Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Devotion to The Sacred Heart, Its Theology, History and Philosophy part 56.

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

Yet these interpolated documents were consulted by all the authors who wrote on the question which we are considering. Father Hamon passes an unfavorable judgment also on the Memoir of Blessed Margaret Mary as edited by Father Galliffet He contends that, in spite of the fact that five Sisters of Paray confirmed it by their signature and the title page bearing the words Copie Fiddle, the edition contains many inexcusable errors.

From the foregoing statements one would be inclined to think that in the course of our investigation we have strayed into a labyrinth without a clue to find our way out. No authors up to the present have been exact in their quotations taken either from the Memoir of the Beata, or the Vie et Oeuvres par les Contemporaines. Even the official edition of the Visitandines, printed in 1867 and 1876, cannot be trusted in every particular on account of the additions of certain supplements which, as they say, were taken from ancient manuscripts copied from the original, and preserved either at the Visitation convent of Paray, or at the hospital of the same village, or in other religious houses, the autographs having disappeared. Father Hamon may, therefore, legitimately draw the inference that even in the second volume of the Vie et Oetwres de la Bienheureuse Marguerite-Marie, which contains her letters and Memoirs, only those writings are to be considered authentic of which the autograph is extant.

The regrettable fact that such liberties were taken with the works of Blessed Margaret Mary tends to confirm the opinion entertained by some that the text of the letter in question cannot be trusted. If even the two Visitandines who composed her first life by using her own writings, cannot be believed; if they eliminated certain expressions and supplanted them with others; if neither the text of Fathers Croiset, Languet, Galliffet, Daniel and Bougaud can be trusted, for they have all alike taken liberties when quoting the Beata, can we for a moment imagine that the wording of the letter containing the Twelfth Promise remained intact? Father Hamon admits that the letter as cited is not the composition of the Beata word for word, but assures us that to the best of his knowledge no essential idea or clear fact underwent a modification in it, nor was anything added to the primitive text. Communion for nine First Fridays of the month, the grace of final repentance, not dying without the reception of their Sacraments, practices so definite and a promise so solemn cannot be interpolations.

Another serious objection which the defenders of the Great Promise find very hard to answer satisfactorily, is the fact that it was not published till 1867, according to Father Thurston, or till 1870 according to Father Bachelet. Up to that time all leaflets contained only eleven promises in the order in which they are placed nowadays. The Twelfth Promise was added about the year when the Devotion to the Sacred Heart received a new impetus in France.

Nor are the Visitandines in possession of a record to prove that any persons practised it, with the possible exception mentioned by Father Hamon. He states a fact for which he fails to give his authority. On the first Friday of January, 1714, Mother Louise-Henriette de Soudeilles, with her whole community, engaged in making the nine Fridays, but did not complete them, having passed away on the 24th of April of the same year.

Again the same author says that when the two Sisters, Frangoise-Rosalie Verchere and Pennine Rosalie de Farges, commenced the collection of the writings of the Beata for the canonical procedure of her beatification, they were surprised to find such a promise. As has already been pointed out, they submitted only a transcript of the supposed original letter to the Sacred Congregation. Hence, it may be concluded with safety that the autograph was not accessible to them. Furthermore, they were the best friends of the Beata, and yet knew nothing of the promise, for in case of the contrary supposition their surprise would be entirely out of place. Therefore, since Blessed Margaret died in 1690, for twenty-four years, nobody knew anything about the promise except Mother de Saumaise, provided the letter was actually written to her, and the community of Moulins, provided that Father Hamon drew his information from a reliable source. Yet the revelation narrated in this letter was of such a character that the pious Superior of Dijon could hardly have refrained from publishing it among the different Communities, especially after she herself had become a sincere devotee of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart. Is it not strange that she should ignore the contents of the letter of which she was the recipient, and the Community at Moulins, of which Mother de Soudeilles was the Superior, should put it in practice for the first time?

Again, it is well known that Blessed Margaret Mary in her zealous endeavor to win her companions as well as persons living in the world to the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, used every legitimate means to accomplish her design. Yet her writings do not contain a single exhortation to practise the nine Fridays. It would seem that the holy religious did not attach a particular importance to the Great Promise, or did not consider it apart from the other manifestations concerning the First Fridays on which Christ asked a special reparation. We find her exhorting her followers to a special worship of the Sacred Heart on all First Fridays of the month, Confession and Holy Communion being insisted upon in particular.  Even Father Thurston admits that " Blessed Margaret Mary does not appear to have attached any exceptional significance or importance " to this singular revelation.

It goes without saying that after the Great Promise had once been printed and diffused among the different nations of the world in their several vernaculars, it enjoyed a considerable popularity. There is nothing that men of Christian faith dread more than the uncertainty of salvation. This tormenting doubt they considered settled with moral certainty when the text of the Twelfth Promise came to their notice. What is more, ecclesiastics of note were not wanting who confirmed their opinion even from the pulpit. Nothing more natural, therefore, than to embrace such a devotion. We shall have occasion to speak on this point more fully in the following chapter.