Look at this Heart which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love Me in return. Through you My Divine Heart wishes to spread its love everywhere on earth.”
– from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque's vision of Jesus
On October 16th, the Church honors and remembers the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, known as Marguerite-Marie in her native France, who piously promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From the time she was a young child, Margaret had a love for the Blessed Sacrament, and preferred silence and prayer over typical play. After receiving first Holy Communion at the age of nine, she practiced mortification secretly, until paralysis left her confined to her bed for four years. She made a vow to the Blessed Virgin to pursue religious life and was then instantly restored to health. During her adolescence, at a time when Margaret’s family was suffering in poverty due to the death of her father and an injustice done to a relative, the girl sought solace in the Blessed Sacrament. She received visions of Christ during these years, usually as the Crucified or Ecce Homo; she was not surprised by these visions, assuming such events occurred to all people.
After joining the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial in 1671, she began in 1673 to receive visions revealing the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was rebuffed by her superior and by theologians for a time, about the validity of the visions, but remained humble, obedient, and charitable to those who persecuted her until the truth of the mission given to her by Our Lord convinced those who opposed her.
The task given her by Christ, who called her the Beloved Disciple of the Sacred Heart, was to teach and encourage devotion to His Sacred Heart. It was based on this Christly inspiration that St. Margaret Mary was moved to establish the Holy Hour and Sacred Heart Devotion in the modern form. Prior to this time, there was a devotion to the love of Jesus and to the wounded Heart of Christ, but not established as the devotion is today. The practice encouraged by the saintly woman, at the guidance of Christ, included the Holy Hour on Thursdays, to share in the mortal sadness He endured when abandoned by His Apostles in His Agony, and to receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of every month. Additionally, He appointed through St. Margaret Mary for the Friday after the octave of the feast of Corpus Christi to be the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.
Margaret Mary was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and then in 1928, Pope Pius X reiterated in his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor the value of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, given to us through St. Margaret:
“Now, since it may be that some of the people do not know, and others do not heed, those complaints which the most loving Jesus made when He manifested Himself to Margaret Mary Alacoque, and those things likewise which at the same time He asked and expected of men, for their own ultimate profit, it is our pleasure, Venerable Brethren, to speak to you for a little while concerning the duty of honorable satisfaction which we all owe to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, with the intent that you may, each of you, carefully teach your own flocks those things which we set before you, and stir them up to put the same in practice. . . .
. . . And indeed Our Predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, admiring the timely opportuneness of the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, said very aptly in his Encyclical Letter, “Annum Sacrum, “When in the days near her origin, the Church was oppressed under the yoke of the Caesars the Cross shown on high to the youthful Emperor was at once an omen and a cause of the victory that speedily followed. And here today another most auspicious and most divine sign is offered to our sight, to wit the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, with a Cross set above it shining with most resplendent brightness in the midst of flames. Herein must all hopes be set, from hence must the salvation of men be sought and expected.”