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The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back to at least the 11th century. Through the 16th century it remained a private devotion.

The first Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated on August 31 1670, in Rennes, France, through the efforts of Father Jean Eudes (1602-1680). From there the devotion spread, but really took off after the visions of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.

In all these visions of Jesus to Margaret Mary, the Sacred Heart played a central role. The "great apparition" of June 16, 1675, is the source of the modern Feastday.

Christ asked Margaret Mary to request that the Feastday be celebrated on the Friday after the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi (therefore 19 days after Pentecost) in reparation for the ingratitude of men for the sacrifice He had made for them. The Sacred Heart of Jesus represents not simply part of His physical Body, but His love for all mankind.

The Church initially (as is ususal) had doubts about the validity of the visions of Margaret Mary, and it wasn't until 1765 that the Feast was actually celebrated officially in France. In 1856, some 90 years later, Pope Pius IX extended the Feastday to the universal Church.

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque

Margaret Mary Alalcoque was born at Lhautecoeur, France, on July 22, 1647. From early childhood she showed an intense love for the Blessed Sacrament. After her First Holy Communion at age 9, she secretly practised severe corporal mortifications, until paralysis had her laid up in bed for four years. At the end of this period she made a vow to the Blessed Virgin Mary to consecrate herself to the Religious life, and was instantly cured.

On May 25, 1671 she entered the Visitation Convent at Paray and in November 1672 made her final vows.

Our Lord often visited her and spoke with her, and on one such visit told her that her mission was to establish devotion to His Sacred Heart.

These extraordinary events drew severe criticism from her community, and her superior commanded her to lead the common life. But her obedience, humility and unfailing charity towards those who persecuted her eventually won them over to her cause.

Margaret Mary was inspired by Jesus to establish the Holy Hour, and to pray lying facedown to the ground from 11.00pm to midnight on the Thursday evening before the first Friday of each month - the period when his disciples left Him all alone on the first Holy Thursday evening at Gethsemane. He also requested her to receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of every month. He requested that the Feast day be celebrated on the Friday after the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Margaret Mary died at Paray le Monial on October 17, 1690.

The Church leaders discussed her mission and virtue for years, and examined everything in minute detail. Finally the Sacred Congregation of Rites passed a favourable vote on her heroic virtues. In March 1824, Pope Leo XII pronounced her "Venerable", and on September 18, 1864 Pope Pius IX declared her "Blessed". When her tomb was opened canonically in July 1830, two miracles occurred instantaneously.

Saint Margaret Mary was canonised by Pope Benedict XV in 1920, and her body rests under the altar at Paray.

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