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Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque
  • Century: 17th Century
  • Patronage: Devotees of the Sacred Heart, Suffers of Polio, Loss of Parents
  • Feast Day: October 16th

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in Burgundy, France.  From her early childhood, Margaret was described as showing intense love for the Blessed Eucharist.  She preferred silence and prayer to childhood play.  After receiving her First Communion at the age of nine, she practiced in secret severe corporal mortifications until rheumatic fever confined her to bed for four years.  She made a vow to the Blessed Virgin to consecrate herself to the Religious Life, and she was instantly restored to perfect health. 

She had visions of Jesus Christ, which she thought was a normal part of the human experience.  In a response to a vision of Christ, crucified but alive, that reproached her for forgetfulness of Him, claiming His Heart was filled with love for her due to her promise.  She entered the Visitation Convent at the age of 24, on May 25th, 1671, intending to become a Nun. 

She was subjected to many trials to prove the genuineness of her vocation.  She was admitted to wearing the Religious habit on August 25th, 1671, but was not allowed to make her religious profession on the same date of the following year.  In this convent, she received several revelations of the Sacred Heart, the first on December 27, 1673, and the final one eighteen months later.  The vision revealed to her the form of the devotion, the chief features being 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. 

Initially discouraged in her efforts to follow the instruction she had received in her visions, Margaret Mary was eventually able to convince her Superior, Mother de Saumaise, the authenticity of her visions.  She was not able to convince a group of theologians of the validity of her apparitions, nor was she any more successful with many of the members of her community.  She did receive the support of St. Claude de la Colombiere, the Community’s confessor at the time.  He declared the visions were genuine. 

In 1683, opposition in the community ended when Mother Melin was elected Superior and named Margaret Mary as her assistant.  She later became Novice Mistress, and saw to it that the Convent observed the Feast of the Sacred Heart.  They began this in 1686, and two years later a chapel was built at Paray-le-Monial to honor the Sacred Heart. 

On October 17th, 1690, St. Margaret Mary died.  The Jesuits fostered the devotion to the Sacred Heart.  The practice was not officially recognized until 75 years after her death.  Finally the Sacred Congregation of Rites passed a favorable vote on the heroic virtues of this “Servant of God”.  In March 1824, Pope Leo XII pronounced her Venerable, and in September 1864 Pope Pius IX declared her Blessed.  When her tomb was canonically opened in July 1830, instantaneously two cures were recorded to have taken place.  Her INCORRUPT body rests under the Altar in the Chapel at Paray-le-Monial.  Pilgrims attracted there from all parts of the world have claimed many blessings.  

Pope Benedict XV canonized her in 1920, and in 1929 her liturgical commemoration was included in the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, for celebration on October 17th.  In 1969, this date was assigned to a Saint of the Apostolic Age – St. Ignatius of Antioch, and the memorial of St. Margaret Mary was moved to the previous day, October 16th.    In 1928, in the Encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor, Pope Pius XI affirmed the Church’s position regarding the credibility of her visions of Jesus Christ, by speaking of Jesus as having “Manifested Himself” to St. Margaret Mary, and having “Promised her that all those who rendered this honor to His Heart would be endowed with an abundance of heavenly graces”.   One can find her Devotional writing, “La Devotion au Sacre-Coeur de Jesus” (Devotion to the Sacred Heart) as it was published by J. Croiset in 1698, and has been popular among Catholics, even today. 

Practical Take Away

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was gifted spiritually as a youth, preferring silent prayer to playing as a child.  She became bedfast with illness for four years.  Praying to Mary, she promised to consecrate herself to Religious Life, and was instantly healed. She entered the Visitation Convent and became a Nun. She had visions of Jesus, and He taught her Devotion to the Sacred Heart, and First Friday devotions to honor His Sacred Heart.  It is because of her visions and life as a Religious, that we have this devotion today.  The image of the Sacred Heart is widely revered today, among Catholics everywhere.  She was canonized, and her body is incorrupt.  She is buried at the Chapel at Paray-le-Monial.  One would do well to follow the devotion, it can be easily found today.