Revelation of the Sacred Heart
by Fr. Emile Bougard 1673-1675
“It is for Thy love alone, O my God,” she begins, “that I submit to write this in obedience, and I ask Thy pardon for the resistance that I feel, so it is only Thou that canst give me the strength to overcome it” Then she added: “I receive this order as coming from Thee; and by fulfillment I wish to punish the excessive joy and precaution that I have taken to follow the great inclination of creatures. O my Sovereign Good, may I write nothing but for Thy greater glory and my still greater confusion!”
She then took her pen and began her recital. But soon she stopped dumbfounded, speechless, confused, utterly unable to overcome her repugnance. “O my Lord and my God, who alone knowest the pain that I suffer in fulfilling this obedience and the violence that I must do to myself to overcome the repugnance and confusion that I feel in writing all this, grant me grace to die rather than put down anything but what springs from Thy Spirit of truth, and which will give Thee glory and me confusion. In mercy, O my Sovereign Good, let it never be seen by anyone excepting by him whom Thou wishest to examine it, so that this writing may not prevent my remaining buried in eternal contempt and forgetfulness of creatures. O my God, give this consolation to Thy poor miserable slave.”
A little further on, having resumed her recital, and again crushed by the work, we read: “I proceed through obedience, O my God, without any other design than that of satisfying Thee by the martyrdom which I suffer in penning these lines, every word of which seems to me a sacrifice. But mayest You be glorified by it eternally!” The same plaintive tone is heard throughout her Memoir; the same contest is witnessed between humility and obedience. At one instant humility lays down the pen; at the next obedience makes her take it up. It was thus that was finished, in an incomparable glory of sanctity, the recital of the three revelations relative to the Heart of Jesus. We shall now make them known in Margaret Mary’s own words. The Church has studied the triple recital with the severity she always brings to this kind of examination and has solemnly declared their authenticity.
THE FIRST REVELATION -December 27, 1673
The first of the three revelations took place, no one can doubt on the feast of St. John the Evangelist, December 27, 1673. It was the same day on which three hundred and fifty-three years before, St Gertrude had learned in a vision that if the world beloved Disciple had said nothing of the sacred pulsations of the Sacred Heart, it was because God reserved to Himself to speak of them at a time in which the world begin to grow cold. The day could not of better been chosen for this revelation. We have the account of it written by Margaret Mary. She gives us the whole sense of the life.
“Once” she said, “being before the Blessed Sacrament had having a little more leisure than usual, I felt wholly filled with this Divine Presence, and so powerfully moved by it that I forgot myself and the place in which I was. I abandoned myself to this Divine Spirit, and yielded my heart to the power of His love. He made me rest for a long time on His Divine Breast, where He discovered to me the wonders of His love and the inexplicable secrets of His Sacred Heart, which He had hitherto kept hidden from me. Now He opened it to me for the first time, but in a way so real, so sensible, that it left me no room to doubt, though I am always in dread of deceiving myself”
We see it was the time that the Lord showed His Heart to Margaret; until then He has always kept It hidden. And such is the character of this apparition, and the impression that she receives from it, that the humble virgin, ordinarily so timid, so distrustful of self could conceive no doubt of it. Jesus had then spoken; and “This” adds Margaret: ” as it seems to me, is what passed: The Lord said to me, My Divine Heart is so passionately in love with men that it can no longer contain within Itself the flames of Its ardent charity. It must pour them out by thy means, and manifest itself to them to enrich them with its precious treasures, which contain all the graces of which they have need to be saved from perdition. I have chosen you as an abyss of unworthiness and ignorance to accomplish so great a design, so that all may be done by Me”.
