The Saint of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Miguel Augusto

On Saturday, October 16, the Catholic Church celebrates St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

She was born into a wealthy family in Burgundy, France, in 1647. Her parents were ardent Catholics, but not enough to allow their daughter to be religious. From her childhood, she received all her cultural and religious formation from the Poor Clares nuns. Margaret consecrated herself to the Lord, taking a vow of chastity. However, only at the age of 24, after overcoming resistance from her parents, she managed to join the Order of the Visitation, founded by St Francis de Sales.

When taking her vows, she added Mary’s name to her name. She always had visions of Our Lady, but she never spoke of this mystical experience. She remained among the Visitandines for over twenty years, receiving extraordinary graces, but also performing many penances and mortifications, always with a smile on her face. However, the nuns and superiors did not believe her, in fact, they even mocked her, implying that she was sick or crazy.

Her spiritual director, the Jesuit Claude de la Colombière, who recognized in her the charism of the saints, asked her to write her mystical experiences, which later became an autobiography which has survived to our days. At first, Margaret objected, but out of obedience she agreed. As she wrote, she was aware of doing it just for herself, not realizing the value of what she was narrating in those pages.

From 1673, Margaret Mary began to receive visits from Jesus, who asked her for a particular devotion to His Sacred Heart; it seemed to her “beaming like the sun, with its lovely wound, crowned with thorns, on which was seen a cross.”

From her narration a true iconography emerged which we know today. Based on this biography of hers, the Church instituted the liturgical feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, celebrated on the eighth day after Corpus Christi.

“The Great Promise”  Jesus appeared to Margaret Mary for 17 years, until the day of her death, when He took her by the hand to take her with Him. He called her “favorite disciple”; He communicated to her the secrets of His Heart and made her share in the science of love. In her visions, Margaret Mary also received twelve promises from Jesus for those who honor His Sacred Heart. Jesus promises to give devotees peace, comfort and holiness and “all the graces necessary for their state of life,” and bless every place where the image of the Sacred Heart is exposed and honoured.

The nun also received from Jesus a great promise: those who received communion for nine consecutive months on the first Friday of the month would receive the gift of final penance, that is, to die receiving the sacraments. Jesus also asked Margaret to ask the King of France, Louis XIV, to consecrate the country to the Sacred Heart. However, she never received an answer from the sovereign.

Margaret Mary Alacoque died on October 17, 1690. Thanks to her, in the Montmartre district of Paris, located at the highest point of the city, a Sanctuary dedicated to the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) was built. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris is a Roman Catholic church designed by Paul Abadie. The construction lasted from 1875 to 1914; the building was officially completed in 1923.

In Portugal, the “Basilica da Estrela”, also known as the “Basilica of the Heart of Jesus”, was the first church in the world to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, built between 1770 and 1790.

Mary Alacoque was beatified by Pius IX in 1864 and canonized by Benedict XV in 1920.

Our brief memory on Margaret Alacoque takes reference from the Vatican News.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, pray for us!

(Image: St Margaret Mary Alacoque, St Joseph Seminary church, Macau. Photo: Miguel Augusto)