Sacred Heart: Christ appearing to Saint Marguerite-Marie Alacoque, December 17, 1673, Feast of St. John the Apostle. The apse fresco, painted in 1966 by Luc Barbier (1903-1989) in the Chapel of the Visitation, Paray-le-Monial.
The Gift of the Sacred Heart to Louis XIV
As we narrated at the end of Chapter Two, the Sacred Heart of Jesus manifested to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque His command to the King of France to consecrate himself and France to His Sacred Heart. This happened on June 17, 1689, one year before the holy demise of Saint Margaret Mary, at the age of 43; she described this command in detail:
“Make it known to the eldest son of my Sacred Heart, that as his temporal birth was obtained by devotion to the merits of My Holy Childhood, so he will get his birth to eternal glory by the consecration which he will make of himself to my adorable Heart, which means his triumph, and through it, to the great of the earth. I want My Heart to reign in his palace, to be painted on his standard and engraved in his arms, to make him victorious over all his enemies, and by placing at his feet these proud foes, to make him victorious over all enemies of the Holy Church.”
This request was sent to the King’s confessor to no avail. Finally, at the same year 1689, St. Margaret Mary went to Versailles to see King Louis XIV, who at the time was the greatest Monarch in Europe. France had never seemed more glorious, and it was on the cusp of innovating its culture, technology and industry. It had the highest population in Europe (therefore the largest armies), and was undefeated on the battlefield.
And the “Rois-Soleil ”, the Sun King, flat out refused the request from heaven. For 100 years to the day, the Kings of France delayed accomplish this consecration and did not obey. Before he was imprisoned King’s grandson, Louis XVI, made the consecration most piously of both his nation and himself to the Sacred Heart.
The Tragedy of the Royal Family and France
But it was already too late to save France or the King himself: absurdity and injustice of the royal regime over the last century have destroyed the healthy and sacred national consensus, letting the “revolutionaries,” real criminals, to publicly judge, denigrate, and execute the weak but honest and kind King, thus throwing the French nation into the dark and miserable night of the nineteenth century and into the bloody fire of the twentieth century.
The suffering of Saint Margaret Mary who was trying profusely to satisfy her beloved Sacred Heart and to protect her France was similar to that of Moses, God’s dear friend, facing his obstinate people, and there is no doubt that her apparent “failure” to convince the King contributed to her early death. She announced soon to her Sisters, unbelieving, that the Saviour desires to call her to Himself, and indeed, on October 17, 1690, Sister Margaret Mary gave her soul to the Lord in the most holy way. There is no doubt that Christ, profoundly grateful to His faithful spouse, has withdrawn her from her beloved France to spare Margaret from the shame of her King. This reminds us, too, how His Holy Mother has withdrawn from this world Her two dear Fatima children, Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto, witnesses and sufferers of the Hell apparition.
The Gifts of the Sacred Hearts – What For?
Saint Margaret Mary shared with us her touching and typically French understanding why her Saviour and Husband has offered to the King this Sacred and brazenly rejected Gift: to make the King able to consecrate himself, his royal family, and his France to His Sacred Heart:
“He wants, it seems, to come with pomp and magnificence into the houses of princes and kings, to be honoured as there as He has been outraged, despised and humiliated by His passion; He would receive much pleasure by seeing the great men of the earth lowered and humbled before Him, as He felt the bitterness of being abased by them.”
No doubt, this is the most intimate and true testimony of the faithful spouse of Our Crucified Lord. This is why it’s also so immensely tragic and partial: an ecclesiastically absolutely poor virgin, totally obedient in her everyday life to her superiors, is inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak about her beloved Husband – the despised, graciously accused, cruelly tortured, and finally crucified Son of God. The beautiful fresco of Luc Barbier from Paray-le-Monial, anticipating this article, delicately and genuinely represents the adorable Couple.
Still, our Saviour is the same Trinitarian Lord who saved Jews from Egypt destroying the Pharaonic army and who brought through the Crucifix His Sanctity to all humanity, creating and accompanying His Church. What mean then the Gifts of His Sacred Heart and, for that matter, what mean the Gifts of the Sacred Hearts of His Mother Mary and His Father Joseph for us, Their Church?
The devotional Gifts of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are well researched, well-known and published in many languages, starting with the detailed writings of Saint Margaret Mary on the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As were and still remain well-known, carefully researched by Rabbins, the Jewish mizwot, religious obligations, defined by Moses and prophets according to the Jewish Bible. (The only parenthetical question is whether all these Rabbinic obligations have now any sacred meaning after the Fatima double prophecy of the Mother of all nations about the tragedy of the Jewish people, one of “various nations which will be annihilated” by the Evil during the World War II, and the final victory of Our Lady: “But in the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”)
Nevertheless, such divine revelations as those of God to Moses and of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary have also a single, crucially important fateful meaning.
Fateful Gifts of the Sacred Hearts
The fateful Gift of God, the Saviour of Israel, to the enslaved by Egypt Hebrew tribes has been His command of the Passover and departure:
“At the end of four hundred and thirty years, on this very date, all the armies of the Lord left the land of Egypt.”
Since then, the Passover became the religious devotion of Israel, but according to the Rabbinic tradition, not all Hebrews left Egypt at that moment for freedom – many failed to receive this fateful Gift.