Thus according to the condition of this first revelation, the new devotion was going to be the grand effort of the Heart of Jesus ‘ passionately in love with men and wishing at any cost to draw them from the abyss of perdition. Until then ordinary means had sufficed. But in the sad state in which the world was, Jesus could no longer contain the flames of this burning charity in His Heart, which wished to save all men. His pierced side opened, and His Heart longed to come forth. It had as yet only shown itself in cloisters and to chosen souls, and in showing it to them had made them faint from love. But now it wished to show itself to the multitude and by whether, in revealing the hidden secrets of love, it might succeed in melting the ice that was being heaped up in the midst of Christian people. Such was the sense of the first apparition.
Jesus said nothing else to Margaret Mary, excepting that, for the accomplishment of His designs, He made use of her; not in spite of her weakness and ignorance, but rather than on account of them, that all should be done by Himself. But when? how? in what manner?. The Lord did not say, and Margaret Mary had neither the thought nor the strength to ask Him.
Since however, there was question of a public ministry, the Lord desired to leave her a living and unquestionable proof of the truth of what had just passed. Before disappearing, He asked if she desired to give Him her heart: But let her speak for herself.
He demanded my heart, and I supplicated Him to take it. He did so, and put it into His own Adorable Heart, in which He allowed me to see it as a little atom being consumed in that fiery furnace. Then drawing it out like a burning flame in the form of a heart, He put it into the place whence He had taken it, saying: Behold, My beloved, a precious proof of My love. I inclose in thy heart a little spark of the most ardent flame of My love., to serve thee as a heart and to consume thee till thy last moment. Until now, you have taken only the name of My slave; henceforth you shalt be called the well-beloved disciple of My Sacred Heart.
One can easily imagine what effects might be produced by such a favour a creature already wholly inflamed with divine love. She said: After so great a grace, one that lasted so long and during which I knew not whether I was in heaven or on earth, I remained several days wholly inflamed, wholly inebriated.. I was so out of myself that it was only by doing violence to myself could I utter a word. I was obliged to make so great an effort to eat and recreate that my strength was exhausted in my endeavor to endure my sufferings”.
Again she was led to Mother Saumaise, but she could scarcely pronounce one word: “I experienced” she said: “so great a plenitude of God that I was not able to express myself to my Superioress as I wished.” As to her Sisters, she experienced only one temptation; namely to throw herself at their feet and confess to them her sins. “It would of been a great consolation to me, to have made my general confession aloud in the refectory, that my Sisters might see the depth of my corruption; for then they would attribute to me none of the graces I received.”
Besides this sentiment of profound humility, the first fruit of the luminous apparition, a sentiment that must necessarily be conceived by one that has rested on the breast of the Saviour (for astonishment, admiration, and love create humility), Margaret preserved a memento, or rather an ineffaceable mark of divine love. She did not bear it visibly on her breast like St Francis of Assisi or St Catherine of Siena, but all her life she retained an invisible wound in her side, “The pain of this wound is so precious to me, causes me transports so lively, that it burns me alive, it consumes me” she said. This divine memorial did not grow faint with time, for the Lord renewed it every first Friday of he month, and again showed her His Heart. She said: “The Sacred Heart is shown me as a sun brilliant with sparkling light, whose burning rays fall direct on my heart. I then feel myself inflamed with such fire that it seems about to reduce me to ashes.”
Such was the first act of this triple revelation of the Sacred Heart. One sees as yet only the principle and as it were, the inspiration of this new devotion; but in what touching beauty! A God forgotten by men, and unable to resign Himself to such forgetfulness; despised by man, and wishing to punish him; hearkening to His anger, endeavoring to silence the voice of His love, and yet nor succeeding; unable to contain within Himself the flames of His ardent charity, and yet not able to chastise His ungrateful creatures, He resolved to vanquish them by force of tenderness, and for this end daily inventing new and most divine contrivances of love! After the splendors and benefits of creation came the annihilations of the crib. The crib is followed by the sorrows of the Cross; the Cross, by the Holy Eucharist! Is there anything left? Yes; for we now behold the supreme effort of the Sacred Heart! It is always the same law. Every new evidence of coldness on the part of man causes God to descend a degree in order to touch the heart from which He cannot succeed in detaching Himself.
