St. Margaret Mary Alacoque grew up in seventeenth-century France during a time of rebellion against the church and a turning away from her teachings. Margaret’s father died when she was about eight years old, and so she was sent to live and go to school with the Urbanist Sisters. She grew in devotion and loved the life of the convent, but had to be sent home when a paralyzing illness kept her bedridden for four years. She made a vow to the Blessed Mother to give herself to religious life and recovered, but, following her father’s death, the family farm had been taken over by relatives until her brother came of age and took possession of the property. The relatives were unkind to her mother and controlling of Margaret’s every move, and she was often not even permitted to attend church. Once the farm reverted to her brother, their situation improved, and Margaret’s mother encouraged her daughter to marry. Out of love for her mother, Margaret spent time in discernment about this, and began to enter into worldly activities. One night, upon returning from a ball, she had a vision of the scourged Jesus who called her away from the world and back to himself, having given her so many signs of his love, and at age 20, she made the decision to enter a convent.
During the time between her application and admission to the convent, Margaret dedicated herself to helping and teaching some of the neglected children in her village. Eventually she made her profession with the nuns of the Order of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial, a community founded by St. Francis de Sales and known for humility and selflessness. The name of Mary was added to her name, and she was assigned to the infirmary. She struggled with her tasks bu
t grew in love and virtue.
Margaret Mary then began to have mystical experiences in which the Lord invited her to take the place of St. John at the Last Supper and revealed to her that he wished the love of his heart to be made known and spread to all people. He showed her how much he desired to be loved by all and to pour out his love and mercy upon them, to reveal all of the treasures of his heart. He appointed the Friday after the octave of the feast of Corpus Christi as the solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Jesus desired that the graces of his Sacred Heart be made known through her, but when Margaret Mary approached her superior with this, she did not believe her. Margaret Mary fell seriously ill and was dying when the mother superior began to think perhaps her story were true, and told the Lord that if Margaret Mary recovered, she would take it as a sign that her visions were authentic. Margaret Mary did recover and the mother superior invited some theologians to hear her story, but they determined the visions to be delusions. Eventually, a Jesuit priest, Fr. Claude de la Columbiere, believed in her revelations and set out to promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and put the life and visions of St. Margaret Mary in writing, and so the Jesuits to this day continue his work. St. Margaret Mary died at the age of 43, saying at the end of her life, “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.” Devotion to the Sacred Heart grew through the work of St. Claude de la Columbiere and St. John Eudus. In Margaret Mary’s vision, the Lord spoke: “Look at this heart which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love me in return. Through you my divine Heart wishes to spread its love everywhere on earth.”
The Twelve Promises of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary 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.
Prayer to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (in old English)
Saint Margaret Mary, thou who wast made a partaker of the divine treasures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, obtain for us, we beseech thee, from this adorable Heart, the graces we need so sorely. We ask these favors of thee with unbounded confidence. May the divine Heart of Jesus be pleased to bestow them upon us through thy intercession, so that once again He may be loved and glorified through thee. Amen.
V. Pray for us, O blessed Margaret;
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst wondrously open the unsearchable riches of Thy Heart to blessed Margaret Mary, the virgin: grant unto us, by her merits and our imitation of her, that we may love Thee in all things and above all things, and may be worthy to have our everlasting dwelling in the same Sacred Heart: who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.
Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to thee, and to do all for thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease thee.
I take thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and inconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God thy Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in thee, O Heart of Love, I hope all from thine infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist thee. Imprint thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget thee or be separated from thee.
I beseech thee, through thine infinite goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon thy heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of thy devoted servants. Amen.