Born into poverty in July of 1647, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’s early life was marked by great faith and devotion, particularly to the Blessed Sacrament, even in the midst of difficulties. When she was only eight, her father died, shortly after he had been cheated by a business partner. From the ages of 9 to 13, she suffered from a rheumatic fever that left her temporarily paralyzed. Despite the physical trials she endured, the selfless young woman said that “the heaviest of my crosses was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering.” At some point during her illness, she made a vow of virginity. However, after her illness, she became swept up in the social scene of her day, forgetting her earlier vow. She danced the night away at balls, socialized with other young people, and even entertained the possibility of marriage. Returning home one night, she had a vision of the scourged Jesus. She believed that she had been disloyal to Jesus by forgetting her vows.
“The heaviest of my crosses was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering.”
Spurred by this vision, she recommitted her life to Jesus and entered the Visitation Order at the age of 22. The sisters of the Visitation Order were meant “not to be extraordinary except by being ordinary,” but eventually this would not be the case for Margaret. She was referred to by her sisters as “humble, simple, and frank, but above all, kind and patient under sharp criticism and correction.” The quiet sister was by no means a perfect nun. Her spirituality was one of simplicity, which made it hard for her to meditate and pray in the way the other sisters did. She was clumsy and slow due to her past health issues, which made everyday chores difficult. To an outside observer, Margaret would have seemed very ordinary.
A few days before Christmas in 1673, our Lord visited the young sister for the first time. He continued to appear to her over the next 13 months, explaining to her how much pain the lukewarmness of the faithful, particularly those in religious orders, caused Him. He revealed to her His human Heart and it is from these revelations that we have the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By Margaret’s own love, she could make reparations for the coldness and ingratitude of many. We are called to participate in this devotion by receiving Jesus in the Eucharist often and devoutly, especially on first Fridays and by making a holy hour each Thursday in remembrance of the agony in the garden.
“I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”
For many years following these revelations, as those around her learned of her visions, Margaret became an outcast from the disbelief and hostility of her sisters. Eventually, a new confessor believed her visions to be genuine and recorded her descriptions. St. Margaret would have preferred to lived a quiet life, but Jesus called her to be a sign of His love and a victim for the failings of other religious. Her last words were “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”
Feast Day: October 16