Monday, 24 October 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 54.

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

Through this short survey of the nature, scope and history of the above mentioned work one is better qualified to appreciate the arguments of the opponents of the Twelfth Promise as well as those of its defenders. If, as Father Hamon says, the two Sisters who collected the Beata's writings were astonished to find such a letter among them, why doesn't Father Galliffet, who was the first to publish her Memoir, make at least a passing reference to it? Again, if the Visitandines possessed such a treasure in its authentic form, why did they hesitate for so long a time before they placed its contents before the public ? Father Thurston's investigation proves that the Great Promise was not printed before 1867.

On the other hand it is hard to reconcile with the foregoing statements Bishop Languet's reference, from which it would seem that the Visitandines who compiled the Vie et Oeuvres de la Bienheureuse and gave it to him to be used as a source for his work, either possessed such a letter or at least made a deposition that such a letter had actually been written. Had he been in possession of an autographic document he would surely have quoted it, for, as has already been observed, he cited many others of considerably less importance. Nor can it be said that he did not attach enough weight to it to convey its contents with the exact words of the Beata. A letter indeed might have been placed before him, but — because it was only a transcription of the one said to have been written by the Beata — this reason might have induced him to refrain from quoting it.

There are many incidents related in his work, and connected with the life of Blessed Margaret Mary, which he draws solely from the authority of eyewitnesses whose testimony he judges to have been reliable. Could it not be supposed that he received his information viva voce, and, placing implicit confidence in the trustworthiness and reliability of his informants, accepted it as a fact?

Be that as it may, no one claims to quote the text of the Twelfth Promise according to a prototype manuscript. Even Father Hamon, who made a thorough scrutiny of her writings, and familiarized himself with all the documents the Visitation Nuns possess bearing on this subject, does not draw its wording from such a manuscript, though fully cognizant of the fact that it would considerably strengthen his position. The supposition that up to the French revolution the writings of Blessed Margaret Mary were accessible to the public does not help to solve the difficulty. How is one to infer which writings were preserved in autographic exemplars up to that time? On July 22, 1715, only fifty-eight autographic and thirty-nine copied letters were produced for the process of beatification. This collection of autographs contained eighteen letters to Mother de Soudeilles, four letters to Mother de Buisson, fourteen letters to Sr. Felice Madelaine (de la Barge), ten to the Sisters de Mon-ruant, Ursulines at Paray, and twelve to her brother Chrysostom Alacoque. Among the copies, at this rate, are to be computed the twenty-seven transcribed letters to Mother de Saumaise, one to Sr. Joly, and eleven fragments preserved in the Memoir of Mother Greyfier. Of these fifty-eight autographs ten were lost, but the thirty-nine copied letters were all preserved. Therefore, it would appear from the most authentic account 6 that of the twenty-seven letters written by Blessed Margaret Mary to Mother de Saumaise, and presented for the process of beatification on July 22, 1715, not a single one was an autograph of the Beat a. It is true that some of her autographic letters were discovered since that time, but the letter which concerns us most is not one of them, and even at present we possess only three autographs of the forty-eight letters which she was supposed to have written to the Superior of Dijon, Mother de Saumaise. Two of these autographs are preserved at the convent of Nevers and one at Rennes.