BY THE REV. H. NOLDIN, S.J.
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN.
REVISED BY THE REV. W. H. KENT, O.S.C
|Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque|
I. THE HISTORY OF THE DEVOTION.cont.
She was born in 1647 at Lauthecourt in France, and her youth was passed in innocence and piety. When about twenty-four years of age she embraced the religious life in the Order of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial. From her earliest childhood God had taken this privileged and highly favored soul into His school, and constituted Himself her guide and teacher in the spiritual life. When she had been sufficiently trained in this school, and prepared for the task which was shortly to be entrusted to her, Our Lord commenced the series of revelations and instructions concerning His Sacred Heart, which must be regarded as the starting-point of the devotion.
Margaret had already been several years in the convent at Paray when the first revelation respecting the devotion to the Heart of Jesus was made to her. She was engaged in prayer one day before the Blessed Sacrament, when Our Lord appeared to her, and opening His breast, permitted her to behold His Heart. It was surrounded with fire and flames, resplendent as the sun, transparent as crystal, encircled with a crown of thorns, and surmounted by a cross. Disclosing to her the marvels and mysteries of His love, He spoke thus to her: "My Heart is so full of love for men that it can no longer contain within itself the fire of charity. Through thy instrumentality it must flow out and make itself known to men, in order to en rich them with the treasures it contains. I will make thee acquainted with the priceless value of these treasures; they are salutary and sanctifying graces, and they alone are capable of rescuing mankind from the abyss of perdition. In spite of thy unworthiness and ignorance I have chosen thee to carry out this My purpose, that it may be all the more evident that all is My work."
From that time forward the favors of which Margaret was the recipient became continually greater and more numerous. One day when she was praying before the Blessed Sacrament ex posed, the Saviour appeared to her and made known to her the infinite magnitude of His love for men, bewailing their ingratitude and indicating this as the one among all His sufferings that He felt most acutely. "If," He said, "they would only return love for love, all that I have done for them would be next to nothing in My eyes; but I meet only with coldness on their part, and to My most loving invitations they respond only with contempt. Do thou at least give Me this solace: make amends to the utmost of thy power for their ingratitude." Over whelmed with confusion and shame, she at tempted to expostulate; but Our Lord reassured her and showed her in what manner and by what means He desired that in future she should venerate His Sacred Heart. First of all He bade her receive holy communion as often as she was permitted to do so; on the first Friday of each month she must certainly communicate; and finally in the night be tween Thursday and Friday, every week, she must rise between eleven o'clock and midnight and, lying prostrate upon the floor, unite herself to Him in prayer in order to appease the anger of God and implore pardon for sinners.
Subsequently to these revelations and graces the humble handmaid of the Lord was favored with the Apparition of the 16th June, 1675, which afterwards attained such celebrity. It occurred on the Sunday in the octave of Corpus Christi, and it cannot be regarded otherwise than as the immediate cause of the public and general devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
On the day in question, while Margaret was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, animated by an intense longing to return love for love to Our Lord, He said to her: "Thou canst give Me no greater proof of thy love than by doing what I have already repeatedly asked of thee." Then showing her His divine Heart, He went on: " Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing to testify its love for them, even to the exhausting and consuming of itself for their sake. But in return for this I receive nothing from the generality of mankind but ingratitude through the contempt, irreverences, sacrileges, and coldness with which I am treated in this Sacrament of love. What, however, afflicts Me most is that even hearts which are consecrated to Me do Me this wrong. Where fore I require of thee that the first Friday in this octave [of Corpus Christi] should be appointed as a special festival in honor of My Heart, that satisfaction may be made to it on that day by a solemn act of reparation, and the faithful may receive holy communion to make amends for the outrages which are committed against it when it is exposed for veneration upon the altar. I promise thee that My Heart shall so expand as to pour out the effect of its charity in superabundant plenitude on those who honor it, and who endeavor to prevail on others to pay it similar homage."