheval, must all have had an effect on the child’s bright intelligence. The castle contained a chapel, and the facilities this gave for prayer tended to strengthen the bonds, which were being woven between her soul and God. ‘O my only Love,’ she wrote twenty-five years later, ‘how much I owe You for having granted me Your benedictions from my most tender years, making Yourself the master and owner of my heart.’
When she was eight and a half years of age, her father died. He had been a thoroughly good Christian man; even today, we can see a cross traced at the head of all the documents written by him as judge and Royal Notary. His death necessitated a change in the family. The mother could not look after the property and give proper attention to her five surviving children. Margaret was sent to school to the Urbanists at Charolles. Her close contact with religious naturally strengthened the ideals of piety when she already possessed. She was found sufficiently developed spiritually to make her First Communion at the then early age of nine. Like many another little girl, she begins to plan to be a nun. But she does not lose her gaiety. She is full of fun and fond of amusement. Then God begins to work out His plans in her. She is good; more, she is holy. But unless God intervenes in a special way, she is not likely to love Him with her whole heart and her whole soul. And He wants the whole of her heart. When she is eleven she falls ill, and for four years, she is unable to walk. She is worn away nearly to a skeleton.
This was a hard cross for one of her years. Suffering later became a joy to her, but it was not so at the age of eleven. It is only through the virtues of later years that we can estimate the change it worked in her soul.
Margaret had during her early years a real child’s love for Mary, Mother of God. She tells us that Mary saved her from ‘very great dangers’ during her girlhood. When her illness persisted in spite of all remedies, a vow was made that if the child recovered she would be ‘one of Mary’s daughters.’ This brought about her cure, and gave Our Blessed Lady an even more important place in her life. ‘She made herself so entirely mistress of my heart that she took upon herself the absolute government of me; she reproved me for my faults, and taught me to do the will of God.’
The restoration of her health had another effect, however, on Margaret. At fourteen, the memory of pain is soon effaced, and the girl’s natural vivacity and love of enjoyment quickly asserted themselves. She felt the attraction of pleasant things around her, and the affection, which her mother and brothers had for her, encouraged her in giving herself a good time (her own. words: A me donner du bon temps). In later life, she reproached herself bitterly for levity and especially for once, in company with some of her young friends, appearing disguised during the time of carnival. It was not a great crime, but it was resistance to the urging of grace. God was not yet master of the heart He had made for Himself. Bodily suffering had not succeeded; suffering of mind and spirit was to follow.
THE HAND OF GOD
Some of the property of Monsieur Alacoque had not passed entirely to his widow. His mother, who lived with the family, and a married sister had an interest in it. This sister and her husband, Toussaint Delaroche, were hostile to the Alacoques, and seem to have been of a coarse and bitter disposition. They usurped all authority in the Alacoque household, and the life of mother and daughter became a misery. The Saint’s own words portray it clearly enough. ‘My mother and I were soon reduced to hard captivity. . . . We had no longer any power in the house, and we dare not do anything without permission. It was a state of continual war. Everything was kept under lock and key, so that I could not even dress myself in order to go to Holy Mass. . . . I acknowledge that I felt keenly this state of slavery. . . .
‘I should have thought myself happy to go and beg my bread rather than live as I was living.’ Continual nagging went on in the house, and it was not easy to escape. She could not leave the house without permission of three persons, and when she wanted to go to the church to Mass or Benediction and was refused, the tears, which sometimes followed, were attributed to vexation at not being able to keep some secret appointment. She was not given enough to eat; she worked like a servant. And God’s design in it all? ‘Jesus Christ gave me to understand when I was in this state that He wished to make Himself the absolute Master of my heart.’ Such suffering would have embittered many a young girl. But earnest prayer and constant meditation on the sufferings, which Our Lord had to endure for her enabled Margaret Alacoque to drive every unkind thought from her mind. – In the end, she came to look upon her persecutors as real benefactors.
Gradually things changed. Her brothers grew up and acquired more authority. Margaret herself was eighteen, her mother looked forward to a good marriage for her, which would help still further towards their emancipation. It was a new trial of a different kind. The love of pleasure, so long suppressed, revealed itself once more. – The world began to smile on Margaret, and she quickly responded. She began to pay more attention to dress. She mixed more in society. Eligible young men were encouraged to come to the Alacoque house. The girl felt she was being unfaithful to God’s call and a struggle raged in her soul. She had made a vow of chastity; but then she had not understood what she was doing. She had decided to become a nun but now she felt that she could not persevere. True, she had made a promise to the Blessed Virgin during her illness, but her mother was ill now and wanted her to settle in the world. Could she break her mother’s heart?
