Above: This is a detail of a large painting in the Chapel of the Visitations. It depicts the second apparition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary

Margaret Alacoque., the fifth child of Claude Alacoque, notary, and his wife, Philiberte, was born July 22, 1647 in the village of Verosvres in France. She was not born a saint; she became one slowly and only with effort and struggles. The Holy Spirit, author of all holiness, inspired her to dedicate herself to God at an early age. She endured much suffering as a child but this taught her to conform her life to that of Jesus in His paschal mystery.

Her gift of mystical prayer enabled her to experience union with God and to make this union the focus of her life. This call to total dedication finally led her to enter the Visitation Monastery in Paray-le-Monial, France, on June 20, 1671 shortly before her 24th birthday.

From 1673 to 1675 Christ appeared to her showing her His Heart. "My divine Heart", He said during the first revelation, "is so passionately fond of the human race, and of you in particular, that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning charity any longer. They must burst out through you." He mourned the world's indifference, coldness and thanklessness and asked Margaret Mary for a communion of reparation on the First Friday of each month. These apparitions became known when Saint la Colombiere died; his notes revealed the details of her revelations which she had written down at his request.

During her second term as assistant Superior, her health broke down, "Nothing serious: said her doctor but Margaret disagreed: "I shall not live for I have nothing left to suffer. I need nothing but God and to lose myself in the Heart of Jesus." Seconds later, this confidante of the Sacred Heart and "heiress of all its treasures" (Jesus' words) died October 17, 1690 at age 41. She was canonized in 1920.

Revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

"Jesus asked for my heart which I begged Him to take, as He did, and placed it in His adorable One, in which He showed to me as a tiny speck consumed in this burning furnace. Then, taking it out as a burning flame shaped like a heart He replaced it in the place from which He had taken it."

On another occasion before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, Sister Margaret Mary saw Christ, His five wounds dazzling as five suns, "His all loving and lovable Heart the living source of these flames."

The third great vision took place in June of 1675. Jesus then revealed His Heart: "Behold this Heart which has loved everyone so much that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love." Christ then asked for a special liturgical feast for His Sacred Heart, including a "solemn act of reparation" for all the offences and indignities He has received in the Sacrament of His love - the Eucharist.

Saint Claude la Colombiere-"Perfect Friend"

By herself, St. Margaret Mary, a cloistered Religious, was not able to carry out the mission entrusted to her to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart. The Lord Himself intervened and brought Saint Claude la Colombiere (and later many other Jesuits) to her aid.

On the Feast of the Visitation in 1688, the Virgin told her, "If it is given to the Daughters of the Visitation to know and distribute it (the devotion), it is reserved to the Fathers of the Society (of Jesus) to show and make known its utility and value so that people may profit from it by receiving it with the respect and gratitude due to so great a benefit."

The Heart of Jesus and the Charism of the Visitation Order

Devotion to the Heart of Jesus did not originate with St. Margaret Mary. John the Evangelist directed the attention of the Church to the One who had been pierced. (John 19:37) St. Augustine speaks of the birth of the church from the open Heart of Jesus. The mystics of the Middle Ages, especially St. Bernard, meditating on the writings of the Fathers of the Church, saw in the mystery of the opened Heart a symbol of the love of God which endures forever.

Even before St. Margaret Mary entered Paray, devotion to the Heart of Jesus was important to the Visitation Order. It was there from the very beginning. St. Francis de Sales, who founded the Order of the Visitation in 1610 along with St. Jane de Chantal, wrote to her: "Our little congregation is the work of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Our dying Savior gave birth to us by the wound in His Sacred Heart." Later in the same letter he made this proposal: "If you agree, we should take as our coat of arms a single heart pierced by two arrows, the whole enclosed in a crown of thorns, with the poor heart serving to hold and support a cross which is to surmount it; and the heart is to be engraved with the sacred names of JESUS AND MARY."

The Heart of Jesus was the center of the spirituality of both these saints. For Francis de Sales "Christ's Divine Heart foresaw, prepared, merited and obtained for us all the graces we receive." Jane de Chantal told her daughters: "May God give to us the blessing of living and dying in the Sacred Heart. Pray that your heart may be made like to the Heart of Jesus." This continuing advice and direction of the two saintly co-founders touching the Divine Heart became a treasured possession and heritage of the Visitation Order.

John Paul II Speaks of St. Margaret Mary

"Let us give thanks for the mystical experience of St. Margaret Mary. She had been given a remarkable calling, but in a hidden life, to know the power and beauty of the love of Christ."

"Let us give thanks for the intimacy with the Savior that this humble religious enjoyed. The suffering she experienced in various ways she generously offered in union with the Passion of Christ in reparation for the sins of the world."

"Let us give thanks for the privileged meeting of this holy religious with Saint Claude la Colombiere. The support of this faithful disciple of St. Ignatius permitted St. Margaret Mary to overcome her doubts and to discern the authenticity of her extraordinary experience. Their exchanges are a model for spiritual direction. Saint Claude la Colombiere, himself, in his great trials received enlightened counsels from this soul whom he directed." (Paray-le-Monial, October 5, 1986).

From the Writings of St. Margaret Mary

"The Spirit of God does all things in peace. Let us have recourse to God with love and confidence, and He will receive us into the arms of His mercy."

"My greatest happiness is to be before the Blessed Sacrament where my heart is, as it were, in its center."

"Plunge yourself often into the charity of that lovable Heart so that you may never act towards your neighbor in a manner which may in the least wound the virtue of charity, never doing to others what you would not wish done to yourself."

St. Margaret Mary's Message to the Modern World

There is much anguish in our modern world-alienation from self and great heart-suffering. We experience the ravaging breakdown of family life and the traumatic effects of injustice and sexual permissiveness.

Margaret helps us to see that God's love is stronger than evil. From the pierced Heart of Jesus flow healing streams of forgiveness, holiness and redemption. In the unconditional love of God, revealed to us in Christ, we find the strength to accept the reality of today's world and transform its darkness and its pain into the love and joy of Resurrection.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This thousand year old Church overlooks the
Visitation Monastery garden. On her initial visit to the Monastery,
Margaret Mary climbed up to the bell tower with her brother to
get a peek into the Monastery enclosure.

Chapel Altar Decorated for the Canonization of Sister Margaret Mary (1927)
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