Saint of the Day|
This saint believed in getting to the Heart of the matter
St. Margaret Mary started devotion to Sacred Heart
By Tony Staley
In St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, he writes that God
sent the foolish, the weak and the ordinary to confound the wise,
the strong and the noble. The life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
For somehow, this 17th century nun turned a series of revelations
that were scorned by many into a practice that after more than
300 years is still observed: the feast of the Sacred Heart and
reception of Communion on nine successive first Fridays.
St. Margaret Mary was born July 22, 1647, at L'Hautecour,
Burgundy, France, to Philiberte (Lamyn) and Claude Alacoque.
After her father died when she was eight, she studied at the Poor
Clares school in Charolles. The nuns were impressed by her piety
- they even allowed her to receive her First Communion at age 9,
rather than 14, as was the custom - and she was attracted by
their way of life.
During the next five years, while she was bedridden with
rheumatic fever - ages 10-15 - she developed a devotion to the
Sacred Heart of Jesus.
After refusing to marry, she entered the Visitation convent at
Paray-le-Monial and made vows in 1672. She had visions of Christ
from the time she turned 20, including a series of revelations
that began on Dec. 27, 1673, and continued for 18 months.
She said Christ told her that he wanted her to spread devotion to
the Sacred Heart, including starting a feast and observing the
Nine Fridays and the Holy Hour.
The illustration of the Sacred Heart familiar to Catholics
depicts what she saw: "The divine heart was shown me on a throne
of flames. It was more resplendent than the sun and transparent
as crystal. The heart had its own adorable wound, and was
surrounded by a crown of thorns, signifying the stings caused by
our sins. And there was a cross above it."
At first, her superior, Mother de Saumaise, refused to listen to
her, but she finally became convinced when Margaret Mary
recovered from a life-threatening illness. However, she was
unable to sway others in her community or a panel of theologians
appointed to determine the validity of the visions.
Finally, Bl. Claud La Colombière, the community's confessor,
supported her. Community opposition ended after the election in
1683 of Mother Melin, who made Margaret Mary an assistant.
As the novice mistress, she had the convent begin privately
observing the Feast of the Sacred Heart in 1686. Two years later,
they built a Sacred Heart chapel at the convent and soon the
feast began to be observed at the order's other convents.
Margaret Mary died on Oct. 17, 1690. Seventy-five years later, in
1765, Pope Clement XIII officially recognized and approved the
devotion to the Sacred Heart.
St. Margaret Mary was canonized in 1920. We celebrate her feast
on Oct. 17.
Sources: Butler's Lives of the Saints, Dictionary of Saints and Voices of the Saints.