St. Mary Margaret Alacoque entered the religious life at the age of 22. A year after her profession in 1673, as she knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, lost in an ecstasy, the Sacred Heart of Jesus first appeared to her, His heart encircled by a crown of thorns and He spoke these words to her:
My Divine Heart is so full of love for men, and especially for you, that, unable any longer to keep within Itself the flames of Its burning love, It needs must spread them abroad through means of you, and It must make Itself known unto men in order to enrich them with the treasures which It contains.
I make known to you the worth of these treasures: they contain the graces of sanctification and of salvation, which are needful to free them from the abyss of perdition. I have chosen you, who are an abyss of unworthiness and ignorance, to carry out this great work, so that it may be seen that everything has been done by Me alone. (1)
From that time on, Margaret Mary experienced a vehement pain in her side, which always increased on the first Friday of every month.
In His second vision to her, during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, He complained to her of the ingratitude of men in return for His love.
This ingratitude wounded Me more than all else that I endured during My Passion. Yet all that I have endured for them would seem but little to My Love, if only they would make some return to Me, but they show Me nothing save coldness, and they reject My endearments. Do thou at least give Me this pleasure of making atonement for their ingratitude. (2)
He then asked Margaret Mary, for this atonement, to receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month. In addition, He asked that every Thursday, between 11 and 12 pm, that she remain prostrate on the ground in prayer in expiation for the sins of mankind and to "render some solace to His Heart for such absolute abandonment on the part of His creatures."
Margaret Mary suffered greatly because of these revelations. Her Superior distrusted her, her Confessor doubted her, her fellow sisters scoffed at her, and she was given interior trial and dark temptation. She bore all with pleasure to her Divine Spouse Who shared loving communications with her, giving her a burning desire to give Him a perfect return of love.
In reward for her great humility and gentle patience, in June of 1675, on the Octave of Corpus Christi, He confided to her the coldness and indifference shown Him, especially by his religious.
I therefore demand that the first Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be made a special festival in honour of my Sacred Heart, by receiving Holy Communion on that day, and by making reparation of honour in atonement for the insults, which are offered to It.
And I promise that My Heart shall open wide to pour out plentifully the influences of Its Love upon all those who shall give such honour to It, or cause it to be given. (3)
Margaret Mary asked Him for the means of doing that He commanded and He replied:
Go to My servant Père de la Colombière, and tell him from Me to exert himself to the utmost of his power in establishing this devotion. But let him not be discouraged by the difficulties he will have to encounter, for he shall succeed in the end, but tell him to remember that he alone is ail-powerful who places his confidence not in himself, but in Me. (4)
PÈRE DE LA COLOMBIÈRE
Père de la Colombière accepted God's request and agreed to assist Margaret Mary along the difficult path she was called upon to walk. In return, God endowed Père de la Colombière with a remarkable zeal and tender piety.
Always cautious by nature in regard to visions and manifestations of the devout, he carefully tried Margaret Mary and, enlightened from above, embraced her spirit and written and eventually, was the first to consecrate himself to the love and service of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, according to the rules given him by Blessed Margaret Mary.
His Superiors eventually sent Père de la Colombière to England, leaving Margaret Mary alone to carry her cross, the sure accompaniment of a life of exceptional graces. She began to experience hours of severe trials and tribulation, hours of pain and dereliction, and many exterior humiliations.
Our Lord seemed to redouble her powers of suffering, in order to purify her heart from every stain and fit it yet more to suffer" like unto His Heart."
Eat and drink at the table of holy delights to strengthen thyself to walk courageously, for the road is long and difficult, and thou wilt often have to pause and take breath, to rest for awhile in My Heart.
Receive, My daughter, the cross which I give thee, and implant it in thy heart, have it always before thine eyes, bear it always on thy shoulders. It will make thee experience the most acute torments, which thou canst hardly conceive, continual hunger without being satisfied, thirst that seems unquenchable, etc. (5)
Margaret Mary was strengthened by her sufferings and felt as though she no longer belonged to herself, consumed by an ardent desire to absorb her will in the will of God. Accepting this holocaust of her whole nature, she signed an act of submission to His will with her own blood. In return, Christ gave her the treasures of His heart, often calling her the much-beloved disciple of His own Heart.
He asked her, several years later, to choose between the bliss of a Seraph or bearing greater sufferings in order to establish the reign of His Love in the hearts of men. Margaret Mary accepted the cross without hesitation and she was plunged into a sea of interior suffering and bitterness of spirit. "Ah! Without the Cross and the Blessed Sacrament I should not be able to support the length of my exile in this vale of tears," she exclaimed. About this time she wrote to
In a letter to Père de la Colombière, she wrote:
"Would that I could recount, Reverend Father, all that I know regarding this Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and discover to the whole world the treasures of grace which He has stored up in His Heart, and desires to pour out abundantly on all those who will practice it.
"I conjure you to leave no means untried in order to inspire everyone with its sweet efficacy. Jesus Christ has shown me, in a manner that admits of no doubt, that it was especially by means of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus that He wished to establish everywhere this Devotion, and through its means to draw to Himself an infinite number of faithful servants and grateful children.
