St Margaret Mary Alacoque – 16 October
By Catherine Sheehan
The French Revolution (1789-1799) saw the overthrow of the French monarchy, and the slaughter of many innocent people, including priests and nuns. Some believe the anarchy and bloodshed of the Revolution was caused by King Louis XV’s failure a century earlier to comply with the wishes of God conveyed to him through an obscure Visitation nun—St Margaret Mary Alacoque.
Margaret Mary was born in Burgundy, France, in 1647. The fifth of seven children, she exhibited a great love for God and the Blessed Sacrament from an early age. As a child she fell ill with rheumatic fever and promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would consecrate herself to God and enter religious life if she were healed of the illness. Margaret recovered from her illness however she soon forgot her promise to Our Lady. As she grew older she began to enjoy ‘worldly’ activities such as parties and balls, and to think about marriage.
On one occasion as she was returning home from a ball she experienced a vision of Christ wounded and bleeding after the scourging at the pillar. He reproached her for having forgotten about him. This vision affected her so profoundly that not long after she entered the Visitation convent at Paray-le-Monial in 1671 at the age of 24.
In 1673 Margaret Mary began receiving revelations from Christ which continued for 18 months. During the first revelation Jesus invited Margaret Mary to rest her head on his heart while he spoke to her about His immense love for mankind and his desire that she spread devotion to his Sacred Heart. She saw his heart on fire and surrounded by a crown of thorns.
Jesus said to her: “My divine Heart is so inflamed with love for mankind … that it can no longer contain within itself the flames of its burning charity and must spread them abroad by your means.”
Jesus requested that a feast day dedicated to his Sacred Heart be established and that devotees receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month.
On 17 June 1689, Jesus made known to Margaret Mary that He wanted King Louis XV to consecrate France to His Sacred Heart. Sadly, the consecration never took place and exactly a century later to the very day, on 17 June 1789, the French Revolution broke out and the monarchy overthrown. Four years later, King Louis XVI was executed. Referred to as the ‘Reign of Terror’, it is estimated that as many as 45,000 people were killed during the Revolution.
St Margaret Mary died on 17 October 1690. Upon her death bed she said, “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus”.
In 1765, seventy-five years after her death, the Church officially approved of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was established in 1856.