Blogger’s Note: This is the latest in a collection of daily posts outlining my journey to the Sacred Heart over the past year or more. See an overview and links to past posts here.
I mentioned in my last post that Kate and the Engel clan had a young-reader biography of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque lying around and I began reading it while I was alone at the lake. The book was Saint Margaret Mary and the Promises of the Sacred Heart by Mary Fabyan Windeatt, and if you laugh to imagine me reading the book pictured, you might be surprised that I couldn’t put it down.
It’s not a brilliant novelization or spiritual classic—but began to draw together months’ worth of disparate threads into one taut cord between me and the Sacred Heart.
The first surprise connection I didn’t catch at first: Against the wishes of her family (who weren’t sold on her religious vocation to begin with), Margaret Mary insisted that she was to become a Visitation sister, the religious order established by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal. Unbeknownst to me, my patron was one of the great writers on the topic of devotion to the sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the decades before St. Margaret Mary’s visions!
Like St. Faustina, she struggled with poor health and—once she began experiencing visions of Jesus—questions about her sanity. She persevered in patient obedience until at last she was sent a confessor and spiritual director, St. Claude de Colombiere who concluded her mystical experiences were genuine and began to help her answer the Lord’s call for reparation for the ingratitude of man toward His self-sacrificing love and to spread devotion to His Sacred Heart.
“Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love…. I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament.” — Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, 1675
Incidentally the beginning of that phrase—“Behold this heart which has so loved men”—appears on the back of the crucifix on the new rosary my bride bought me for my birthday in November of 2015. It was one of the first and favorite things I noticed when I received it, and I never knew from where the quote came.
As I read I learned that St. Margaret Mary was invited to rest her head upon the breast of Jesus, close to His heart—and that she revealed that the St. Claude’s order, the Jesuits, would be instrumental in spreading the message of God’s love and devotion to the Sacred Heart to an indifferent world in desperate need of it. (I read that section aloud to Brendan, and he agreed it reminded him of our current world and our Jesuit pope, whose message of mercy was part of my inspiration to seek my new men’s group and seek to learn more about Divine Mercy.)
And when Kate returned from her graduation, I learned that she had been undecided on a Confirmation saint until she mentioned St. Margaret Mary to a priest, who urged Kate to learn more about her. That priest happens to be the same one who serves as my spiritual director.
It is a small Catholic world, and it spins providentially.