Imagine if God granted you visions… and then nobody believed that you had them!
That was what happened to a French nun in the 1600s. Margaret Mary (Marguerite-Marie) Alacoque had promised herself to Jesus when she was a child, but she set aside this promise as a young woman in order to participate in social life. Jesus appeared to her again one night as she returned late from Carnival, reproaching her for forgetting him, and so she entered the local Visitation convent.
She had a series of visions in which God revealed the form of devotion to the Sacred Heart:
- reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month
- Eucharistic adoration during a "Holy hour" on Thursdays
- The celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart
For eighteen months her visions continued, and her community refused to believe in their validity. She was set to work in the monastery infirmary, where she performed poorly and was treated with some derision. She eventually received the support of her superior and of the monastery’s confessor, who both believed the visions to be genuine; and in fact, the community began the practice of a Holy Hour on Thursdays.
She died in 1690 and, after her death, devotion to the Sacred Heart was fostered by the Jesuits (and became the subject of controversies within the Church). But the practice was not officially recognized until 75 years later, and she wasn’t canonized until 1920.
What was Margaret Mary's world like? In seventeenth-century France, the people's faith had been badly shaken by rebellion against the Church and neglect of its teachings, first with the rise of Protestantism and subsequently with the spread of the heresy of Jansenism. The Church responded with some able theologians; but one is tempted to say that even as the Church brought forth those who would defend its beliefs, God himself brought forth one—Margaret Mary Alacoque—who would strengthen them internally.
Margaret Mary’s own monastery did not initially believe that she was granted visions; this seems to have been a pattern throughout both the Bible and the history of the Church, that messages brought to humankind are easily disregarded. We are slow to believe in the holy. Perhaps as we live out this devotion to the Sacred Heart, we can also pray to be more open to God’s intervention in the world!
The Twelve Promises of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque for those 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.
We have a new Encounter the Saints volume about Margaret Mary Alacoque! Written by Emily Beata Marsh, FSP, and illustrated by Dani Lachuk, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and the Sacred Heart of Jesus brings readers right into her life and times. Available now from Pauline Books and Media!