Then she tried to compromise. She increased her mortifications, but at the same time, she did not give up the round of pleasure. She inflicted cruel sufferings on herself, but she would not give Our Lord what He wanted. His grace pursued her, however, and just when she seemed likely to yield to her mother’s wishes, and agree to be married, He spoke so strongly to her one day after Communion, representing how unworthy it would be if, after all His favours, she would turn her back on Him and give herself to another, that she was finally conquered. It was like the snapping of a chain, like the dawning of the day after a troubled night.
The story of the struggle between God and the world in the heart of Saint Margaret Mary during the early part of her life has its counterpart in the heart of many a young girl at the present day here in our own country. God is near her in childhood, and she gives her young heart to Him. She passes to a convent school, and opportunities for frequent Communion lead to more intimate friendship with Our Lord. Vacations sometimes bring forgetfulness and carelessness, but Our Lord wins her heart once more to Himself. Fifteen or sixteen comes, and the beauty and worth of religious life make a strong appeal. She becomes conscious, with a little surprise and perhaps fear, that she has a vocation, that Our Lord is calling her to follow Him. But the dangerous years are at hand. She begins to feel more strongly the attraction of pleasure and amusement. Admiration and flattery bring new and exhilarating sensations. The Voice of God is not heard so clearly. Perhaps, she thinks, she was mistaken in thinking she had a vocation.
If she ventures to mention the idea, her friends pooh-pooh it. At any rate, she must wait for a few years and enjoy herself first. Intercourse with the world does the rest and often, very often, Our Lord has lost a friend, the Church an apostle, and a soul the grandest opportunity in this life, and a crown of wondrous beauty in life everlasting.
THE SNARE IS BROKEN
Margaret Alacoque was not twenty years of age. Her mind was fully made up, and she began to live as devoted a life as she could in preparation for her entry into religion. She prayed much, knowing her own weakness; she gave herself to works of charity; she went to extremes, having no one to guide her in the matter of mortification. Not that her troubles were over.
Four years were to pass before she could give herself to God in religious life. Her mother, and still more her brother, Chrysostom, opposed her wish. The Delaroche family resumed their rough treatment. Her relative and godfather, the cure of the parish, who seems to have been infected with Jansenism, was a further obstacle to her, instead of being a help, in the way of God. Then pressure was brought to bear on her to force her against her judgement and God’s wish into a convent where she had a cousin. ‘I am going to be a religious solely for love of God,’ she said. She prayed earnestly that God would send her help. ‘Is it possible,’ was the reply, ‘that a child so fondly loved as you are should be lost in the arms of an all-powerful Father?’
In 1669, when she was twenty-two, she was confirmed and took the name of Mary. The following year, God sent a Franciscan Father to Verosyres, and Margaret Mary opened her heart to him. He checked her extravagances, as, for instance, when she naively transcribed whole pages of sins from manuals of the examinations of conscience and accused herself of them all; but with regard to her vocation, he took her side at once, and spoke strongly to her brother Chrysostom. So the path was cleared at last, and she entered the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial in June, 1671. She was then 24 years of age.
She tells us herself of the joy with which she left her home. Even her mother’s tears did not sadden her. But when she was on the point of entering the convent, sadness and fear assailed her, and she felt as if she would die. It had often been thus, before and since, with those who were giving themselves completely to God. The great Saint Teresa, writing later in life, says: ‘I can remember, as if it were today, how, as I was leaving my father’s house, I felt in such a state that I think if I had been at the point of death I could not have felt greater pain.’ But the pain soon passed, and the joy which followed was lasting.
Emphasis has been laid on the difficulties Saint Margaret Mary had to contend with, in order to correct the common opinion that saints are turned out as if ready-made. Through the sufferings and trials to which she had been subjected, she had already reached high sanctity. Her spirit of prayer, her union with God, and her love of suffering, were remarkable. God had already conferred very special marks of His favour upon her. Naturally, therefore, she began her religious life with great fervour. There were things she found hard at first, but these were a small price to pay for so great a treasure. She made the mistakes of a beginner, as when she thought she could please God by doing penance for which she had no permission. (This is intelligible in a postulant; but it is surprising to find her love of suffering leading her into this same mistake even after her profession. ‘That was for Me.’ Our Lord said to her once, when she prolonged ‘an act of penance’ beyond the time for which leave had been given, ‘What you are doing now is for the devil.’)
She had not always the courage to ask for explanations when she did not understand the instructions of her novice-mistress.
About two months after her entrance into the convent, she received the habit. This event brought to Sister Margaret Mary intense joy and consolation. God drew her to Himself at first by sweetness, but only in order that she might be strengthened for the perfect sacrifice of self which He desired of her. . . . Naturally enough, she became a little attached to this interior consolation for its own sake, and complained at its withdrawal. Out Lord pointed out her mistake to her. Sanctity does not consist in pious feeling or interior consolation, but in giving up self-love and in loving God for His own sake. ‘Everyone that does not renounce all that he possesses cannot be My disciple.’ Sister Margaret Mary, then, had to learn to give up all seeking for her own interest, her own convenience, her own honour, her own will. This did not come easy to her. The young religious on her entrance does not leave human nature at the convent gate.
