St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

st. margaret mary alacoque Apparition of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque of the Sacred Heart of Jesus | CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque — whose feast day is celebrated in the Church on Oct. 16 — was a French nun responsible for spreading the devotion of the Sacred Heart throughout the Western Church.

Born in July 1647, Margaret had a great love for God from a young age. Her father, Claude, passed away when she was 8 years old. From ages 9 to 13 she suffered a paralyzing illness. This, in addition to a struggle over her family’s property, made life difficult for Margaret and her mother. However, it was during her time suffering with the illness that she made the promise to enter religious life.

But for some time during her adolescence, Margaret forgot about her vow and lived an ordinary life. It wasn’t until she had a vision one evening at age 22 that her life changed.

Margaret had a vision of Christ being scourged. She believed this meant that she had betrayed Jesus by living a worldly life instead of a religious one. It was then that she entered the convent.

In 1673, Margaret experienced Christ’s presence in a way she never had while praying. She heard Jesus tell her that he wanted to show his love for people by encouraging a special devotion to his Sacred Heart.

Christ revealed ways to venerate his Sacred Heart and explained the immense love he has for humanity, appearing with his heart visible outside his chest, on fire, and surrounded by a crown of thorns.

Christ told Sister Margaret Mary: “My Sacred Heart is so intense in its love for men, and for you in particular, that not being able to contain within it the flames of its ardent charity, they must be transmitted through all means.”

These visions continued for 18 months. 

On June 16, 1675, Christ told Sister Margaret Mary to promote a feast that honored his Sacred Heart. He also gave Sister Margaret Mary 12 promises made to all who venerated and promoted the devotion of the Sacred Heart.

These visions continued for 18 months, but when Margaret told her superior, she did not believe her.

Soon after, Father Claude La Colombiere, a Jesuit, became Margaret’s spiritual director. He believed what she had to say and began to write down her revelations. Colombiere has since been canonized, and many have read his writings on the Sacred Heart.

Thanks to Colombiere, Margaret had found inner peace about her revelations being doubted by others. However, her writings and the accounts of others faced a thorough examination by Church officials.

Margaret died in 1690 and was canonized by Benedict XV on May 13, 1920.

The Vatican was at first hesitant to declare a feast to the Sacred Heart. But as the devotion spread throughout France, the Vatican granted the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to France in 1765.

In 1856, Blessed Pius IX designated the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi as the feast of the Sacred Heart for the universal Church.

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