17 Oct Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin
Today is the feast day Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Ora pro nobis.
Prayer in Adoration of the Sacred Heart
Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, Whom I believe to be really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, receive this most profound act of adoration to supply for the desire I have to adore Thee unceasingly, and in thanksgiving for the sentiments of love which Thy sacred Heart has for me in this sacrament. I cannot better acknowledge them than by offering Thee all the acts of adoration, resignation, patience, and love which this same Heart has made during its mortal life, and which it makes still and which it shall make eternally in heaven, in order that through it I may love Thee, praise Thee, and adore Thee worthily as much as it is possible for me. I unite myself to this divine offering which Thou dost make to Thy divine Father, and I consecrate to Thee my whole being, praying Thee to destroy in me all sin and not to permit that I should be separated from Thee eternally. Amen. Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque was born at Lhautecour, France, 22 July, 1647. Her parents, Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn, were distinguished less for temporal possessions than for their virtue, which gave them an honorable position.
from Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, 1894
Saint Margaret Mary, a soul of divine predilection, was born at Terreau in Burgundy, on July 22, 1647. During her infancy she showed a wonderfully sensitive revulsion to the very idea of sin, and while still a young child always recited the entire Rosary every day. She lost her father at the age of eight years, and her mother placed her with the Poor Clares. She was often sick and for four years was bedridden, losing almost entirely the use of her members. She made a vow to Our Lady to become one of Her daughters if She cured her, and was suddenly entirely well.
She was of a happy temperament and her heart became easily attached to human affections. God began her purification when the charge of her mother's house was confided to persons who reduced the family to a sort of servitude. Margaret Mary turned to God for strength and consolation when she was accused of various crimes she had not committed. In short, the Saint of the Sacred Heart learned to suffer for Christ, with patience, what innocence can suffer in such situations.
She desired to be a religious, but her mother could not bear to hear a word of that desire. Finally God came to her assistance through a Franciscan priest, who told her brother that he would answer to God for the vocation of his sister. In 1671 she entered the Order of the Visitation of Mary, at Paray-le-Monial, and was professed the following year. She followed all the practices of the monastery in perfect obedience, spending as much time as she could in the chapel with her Lord. After sanctifying her by many trials, Jesus appeared to her in numerous visions, displaying to her His Sacred Heart, sometimes burning as a furnace, and sometimes torn and bleeding on account of the coldness and sins of men. “Behold this Heart which has so loved men, and been so little loved by them in return!”
In 1675, she was told by Our Lord that she, with the aid of Father Claude de la Colombiere of the Society of Jesus, was to be His instrument for instituting the feast of the Sacred Heart, and for spreading that devotion everywhere. This was not accomplished without great sufferings. The good Jesuit did all in his power to make known and loved the Heart of Jesus, but when it seemed all obstacles were about to disappear, his credit diminished, and his Superiors sent him to England. He returned to France exhausted and soon died.
Saint Margaret Mary was for a time Mistress of Novices, and in this office exercised a true apostolate, working to win for the Heart of Jesus the hearts of the young girls who were aspiring to religious consecration. She was persecuted when she sent one of them home, not having seen in her the indications of a genuine vocation; the family attempted to have her deposed. She remained in the charge but was deprived of Holy Communion on the First Friday of the month. This practice was one of Our Lord's specific requests; for souls who communicate nine First Fridays in succession, He promised the most wonderful graces. The demons also persecuted her visibly; nonetheless her entire Community was finally won over to devotion to the Divine Heart. (1)
The Expiatory Sufferings of Blessed Margaret Mary
by the Rev. Charles B. Garside, M.A., 1874
On the first Friday every month the Sacred Heart appeared to Blessed Margaret under the form of a blazing sun, which poured its scorching, yet vitalizing rays into her own breast. It was on one of these occasions that she received the following definite commands: (1) She was communicate as often as she was not forbidden by her Superiors (2) she was to make a rule of communicating on the first Friday of every month and (3) she was to be plunged every night between Thursday and Friday into an agony of sadness and desolation, which should be a repetition, or rather a reflection, so to speak within her soul of the terrible woe endured by her Lord in the Garden of Gethsemani; she was to feel as if suffering it together with Him, and she was instructed to rise at eleven, and falling on her face to remain prostrate on the ground for an entire hour. By this practice Our Lord gave her to understand that she should bear Him company as if she had been in the Garden of Sorrows when the apostles fell asleep through weariness, and that, whilst thus sweetening for Him some of the bitterness which their conduct had caused in His Heart she should also implore mercy for sinners.
On several occasions Our Lord condescended to make this elect spouse sympathize in His sorrows, not merely by bringing before her mind, in the form of a mental contemplation, the recollection of what He had undergone, but by so uniting her with Himself and the scenes of His suffering life, that, by a kind of mysterious intercommunion, she became, to adopt St. Peter's expression, a real partaker in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter iv. 18). She participated to an extraordinary degree in that fellowship “of the Cross of Christ” by which, St. Leo says, “we ourselves co-operate in some measure with that which He has achieved for us;” for “if we suffer we shall also reign with Him,” writes the apostle Paul (2 Tim. ii. 12). The Crucified drew her so closely to Him that His thorns, spear, and nails entered mystically into her own being; she lived, in some sense, which it is beyond the power of human language to explain, the life of the Man-God, as He Himself declared that she should; and not only did she undergo something akin to His pain, but again and again, when He was offended by the sins of others, she was told to appease His anger by suffering with Him, and at the same time by offering up those pains of her own as a mode of intercession for them. Her pains in themselves were worthless; but such is the vicarious force of charity, such is the all-pervading effect of co-membership in that Church which is the ” body of Christ,” such is the desire of the Head that His virtue should flow through secondary and inferior channels united with Himself, that many souls were restored to favor and pardon through Margaret's holy afflictions, whom their Lord would not have forgiven so easily, if at all, had she not thrown her mite of expiation into the treasury of that Heart of Jesus which had inspired and enabled her to present the offerings.