The new novice, prompted by God, asked for humiliations from her novice-mistress. She was refused those she asked, but received others she felt much more keenly. When she had entered the convent, her brother, Chrysostom, had stipulated that she was never to be asked to eat cheese. One day it happened, probably by accident, that cheese was served to her along with the others at table. She felt impelled to make the sacrifice of her dislike. She could not. Her novice-mistress coldly told her she was not worthy to make the sacrifice. Three days of prayer and tears followed, and she succeeded in overcoming herself. Another struggle went on for a long time. Naturally of an affectionate disposition, she became unduly attached to another Sister. Our Lord let her know that this displeased Him, but still she could not give up the satisfaction the attachment yielded her. She tried to love God and indulge herself at the same time. After some months, Our Lord delivered an ultimatum, we might say. He let her understand that He did not want a divided heart. If she did not give up creatures, He would leave her. Then her good will asserted itself, and she gave herself entirely to God.
Through her superiors and her companions could not but be struck by the fervour of Sister Margaret Mary, her charity, her ready obedience, her joyfulness under humiliation, still the extraordinary union with God which even now she enjoyed during her prayer, and the special graces she received, which she could not hide, seemed to make her unsuitable for the Visitation Order. The year of her novice-ship passed, and she was not allowed to take her vows. She was told she would not be useful to the Congregation; her ways were too extraordinary. The novice complained to Our Lord, and was assured she would be more useful than anyone imagined. ‘Tell your superior that I will answer for you.’ So, after further tests of her obedience and humility, she was told to prepare for her profession.
CONSECRATED TO GOD
During her retreat before profession, she may be said to have lived in heaven. She was a little too anxious about her General Confession, and Our Lord said to her: ‘Why are you worried? Do what is in your power and I will supply for what is wanting. I require nothing so much in the Sacrament as a contrite and humble heart which, with a sincere wish never to offend Me, accuses itself without pretence.’ After that, wonderful joy in God took possession of her soul. But then she was shown all she had to suffer during life, and she shuddered at the thought of it. She was told not to fear, however, and Our Lord conferred on her the great grace of being always conscious of His presence. Sometimes this presence of God was to lift her up in transports of love, and she would cry; ‘O my Love, my Life, my All; You are all mine, and I am all Yours.’ At other times, it was to make her sink down into her own nothingness, and to feel confusion at the thoughts of her own unworthiness in God’s sight.
Her sentiments at the end of the retreat before her profession may be best understood from what she wrote herself: ‘I, poor, miserable nothing, protest to God that I will offer and sacrifice myself in all that He asks of me, offering my heart wholly to the accomplishment of His will without any other desire than that of His greater glory and His pure love to which I consecrate my whole being and every moment of my life. I belong forever to my Beloved as His slave, His handmaid, His creature, since He is everything to me and I am His unworthy spouse, Sister Margaret Mary, dead to the world. All from God, and nothing from myself; all in God and nothing in myself; all for God and nothing for myself.’ In those dispositions, she consecrated herself to God by the three vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty, on the 6th November, 1672.
The period which followed her profession was still a time for probation, and Our Lord still kept preparing her for the work to which He had called her.
Through her, He was to spread the fire of His love; her own heart must, therefore, be wholly set on fire. Her daily prayer drew her even closer to God. ‘I often present myself before Him,’ she wrote, ‘as a sick person before an all-powerful Physician. I place myself before Him as a living victim, whose only desire is to be offered as a holocaust in the pure flames of His love.’ She was more and more drawn by the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and in her hours of adoration, His love took fuller possession of her heart. At the same time, she was tried by humiliations and contradictions, lest spiritual joys should beget selfishness. She was still told that she was not walking the safe road of the daughters of Saint Francis de Sales. She was sent to do household tasks during the hour of prayer. On Easter Sunday, a feeling of discontent rose in her mind on this account, but Our Lord reproved her and said: ‘The prayer of submission and sacrifice is more agreeable to Me than contemplation and every other kind of meditation, however holy it may appear.’ Her sanctity was to be solidly built from the foundations.
Sister Margaret Mary, like the other nuns of the convent, was given different offices or charges at different times. First, she was assistant infirmarian, and was not a great success outwardly. She was awkward and timid, apparently, quite unlike the active and competent infirmarian, and frequently fell and broke things. She twice had charge of the children, an office for which she felt a great repugnance. But the difficulties and the apparent want of success were doing their work of making her more useful. When she fell into faults of vanity or self-seeking, Our Lord did not allow her to have peace in them. He would be gentle to weakness, but severe to infidelity. He made known to her how much He suffered through the sins of men, and He told her He wanted her, by her unselfish love, to atone for them. Thus Our Lord led her on, step by step, till she could write: ‘My Beloved has consumed in me every desire but that of receiving His divine love, and has left me without fear of anything except sin.’ The preparation was complete, and Our Lord could now go on to the accomplishment of His wonderful designs.