In spite of the blindness and exceptional love for oneself of Louis XIV, devotion to the Sacred Heart grew. Bishops consecrated their own dioceses to it, as the City Council of Marseilles did, offering an annual solemn procession in thanksgiving for the cessation of the plague of 1722 (as with the Louis XIII’s Vow of the Assumption, this practice has continued ever since, save during the Revolution). And as Saint Margaret Mary had written to Louis XIV, Jesus Himself wanted the homage to His Sacred Heart to be made visible on the part of the leaders of the various nations. Fortunately, if Louis himself was more than reluctant, many others were not. Just a few examples (we partially borrow this and two follow paragraphs from the interesting web site “The Politics of the Sacred Heart” by Charles A. Coulombe, 2013):
In 1695, Mary of Modena, Queen of the deposed King James II and living with him in France, sought and won from Pope Innocent XII a proper office and Mass of the Sacred Heart for the Visitation nuns. Three years later, she laid the cornerstone of a chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart at the oldest Visitation convent in Paris.
Moreover, news of the Sacred Heart devotion began to trickle outside of France. In 1717, the Visitation sisters settled in Vilnius, Lithuania, and attracted the favour and support of Augustus II, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. They roused his interest in the“new” devotion, and in 1726 the King wrote Pope Benedict XIII, asking him to support the Sacred Heart veneration and reparation. Meanwhile, in Spain, Louis XIV’s grandson, King Felipe V, also heard the Divine call echoing around the House of Bourbon. In 1727, he too wrote a letter to Benedict XIII, asking him for a proper office and Mass for Spain and its dominions.
But What About the Sacred Hearts’ Destiny of France?
The sudden departure of Saint Margaret Mary to the Heaven was the sign of the divine understanding of Louis XIV’ intentions: personal glory and unlimited enjoyments. The exceptional graces gratefully received by his parents have prepared the Kingdom of France for a glorious future – but only according to the prophesied by Saint Margaret Mary divine plan and under the Sacred Cordial guidance. Ignoring the plan and refusing the guidance, the King brazenly exploited the graces, with the disruptions between the living and fast developing, in many cases from good to worse, branches of the society steady growing – up to the revolutionary catastrophe exactly hundred years later.
The extreme poverty of the French peasantry was an appalling result of the Kings’ social excesses during his reign between 1661 and 1715: initiated by the King several armed conflicts – four major wars and numerous smaller conflicts, accompanied by multiple and very expensive constructions of fortresses and forts; the unequal incidence of taxation and the exemptions and privileges of the upper classes destroying the ability to survive of agricultural and working class families ; no help from the state to poor.
We need to restrict ourselves here just to two witnesses : Marquis Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633-1707) and Saint Jeanne Delanoue (1666- 1736).
The talented commander and the foremost military engineer of his age, Marquis Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Marshal of France, was great a connoisseur of the material and social state of the Kingdom. He has presented to the King his economical project, in particular, on the terrible poverty of the French peasants class and on the cartoony unjust taxation system. The King listened to him and got acquainted with his manuscript, but never accepted it. Finally, unrelenting Vauban published the text as a book and was condemned for this by the Royal government.
In the town of Saumur, with the quarter of its population indigent, Jeanne Delanoue began caring for orphans and living a truly spiritual life, to the point where she eventually closed the family business. As she converted her ways, many doubted her sincerity but she was not discouraged. Jeanne, along with other women who shared her vision of helping the needy, founded the Sisters of Saint Anne of Providence of Samur. The congregation was formally approved by the Vatican in 1704. At the time of Jeanne Delanoue’s death, worn out by her labours, there were twelve communities of her sisters, spread throughout France, serving the poor and needy.
What was in reality just a drop of good will in the ocean of extreme poverty …
But What About the French Gentlemen of the Cloth?
The clergy of France was intelligent, immensely rich and powerful – after nobles, the second in importance upper class. Some claimed that it was even richer than the King himself, but at least it was the richest owner of the national real estate. The episcopal and abbatial statues were often hereditary, without any spiritual calling in the majority of cases.
And Yet the Sacred Hearts Preserved Their France
In a few decades after the revolution, Holy Mary, the Mother of God, proceeded in France to a series of most important visits, starting with that of 1830, to Saint Catherine Labouré, the 26 years old Sister of Charity founded by Saint Vincent de Paul. As Catherine watched, she observed a frame seeming to rotate and showing a circle of twelve stars, a large letter M surmounted by a cross, and the stylised Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary underneath.
Forty years later, after the crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (War of 1870), Paris was under siege, two-thirds of the country was in the power of the Prussians, and they were advancing. At this tragic moment, the people has turned to Jesus and expressed the will to accomplish His demand about Sacred Heart. The inspiration for Sacred Heart Basilica’s design (Montmartre, Paris) originated on September 4, 1870, with a speech by Bishop Fournier attributing the defeat of French troops during the Franco- Prussian War to a divine punishment after “a century of moral decline” since the French Revolution.
This public appeal for the divine pardon and guidance has been answered from Heaven almost immediately by Notre Dame d’Esperance de Pontmain. January 17, 1871, in the village Pontmain, about 30 km to the north of Laval, children saw the beautiful Lady, and gleefully pointed up to her. Slowly, a message appeared:
“But pray, my children. God will hear you in time. My Son allows Himself to be touched.” Upon hearing the message read aloud, the crowd spontaneously began the hymn “Mother of Hope”. As they sang, Our Lady laughed and joined in the singing.