In light of June being the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, here’s a look at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and the role she played in promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart – imagery that goes all the way back to Scripture.
Who was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque?
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque is a French nun who experienced visions of Christ. In 1673, she experienced Christ’s presence in an extraordinary way while in prayer. She heard Christ explain that he desired to show his love for the human race in a special way, by encouraging devotion to “the heart that so loved mankind.” She described that His Heart was on fire and surrounded by a crown of thorns.
She experienced a subsequent series of private revelations regarding the gratitude due to Jesus on the part of humanity, and the means of responding through public and private devotion, but the superior of the convent dismissed this as a delusion.
How did St. Margaret Mary’s revelations of the Sacred Heart become so well-known?
In 1674, a Jesuit priest named Father Claude de la Colombiere became Margaret's spiritual director. He believed her testimony, and chronicled it in writing.
Fr. de la Colombiere – later canonized as a saint – left the monastery to serve as a missionary in England. By the time he returned and died in 1681, Margaret had made peace with the apparent rejection of her experiences. Through St. Claude's direction, she had reached a point of inner peace, no longer concerned with the hostility of others in her community.
In time, however, many who doubted her would become convinced as they pondered what St. Claude had written about the Sacred Heart. Eventually, her own writings and the accounts of her would face a rigorous examination by Church officials.
She was canonized in 1920.
What were the fruits of these visions?
Jesus instructed her in a devotion that was to become known as the Nine Fridays. Christ also inspired Margaret Mary to establish the Holy Hour and to receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month. In the final revelation, the Lord asked that a feast of reparation be instituted for the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi.
In Cardinal Collins pastoral letter on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, “Heart Speaks to Heart” he explains:
Friday is the day of the Sacred Heart. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is always celebrated on a Friday, because Good Friday is the day of the crucifixion, and that is where the love of Jesus in the Sacred Heart is revealed. It is celebrated on the Friday that follows the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, because personal prayer to Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist is an essential element of the devotion of the Sacred Heart. Both celebrate the human encounter with the love of Jesus on the Cross: in the Sacred Heart, and in the continuing sacramental presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. It is a custom to link a Holy Hour of Adoration of the Lord in the Eucharist to the focus on the Sacred Heart on Friday, especially on the First Friday of the month, when many people make a special effort to attend Mass as part of the Sacred Heart devotion.
To read more from Cardinal’s pastoral letter on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, please visit https://www.archtoronto.org/sacredheart