If an observer had cast his eye around France towards the end of the year 1673 and considered what events of the day were most likely to have permanent effects on later history, his attention might have fastened on the figure of Louis XIV playing the grand part of Grand Monarque (the Great Monarch) to such perfection; or on Conde and Turenne, winning brilliant victories on the eastern frontier; or on the poets and litterateurs of the time, La Fontaine, Racine, Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux; or on the pulpits where Bossuet and Bourdaloue moved vast congregations by their eloquence. But he would have known nothing of a Visitation Convent in Paray-le-Monial, or an insignificant member of its community; or if by chance he had known, his thoughts would not have rested there. It is the old story of the diversity between God’s ways and thoughts and man’s ways. The devotion to the Sacred Heart has had an immense influence in the Church. From it sinners have drawn hope and grace of repentance, while the just have found in it a source of fervour. It has brought countless numbers to the confessional and the altar rail, and has given to the Blessed Sacrament the position in the hearts of Catholics, which is Its due. All this can be traced back to Saint Margaret Mary. It is true she had her forerunners; but if devotion to the Sacred Heart and the treasure of grace it contains are no longer the possession of a few privileged souls, but of all the faithful, this is due to the revelations made by Our Lord to the Visitation nun of Paray-le-Monial.
It was most appropriate that on the feast of Saint John the Evangelist, December 27, 1673, Our Lord began His great revelations. When Sister Margaret Mary was before the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord appeared to her. (Footnote: Whether these appearances were exterior, perceived by the external senses, or interior and intellectual, we have no means of determining.)
Our Lord, having given her remarkable proofs of His love and tenderness, He made known to her, she writes, the marvels of His love and inexplicable secrets of His Sacred Heart which He had hidden until then.
‘My Divine Heart,’ He said, ‘is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular, that, not being able to restrain within itself any longer the flames of its ardent charity, it must spread them everywhere by means of you and manifest itself to men that they may be enriched with its precious treasures.’
‘Behold the designs for which I have chosen you.’
THE SACRED HEART
Little by little, during the course of the next two years, 1674 and 1675, Our Lord unfolded the full meaning of devotion to His Sacred Heart. At the next appearance of Our Lord, Sister Margaret Mary saw the divine heart ‘as if on a throne of flame, more radiant than a sun and transparent as crystal, with its adorable wound. It was surrounded by a crown of thorns, which signified the pain which our sins inflicted on it, and was surmounted by a cross, which signified that from the first moment of His Incarnation, when the Sacred Heart was formed, the cross was planted there, and His Heart felt all the bitterness which would be caused by the humiliations, poverty, grief, and dishonour which the Sacred Humanity would suffer through the course of His life and during His Passion. He made me see that the ardent desire which He had of being loved by men, and of rescuing them from the path of perdition along which Satan drives them in crowds, had made Him form this design of manifesting His Heart to me, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and of salvation which it contains.’ He asked that He should be honoured under the figure of this heart of flesh, and promised that He would scatter His graces and blessings wherever that holy image should be exposed and honoured. ‘This devotion was, as it were, a last effort of His love for men in these latter ages.’
Some time later the Saint again saw Our Lord, this time with His five wounds shining like five suns, and flames bursting forth from His Sacred Person, but especially from His Heart. Again He made known to her ‘the inexplicable wonder of His pure love, and to what an excess He had carried His love for men.’ But now He added that the ingratitude and forgetfulness, which He had met with in return for His burning love, caused Him more pain than all the sufferings of His Passion. He asked that Margaret Mary should make up for this ingratitude as much as she could. What was she to do? First, she was to receive Him in Holy Communion as often as she was permitted. Secondly, she was in particular to receive Holy Communion as an act of reparation on the First Friday of each month. Thirdly, she was to spend the hour from eleven to twelve every Thursday night in His company, sharing with Him the sorrow by which He was crushed at Gethsemane.
FEAST OF LOVE
The last of the great revelations came on a day within the octave of Corpus Christi, 1675. The Saint knelt again before the Blessed Sacrament, and as she expressed her desire to make some return to Our Lord for His wonderful love for her, He told her she could do nothing greater than what He already often asked of her. Showing His Heart, He said: ‘Behold this Heart which has so loved men, which has spared nothing, even to being exhausted and consumed, in order to testify to them Its love, And the greater number of them make Me no other return than ingratitude, by their coldness and forgetfulness of Me in this Sacrament of love. But what is still more painful to Me is that it is hearts who are consecrated to Me that treat Me thus.’ After this Our Lord went on to ask for something new, for the establishment of a public feast in honour of His Sacred Heart on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi: ‘I promise you that My Heart will pour out in abundance the effects of its divine love on all those who will render It this honour or cause It to be so honoured.’ When Margaret Mary very naturally put forward her powerlessness, Our Lord first reminded her that it was customary with Him to make use of little ones that were poor in spirit for His greatest works that His power might shine forth more clearly. Then He told her to have recourse to His servant, Father Claude de la Colombiere, S.J., [canonized in 1992] who would assist her.