The day following this lively and ineffaceable apparition, in which Margaret Mary had learned two things, the first, that God could not contain in His Heart the secrets of His love; the second, that He would make use of her to reveal them to the world, – the life of our saint resumed its accustomed course. Very nearly six months were granted her to recover from the profound impression just received, – and she had much need of them. Six months of peace, recollection, silence, brilliant progress in humility and the love of God! And now, at the moment she least expected, comes the second revelation! More penetrating, more luminous than the first, it made a still deeper impression on her soul. She fell ill from the violent emotion it caused; so ill that all thought she must die.
THE SECOND REVELATION – 1674
This second revelation is the only one of which we know not the exact date. It certainly took place in 1674, before the arrival at Paray of Father de la Colombiere, who came in the autumn of this year. As the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, it could not be according to the custom of the times, other than the feast of the Visitation, or during the Octave of Corpus Christi. On the other hand, it seems to follow from Margaret’s account that it was on Friday, and the first Friday of the month. We think therefore, that it was in the beginning of June, and the Friday of the Octave of Corpus Christi.
Let us hear the Sister’s full recital; “Once when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, my soul being absorbed in extraordinary recollection, Jesus Christ, my Sweet Master, presented Himself to me. He was brilliant with glory; His five Wounds shone like five suns. Flames darted forth from all parts of His Sacred Humanity, but especially from His adorable breast, which resembled a furnace and which opening, displayed to me His loving and amiable Heart, the living source of these flames.”
In recounting the first apparition, Margaret Mary had not described the adorable person of the Lord, because probably, it had not the same glorious character as this one. It was less royal, perhaps a more intimate communications: “He made me rest along time on His breast” (remembering the first), which it might seem would agree not well with the spendours, the flames that enveloped Jesus in the second apparition. However, this difference in form corresponds to the difference of spirit in which they were made. Till that hour Jesus was the Friend, the Father, making a tender effort to save His children. Now He is the outraged Spouse, the unacknowledged King about to demand reparation. Whilst Margaret, trembling with emotion, was contemplating Him, “He unfolded to me” she says: the inexplicable wonders of His pure love, and to what excess He had carried it for the love of men from whom He had received only ingratitude: ‘This’ He said: ‘is much more painful to Me than all I suffered in My Passion. If men rendered Me some return of love, I should esteem little all I have done for them, and should wish, if it could be, to suffer it over again: but they meet My eager love with coldness and rebuffs. Do you, at least, said He in conclusion, console and rejoice Me, by supplying as much as you can for their ingratitude.'”
After having shown in the first revelation the true principle of the new devotion, namely love whose flames He could no longer confine in His Heart, Jesus now revealed it character. This devotion would be amende honorable and an expiation for all the crimes of the world, a consolation for his forsaken Heart. He appealed to some chosen souls to come and supply at the foot of the altars for those that do not love Him; and, by their love and adoration, to render the homage He no longer receives from the multitude grown cold and indifferent. “Do thou, at least” and in speaking thus the Lord addressed Himself to all pious souls, give Me the consolation of beholding thee supplying for their ingratitude, as far as thou canst.”
Margaret excused herself on the plea of incapacity: “Fear not,: said Jesus; behold here is wherewith to furnish all that is wanting to thee.” “And at that moment: continued Margaret, ‘the Divine Heart being opened, there shot forth a flame so ardent that I thought I should be consumed by it”. Admirable symbol of what this new devotion was going to become in the Church, of that universal re-warming of hearts of which we shall try later to trace to the consoling picture!
Thoroughly penetrated with this burning flames, and unable longer to endure the fire, Margaret implored our Saviour to have pity on her weakness: Fear nothing”said He to her: I shall be thy strength. Listen only to what I desire of thee to prepare thee for the accomplishment of My designs” Then the Lord asked two things of her: the first to communicate every first Friday of each month to make Him the amende honorable!; the second, to rise between eleven and midnight on the night between Thursday and Friday of every week, and to prostrate for an hour with her face to the ground, in expiation of the sins of men, and to console His Heart for that general desertion, to which the weakness of the apostles in the Garden of Olives had been only a slight prelude.
