A gift for Spain and the Whole World
By Clara Martínez Gomariz, LHM
We continue to go through the historical evolution of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, travelling to France during the seventeenth century: the so-called “great century of souls” because of the incredible development it underwent during that time. On a religious level, the growth became evident in several ways, such as the founding of new congregations led by clergy, such as Pierre de Bérulle, St. Vincent de Paul and St. Francis de Sales. St. Francis de Sales started the Visitation Order, directing the religious sisters’ formation towards love of the Word Incarnate, a perfect seed which made the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus grow throughout the world.
ST. MARGARET MARY ALACOQUE
It was precisely in this Salesian Congregation that a woman who would have a very important role in the development of devotion to the Sacred Heart belonged: the future St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. She was born on July 22, 1647, in a small village in the Burgundy region of France, in the Diocese of Autun. From the time she was young, Margaret wanted to be a religious sister and felt impelled to take vows of chastity and obedience without understanding what that meant. Nevertheless, given her fervent desire to love God as a nun, her mother attempted to persuade her not to enter a convent, arguing that her marriage was the only hope the family had to overcome their situation of poverty, since they were fatherless.
Young Margaret fought between the world and religious life, overcoming personal resistance and vanity, until she finally responded to her vocation and embraced it with generosity by joining the convent of the Sisters of the Visitation in Paray-le-Monial on May 25, 1671.
From the beginning, Margaret was characterized by a deep humility and virtuous life, as well as by a perfect observance of the will of God.
In 1673, she began to have mystical experiences with regards to the Sacred Heart, whom she saw and heard with total clearness and with whom she had beautiful conversations. At times He related to her like a friend, at times like a spouse, and at times like a father. God showed her that she had been chosen so that He, making use of her heart, could distribute His graces and proclaim His love to souls. To that end, the Lord asked her to be stripped of everything, leaving her heart empty and her soul bare; kindling in her such an ardent desire to love and suffer, the only thing she willed was to love by “crucifying herself” with an unquenchable hunger for humiliation, mortification, austerity, and hard work. The Lord wanted to make His dwelling place in her. Margaret’s immense generosity led her to plead with the Lord that He may imprint His Sorrowful Image in her. Jesus gave Margaret a cross and a crown full of thorns with which she suffered the pains of the Passion, in perfect identification with Him.
Margaret received all this with great peace of spirit, and, since God does not abandon His chosen souls, He promised to send her aid in her mission: the Jesuit, Fr. Claude de la Colombière as spiritual director, whose gift in discernment allowed him to work with her as a true brother in spreading the devotion to the Sacred Heart, although he would also have to suffer greatly for this cause.
Margaret eventually attained mystical marriage, and the Lord permitted her to rest for a long time on His Sacred Chest, where she discovered all of the wonders of His love and the surpassing secrets of His Heart: “My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for thee in particular, that, being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning charity, It needs to spread them abroad by thy means and manifest Itself to them (mankind) in order to enrich them with the precious treasures which I discover to thee, which contain graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to withdraw them from the abyss of perdition. I have chosen thee as an abyss of unworthiness and ignorance for the accomplishment of this great design, in order that everything may be done by Me. ”
From that moment on, Margaret surrendered her soul and body to the Sacred Heart. In the countless trials she had to undergo, she practiced forgetfulness of self in order to attain love in its purest form. Upon seeing her weakness, she submitted herself to the power of grace: “Lord, may Thy will be done in me. For Thee, Divine Heart of Jesus Christ, I do everything” (Offrande, 152).
She died on October 17, 1690, at the age of 43. Pius IX, who had great devotion to the Sacred Heart, promoted her cause and beatified her on September 18, 1864. She was canonized by Benedict XV on May 13, 1920. In 1929, Pius XI extended the feast of St. Margaret Mary to the entire universal Church.
REPARATION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
In one of the apparitions to St. Margaret, the Lord said, “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that It has spared nothing, even to the point of exhausting and consuming Itself to prove Its love to them. And in return, I receive from most men only ingratitude because of their irreverence and sacrileges and the coldness and scorn they have for Me in this sacrament of Love. But what offends me most is that hearts consecrated to me act in this way. For this reason, I ask that you dedicate the first Friday, after the Octave of the Blessed Sacrament, to a particular Feast in order to honor My Heart, receiving Communion on that day and making reparation for Its honor by means of an offering, in order to atone for the offenses It has received during the time It has been exposed on the altars.”