Thus did Our Lord give to the world this treasure of devotion to His Sacred Heart. In a sense, the devotion was not new. Even in the Old Law, God said of His erring children: ‘I will draw them with the cords of Adam [of kindly humanity], with the bands of love.’ (Hosea 11:4) In the Incarnation, the goodness and kindness of God our Saviour were made manifest to men. But even then ‘His own received Him not.’ His benefits were met by injury. ‘Many good works have I showed you from My Father,’ Our Lord said to the Jews, ‘for which of those works do you stone Me?’ ‘Watch and pray with Me,’ was the request to the Apostles on Mount Olivet. All the elements of devotion to the Sacred Heart were thus in the Church from the beginning. Saint John, the beloved disciple, had expressed its spirit when he wrote, ‘God is love.’ In His revelations, then, to Saint Margaret Mary, Our Lord was only making a fresh effort to secure the object for which He had come among men, ‘to cast fire on the earth.’
‘The great desire Our Lord has that His Sacred Heart should be honoured by some particular devotion,’ we read in one of Margaret Mary’s letters, ‘is in order to renew in souls the effect of His Redemption.’
SO AS BY FIRE
We are always inclined to pay too much attention to the favours the Saints received from God, and to overlook the price, which they paid for them. Sister Margaret Mary had to pay very highly for the great graces she received. ‘He taught me first,’ she writes, ‘that His special graces would always be accompanied by some humiliation, contradiction or contempt on the part of creatures.’ We have seen how she was looked upon with suspicion while she was a novice. Matters did not improve after her profession in November, 1672. As the workings of God’s grace grew manifest, she attracted more attention. Joking grew into mockery; she was called a visionary and a hypocrite. Even the children in the Convent noted and wondered at the unkind things that were said and done to her. And all the time, she herself was haunted by a terrible dread that she was being deceived. Her superior told her to consult several learned directors; and they were unanimous in their opinion that she was deluded. The great revelations of the Sacred Heart, which began about a year after her profession, only increased her trials. Our Lord had told her to keep nothing concealed from her superior. Though, as she says herself, she would have preferred to read out her general confession in the refectory, she told everything to Mother de Saumaise. The Reverend Mother treated with contempt all she told her, and refused to allow her to carry out any of the things she believed Our Lord had asked of her. A little later, a miraculous recovery from illness, which had been asked for as a sign from God, convinced Mother de Saumaise that Margaret Mary was led by the Spirit of God. Nonetheless, she continued to try her by her snubs and contradictions.
The community of Paray-le-Monial was on the whole a fervent one, but Our Lord had cause for complaint with not a few of its members on account of their love of esteem and their want of charity. In fact, His words about the deliberate faults of these religious are terrifying. Margaret was called upon to make herself a victim for them. In November 1677, she was asked for what was the greatest sacrifice of her life. At first, she could not bring herself to yield, but Our Lord persuaded her, and at last, on the eve of the Presentation of Our Lady, she was literally forced to do what He asked of her. When the Sisters were assembled in the evening Margaret Mary, having obtained her superior’s leave, knelt in the midst of them, and made known Our Lords message, that He was angry with the community on account of certain faults, and that He had chosen her as the victim of His injured love. We can imagine the feelings this declaration would arouse. Sister Margaret Mary was only a few years professed; she had excited adverse comment by her ways of acting; and now she publicly censures the whole community. The Saint herself felt the situation keenly. ‘I never suffered so much,’ she states simply in her account of the incident. Matters were made worse when the superior gave orders for an act of mortification to be performed that night by all in order to appease the anger of God. Some of the less fervent nuns sought out Sister Margaret Mary, questioned her, insulted her, and treated her as mad and possessed by the devil.
THE FLESH IS WEAK
In the following year, 1678, Mother de Saumaise left Paray-le-Monial. In her, Margaret lost a superior who had come to understand and sympathize with her, and one for whom she herself admits, she had a special affection. ‘I have felt our separation,’ the Saint wrote soon after, ‘although it is only in body, more than I can tell you.’ The next superior was a Mother Greyfie. At her coming Mother Greyfie writes, ‘I found opinion very much divided about this true Spouse of Jesus Crucified.’ That is a good description of her.
