Friday, October 16, 2009
Margaret Alacoque, the fifth of seven children of Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn, was born at Lhautecour in old Burgandy, now East Central France, on July 22, 1647.
She was baptized Margaret, adding the name Mary only at the time of her Confirmation in 1669. At the age of four she took a vow of chastity, though "I did not then understand what I had done, nor what was meant by the words 'vow' and 'chastity'" From her earliest years she was tenderly devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin.
Her father died when she was eight. When she was eight and a half, she was sent to the school of the Urbanist Nuns at Charolles, where she received the only two years of formal education she ever had.
At the then early age of nine, she made her first Holy Communion.
"This Communion shed such bitterness over all my little pleasures and amusements that I was no longer able to enjoy any of them, although I sought them eagerly." Shortly after this she succumbed to long illness. "But I fell into so pitable a state of ill health that for about four years I was unable to walk. My bones pierced my skin.
Consequently I was removed from the convent at the end of two years. since no remedy could be found for my illness, I was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin with the promise that, if she cured me, I should one day be one of Her daughters. Scarcely had I made this vow, when I was cured and taken anew under the protection of Our Lady."
Though her father, a royal notary, had been in good financial circumstances, Margaret and her mother were after his death subjected to domestic persecution and captivity in their home by some of their relatives.
This drew the girl more to mental prayer, and brought her closer to Christ in His suffering. Eventualy, her mother again became mistress in her own house and prevailed upon her now seventeen-year-old daughter to consider marriage.
This brought about an inner conflict and a struggle began in her soul between the devil and the world on one hand and Our Lord and her vow on the other. Satan: "Poor fool, what do you mean by wishing to be a nun? You will become the laughing stock of the world, for you will never be able to persevere." Her Savior after the scrouging: "Would you take this pleasure, whereas I never had any and delivered Myself up to every kind of bitterness for love of you and to win your heart? Nevertheless, you would still dispute with Me!"
"I had indeed committed great crimes," she writes, "for once during the days of Carnival, together with other young girls, I disguised myself through vain complacency.
This has been to me a cause of bitter tears and sorrow during my whole life, together with the fault I committed in adorning myself in worldly attire through the same motive of complacency towards the persons above mentioned."
She was induced against her better judgement to apply for admission into the Ursuline Order at Macon, but was suddenly called home just "as they were ready to open the convent door to me".
On May 25, 1671, she paid her first visit to her "dear Paray,' where as soon as I entered the parlor, I heard interiorly these words: 'It is here that I would have you be'" She took the habit August 25, 1671, and made her profession November 6, 1672, as the first daughter, of the new superior, Mother de Saumaise, who was to figure so largely in her later life.
Christ had carefully prepared His servant for her great mission, through suffering, prayer and special guidance.
Her sufferings were to continue to the end, her prayer would become ecstatic, the Savior Himself would be her personal spiritual director till death.
In this way she would be able to present to the world the Devotion to the Sacred Heart in its modern form. Our Lord made many revelations to Margaret mary-perhaps forty. The most striking of these began on December 27, 1673; they ended with the greatest of them all, "Behold this Heart," in June 1675.
It was during this year that Claude de la Colombiere, a saintly young priest of the Society of Jesus, was providentially sent to Paray-le-Monail and appointed extraordinary confessor to the Visitandine community of which Margaret Mary was a member.
He encouraged and reassured her, and himself became an apostle of the Devotion of the Sacred Heart for the few years of life that remained to him. The notes of His Retreat made in London in 1677, where he was sent after only eighteen months in Paray, were to be a great instrument in promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Margaret Mary was mistress of novices from 1685 to 1686. Her death came on October 17, 1690. Her body still rests at Paray-le-Monial. The process with a view to her canonization was begun in 1715.
She was declared Venerable in 1824, Blessed in 1864, and became St. Margaret Mary on May 13, 1920.
"In order to be like You, who are always alone in the Blessed Sacrament, I shall love solitude and try to converse with You as much as possible. Grant that my mind may not seek to know anything but You, that my heart may have no longings or desires but to love You. When I am obliged to take some comfort, I shall take care to see that it be pleasing to Your Heart. In my conversations, O divine Word, I shall consecrate all my words to You so that You will not permit me to pronounce a single one which is not for Your glory.... When I am thirsty, I shall endure it in honor of the thirst You endured for the salvation of souls.... If by chance, I commit some fault, I shall humble myself, and then take the opposite virtue from Your Heart, offering it to the eternal Father in expiation for my failure. All this I intend to do, O Eucharistic Jesus, to unite myself to You in every action of the day."
-- The Letters of St Margaret Mary Alacoque by CA Herbst, SJ