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st.Margaret Mary Alacoque-Mystic and leader of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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st.Margaret Mary Alacoque

Feast Day : October 17

 

 

Patronage: against polio

 

 

Also known as: Margaret Mary

 

 

Margaret Mary Alacoque was born at L’ Hautecour, France, on July 22, 1647, to Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn. As a child she preferred to sit in silence and prayer. Her father died when she was eight, and she was sent to the Poor Clare school at Charolles. She took her First Communion at age nine, and secretly practiced such severe mortifications that she contracted rheumatic fever and spent four years paralyzed in bed. She is said to have healed instantly when she vowed to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would consecrate herself to a religious life. She was 15. Margaret Mary’s family suffered great poverty, but recovered its property when she was 17. Her mother felt that Margaret Mary could serve God at home by penance and charity to the poor. Though she still bled from her mortifications, she engaged in worldly activities. But one night after returning home from a carnival ball, she had a vision of Christ as he was during the scourging, reproaching her for infidelity to him. She spent the rest of her life regretting two faults committed at this time: the wearing of some ornaments and a mask at the carnival to please her brothers. On May 25, 1671, Margaret Mary entered the Visitation Convent at Paray, where she was subjected to many trials to prove herself. She was professed in November 1652. On December 27, 1672, she had the first of a series of revelations that would last a year and a half. In these visions Christ told her that he had chosen her to spread devotion to his Sacred Heart. He told of his ardent desire to be loved by humanity and his design of manifesting his Heart with all its treasures of love, mercy, sanctification and salvation. He called Margaret Mary “the Beloved Disciple of the Sacred Heart” and the heiress of its treasures. Christ instructed her in a devotion that became known as the Nine Fridays and the Holy Hour, and he asked her to establish the feast of the Sacred Heart on the Friday after the octave of the feast of Corpus Christi. Margaret Mary was inspired to pray lying prostrate with her face to the ground from 11 until midnight on the eve of the first Friday of each month, to share Jesus’ sadness at being abandoned by his apostles. She also was inspired to receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month. Margaret Mary later recorded in her Autobiography that during these visions she felt intense, burning and all-consuming heat from the Sacred Heart of Jesus: The Sacred Heart was represented to me as a resplendent sun, the burning rays of which fell vertically upon my heart, which was inflamed with a fire so fervid that it seemed as if it would reduce me to ashes . . . His Five Wounds shining [sic] like so many sounds. Flames issued from every part of his Sacred Humanity, especially from his Adorable Bosom, which resembled an open furnace and disclosed to me His most loving and most amiable Heart, which was the living source of these flames. Margaret Mary’s visions earned her scorn and criticism from her peers; her mother superior rebuffed her. Eventually Margaret Mary won over her superior, but she failed to convince members of her own community and a group of investigating theologians that her apparitions were real. Bl. Claude La Colombière, who served as the community’s confessor for a time, supported her and declared that her visions were genuine. A breakthrough came in 1683 when a new mother superior was elected and Margaret Mary was named her assistant. She later became novice mistress. The convent began to observe the feast of the Sacred Heart privately in 1686. In 1688 a chapel was built at Paray to honor the Sacred Heart, and the feast spread to other Visitation convents. In her final illness she refused all treatment, repeating frequently: “What have I in heaven and what do I desire on earth, but Thee alone, O my God?” She died pronouncing the Holy Name of Jesus on October 17, 1690, at Paray-le-Monial. Her body rests under the altar in the chapel at Paray, and attracts many pilgrims, who obtain favors through her intercession. When her tomb was canonically opened in July 1830, two instantaneous cures took place. Margaret Mary’s intense devotion to the Sacred Heart, and to the need to suffer, permeated all of her writings, including her autobiography and her letters. For her, the only glory was in complete annihilation of the self and surrender to God. There was no “middle course” for ensuring salvation for eternity. “Our falls are the continual revolt of our passions,” she wrote. “But we need not be troubled, cast down or discouraged by them: we must do violence to ourselves and draw profit from them.” Margaret Mary, St. John Eudes and Bl. Claude La Colombière are called the “Saints of the Sacred Heart,” a devotion officially recognized and approved by Pope Clement XIII (r. 1758–69) in 1765.

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