Margaret Mary says herself: ‘When I think of Our Lord on the Cross, life without suffering becomes insupportable to me.’ This does not mean that she found suffering easy to bear. When Our Lord offered her a choice between ‘the happiest life imaginable for a religious: a life of peace, of interior and exterior consolation, and of perfect health,’ and ‘a poor, an abject life; crucified, despised, contradicted, always suffering both in body and soul’, she accepted the latter: but her whole nature revolted.
‘Crosses were a real joy to her,’ wrote Mother de Saumaise, ‘but she felt them keenly.’ She had a constant struggle with herself, with her ‘own weakness and inconsistency,’ as she put it. ‘I am not faithful, and I fail often,’ she sorrowfully confesses. In order to overcome herself, as we have seen, she had to take a vow to accept any employment given to her, to answer letters, and to go to the parlour as the rule prescribed (even when this led to further public ridicule by the convent’s guests). But these and other things never became easy. ‘My dislikes,’ she states in later life, ‘seem rather to increase than diminish.’
It is, therefore, one with human feelings and human weakness whom we must think of as bearing her cross so faithfully to the end. If we could trace her life step by step we should find it always, till just near the end, a life of suffering and self-sacrifice. We should find the trials which she underwent at the hands of others continuing. We should find her tempted to vanity and despair. We should see her going humbly to her superior when attacked by ravenous hunger, and sometimes being told to go to the dispenser for something to eat, at other times being coldly told to wait and satisfy her hunger with the rest of the community. Mother Greyfie did not spoil her. ‘I hardly ever let anyone see,’ she writes, ‘that I believed anything extraordinary about her. I never spoke to her either inside or outside the house. If she did anything that displeased others, even by my orders or permission, I allowed others to blame her, and blamed her myself if it were done in my presence.’
At the same time, Mother Greyfie was a great help to her, and encouraged her to bear her sufferings with meekness and humility. The following piece of advice which she wrote for Sister Margaret Mary is striking in its common-sense, and at the same time lets us see that the task of becoming a Saint is a very homely one after all: ‘Your most excellent practice of mortification and penance will be to adapt your humours and inclinations to each occasion as it comes, and not to show exteriorly what you suffer interiorly. Be happy at recreation, always amiable and kind to your Sisters, and to anybody you have to deal with; and be devout in all your duties to God.’
THE HIDDEN FIRE
And what of devotion to the Sacred Heart all this time? At first, we have seen Margaret Mary’s accounts of the messages she received from God were not credited. In January, 1675, before the last of the great revelations, Father Claude de la Colombiere was appointed Rector of the small Jesuit House at Paray. ‘A gifted man wasted in such a position,’ said those who overlooked God’s providence. Margaret Mary opened her heart to him, and, while receiving advice calculated to keep her firmly rooted in humility, she was told to follow without fear where God led her, always being careful about obedience. The ill-disposed declared that Margaret Mary was deceiving Father de la Colombiere, as she had already deceived many others. She made known to him what Our Lord had asked of her with regard to devotion to the Sacred Heart, and was greatly edified by the humility with which he received the message that he had been chosen by Our Lord to be the apostle of the new devotion. Father de la Colombiere spent only a year and a half at Paray, and then, to the sorrow of Margaret Mary, was sent to London in the middle of the year 1676. In his parting message, he reminded her that God asked of her everything and nothing; everything, because He wanted complete surrender to His Will; nothing, because the work should be all His and the glory all His.
Father de la Colombiere spent two years in England, the first apostle of the Sacred Heart. It was during these years that Saint Margaret Mary had her greatest trial, in 1677, as described already. At the beginning of 1679, Father de la Colombiere was driven out of England by anti-Catholic persecutions. He paid a passing visit to Paray-le-Monial, and was able to encourage Sister Margaret Mary in some of the painful temptations, already alluded to, which she was suffering. He also reassured the superior, Mother Greyfie, who had come to Paray in his absence.
‘Humility, simplicity, exact obedience, and mortification,’ he said, ‘are not the fruits of the spirit of darkness.’ In the autumn of 1681, Father de la Colombiere returned to Paray, this time to die. Sister Margaret Mary saw him twice, but he could speak only with difficulty. When he died in February, 1682, she spoke of him as a Saint, frequently asked his intercession, and asserted that his prayers in heaven would do much to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart. This devotion, Our Lord told Margaret Mary, was to be given in a special way to the Fathers of the Society of Jesus to propagate. The Venerable [now Saint] Claude de la Colombiere was a worthy pioneer.
In 1684, Mother Greyfie left Paray. She had been convinced of the true sanctity of Sister Margaret Mary, and, better still, had been imbued with her zeal for the interests of the Sacred Heart. Two of the Saint’s superiors, having kindled their lamps at the shrine of Paray, were now carrying the light of devotion to other communities. This was a consolation to Margaret Mary in her many trials.
