October 17 is the feast of St.Margaret Mary Alocoque. Not many Catholics know of this saint, but almost everyone knows what God worked through her _ even those who now work to destroy all that Divine Providence accomplished through this humble nun.
Even the most superficial perusal of history shows that there was never a time without conflict. These conflicts took place in every area of human activity because people are the artisans of anarchy against God. This anarchy shows itself in every level of human society. The reasons for this rampant disorder may be found in the preponderance of the consequences of original sin over the practice of Christian virtue.
Whenever charity grows cold, all the vices born of pride explode in violence. Disordered self-love always leads to disobedience and disobedience always leads to violence.
Satan seeks to enter the highest places of influence from which he spreads his lies with the least opposition. When the best elements in society become corrupted, the consequences become the worst.
In all this explosion of disordered pride, God sent a messenger with the solution to all the problems. Although St.John Eudes and St. Claude de Colombiere were great preachers of devotion to our Lord in His sacred Heart, it was Margaret Mary Alocoque who received the message to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart.
We may be sure there were many self-appointed `saviors' of the Church then as there are today.
The genuine messengers chosen by God are invariably those who have learned to accept suffering and adversity whether in physical illness or because of the malice of others.
Schooled in suffering and persecution, Margaret Mary Alocoque was purified for her yet unsuspected mission. She was not the energetic, active and efficient one; she was quiet, slow and clumsy. As a novice in the Visitindine Congregation, Margaret Mary was humble, obedient, simple and frank; an edification to the entire community. A fellow-novice said of her: " by her charity to her sisters, to whom she never uttered an irritating word, and by her patience under the sharp reproofs, scorn, and ridicule to which she was often submitted."
Her comfort was found in meditating on the passion and death of our Lord on the Cross. Our Lord had been appearing to Margaret Mary continually. Often He would appear as crowned with thorns. On December 27, 1673, her devotion to our Lord's sacred passion was rewarded with the first of the great revelations.
During a period of eighteen months, our Lord continued to appear to Margaret Mary at intervals. Each appearance explained and amplified the first revelation.
It was our Lord who told Margaret Mary that His heart was to be honored under the form of a heart of flesh, represented in a way we have now become familiar. And, that in consideration of the coldness and rebuffs given Him by mankind in return for all His eagerness to do them good, she should make up for their ingratitude so far as she was able.
How was this to be done? This was to be done by frequent loving communion, especially on the first Friday of each month and by an hour's vigil every Thursday night in memory of His agony and desertion in Gethsemane. This was accomplished by Catholics in the devotions of the Nine Fridays and the Holy Hour.
A final revelation was made within the Octave of Corpus Christi in 1675, when our Lord said to St.Margaret Mary: "Behold the heart which has so much loved men that it has spared nothing, even exhausting and consuming itself in testimony of its love. Instead of gratitude I receive from most only indifference, by irreverence and sacrilege and the coldness and scorn that men have for Me in the Sacrament of love."
Our Lord then asked that a feast of reparation be instituted for the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi. This feast is now the feast of the Sacred Heart.
Through His chosen instrument, a young nun whom our Lord Himself called "a very abyss of unworthiness and ignorance," God made known to the world His will concerning the reparation due for human ingratitude towards His goodness and mercy, by worship of the heart of flesh of His Son, considered as united to His divinity and as the symbol of His love in dying for our redemption.
And, for all those "independent" clergy and laity who today scoff at Church authority and arrogate to themselves what they do not have, our Lord told St. Margaret Mary that she was to "do nothing without the approval of those who guide you, in order that, having the authority of obedience, you may not be misled by Satan, who has no power over those who are obedient."
When she spoke of these things to her superior, Mother de Saumaise, she "mortified and humiliated her with all her might, and allowed her to do none of the things that our Lord had asked of her, treating contemptuously all that the poor sister had said." St. Margaret Mary adds: "This consoled me very much and I withdrew in great peace." But all this nevertheless made her very over-wrought to the point that she becane very ill and in grave danger.
Mother de Saumaise was looking for a sign to guide her in dealing with Sister Alocoque, and said to her: "If God cures you, I shall take it as a proof that all you experience comes from Him, and I will allow you to do what our Lord wishes in honor of His sacred heart."
