The Sacred Heart Devotion and St. Margaret Mary-A A +A
By Luci Lizares
Thursday, June 14, 2012
TOMORROW, June 15th is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a popular devotion that brings many to the Catholic Church every Friday, most especially during the First Fridays of the month.
The First Friday Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is based on a promise made by Our Lord Jesus Christ during an apparition to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. This promise was implicitly approved by the Church in the 1920 canonization of St. Margaret Mary.
The promise reads: “I promise you in the excessive Mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful Love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months the Grace of Final Penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”
Since the devotion started with St. Margaret Mary, let us look into the history of this devotion which has produced numerous miracles gathered from various Catholic sources.
From early childhood Margaret showed intense love for the Blessed Sacrament and preferred silence and prayer to childish amusements. After her first communion at the age of nine, she practiced in secret severe corporal mortifications, until paralysis confined her to bed for four years. At the end of this period, having made a vow to the Blessed Virgin to consecrate herself to the religious life, she was instantly restored to perfect health.
The death of her father and the injustice of a relative plunged the family in poverty and humiliation, after which more than ever Margaret found consolation in the Blessed Sacrament, and Christ made her sensible of His presence and protection. He usually appeared to her as the Crucified or the Ecce Homo, and this did not surprise her, as she thought others had the same Divine assistance.
When Margaret was seventeen, the family property was recovered and her mother besought her to establish herself in the world. Her filial tenderness made her believe that the vow of childhood was not binding and that she could serve GOD at home by penance and charity to the poor. Then, she began to take part in the pleasures of the world.
One night upon her return from a ball, she had a vision of Christ as He was during the scourging. During her entire life Margaret mourned over two faults committed at this time—the wearing of some superfluous ornaments and a mask at the carnival to please her brothers.
On 25 May, 1671, she entered the Visitation Convent at Paray Le Monial where she was subjected to many trials to prove her vocation. In November 1672, she pronounced her final vows.
Margaret Mary had a delicate constitution but was gifted with intelligence and good judgment. In the cloister she chose the most repugnant mortifications, making her life one of inconceivable sufferings, which were often relieved or instantly cured by our Lord.
In the Visitation Convent, she received several revelations of the Sacred Heart, the first on 27 December 1673 and the final one 18 months later. The chief features of the visions were the reception of Holy Communion on the First Friday Devotions of each month, the Eucharistic adoration during the Holy Hour on Thursdays, and the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. She stated that in her vision she was instructed to spend an hour every Thursday night to meditate on the sufferings of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Holy Hour practice later became widespread among Catholics.
In the apparitions to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Jesus gave these twelve promises for those who are devoted to His Sacred Heart:
I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
I will establish peace in their families.
I will console them in all their troubles.
They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life and especially at the hour of their death.
I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
Tepid souls shall become fervent.
Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honored.
I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months the grace of final repentance; they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments; My heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.
These extraordinary occurrences resulted in adverse criticism of the community. But her obedience, her humility, and invariable charity towards those who persecuted her finally prevailed and her mission was recognized even by those who had shown her the most bitter opposition. All her actions, her revelations, her spiritual maxims, her teachings regarding the devotion to the Sacred Heart were subjected to the strictest examination, and finally the Sacred Congregation of rites passed a favorable vote on the heroic virtues of this servant of God.
The love of the Sacred Heart was the fire which consumed her, and devotion to the Sacred Heart is the refrain of all her writings. In her last illness she refused all alleviation, repeating frequently "What have I in heaven and what do I desire on earth, but Thee alone, O my God," and died pronouncing the Holy Name of Jesus.
She died on 17 October 1690. The devotion to the Sacred Heart was fostered by the Jesuits and the subject of controversies within the Church. The practice was not officially recognized until 75 years after her death. When her tomb was canonically opened in July, 1830, two instantaneous cures took place.
St. Margaret Mary was canonized by Benedict XV in 1920. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque is the patroness of devotees to the Sacred Heart, patron saint of polio patients, and patroness in the case of the loss of parents. Her incorrupt heart and brain have been preserved in a wax and metal figurine of her body and can be seen in the convent chapel of the Order of the Visitation at Paray, France.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 14, 2012.