By Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.
Blessed Margaret Mary was the object of much uncharitable criticism, being represented as one entertaining illusory visions, and possessing inexplicable peculiarities, yet, the inmates of the convent admitted that she practised virtues in a heroic degree, and marvelled at her when they submitted her to uncalled-for tests. The simplicity of her life, her probity and uprightness gradually captivated them, exerting a beneficent influence over them. Finally, she induced them to enroll themselves into an army which, under the leadership and the banner of the Sacred Heart, entered the arena to combat the rapidly spreading infidelity of France.
We can picture to ourselves the spiritual pleasure which inundated her heart, when, on the occasion of the anniversary of her feast, the novices surprised her by erecting a makeshift altar, and ornamented it with a picture on which the Heart of Christ was penciled, surrounded by flames. This Friday, July 20, 1685, was the aurora of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart. As the superior of these novices, she prostrated herself before this symbol of love, her example being followed by her attendants. The little group of worshippers consecrated themselves to a special service in honor of the divine Heart. 0 Her soul overflowed with spiritual exaltation, and being anxious to secure more adorers to the Sacred Heart, she extended an invitation to some professed nuns, but met with a refusal.
From this day, however, it was manifest that her Divine Spouse would crown her efforts with success. Mother Greyfier, at this time superior of the community of Semeur, was her spiritual adviser till 1684. Being formerly at the head of the convent of Paray, she learned to admire Blessed Margaret Mary, and the community of Semeur, as a consequence of her inspiring enthusiasm, embraced this devotion. We owe to Mother Greyfier the first miniature of the Sacred Heart. The Heart of Christ is represented on it as surrounded by flames, in order to symbolize the burning love of the Saviour toward men, while the encircling thorns typified the fruits of His love. This first miniature was sent to the Beata by the Community of Semeur. To show her gratification at the receipt of so unexpected a treasure, it will suffice to quote the words she penned in a subsequent letter: " It caused me joy, a thousand times greater than I would have felt had you placed me in possession of all the treasures of the world." As the contemplation of the cross was the contributory cause to much learning and Christian heroism, the almost uninterrupted reflections on the Sacred Heart inspired Blessed Margaret Mary with deep spiritual insight, the acquisition whereof cannot be explained without a divine intervention. Her ascendancy was not confined to the narrow walls of a convent. Her instructions given to novices, and the letters addressed to her different acquaintances are beaming with an unbounded affection toward the Sacred Heart. The thoughts and advices they contain give evidence of a striking familiarity with the principles of asceticism. With pleasing simplicity and frequency, does she picture to them the Heart of Jesus as the source of all love and the fountain of all generosity for men. It, indeed, was to her interest to stimulate this little flock with such sentiments, for they were to bring her work to completion, and to perpetuate it, after she had passed to her reward. That her constancy was crowned with a notable success, is apparent from the fact that even those, who in the beginning were bitterly opposed to the introduction of such a devotion, became, finally, its most ardent devotees.
The repeated apparitions of Christ in which He revealed to her the secret desires of His Heart, and instructed her what steps to take in order to convince even the most unbelieving, were to her the source of great consolation and strength in this onerous undertaking. There are four apparitions to which her biographers attribute a signal importance. They all receive a special mention in the Memoir written by Les Contemporaines. The one of paramount importance took place in June, 1675. In this last and most significant revelation, Christ apprises her that Father de la Colombiere is to assist her in carrying out His designs. This devout Jesuit was no sooner informed of his arduous task than he became a zealous propagandist of the devotion. Even while yet at Paray, he commenced to inspire his penitents with a tenderness toward the Sacred "Heart, only to display more ardor in its promotion after his departure for England. The unexampled enthusiasm with which he engaged in disseminating this Devotion must have unfailingly exerted a considerable influence over the Visitandines of Paray, who fell within the sphere of his acquaintance, and it made itself felt also over those residing in other religious houses. Thus, through the combined efforts of these two zealous persons, the Community in which the Beata lived, became enamored of the devotion, and in 1685, was joined by the religious houses of Moulins, Dijon and Semeur, creating a pious rivalry to outdo one another in the fervent homage paid to the Sacred Heart.