“During all this time” says Margaret: “I was unconscious, I knew not where I was. Some of the Sisters came to take me away, and seeing that I could neither reply nor support myself on my feet, they led me to our Mother, who found me quite out of myself, trembling as if on fire”. When Margaret told her what had just taken place, whether she believed or not, or whether she feigned not to believe it, Mother de Saumaise humbled her as deeply as she could -“which gave me extreme pleasure, caused me inconceivable joy” Says Margaret Mary: “for I felt myself such a criminal, I was filled with such confusion, that, however righteous might be the treatment bestowed upon me, it would still have seemed to me too lenient”.
“The fire that devoured me brought on continual fever; but I rejoiced too much in suffering to complain of it. I never spoke of it, but when my strength was completely gone. Never have I felt so much consolation. My whole body was racked by extreme pain, and this relieved a little the parching thirst I felt to suffer. This devouring fire could neither be fed nor satisfied but with the woo of the cross; namely with contempt of all kinds, humiliations, and pains. Never was my bodily sufferings equal to what I experienced from not suffering enough. The Sisters thought I would surely die”.
Dr. Billiet, the attendant physician, declared that Saint Margaret Mary, had sixty consecutive fevers that resisted every remedy employed to moderate their ardor. Mother de Saumaise, very much perplexed, at last resorted to the following expedient. She approached the bed of the apparently dying Sister, and commanded her in the name of obedience to ask her restoration of God, adding that she would recognize it as a sign of the supernatural character of all that had taken place in her regard. She would then, she said, permit her to make the Communion of the first Friday of every month, and the hours prayer during the night between Thursday and Friday.
Margaret experienced strong repugnance to asking a termination of her sufferings, fearing she said, “to be heard”. But at the word obedience, she no longer hesitated. Scarcely had she uttered a short prayer before her fever fell, her pulse beat less rapidly, and the astonished physician pronounced her cured. There was however little need for the doctor to make this assertion, for the saint arose; and from that day the Sisters remarked a total change in her health. Mother de Saumaise did not resist the voice of God.
She granted Margaret Mary the permission to communicate the first Friday of the month, and for the future to rise on the night between Thursday and Friday.
Meanwhile Mother de Saumaise became more and more embarrassed. This cure, which looked like a miracle and which perhaps was one, caused her to reflect more seriously on the propriety of acknowledging the incontestable sanctity of Sister Margaret. But on the other hand Margaret was very young, hardly six and twenty, and counted but two years of religious life. The visions that she related were, moreover , very extraordinary. Was not some illusion to be feared? Finally Mother de Saumaise resolved to consult others; and breaking silence for the first time, she conferred on the subject with some religious whose names we do not know -‘learned people”, say our old Memoires. But whether Margaret so timid and so humble, was herself not understood, or whether the advisers of Mother de Saumaise entertained certain prejudices on the score of supernatural manifestations, a thing not infrequent even among priests and pious religious, her conferences led to the conclusion that in Margaret Mary’s case there was much imagination, a little natural temperament, and perhaps even some illusion of the evil spirit, so skillfully disguised that the good Sister could not perceive it.
The perplexity of Margaret’s judges was thus increased instead of diminished. Condemned by her Superiors and confessors, the poor Sister knew not which way to turn. She said: “I made every effort to resist my interior attractions, believing that I was assuredly in error. But I could not succeed. I no longer doubted that I was abandoned, since I was told that it was not the Spirit of God that governed me; and yet it was impossible for me to resist the Spirit that moved me.” One day, when drooping under the weight of this continued anxiety, and pouring out her plaintive wail at the feet of her Lord, she seemed to hear a voice saying to her: Have patience, and await My servant. She knew not what the words meant, but they poured a little balm into her soul, and she felt that God would come to her assistance in His own good time.