"The treasures of graces and blessings contained in the Sacred Heart are unbounded. I do not know that there is any practice of devotion in spiritual life more calculated to raise a soul in a short time to the highest perfection, and to make it relish the true sweetness, which is to be found in the service of Jesus Christ.
"I say with confidence that if we only knew how pleasing this Devotion is to our Divine Lord, that there is not a Christian, however slight may be his love towards his Saviour, but he would at once adopt its practice.
"Induce especially religious persons to embrace it. They will derive such assistance from it that no other means will be required to restore their first fervor. Our Divine Lord has assured me that to those who are employed in laboring for the salvation of souls He will give the power of touching the most hardened hearts, and they will labour with marvelous success if they are themselves penetrated with a tender Devotion to His Sacred Heart.
"Persons in the world will find in this Devotion all the helps necessary for their state of life: peace in their families, relief in their toils, the blessings of Heaven on all their undertakings, and comfort in their difficulties.
"In the Sacred Heart they will have a secure place of refuge during life, and more especially at the hour of death. Oh, what a happiness to die after having had always during life Devotion to the Heart of Him Who will hereafter be our Judge!" (6)
DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
On the last day of the Octave of Corpus Christi, 1686, one of Margaret Mary's nuns who had resisted the Devotion to the Sacred Heart the most, asked Margaret Mary for the picture of the Sacred Heart.
Filled with joy that this little nun may have finally embraced the devotion, Margaret Mary brought all the novices together to pray for her. That next morning, Friday, all were greatly surprised to enter the choir and find an altar fitted up in front of the grille, ornamented with flowers and surrounded by lighted candles. In the center was a picture of the Sacred Heart, over which a written invitation to all the nuns to consecrate themselves to Its love and service.
They spent the entire day venerating the symbol of love and all consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart, beginning with Sister Mary Magdalen des Escures, who had enthroned the long-despised picture on the little altar in the choir.
This Devotion of the Sacred Heart was adopted, thereafter, by several houses of the Order, including at Paray, Moulins and Dijon. In Dijon, a public solemnity in honour of the Sacred Heart was instituted with the consent of the Ecclesiastical Superiors of the Diocese.
Margaret Mary died October 17, 1690, at the age of 43, having kept her soul in the greatest purity, to fit it to be presented before the Judgment Seat of God. After her death Devotion to the Sacred Heart spread still more rapidly, and in the year 1691, Père Croiset, S.J., published a book on this Devotion, which was enthusiastically received throughout France and Italy.
Blessed Margaret Mary had foreseen its publication soon after her interview with this holy Jesuit, and the result of its promulgation so stirred the minds of the people that they caused altars to be built, and churches to be erected, under the patronage of the Sacred Heart. Confraternities were likewise founded, and so eagerly did the hearts of men respond to this last inspiration of Divine Love, that by the year 1726 no less than 317 confraternities had sprung into existence. Dioceses were dedicated to Its honour, and in times of imminent peril, whole countries were drawn to seek shelter under the protection of the Adorable Heart of Jesus.
Political enmities have been stayed, and when the greater danger of the loss of the true Faith has been at stake, the people with one accord have turned for strength, light, and healing to this compassionate Heart, and never without avail. Thus, for these last three hundred years, Devotion to the Sacred Heart has grown, spread, and fructified all from such a tiny seed as that little paper picture in the convent chapel of Paray.
TWELVE PROMISES OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
- I will give them all the graces necessary in their state of life.
- I will establish peace in their houses.
- I will console them in their sorrows.
- I will be their sure refuge during life, and above all, at the hour of death.
- I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
- Sinners shall find in My Heart a source and ocean of mercy.
- Tepid souls shall thereby become fervent.
- Fervent souls shall rise thereby to the highest degrees of perfection.
- I will bless every place where there is a picture of My Heart exposed and venerated.
- I will give priests who spread this devotion a special power to move the hardest hearts.
- All those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
- I promise that, in the excessive mercy of My Heart, My All-powerful Love will grant to those who go to Communion on nine consecutive first Fridays of the month the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in My disgrace, nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their sure refuge in this last moment.
LITANY OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, of Infinite Majesty, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Sacred Temple of God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Tabernacle of the Most High, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, House of God and Gate of Heaven, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells the fullness of divinity, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, in the Father was well pleased, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, desire of everlasting life, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, patient and most merciful, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, enriching all who invoke you, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, loaded down with opprobrium, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our offenses, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, obedient to death, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, source of consolation, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, salvation for those who trust in you, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in you, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all the saints, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
R. Make our own heats like yours,
Let us pray. Almighty and eternal God, look upon the heart of Your most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which he offers You in the name of sinners; and to those who implore Your mercy, in Your great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with Your forever and ever. Amen.
(1) REV. JOSEPH A. KELLER, D.D, "The Sacred Heart or Incidents Showing How Those Who Honour the
Sacred Heart of Jesus are Assisted and Helped by Its Power and Love," 4th edition, London: Burns Gates & Wasbourne, Ltd., 1899, p20-21
(2) Ibid., p21
(3) Ibid., p22-23
(4) Ibid., p23
(5) Ibid., p25
(6) Ibid., p30-31