Incidents and revelations of this kind in the life of Blessed Margaret are a luminous commentary upon those deep words of St. Paul, “I fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the Church” (Col. i. 24). ” The sufferings of Christ abound in us ” (2 Cor. i. 5). “We perish not, always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus ” (2 Cor. iv. 10). ” I bear the marks of the Lord in my body” (Gal. vi. 17). “With Christ I am nailed to the cross ” (Gal. ii. 19). Speaking of certain nuns who had failed in their duty to Jesus Christ, Margaret Mary says that He told her to charge herself with the burden of restoring them to His favor, and she succeeded; but she adds, “I had to suffer much. Hell itself is not more dreadful than a heart deprived of the love of my beloved.”
It is a matter of faith, the denial of which would be heresy, that Christ's sufferings were more than sufficient to redeem the world and atone for every sin that has been or could be committed by man. But it is no less true that Christ, in His own infinite wisdom, makes the application of this redemption and the gift of many graces to individuals dependent upon certain conditions. As incorporation into His Church, faith, hope, charity, prayers, obedience, and sacraments are undoubtedly necessary in order that we may share in the fruits of Christ's meritorious works, so also He makes suffering a means of this participation. If Christ is induced to grant many mercies for others if we pray for them, which He would not have conceded without our prayers, it is not difficult to understand that He may also lay crosses on some members of His Church, in order that He may, in return for that penance, bestow unmerited favors upon others. As it is part of the dispensation of an incarnate God to carry on His kingdom by the aid of “fellow-workers,” so it is part of the same dispensation to carry it on by the aid of fellow-sufferers. The Church of Christ is “one body,” and, as many of the Fathers say, the suffering of Christ and His Church is one, since their life and soul are one.” Christ,” writes St. Augustine, “is not only totally in the head, but also totally in the body.” Thus the sufferings of His living members are united to His own, even called His own, and therefore possess a special value in His sight. When Saul persecuted the Christians, He did not, says St. Augustine, call them His servants, or even His friends, but Himself: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” As also Jesus Christ delights in utilizing, so to speak, every good work of His own children by drawing it into an exalting fellowship with His own obedience to His heavenly Father, and making it fertile in advantages to the Church at large, so in various ways and degrees He seals the sufferings of others with the stamp of His own sacred cross. And the holier His children are, the more frequently and deeply He invites them to help their brethren by enduring hard sacrifices for their sakes: thus they, like Him, become poor, that others through their poverty may become rich.
Those who regard the redemption of man by Christ as a merely outward payment by Him of a debt due from guilty sinners to God, also regard the pardon of man and the relation that has been established between Christ and him as entirely external. They do not comprehend that the atoning act on the Cross was only the beginning of that mystery of love by which Christ, the second Adam, incorporates us into Himself, so that as the branches live by the very life of the vine, and through the power of that imparted life “bring forth fruit,” in like manner the spirit of Jesus dwells in man. The Christian is said by St. Paul to be “a new creature in Christ” (2 Cor. v. 17); to have “Christ in him, the hope of glory ” (Col. i. 27); “the Holy Ghost dwelleth in us ” (2 Tim. i. 14); and Christ is described as “our life;” not our future life only, but our present life–“Christ, Who is your life,” says St. Paul [Col. iii. 4). “Abide in Me and I in you,” is Our Lord's own command (John xv. 4). “Not I, but Christ, liveth in me,” is the Apostle's description of himself (Gal. ii. 20). ” He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” i.e. one spirit with Christ (1 Cor. vi. 17); and we are also declared to be “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Eph. v. 30). Our Lord, moreover, prayed not for the apostles only, but “for them also who through their word shall believe in Me; that all may be one, as Thou, Father, in Me and I in Thee; that they may be one in us . . . that they may be one, as we also are one” (John xvii. 20-28). What Catholic language can go beyond these words? This is the true Gospel, and they who believe it recognize the sacred value of the actions and sufferings of those who are vitally united in Jesus Christ. Any other Christianity is a human fiction and not a divine reality.
In further illustration of the peculiar expiatory office which Our Lord frequently charged our saint to fulfil in behalf of others, we may here mention that she suffered in an especial manner during every carnival, on account of the excesses that were then committed; her mental anguish caused always a severe bodily illness; but as soon as Ash Wednesday came, she was well and cheerful. In one of these states of suffering, she was told by Our Lord that “a single holy soul could obtain pardon from God for a thousand sinners.”
Sometimes Our Lord, in order to save a soul which was on the point of being lost for ever, would make His servant feel the frightful agony of a reprobate sinner at the point of death; with reference to which she said: “I never experienced anything so horrible; I have no words to explain it.” (1)