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St. Margaret Mary Alacoque: Loving the Sacred Heart

Happy Memorial of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque!

St. Margaret Mary is especially known for her promotion of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a gift which she received on behalf of the whole Church. A letter Margaret Mary wrote to Sr. Fèlice captures the core of this devotion: “Moreover, we must live the life of love. By our humble submission and complete self-effacement it will unite us with Him and make us altogether like Him in His life of sacrifice, abandonment, and love in the Blessed Sacrament…Place in this Heart all your sufferings and difficulties. Everything that comes from the Sacred Heart is sweet. He changes everything into love” (St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Letter to Sr. Fèlice—Madeline de la Barge, 1686)

The quote from her letter to Sr. Fèlice makes clear what is true of all Catholic devotion, i.e., it is liturgically based and, like the liturgy, meant to spur Christians on to embody the life of Christ in the world. Accordingly, we see St. Margaret Mary unite the devotion to the Sacred Heart to both the Eucharist and the life of love which flows from there. The point is, you simply cannot have one without the other, a true encounter with Christ is transfigurational and cannot be contained, implanting an impulse within the soul to make the life of the Beloved known and present to the world.

Christians have a transformative, we might even say, transfigurational impact on the world, through the life of virtue. Thus, among the many titles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Litany of the Sacred Heart is “abyss of all the virtues.” The readings for today’s memorial make the dynamics of Eucharistic encounter flowing to life of devotion and virtue wonderfully clear. Thus, in the first reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians we read Paul’s intercession for the community, that they may be “strengthened with power through his Spirit (virtute corroborari per Spiritum eius) in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (Eph. 3:16). The responsorial Psalm that follows is Psalm 23, where we read both of the soul’s being nourished at the Lord’s Table, a prefiguration of the Eucharist (Ps. 23:5), and that this same soul is empowered by the Good Shepherd’s presence to traverse the dark valley of the shadow of death along the path of righteousness with courage (Ps. 23:3-4). And finally, in the Gospel we hear the Good Shepherd Himself bid us to learn from Him, i.e., watch and imitate Him, who is meek and humble of heart (Mt. 11:29). These are the dynamics devotion to the Sacred Heart is meant to encourage and empower, so that all our actions, as St. Margaret Mary says, might become a Eucharistic offering in unity with Christ, “who makes everything into love.”

St. Margaret Mary, great imitator of the Sacred Heart and exemplar for Christians, pray for us that we might be given the grace to make Christ’s Love known and present to the world, and one day walk in communion with all the saints alongside Jesus, “desire of the everlasting hills.”

Your servant in Christ,

Tony

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