St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (feast day Oct. 16) was born in the Diocese of Autun (France) on July 22, 1647, the fifth of seven children. Even as a child she had a deep love for the Lord and always wanted to please him. She was also deeply devoted to Our Lady. While growing up, St. Margaret Mary only had two years of formal learning from the Urbanist Nuns, yet her contributions to the Church have been significant.
At the age of 9, she made her First Holy Communion.
This Communion shed such bitterness over all my little pleasures and amusements that I was no longer able to enjoy any of them, although I sought them eagerly. (The Letters of St. Margaret Mary of Alacoque, The Apostle of the Sacred Heart)
After this she became extremely ill and was even unable to walk for about four years.
But I fell into so pitiable a state of ill health that for about four years I was unable to walk. My bones pierced my skin … since no remedy could be found for my illness, I was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin with the promise that, if she cured me, I should one day be one of her daughters. (The Letters of St. Margaret Mary of Alacoque, The Apostle of the Sacred Heart)
St. Margaret Mary was cured, and in 1671, she joined the Visitation order at Paray-le-Monial; she professed the following year.
St. Margaret Mary experienced apparitions from Christ who revealed his most Sacred Heart to her and his deep love for mankind. All the apparitions took place while St. Margaret Mary was praying before the Blessed Sacrament or after receiving Holy Communion. Sometimes Jesus’ Sacred Heart was a blazing furnace, while at other times it was torn and bleeding on the account of the coldness and sin of mankind. She saw Christ’s heart engulfed in flames and surrounded by thorns and heard his loving voice share these words:
Behold this Heart, which has loved so much but has received nothing but coldness, indifference, and ingratitude in return.
St. Margaret Mary knew Christ had selected her and, with the help of St. Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, was instrumental in instituting the great feast of the Sacred Heart and spreading the devotion to the Sacred Heart throughout the world.
St. Margaret Mary is a saintly role model on how to love as Christ taught her. She once wrote:
True it is that one who loves does not think, even in the midst of the greatest sufferings, that he is suffering anything. But you will surely grant me that no one can love without suffering. The love of my God is a pitiless tyrant who never says “enough.”(The Letters of St. Margaret Mary of Alacoque, The Apostle of the Sacred Heart)
Christ desires that we learn to love others by first loving him. The Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion is one where we allow Christ to renew us and transform our heart.
It is said that on her death bed St. Margaret Mary showed a earnestness to die, and yet she was extraordinarily joyful, despite being in tremendous pain. During her own final agony, St. Margaret Mary was filled with an all-consuming fear of God’s divine justice and her own final judgement. Yet, her immediate consolation came by holding a crucifix and saying the words, “Mercy, O my God, mercy.” After this moment her fear disappeared and her spirit was filled with a great calm and peace.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque revealed to us not only a devotion that the world desperately needs but a road map to holiness through loving the Heart of Christ. This saint shared the messages of Christ in a way that touched even the hardest of sinners and provided so many with hope that miracles can happen when hearts unite with Christ. This wonderful saint died on Oct. 17, 1690, at the age of 42 and was canonized on May 13, 1920, by Pope Benedict XV.
The Letters of St. Margaret Mary of Alacoque, Tan Books, 1954
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, Benziger Brothers, 1925
Illustrated Lives of the Saints, Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 2005
The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by John Croiset, Tan Books, 1988
The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Manual, Enthronements.com