The feast to honor the Sacred Heart, which the Lord requested, was established in 1928 by Pius XI through his Encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor. Regarding the offering of reparation, the so-called “amende honorable” was established, an expression taken from French criminal law to explain the personal offense (sin) of neglect towards the love of Jesus (inconnu), which was the special characteristic of this reparation. The amende could be made with different formulas, and Margaret Mary herself composed some of them. In 1928, Pius XI, through the Encyclical already mentioned, proposed a common text for the whole Church. This prayer was to be prayed in all the churches of the world on the day of His Feast as an act of reparation for offenses and to atone for the violated rights of Christ. This tribute, explained by the Pontiff in his Encyclical, is the loving acknowledgment with which we must correspond to God: “For if the first and foremost thing in Consecration is this, that the creature’s love should be given in return for the love of the Creator, another thing follows from this at once, namely that to the same uncreated Love, if so be It has been neglected by forgetfulness or violated by offense, some sort of compensation must be rendered for the injury, and this debt is commonly called by the name of reparation” (MR, 6). It is seen, therefore, that we must not limit ourselves to honoring our God with adoration alone but also necessarily make satisfaction to God, the just Judge, for countless offenses committed against Him.
In the same apparition to St. Margaret, the Lord continued by saying, “In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Communion on the First Friday, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: They will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their sure refuge in that last hour.” It is the so-called “Great Promise,” by which the Lord promised to give special supernatural help at the hour of death to those who received Communion as an act of reparation on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, a practice which soon spread to the whole world. Thus, the intrinsic correlation between the message given to St. Margaret and the Eucharist can be seen, a link that will be explained in a later issue of the magazine. In addition to receiving Communion as an act of reparation, the Lord indicated to the Saint another way of repaying so much ingratitude and ignorance: praying for an hour during the night from Thursday to Friday, accompanying Him in His agony. This practice would serve as the precursor of the Holy Hour that we carry out today.
Margaret perfectly understood God’s thirst for us, and her spiritual life developed with the outlook of making reparation for this neglected love in a new era of infinite mercy announced by Christ in Paray. God had decided to give more “aids” for salvation in a new and supreme effort to attract men by showing them, in a very clear way, the mercy that He was willing to employ with sinners. Undoubtedly, the “modern times” that Saint John revealed to Saint Gertrude had already arrived, in which, “when men hear these marvels, the world—aged and lukewarm towards the love of God—will be renewed” (Legatus divinae pietatis, 1 IV, c.4, 4).
ACT OF REPARATION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
O sweet Jesus, whose overflowing charity for me is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence and contempt, behold us prostrate before Your altar, eager to repair by a special act of homage, the cruel indifference and injuries to which Your loving Heart is everywhere subject.
Mindful alas! that we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask Your pardon and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation not only for our own personal offenses, but also for the sins of those who, straying from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow You, their Shepherd and Leader, or who having renounced the vows of their baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of Your law.
We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against You. We are determined to make amends for the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in unbecoming dress and behavior, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violations of Sundays and Holy Days, and the shocking blasphemies uttered against You and Your Saints. We wish also to make amends for the insults to which Your Vicar on earth and Your priests are subjected; for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of Your Divine Love; and lastly, for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and teaching authority of the Church which You have founded.
Would, O divine Jesus, we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood! We now offer, in reparation for these violations of Your divine honor, the satisfaction You once made to Your Eternal Father on the Cross and which You continue to renew daily on our altars.
We offer it in union with the acts of atonement of Your Virgin Mother and all the Saints and of the pious faithful on earth, and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of Your grace, for all neglect of Your great love and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth, we will live a life of unwavering faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the gospel and especially that of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent others from offending You and to bring as many as possible to follow You.
O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation; and by the crowning gift of perseverance keep us faithful unto death in our duty and the allegiance we owe to You, so that we may one day come to that happy home, where You, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, God, world without end.
Act of Reparation to the Sacred
Heart of Jesus by Pope Pius XI
© HM Magazine Nº207 March-April 2019