Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
By Margaret Alexander
In seventeenth century France, the faith in people had been badly shaken; there was a rebellion against the Church. But as every threat brings its response, so now there rose up a fresh strong force to counter these trends. Born in 1647 in Burgundy and the fifth child of seven, Margaret grew up comfortably in a nice country house. Sadly though when she was eight her father died of pneumonia, and with his death brought hard times. Nevertheless, Margaret was able to be sent to a convent school at Charolles. She loved the peace and order of the convent life, and they, impressed by her devotion, allowed her to make her First Communion at the young age of nine. This was unusual at the time. Shortly after, she became ill with rheumatic fever and had to be sent home. She stayed there bedridden for four long years.
During the time she was at school her devotion to God and her faith grew stronger than before. So it was no surprise to her family when, at twenty years old, she chose the convent life for her future. At twenty-two she made her profession at the convent of the Visitation at Paray-Le-Monial and the name Mary was added when she became a novice. The years passed quietly for Margaret Mary and even though she was not very skillful in her duties she never stopped trying to do her best. Quite often you could find her kneeling at the altar in pious and humble prayer, and it was here that God chose her to be His Voice for mankind. On December 27, 1673 while she was praying at the altar she says she, “felt His Divine Presence and heard His Voice inviting her to take the place which St. John occupied at the Last Supper.” He told her that the Love of His Heart must spread and manifest itself to men, and He would reveal Its graces through her. This was the first of many revelations she would receive within eighteen months.
Margaret Mary went to the Mother Superior and told her what happened. She did not believe her and mortified and humiliated her so severely that she collapsed and became very ill. So ill in fact that she was very close to death. Afraid for the young nun’s life, the Superior told her, “if He spared her life, she would take this as a sign that the visions and messages were truly from God”. Margaret Mary prayed and recovered soon after. As promised, the Mother Superior believed and invited theologians to listen to the nun’s story. They judged her to be a victim of delusions. But a Jesuit, Father Claude, visited Margaret Mary and upon hearing her was completely convinced that the revelations were real. He wrote down everything Margaret Mary told him about these revelations. During the eighteen months that Margaret Mary was receiving revelations from Jesus some nuns were hostile towards her and her spiritual experiences and underwent great trials from their mockery. She was tempted with despair, vainglory and self-indulgence and had a good deal of sickness.
Two years later a new and more sympathetic Mother Superior became head of the convent. She appointed Margaret Mary as her assistant and from henceforth any remaining opposition ceased. After Father Claude’s death, his writings of the Divine Revelations were accidentally read out loud. Initially Margaret-Mary felt embarrassed but then she realized the importance of her secret being known. As she was also made mistress of the novices, she encouraged the devotion to the Sacred Heart among her novices. With His promises to those who honor His Heart they privately observed the Feast in 1685. She became such a success as novice-mistress that the nuns would ask leave to attend her conferences, and on June 21 the whole house celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart. A few years later a Chapel was built in honor of His Heart, and the devotion began to be accepted in other convents and propagated throughout France.
Margaret Mary became very ill while in her second term as assistant. She asked for the Last Sacraments saying, “I need nothing but God and to lose myself in the Heart of Jesus.” In October of 1690, at forty-three, Margaret Mary passed away peacefully. Throughout her life Margaret Mary always counted on God. Even as a child she was seen many times praying in the garden. Her faith and devotion were her strength to keep going, despite the fact she was sick most of her life. To love and serve God faithfully with a pious and humble heart would probably be her words to us today as well as to spread the importance of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that St. Margaret Mary spread devotion to was the same love that saved us from our sins and made us sons and daughters of God.