Home > Archives > 03 - 2011 > “Do not fear anything. I shall reign in spite of my enemies”
FAITH AND DEVOTION
from issue no. 03 - 2011

“Do not fear anything.

I shall reign in spite of my enemies”


Thus Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque


by Giovanni Ricciardi


“Behold my Heart where you were born, you faithful, you my Church, as Eve was born from the rib of Adam. See how the lance opened it, so that the door of Paradise was opened for you”. In a homily in the first half of the fourteenth century, St Anthony of Padua seems to anticipate a devotion to the Sacred Heart which over the last centuries of the history of the Church has had an enormous circulation, linked to the figure of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque .

This nun of the Order of the Visitation, founded in 1610 by St Francis de Sales, in the 43 years of her short life was blessed with extraordinary gifts. Jesus appeared to her several times: He had chosen her, He told her, to make known to the world His Sacred Heart, the source of His infinite love for men.
She was born in 1647 in Lauthecourt, a village in the heart of France not far from Paray-le-Monial, the place where she spent her religious life. She was the fifth daughter of Claude Alacoque, a lawyer and notary of King Louis XIV.
She was first raised in the castle of Corcheval, in the home of a godmother, and then at a boarding school run by Poor Clare nuns of Charolles. There she learned to pray and to love Jesus so ardently that the sisters allowed her to make her First Communion when aged nine, an exception in those times. Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary: this was what most attracted and touched the little Margaret. “The Most Blessed Virgin”, she wrote about her childhood, “always took great care of me; I resorted to her in all necessities, and she rescued me from great dangers”.
The special protection of Our Lady would accompany her especially during the long illness that saw her confined to bed for four years, from age ten to fourteen, and those that followed, until she entered the convent.
They were difficult years in which Margaret lost her father and a sister and became, so to speak, a “stranger” in her own house. Relatives who had been called by her mother to administer their goods in fact deprived her and Margaret of all freedom, treating them as servants. When Margaret asked for a decent dress to go to church, they refused and she was forced to borrow it from a friend. Moreover, they often didn’t even allow her to go out. “I did not know where to take refuge,” the saint wrote, “if not in some corner of the garden or the barn where I could go on my knees and open my heart with tears to God”.
Then her mother also fell ill and was cured only through the love, care and prayers of Margaret, who in the meantime grew and began to wonder what was God’s will for her. Her mother wanted to see her married and the mother of a family, but Margaret’s deepest desire was to consecrate herself to the Lord: “I was consumed by the desire to love Him”, she would later say.
At 22 she received confirmation, adding the name of Mary to her baptismal name, and a few years later, eventually winning over the resistance of her family, she was able to realize her dream of becoming a nun, with her entry into the Visitation convent of Paray-le-Monial, on 25 May 1671.
 
“Like a canvas waiting for the painter “
When she entered the convent she found herself lost among the rites and Latin formulas that she did not understand. She then asked the mistress of novices to teach her to pray. She replied: “Place yourself in front of Our Lord, like a canvas waiting for the painter”. Sister Margaret Mary did not immediately understand, and some time later while she was reflecting on the meaning of those words in her heart, she heard an inner voice saying to her, “Come, I’ll teach you”. At that moment, the saint recalls, Jesus came close to her giving her a great peace. He would look after everything.
Her love for Jesus made her spend many more hours than her fellow sisters in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and they began to regard her with distrust and suspicion; they thought she wanted to show off, and so entrusted her with the most menial tasks, to keep “her feet on the ground”. For example, they sent her to the convent field to mind a donkey and its foal, to ensure that they did not encroach on the garden. Once, Sister Margaret Mary, lost in prayer, forgot them, but despite this, much to the surprise of the other sisters, the animals did not cause any damage.
Life went on, divided between prayer and work. Sister Margaret Mary was put in charge of the convent infirmary, and was at times forced to suffer the harshness with which the superiors treated her. Margaret did not respond to the allegations and tried to be obedient in every little thing.
 
