This coming Monday, October 16th, the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. She was a seventeenth century, French Visitation nun, who was chosen by our Lord as an avenue through whom He would share the promises of His Sacred Heart.
At the age of twenty-three, on May 25, 1671 Margaret Mary entered the Order of the Visitation Convent and pro- nounced her nal vows in the same convent on November 6, 1672. She later accounted that during her retreat in preparing for her nal vows, she experienced her rst vision of our Lord. In a subsequent vision on December 27, 1673, our Lord told Sister Margaret Mary that He had chosen her to act as His instrument, through whom He would reveal His Sacred Heart as a symbol of His love for mankind, saying, “My Divine Heart is so in amed with love for mankind…that it can no longer contain within itself the ames of its burning charity and must spread them abroad by your means.”
Sister Margaret Mary recounted that in her vision, our Lord’s Heart was on re and surrounded by a crown of thorns. Our Lord told Sister Margaret Mary that the ames represented His love for humanity and the crown of thorns represented man’s sinfulness and ingratitude.
It was during this vision on December 27, 1673, that our Lord announced to Sister Margaret Mary that He would entrust to her the mission to establish the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart, and He revealed the twelve promises that He would bestow upon all those who would embrace devotion to His Sacred Heart.
The Twelve Promises entrusted to Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque by our Lord are: “I will give them all of the graces necessary for their state of life.”, “I will establish peace in their houses.”, “I will comfort them in all their afflictions.”, “I will be their strength during life and, above all, during death.”, “I will bestow a large blessing upon all their undertakings.”, “Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.”, “Tepid souls shall grow fervent.”, “Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.”, “I will bless every place where a picture of my heart shall be set up and honored.”, “I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.”, “Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be blotted out.”, “I promise you in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who shall receive communion on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”
When Sister Margaret Mary informed her superior of her visions of our Lord, her superior did not believe her and treated her with contempt. Additionally, her superior instructed Sister Margaret Mary that she was forbidden to carry out any of the devotions she allegedly received in a vision. So upset was Sister Margaret Mary over her superiors’ orders that she became seriously, physically ill. Her superior told her that only if she was cured of her stress-induced illness would she believe her. Sister Margaret Mary prayed for recovery – recovered – and her superior kept her word.
Unfortunately, her superior was not the only one who was skeptical – a group of nuns within the convent were equally unbelieving; and when her visions were presented before a board of theologians, they, too, were skeptical.
However, Father Claude de la Colombiere (now Blessed Claude de la Colombiere) was appointed spiritual director of the convent. He slowly became convinced that Sister Margaret Mary’s visions were authentic and divine in nature. He began to assemble, in writing, Sister Margaret Mary’s account of her visions and by 1685, the Sisters of the Visitation Convent were celebrating a feast in honor of the Sacred Heart. From that French convent, devotion, as requested by our Lord Himself, spread slowly throughout France and in 1856, the feast was introduced by the pope to be embraced by the entire Church.
Sister Margaret Mary had three more visions throughout 1674 and 1675 in which our Lord instructed her in a devotion that has come to be known as ‘The Nine First Fridays’. Our Lord assured her, “I promise you that My all-powerful love with grant to all those who will receive Holy Communion on the rst Friday, for nine consecutive months, the grace of nal repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and My Heart will be their secure refuge in their last hour.” (In order to properly observe this devotion, a person – on any nine consecutive rst Fridays of the month – is to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion, celebrate the sacrament of Penance and is encouraged to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.)
Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque died in her Visitation convent on October 17, 1690, shortly after receiving the Last Rites of the Church.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart, as our Lord requested through Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, was officially recognized by the Church and approved in 1765 – seventy- five years after Sister Margaret Mary’s death.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus remains a profound and powerful devotion in the life of the Church. It is a source of grace and comfort to many who embrace it as a part of their spiritual formation.
Through the intercession of Saint John the Evangelist, may we be living examples of the gospel that he has handed onto us!
October 15, 2017