We approach the Feast of the Sacred Heart. In order to prepare ourselves, let us consider the history that gave birth to this great Feast.
It is the Third Apparition of the Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque that is relevant here. Known as the Great Revelation, this Third Apparition took place in the octave of Corpus Christi, in Paray-le-Monial France in June 1675.
As the Saint was kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacred Heart of Jesus appeared to her and spoke these words:
“Behold this Heart, Which has so loved men, that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to them Its love; and in return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude by reason of their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt which they show Me in this Sacrament of Love …
Therefore, I ask of thee that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honour My Heart, by communicating on that day and making reparation to It by a solemn act, in order to make amends for the indignities which It has received during the time It has been exposed on the altars.”
Once Our Lord had expressed His desire for the Feast, He spoke of the graces He would bestow upon those who honoured His request. He said
“I promise thee that My Heart shall expand Itself to shed in abundance the influence of Its divine love upon all those who shall thus honour It, and cause It to be honoured.”
Saint Margaret Mary – a humble, cloistered nun without contact with the world-at-large – felt powerlessness before such a task. Yet, she was guided by Our Lord, to take her experiences and reveal them to the one whom He had sent to her: the one who would make known her revelations to the world.
Saint Claude La Columbière, the nun’s new confessor, had instantly recognised Saint Margaret Mary, on the very first occasion that he had seen her. Whilst he celebrated Holy Mass for the sisters at the convent of the Visitation in Paray-le-Monial, she too had recognised him.
For as soon as her eyes had laid upon him, Our Lord whispered to her, “This is he whom I have sent you”.
Saint Margaret Mary followed Our Lord’s instructions and took a written documentation of her experiences and revelations to the holy priest, who immediately recognised their authenticity.
Together the two saints made a personal consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on the exact day Our Lord had asked for the Feast. It was beyond their power to fulfil His wishes immediately. In fact, the Feast was not universally established until 1856, when Pius IX made it obligatory for the whole Church (Pius XII elevated it to the highest rank and extended it to an octave).
Yet, Saints Margaret Mary and Claude La Columbière immediately began honouring that special day, by making their act of consecration.
Detailed in a book called These Three Hearts by Margaret Yeo, we can read of this consecration.
‘Once again it was the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, the second anniversary of the day when Saint Margaret-Mary and [Saint] Claude La Columbière had consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a consecration which meant giving of “all that I have and am” to God.’
Later Saint Claude was sent by his Jesuit superiors from Paray to Britain. Stationed in England, as confessor and spiritual director to the Duchess of York (Mary of Modena, who actually took it upon herself to appeal to Rome for the inauguration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart – at least for the nuns of the Visitation order), Saint Claude was thus separated from Saint Margaret Mary.
He therefore renewed this consecration alone. Continuing from These Three Hearts we read his own words, which he and Margaret Mary used for their consecration at Paray, a form of which can still be found on the altar of his relics …
“To honour this divine Heart, seat of all virtues, source of all blessings, home of all holy hearts. In reparation for so many outrages and such cruel ingratitude …
I offer to this Heart all the merit and satisfaction of all Masses, prayers, mortifications, religious practices, actions of zeal, humility, obedience and all other virtues which I may obtain at the moment of my death …
Sacred Heart of Jesus, teach me an entire forgetfulness of self, for this is the only way to enter into You. Work Your Will in me, Lord. I oppose it, I know, but wish not to oppose it. Divine Heart of Jesus Christ, You must do everything. Yours alone will be the glory if I become a saint … for that alone do I desire perfection.”
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