SAINT MARGARET MARY ALACOQUE (1647-1690), virgin – Patron saint of polio victims and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Today, the Church honors Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, the French nun whose visions of Jesus Christ helped to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus throughout the universal Church.
Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in July of 1647 in the village of Lhautecour, France. Her parents lived modest but virtuous lives, while Margaret showed herself to be a serious child with a focus on God. Her father died when she was only eight years old, and she suffered a paralyzing illness from the ages of nine to thirteen. A struggle over her family’s property made life difficult for Margaret and her mother for several years.
During her illness, Margaret made a vow to enter religious life. During adolescence, however, she changed her mind. For a period of time she lived a relatively ordinary life, enjoying the ordinary social functions of her day and considering the possibility of marriage.
Her life changed in response to a vision she saw one night while returning from a dance, in which she saw Jesus being scourged. Margaret believed she had betrayed her Lord by pursuing the pleasures of the world rather than a religious vocation. At the age of twenty-two, she decided to join the Order of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial, France.
Two days after Christmas in 1673, Sister Margaret Mary experienced Christ’s Presence in an extraordinary manner while in prayer. She heard our Lord explain that He desired to show His Love for the human race in a special way, by encouraging devotion to “the Heart that so loved mankind.”
She experienced subsequent series of private revelations regarding the gratitude that is due to Jesus on the part of humanity, and the means of responding through public and private devotion. There were those who doubted her, believing it was all a delusion. In 1674, however, the Jesuit priest, Father Claude de la Colombière, became Sister Margaret Mary’s spiritual director. He believed her testimony and chronicled it in writing.
In time, many who doubted her would become convinced as they pondered the writings of Father Claude about the Sacred Heart. Eventually, her own writings and the accounts of her mystical experiences would face a rigorous examination by Church officials.
By the time that occurred, however, Sister Margaret Mary had already gained what she desired – “To lose myself in the heart of Jesus”. She faced her last illness with courage, frequently praying the words of Scripture: “Whom else have I in the heavens? None beside you delights me on earth. Though my flesh and my heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)
Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque died on October 17, 1690. She was canonized a saint on May 13, 1920 by Pope Benedict XV. Her remains are interred in the Shrine of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in Paray-le-Monial, France.
We commemorate her feastday on October 16.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, ewtn.com/faith and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque)
“Lord, pour out on us the riches of the Spirit which You bestowed on Saint Margaret Mary. May we come to know the Love of Christ, which surpasses all human understanding, and be filled with the fullness of God.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”