St.Margaret Mary accepted this decision of her superior and prayed that God's will may be made manifest. She recovered at once. Despite all this, there was a minority in the community violently hostile to their Sister and her spiritual experiences. Consequently, Mother Superior ordered Margaret Mary to set out these experiences for the opinion of certain theologians. These men, however (like typical superficial theologians lacking such experiences) diagnosed them as delusions and recommended that the visionary should take more food.
We experience similar things today with just the opposite extreme: Competent guides are scorned and incompetent spiritual guides and false teachers are eagerly believed.
But our Lord promised that an understanding director would come to her and when Blessed Claude de la Colombiere arrived as confessor extraordinary to the nuns, she knew that this was the man.
Although Fr.Claude did not remain long at Paray, he was there long enough to be convinced of the genuineness of St. Margaret Mary's experiences. From this grew a deep respect and affection for her and he himself began to adopt the teaching of the Sacred Heart while confirming the saint herself in it.
She was asked in a vision to become the sacrificial victim for the shortcomings of the nuns of the community and for the ingratitude of some to the Sacred Heart. She demurred for a long time, asking that this chalice might pass from her. Then our Lord again asked her that she would do this not merely interiorly but in public. She accepted. She accepted not in desperation or defiance, but in an agony of fear at what she felt bound to de because God had asked her _ and had to ask her twice.
On that same day, November 20, 1677, this young nun of only five years's in the convent, after having first spoken to her superior and having been told by her superior to obey God's voice "said and did what her Lord required of her" _ she knelt before her sisters in religion and told them in the name of Christ that she was appointed to be the victim for their failings. They did not all take it in the same spirit of utter humility and obedience, and on that occasion she says that our Lord "chose to favor me with a little sample of the grievous night of His own passion."
Although, it is said, that the next morning there were not enough priests to hear the confessions of the nuns, there is reason to believe that for many years afterwards there were Sisters who nursed resentment toward St.Margaret Mary.
We may draw some practical lessons from the life and experiences of St. Margaret Mary Alocoque. First of all, we ought to deepen our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; we ought to look forward to the small sacrifice of observing the First Friday of each month with attendance at Mass, reception of Holy Communion, and particularly of the evening vigil.
There are so many who have received the grace to be courageous in separating themselves from the Apostate Modernist Church in order to remain loyal Roman Catholics and members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. But, alas! So many have fallen through pride into heresies and schism. This is especially true of those who call themselves "Traditionalist" Catholics and are being ill-advised by disobedient clergymen.
There are those who fancy themselves great saints and make a mockery of the Church through their antics of pretending to cast out devils while needing exorcism themselves; others ridicule the authority that Divine Providence has given them for their own spiritual safety. Still others, consumed by an exaggerated sense of self-importance because of worldly success in some other profession, imagine themselves better qualified to teach than those appointed by the Holy Ghost.
Satan has truly won many disciples among the "Traditionalists" _ both laity and clergy. In a time when heroic virtue is called for, we see only mediocrity; when the world groans for saints, we find only complacent, worldly-minded leaders whose only concern is their own accustomed self-indulgence and self-centeredness. Of what avail is it to speak and argue about doctrines when actions speak louder than words to the effect that our faith is just as weak as ever and indifference is cloaked with pharisaical pride? Where is the zeal for God's House? Where is the fervor for the honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus?
It is no great thing to repeat the words of a catechism book and to instruct others. But it is a great thing to practice self-discipline as suggested by the words of the catechism.
There are many who teach, but there are so few who practice what they teach or preach! While the intellect plays games with words and ideas, even though these may be religious ones, the will gives in to the unruly passions of the flesh and the worldly vanity and ambition of the spirit.
If we would serve the Lord as He desires, our first concern would be to learn of Him as He had said: "Learn of me because I am meek and humble of heart." There are those who pretend to be meek only because they appear timid; but when these have an opportunity to show their true nature, they become unbearable authoritarians. In this, they resemble not the disciples of Jesus, but the abuse of authority so common in the world.
Our genuine faith is shown by our lives: how we speak; how we dress and how we live. Ingratitude to our Lord for His love for us is as stifling today as it was four hundred years ago. And the reason is this: Each generation must start from the beginning to attain holiness or damnation. The past is the teacher of the present, and the present prepares the future.
May love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus enflame us all to prove our gratitude and love for Him. Talk is cheap; but, actions are precious because it is our actions that tell the world who we are and what we really believe.
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