She herself tried to do what she could to win others to the love of the Sacred Heart, but she met with such opposition that she was tempted to give up. She persevered, ‘for,’ as she wrote to Mother de Saumaise, ‘difficulties are an assurance that the work is God’s, and that He will be much glorified by it.’
In January, 1685, the new superior appointed Sister Margaret Mary mistress of novices. The post brought both its consolations and its trials. On the one hand, she could speak freely to the novices and communicate to them some of her own burning love for Our Lord. ‘Our Mother,’ one of the novices said, ‘is like another Saint John, and can only speak the language of love.’ On the other hand, some of the older nuns were upset by her ‘new’ devotions and threatened to denounce her to the Bishop. She got into great trouble because she decided against the vocation of a postulant from a distinguished family. The old complaints broke out afresh. Father Rolin, S.J., who was now her director (it is to his orders that we owe Margaret Mary’s account of her life), bade her to be of good heart. ‘All the names people call you, humiliating as they are, ought only to make you thank God, and pray for those who say such things.’ On her feast day, July 20th, the novices determined to prepare a pleasant surprise for her. They rose in the middle of the night – let us hope with permission – and prepared an altar with a little picture of the Sacred Heart. Then, wishing to be free in the morning, they did their work in the refectory, but in their eagerness – novice-like – they made too much noise and drew forth complaints from the older Sisters, who were disturbed in their slumbers, and earned an admonition from the superior. In the morning, the mistress and her novices consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart.
During the day, Margaret Mary sent a novice to invite some of the rest of the community to join in the devotion. ‘Go and tell your mistress,’ was the cold reply, ‘that the best devotion is the practice of our rules and constitutions.’ In point of fact, there was no lack of solidity in the training the novices were getting. Meekness, humility, charity, self-sacrifice – these, as we might expect, were the virtues the novice mistress laid most stress on. She did not lead these young religious by strange and dangerous ways. ‘The way of God for us,’ she told them, ‘is by our holy rules.’
HE MUST REIGN
But the hour of triumph was at hand. The very next year after the events just revealed, on the octave day of Corpus Christi, 1686, one of the Sisters who had been most opposed to the new devotion went to Margaret Mary and asked for the picture of the Sacred Heart. The next day, the very day Our Lord Himself had chosen as the feast of the Sacred Heart, to the surprise of all, an altar to the Sacred Heart was prepared in the nuns’ choir. Our Lord had conquered, and the change, which the adoption of the devotion wrought in the spirit of fervour of the community, was observed by all. Two years later, in 1688, a chapel erected in the garden of the convent in honour of the Sacred Heart was solemnly blessed.
Of the remaining two years of Margaret Mary’s life there is little to be told. ‘I can no longer occupy myself with anything but the Sacred Heart of Jesus,’ she confessed. She was now Mother Assistant and, though outward trials ceased, she suffered, if possible, still more interiorly. All the time she was working and praying for the spread of the devotion. In spite of her great repugnance, she wrote many letters. The published notes of the retreat of Father de la Colombiere were now in circulation, a source of joy to the Saint, and at the same time of ‘frightful shame and confusion,’ because of some references in them to herself. Various Visitation convents had taken up the devotion warmly. A Jesuit, Father Croisset, had published a little book on the subject. Margaret Mary said it was time for her to die. Indeed, she was worn out by suffering and love.
COME LORD JESUS
The year 1690 came, and with it the end of suffering. Margaret Mary could not understand the calm she experienced. The temple of God was finished, the noise of hammer and chisel ceased, and the scaffolding was cleared away. The love of Christ had overcome everything that could oppose it, and perfect peace ensued. The venturesome and perilous voyage was over, and the vessel had come under lee of the shore. On the 8th of October, the Saint was taken ill. Though the doctor said there was no danger, she knew the end was come.
Nine days of preparation were given her; then one last struggle, as the thought of God’s purity came over her, and finally peace again, never to be broken, as she gave up her soul to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. ‘How sweet it is to die,’ she had once written, ‘after having had a constant devotion to the Heart of Him who is to be our Judge!’ Her birthday into eternal life was October 17th, 1690. She was beatified by Pius IX in 1864 and canonized by Benedict XV in 1921.
THE TWELVE PROMISES of the Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary concerning all who practise devotion to the Sacred Heart.
1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will give peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. They will find in my Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of death.
5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
6. Sinners will find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls will speedily rise to great perfection.
9. I will bless the homes in which the image of my Sacred Heart is exposed and honoured.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who spread this devotion will have their name written in my Heart, never to be effaced.
12. The all-powerful love of my Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving the Sacraments; my Heart will be their assured refuge at that last hour.
