St. Margaret Mary and The Sacred Heart

The third apparition of the Sacred Heart took place in July of 1674:

One day, as I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar, after feeling withdrawn within myself by an extraordinary recollection of all my senses and faculties, Jesus Christ, my sweet Master, presented Himself to me, all resplendent with glory, with His five wounds shining like so many suns. From all parts of His Sacred Humanity there issued flames but especially from His adorable breast, which was like a furnace. Opening it, He showed me His loving and lovable Heart as the living source of those flames. Then he revealed to me all the unspeakable marvels of His pure love, and the excess of love He had conceived for men from whom He had received nothing but ingratitude and contempt. "This is more grievous to Me," He said, "than all that I endured in my Passion. If they would only give Me some return of love, I should not reckon all that I have done for them, and I would do yet more if possible. But they have only coldness and contempt for all My endeavours to do them good. You, at least, can give Me the happiness of making up for their ingratitude, as much as you can."

"First, you are to receive me in the Blessed Sacrament as often as obedience will allow, no matter what mortification or humiliation it may entail. Moreover, you are to receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of each month, and every night between Thursday and Friday I will make you partaker of that sorrow unto death which it was My will to suffer in the Garden of Olives. This sorrow will reduce you, without your understanding how, to a kind of agony more bitter than death. To join with Me in the humble prayer which I then offered to My heavenly Father in agony you are to arise between eleven and twelve o'clock, and remain with Me upon your knees for an hour, with your face to the ground, to appease the anger of My Eternal Father, and to ask of Him pardon for sinners. You will thus share with Me, and in a manner soothe the bitter grief I suffered when my disciples abandoned Me and I was constrained to reproach them that they could not watch with Me even for an hour. During that hour you are to do what I will teach you."

Jesus makes it clear to St. Margaret Mary in this revelation that the Holy Eucharist is the principal means by which He applies His merciful love to her soul. Moreover, she is asked to keep a "Holy Hour" every Thursday night, and thereby, in some way, keep our Lord company in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane long ago. Indeed, twice in this revelation Jesus assures her by doing these things she can bring comfort and consolation to his Sacred Heart, wounded as it is by the sins of thankless men and women. It appears that St. Margaret Mary is the first one in the history of Catholic spirituality fully to appreciate that in our relationship with Jesus, not only is His "Heart" the source of His merciful love for us, but also that we can, in a sense, show mercy to Him and console Him by returning His love.*

The fourth and final apparition of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary took place in June of 1675. This is the famous revelation in which the saint was told of Christ's desire for the establishment of the liturgical Feast of the Sacred Heart (an idea that St. John Eudes was developing independently, circa 1668, in another part of France):

One day, during the octave of Corpus Christi, when being before the Blessed Sacrament, I received from my God extraordinary proofs of His love. As I earnestly desired to make some return of love, He said to me: "You could not show me greater love than by doing what I have already so many times demanded of you." And [opening] to me His Divine Heart: "Behold this Heart which has so loved men that It spared nothing, even going so far as to exhaust and consume Itself, to prove to them Its love. And in return I receive from the greater part of men nothing but ingratitude, by the contempt, irreverence, sacrileges and coldness with which they treat Me in this Sacrament of Love. But what is still more painful to Me is that even souls consecrated to Me are acting in this way. Therefore I ask of you that the first Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi be dedicated as a feast in honour of My Heart, and amends made to It in an Act of Reparation offered to It and by the reception of Holy Communion on that day, to atone for the outrages It has received during the time It has been exposed on the Altars. I promise you that My Heart will open wide and pour forth lavishly the influence of Its Divine love on all who will render and procure for It this honour."

The Heart-Spirituality developed by St. John Eudes and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque gave to the Church a deeper understanding of the Heart of Jesus as the source and symbol of the infinite, generous, and tender love of the Son of God for the entire human race. Thus, the Heart of Jesus begins to be seen also as the source of the merciful love of Jesus Christ for us. This becomes even clearer and more explicit in the beautiful series of prophetic revelations received by Sr. Josefa Menendez of the Society of the Sacred Heart (1890-1923). Sister Josefa centered her whole life on her desire to console the Sacred Heart: "I made up my mind to accept all to glorify the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to console Him, and to win souls for Him." Moreover, Jesus explicitly revealed to her His desire to unveil the mercy of His Heart to the world more and more (from The Way of Divine Love, TAN, 1972, p. 349):

"How often in the course of the ages have I, in one way or another, made known My love for men: I have shown them how ardently I desire their salvation. I have revealed My Heart to them. This devotion has been as light cast over the whole earth, and today is a powerful means of gaining souls, and so of extending My kingdom.

Now I want something more, for if I long for love in response to My own, this is not the only return I desire from souls: I want them all to have confidence in My mercy, to expect all from My clemency, and never to doubt My readiness to forgive."

(This series continues next week on Divine Mercy in the Spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower).

* Note: The author wrote his doctoral thesis on this subject for the Angelicum in Rome. His thesis was summarized in a book published by Marian Press, entitled Jesus, Mercy Incarnate (2000), pp. 61-64 and 95-96.


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