By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
CHAPTER II HISTORY OF THE DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART IN THE PERIOD OF BLESSED MARGARET MARY
From the foregoing chapter, it is evident that the devotion to the Sacred Heart, in the time of Blessed Margaret Mary, was not confined to narrow space or to small community. It had already been disseminated through the writings of the Saints, and the preaching of learned and holy ecclesiastics. Though, in its present form, it was based on the revelations to Blessed Margaret Mary, we can not help being struck by the similarity exhibited between our present practice and the one found in the writings of the Saints that lived before the time of the Beata. Hence, it would be unreasonable to suppose that the Visitation Convent of Paray-le-Monial, within the hallowed precincts of which the Beata spent twenty years of her* life, was sheltering within its walls Visitandines who, before they entered the religious life, had never heard of such devotion. The order of the Visitation Nuns was established in 1607 by the combined efforts of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal. If we read the writings of these two holy persons, we cannot but be impressed by the sublime sentiments which they entertained toward the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The letters of St. Francis to Mother de Chantal, Superior of the first Visitandine Convent at Annecy, show an unbounded confidence in the Heart of our divine Lord. It seems that Divine Providence was guiding the celebrated Doctor of the Church in the establishment of this holy Congregation that contributed so much to the external glory of God. On June 10, 1611, St. Francis wrote to Mother de Chantal: "I think, dear Mother, if you agree with me, we shall select for our coat-of-arms, heart pierced with two arrows, encircled by a crown of thorns, and surmounted by cross, graven with the sacred names of Jesus and Mary. The Saviour, when dying, gave us life by the opening of His Sacred Heart." Such were the sentiments expressed by the holy founder sixty years before Blessed Margaret Mary received the habit. And on another occasion, being surrounded by his spiritual daughters in the "first little Gallery House," his lips gave utterance to the following words, actually prophetical in their bearing: "The other day contemplating in my prayer the open side of Our Lord, and gazing upon His Heart, it appeared to me that our hearts were surrounding His, He being the King of the hearts." In another letter we find him describing for them the practice of certain virtues in order that "the incomparable privilege and grace of bearing the title of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart may be accorded to them." We may well suppose that this correspondence which took place between such holy and revered persons, was read to the community for the edification and spiritual advancement of the nuns whose interest it was to serve.