– from the pamphlet , by Father Henry A. Johnston, S.J., Australian Catholic Truth Society, #458, 1948
Margaretha Maria Alacoque. Kath. Pfarrkirche St. Gordian und Epimachus, Merazhofen, Stadt Leutkirch im Allgäu, Landkreis Ravensburg. Chorgestühl, 1896, Bildhauer: Peter Paul Metz
Margaret Mary Alacoque. Catholic parish church of St. Gordian and Epimachus, Merazhofen. Sculptor: Peter Paul Metz, 1896
Małgorzata Maria Alacoque. Rzeźba z kościoła parafialnego pw. św. Gordona i Epimachusa w Merazhofen (Niemcy). Autor dzieła: Peter Paul Metz, 1896
Santa Margherita Maria Alacoque Vergine
16 ottobre (e 17 ottobre) - Memoria Facoltativa
Verosvres, Autun, Francia, 1647 - Paray-le-Monial, 17 ottobre 1690
Nata in Borgogna nel 1647, Margherita ebbe una giovinezza difficile, soprattutto perché dovette vincere la resistenza dei genitori per entrare, a ventiquattro anni, nell'Ordine della Visitazione, fondato da san Francesco di Sales. Margherita, diventata suor Maria, restò vent'anni tra le Visitandine, e fin dall'inizio si offrì «vittima al Cuore di Gesù». Fu incompresa dalle consorelle, malgiudicata dai superiori. Anche i direttori spirituali dapprima diffidarono di lei, giudicandola una fanatica visionaria. Il beato Claudio La Colombière divenne preziosa guida della mistica suora della Visitazione, ordinandole di narrare, nell'autobiografia, le sue esperienze ascetiche. Per ispirazione della santa, nacque la festa del Sacro Cuore, ed ebbe origine la pratica dei primi Nove Venerdì del mese. Morì il 17 ottobre 1690.
Etimologia: Margherita = perla, dal greco e latino
La memoria di Santa Margherita Maria Alacoque, francese, è legata alla diffusione della devozione del Sacro Cuore, una devozione tipica dei tempi moderni, e promossa infatti soltanto tre secoli fa, quando soffiò sulla Francia il vento gelido del Giansenismo, foriero della tormenta dell'Illuminismo.
All'origine della devozione al Cuore di Gesù si trovano due grandi Santi: Giovanni Eudes e Margherita Maria Alacoque. Del primo abbiamo già parlato il 19 agosto. dicendo come questo moschettiere dell'amore di Gesù e Maria fosse il primo e più fervido propagatore del nuovo culto.
Santa Margherita Maria Alacoque, da parte sua, fu colei che rivelò in tutta la loro mirabile profondità i doni d'amore dei cuore di Gesù, traendone grazie strepitose per la propria santità, e la promessa che i soprannaturali carismi sarebbero stati estesi a tutti i devoti del Sacro Cuore.
Nata in Borgogna nel 1647, Margherita ebbe una giovinezza difficile, soprattutto perché non le fu facile sottrarsi all'affetto dei genitori, e alle loro ambizioni mondane per la figlia, ed entrare, a ventiquattro anni, neII'Ordine della Visitazione, fondato da San Francesco di Sales. Margherita, diventata suor Maria, restò vent'anni tra le Visitandine, e fin dall'inizio si offrì " vittima al Cuore di Gesù ". In cambio ricevette grazie straordinarie, come fuor dell'ordinario furono le sue continue penitenze e mortificazioni sopportate con dolorosa gioia. Fu incompresa dalle consorelle, malgiudicata dai Superiori. Anche i direttori spirituali dapprima diffidarono di lei, giudicandola una fanatica visionaria. " Ha bisogno di minestra ", dicevano, non per scherno, ma per troppo umana prudenza.
Ci voleva un Santo, per avvertire il rombo della santità. E fu il Beato Claudio La Colombière, che divenne preziosa e autorevole guida della mistica suora della Visitazione, ordinandole di narrare, nella Autobiografia, le sue esperienze ascetiche, rendendo pubbliche le rivelazioni da lei avute.
"Ecco quel cuore che ha tanto amato gli uomini", le venne detto un giorno, nel rapimento di una visione: una frase restata quale luminoso motto della devozione al Sacro Cuore. E poi, le promesse: "Il mio cuore si dilaterà per spandere con abbondanza i frutti del suo amore su quelli che mi onorano". E ancora: "I preziosi tesori che a te discopro, contengono le grazie santificanti per trarre gli uomini dall'abisso di perdizione".
Per ispirazione della Santa, nacque così la festa del Sacro Cuore, ed ebbe origine la pratica pia dei primi Nove Venerdì del mese. Vinta la diffidenza, abbattuta l'ostilità, scossa la indifferenza, si diffuse nel mondo la devozione a quel Cuore che a Santa Margherita Alacoque era apparso "su di un trono di fiamme, raggiante come sole, con la piaga adorabile, circondato di spine e sormontato da una croce". E’ l'immagine che appare ancora in tante case, e che ancora protegge, in tutto il mondo, le famiglie cristiane.
Autore: Piero Bargellini