Thursday, 20 October 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 52.

By  Rev. Joseph J. C. Petrovits, J.C.B., S.T.L.

Those who deny that such a letter was written, base their opinion on the following arguments.

1. It must be admitted that Bishop Languet did have access to the Memoirs of the Beata. However, it can hardly be proved that at that particular juncture all her writings were collected and placed at his disposal to be made use of as a reference for his bibliography. It is well known that she corresponded with a number of persons who resided at a great distance from Paray, while Bishop Languet seems to be familiar mostly with those letters which were directed to the more prominent persons of the Visitation Community at large.

2. No mention of the Great Promise is found in any letter or writing, with the exception of the letter she is supposed to have sent to Mother de Saumaise. Our knowledge regarding the Devotion of the Nine Fridays is confined solely to the information contained in the letter whose authenticity is questioned.

3. The profuse quotations from the writings of Blessed Margaret Mary, interspersed in the work of Bishop Languet to portray her character, should be interpreted as an argument rather against than in favor of the defenders of the Twelfth Promise. On page 241, at the bottom of which is the reference in question, are two long quotations, of which the upper one consists of nineteen and the lower one of eleven lines. After these two citations the Bishop gives an account of the Great Promise by alluding to it and interpreting it in his own words. Immediately after this, follows another quotation taken from the letter of the Beata directed to Mother Greyfier. Over half of the 384 pages, which form the work of Bishop Languet, is devoted to extracts taken either from the letters of Blessed Margaret Mary, or from the answers she received, or from her autobiographic Memoir, or finally from writings in which her superiors or acquaintances expressed their admiration for her virtues and holiness. In addition to these sources, the Vie par les Contemporaines, in which Sisters Peronne-Rosalie de Farges and Frangois-Rosalie Verchere relate the most important incidents of her life, is embodied in his work practically in its entirety, by way of citations. From all this it is patent that Msgr. Languet had a keen appreciation of the value of quotations. To all appearances, whatever authentic and autographic documents of importance were in his possession, he endeavored to reproduce in the original. At the end of his work, he reprints thirteen letters of Blessed Margaret Mary to Mother de Saumaise; but the letter in question is not one of them. Is it not curious, to say the least, that so learned and saintly a man did not attach more significance to this letter than merely state its contents in his own way, when he is so prodigal in quoting her exact words in matters of much less consequence?

4. Again, had her writings been open to public inspection up to the year 1789, according to Father Vermeersch, 9 or up to 1792, according to Father Hamon, 10 how are we to explain the silence of those who were so zealous in spreading this Devotion, and who ignored no essential feature that would serve to render it attractive in the eyes of the people? On the other hand, very few men would be inclined to gainsay the fact that if so reliable an account of such a revelation were traceable to the pen of the Beata, this would surely be considered an essential and preeminently appealing characteristic of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart. As the case stands, Fathers de la Colombiere and Rolin make no mention of such a letter. Father Croiset, the first exponent of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, makes no allusion to such a promise either in his work of 1691, or in his two consequent amplified editions, which left the press in 1694 and 1698. These three priests knew Blessed Margaret Mary personally, they corresponded with her, and were well informed regarding her supernatural visions. No one labored more ardently for the promotion and diffusion of this Devotion, no one exerted a greater effort to familiarize himself with all its phases than Father Galliffet; yet he is evidently ignorant.of such a revelation, for he fails to make reference to it either in the first edition of his work issued in 1726, or in the revised and enlarged edition of 1732.

5. Moreover, it is quite inexplicable how a letter of so extreme importance could escape the attention of so many devotees of the Sacred Heart. It was not submitted to print or circulation before 1867, three years after the publication of the Decree of Beatification. This admission is made candidly even by the staunchest defenders of the Great Promise.  In the opinion of Father Bachelet the first steps in connection with the publication of the promise were inspired by the new impetus the Devotion to the Sacred Heart received in France about the year 1870.

These points summarize most of the weighty arguments adduced respectively by the defenders and the opponents of the Twelfth Promise. They are drawn from various sources, and are calculated to shed some light on the question under consideration. The Church does not come to our assistance with an authoritative pronouncement in this important inquiry. After considerable investigation, Father Hamon remarks regretfully that there is little likelihood of the letter ever being found. And since the arguments fail to carry conviction as regards the authenticity of the letter, we can hardly censure those spiritual writers who qualify the Great Promise as doubtful.

A writer who signs himself "Sacerdos" disposes of the question in a very unsatisfactory way in the American Messenger of the Sacred Heart. " It is not our intention," he says, " to treat of the authenticity of the promise. We may say, however, that it would be very risky to call this authenticity in question, since it is found in the writings of Blessed Margaret Mary which have passed the scrutiny of the Roman Congregation." No comment need be passed on this remark. The difficulty to be confronted is of a more serious nature than the writer of the above cited article anticipated. The Promotor Fidei, A. M. Frattini, did not at all concern himself about the authenticity of the letter, he only wished to point out the untenableness of the belief that a revelation concerning the gift of final perseverance was likely to be communicated to Blessed Margaret Mary. However, we shall have occasion to recur to this point later.