Beloved disciple of the Sacred Heart
All this was the prelude to the first appearance and the revelation of the Sacred Heart to Sister Margaret Mary, and the mission entrusted to her to make it known to the world, which occurred on 27 December 1673: “My Divine Heart”, Jesus said to her, “is so impassioned with love for men and for you in particular that, unable to contain within itself any longer the flames of His burning love, it feels the need to spread it through you and to show itself to them to enrich them with its precious treasures that I will reveal to you and which contain the sanctifying graces”.
From that day on Jesus appeared to her many times. During an appearance in 1674, Jesus asked her for two simple and concrete things: to receive communion every first Friday of the month and to spend an hour in prayer every Thursday from 11:00 to 12:00pm, in memory of his sufferings in the Garden of Olives, and to ask for mercy for sinners. Prayer and sacraments, therefore: the usual ways that open to the grace of God. That is to His Sacred Heart.
To these practices, for all those who would follow them, Jesus attached promises, asking Sister Margaret Mary to make them known to the world. Margaret didn’t know what to do, surrounded as she was by the distrust of her fellow sisters, who would not even allow her to get a picture of the Sacred Heart and display it publicly. But Jesus encouraged her. In one of His appearances He told her: “Do not fear anything. I shall reign in spite of my enemies and anyone who tries to oppose him-self”. “This comforted me greatly”, adds the saint in her autobiography, “because I wanted nothing more than to see Him reign. I entrusted to Him then the task of defending His cause, while I suffered in silence”.
And in fact, very soon she was offered help, in the person of the Jesuit Father Claude La Colombière, who was for many years her spiritual director, and who recognized the revelations received by Sister Margaret Mary as truly inspired by God. He encouraged her, supported her cause before the the superiors of the Visitation, and he himself became an apostle of devotion to the Sacred Heart.
Gradually, first of all her convent, then some families, then very many people already during the life of Saint Margaret Mary adhered to the devotion to the Sacred Heart, which after her death, enjoyed an extraordinary diffusion, so that, less than one hundred years after the death of Margaret Mary, Clement XIII was asked to establish a feastday of the Sacred Heart for the whole Church and learned with amazement that there were already 1090 confraternities in the world devoted to it, and was persuaded to grant this feastday on 6 February 1765.
Pope Leo XIII was then to fully take up the message of Saint Margaret Mary, consecrating the entire world to the Sacred Heart on 11 June 1899. Twenty years later, on the hill of Montmartre in Paris, where Saint Denis was martyred with his companions, the great Basilica of the Sacred Heart which dominates the capital of France was consecrated.
Parallel to these public acts, devotion to the Sacred Heart became increasingly popular throughout the Catholic world.
As for Margaret Mary, in her last years she was constantly asked for spiritual advice and an increasing number of people wanted to see and touch the one who had seen and touched, like Thomas, the Heart of Jesus. But this only increased her desire to live apart, the aspiration she had summed up in one of her phrases: “Everything from God and nothing from me; all of God and nothing of me; all for God and nothing for me”. This sentence was the simple response to the loving words that Jesus had addressed directly to her a short time before: “I am your life and you will not live anymore other than in me and for me”.
 
 
 
 
 
Promises of the Sacred Heart
Many promises made by Jesus to the devotees of his Sacred Heart are to be found in the writings
of St Margaret Mary. The ones listed here, taken from the Saint’s letters, remind us in a concise
and easy way of the graces related to this devotion.
  • I will give them the graces necessary for their condition in life.
  • I will grant and maintain peace in their families, I will comfort them in their  afflictions.
  • I will be their refuge during life and especially in death.
  • I will pour abundant blessings on all their labors and enterprises.
  • Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and endless ocean of mercy.
  • Tepid souls shall become fervent.
  • Fervent souls will rise quickly to great perfection.
  • My blessing will descend on places where the image of my Sacred Heart is exposed and venerated.
  • For priests and those who work for the salvation of souls, I will grant the grace of touching the most hardened hearts.
  • Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names written forever in My Heart.
  • To all those who receive Communion on the first Fridays of nine consecutive months, I will give the grace of final perseverance and eternal salvation.


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