Things were in the same state when Mother de Saumaise announced to her Community one day that a pious conference would be given them by a religious of the Society of Jesus who had just arrived at Paray, and who had the reputation of speaking eloquently of the things of God. His name was Father de la Colombiere. We are astonished that a man who, in spite of his youth, was already so celebrated, and who from his entrance into the Society had given promise of attaining high renown, should be sent to so small a place as Paray. We read in the sequel the divine purpose of this sending. Father de la Columbiere came in time for the greatest perplexities (for it was very likely the morrow of the second revelation, so badly understood by the learned people of Paray, and the eve of the third and last, the most important of all). He was going, in a few words, to evoke light in the midst of darkness.
Sister Margaret Mary went with the other Sisters to the conference, Father de la Colombiere’s name not having made upon her the slightest impression. But he had hardly opened his lips when she distinctly heard these words: “Behold him whom I send to thee” Accustomed to await God’s moments without anticipating them, scarcely had she rested her eyes on the Father when she remitted to God who had sent him, the care of making her known to him.
The Ember days came. Father de la Colombiere having been deputed to hear the confessions of the Community, Margaret Mary remarked that, although he had never seen her, yet he spoke as if he knew what was passing in her soul. He detained her a long time, and even offered to see her again the next day, in order to receive a thorough manifestation of her interior state. These advances could not come more opportunely. But Margaret did not want to open her heart to him; and as to the second proposition, she replied humbly and timidly that she would do what obedience ordered her.
Very probably it was the venerable Mother de Saumaise who had spoken to Father de la Colombiere of Margaret’s state, that she might be able to add the opinion and advice of a pious and eloquent man to those that she already had; although perhaps it was God Himself who had enlightened His servant, that He might extend to His faithful spouse the direction of which she had so great need. Be this as it may, a few days later the Father returned and asked for Sister Margaret Mary. The Sister says: Although I knew that it was the Will of God for me to speak to him, yet I felt extreme repugnance to answering his summons.”
Her repugnance, however, lasted but a moment. Gained by the piety and sweetness of the holy religious, and interiorly excited by grace, Margaret Mary confided to him the secrets of her heart. The interview was long, and Sister Margaret came forth from it enlightened and consoled: She said: “He assured me that there was nothing to be feared in the guidance of this Spirit, in as much as it did not withdraw me from obedience; that I ought to follow its movements and abandon my whole being to it, to be sacrificed and immolated according to its good pleasure. He admired the great goodness of our God in not withdrawing His favours in the face of so much resistance, taught me to esteem the gifts of God, and to receive with respect and humility the frequent communications and familiar entertainments with which He favoured me. The Father added that my thanks giving for so great a goodness ought to be continual. When I told him that my soul was pursued so closely by the Sovereign Goodness without regard to time or place, that I could not pray vocally without doing myself violence so great that I sometimes remained with my mouth open unable to pronounce a word, and this happened particularly whilst saying the Rosary, he told me, to make such efforts no more, and to confine myself to my vocal prayers of obligation. When I told him something of the special caresses and loving union of soul I received from my Well beloved, and which I cannot describe here, he replied that I had great reason to humble myself, and to admire with him the wonderful mercy of God in my regard.”
We have quoted this entire page, because in very brief form it contains true light, There is something elevated, sensible, sweet, and pious in it. It is, besides, the great word of Father de la Colombiere. He did undoubtedly utter many others. He preached long, he made known God’s truth in France and England.
But, notwithstanding all this, he was most probably created, led from afar, divinely prepared by a certain chain of hidden marvels expressly to speak this word. That done, he retires, his mission finished. He had played his part. Assuredly there is none either more glorious or more useful; for in enlightening one such soul he has enlightened millions. He contributed largely to the good of the Church by giving her bark tossed by a frightful tempest the stroke of the oar that was to enable her to clear rugged obstacles. But Father de la Colombiere did not retire and leave his work unfinished. We shall see him again at the decisive moment of the third revelation, when he will once more sustain and enlighten the Sister. He will study seriously this last and highest manifestation of God’s will, after which he will be the first to prostrate with our saint and consecrate himself to the Sacred Heart.
THIRD AND LAST REVELATION. – June 16, 1675.
It was on June 16, 1675, that the last of the grand revelations relative to the Sacred Heart took place. It was to close the cycle of those solemn disclosures. Until then the humble virgin had received from the Lord, only personal favours, very like those with which other holy souls had already been favoured. He had only demanded of her some individual practices of devotion. Now, however, the hour was come for Him to invest her with with her grand public mission.
During the octave of the feast of the Blessed Sacrament, June 16, 1675, Margaret Mary was on her knees before the choir-grate, her eyes fixed on the Tabernacle. She had just received: “some of the unmeasured graces of His love”. We have no particulars of these graces. Suddenly the Lord appeared on the altar and discovered to her His Heart. He said to her: “Behold, this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in this sacrament of love. And what is most painful to Me (He said in a tone to pain the Sisters heart) is that they are hearts consecrated to Me” Then He commanded her to have established in the Church a particular feast to honour His Sacred Heart. “It is for this reason I ask thee that the first Friday after the octave of the Blessed Sacrament be appropriated to a special feast, to honour My Heart by communicating on that day, and making reparation for the indignity that it has received. And I promise that My Heart shall dilate to pour out abundantly the influences of its love on all that will render it this honour or procure its being rendered.”
This was the last revelation, and the most celebrated of all. Justly the most celebrated, for all that regards the Divine Heart of Jesus is contained in It. Its principle is no other than the overflowing love of God, love making a grand effort to overcome evil; its end, to become a public devotion, having been so long a private one; and, lastly, its effects, a new effusion of divine love on the Church, and more particularly on the pious souls that become its apostles and propagators.
But whether the Lord, to leave her the full use of her natural faculties at a moment so serious, had concealed a little the splendor of His divine presence, or whether Margaret Mary, reassured by Father de la Columbiere, had banished all fear and abandoned her soul entirely to the happiness of contemplating her Divine Master, we do not know. But at the close of the third revelation no trace of the violent emotion that had followed the first two were perceived. The humble virgin is recollected, attentive and happy. Although astonished at such a mission, (for who was she to establish a feast within the Church, she could not succeed in convincing her Superiors?) but one word escaped her: Lord, how can I?” To which the Lord answered by telling her to address herself to that servant of God who had been sent to her, expressedly for the accomplishment of this design.
Margaret Mary did, indeed, recur to Father de la Colombiere, and confide to him this third revelation. The venerable priest asked for a written account of it, that he might later be able to study it at leisure. We shall see later on with what religious respect he preserved the document. He examined the revelation attentively before God, and, enlightened from on high, declared to Margaret that she could rely on it, for without a doubt, it came from Heaven. Thus reassured, Margaret Mary no longer hesitated. She knelt before the Divine Heart of Jesus, solemnly consecrated herself to It, and thus rendered it the first and one of the purest acts of homage that it was ever to receive on earth or in heaven. Father de la Colombiere, wishing to unite with her, also consecrated himself to the Heart of Jesus. It was Friday, June 21st, the day after the octave of the Blessed Sacrament; the day that had been designated by the Lord to be forever the feast day of His adorable Heart. Thus He received, in the person of a holy priest and of an humble virgin, the first fruits of those acts of adoration soon to be rendered Him by all mankind.
Thus ended this glorious drama, and the same time three and one, of the revelations of the Sacred Heart. Thus was successively developed, in profound and mysterious order, that incomparable vision vouchsafed to one of the most humble of virgins. And that which in silence and ecstasy she had three times consecutively beheld in that chapel, through that grate, on that altar, the Church also was going to see. She examined this testimony, this recital, forced by obedience from the saint’s touching modesty; she declared them true and authentic; and, following the example of the humble virgin, she prostrated before the Sacred Heart.