St Margaret Mary Alacoque
In his homily for our parish Feast Day, the feast day of St Margaret Mary Alacoque, Father Hanly reveals the beautiful meaning of St Margaret’s message.
I like this reading today, because my older sister’s name is Margaret and, whenever I read this one, I feel a little closer to her.
Today, as you know, is our parish Feast Day. But perhaps the name and the life of St Margaret Mary is not as familiar to us as those of the other Saints whose lives we celebrate all during the liturgical year.
This is unfortunate. Why? Because St Margaret is a very, very important person in the history of the Church. And what she came to do, and what her life came to mean, is an extraordinary story that continues to echo down all through our own times.
In summary, someone summed up St Margaret’s importance to the Church by saying: “Margaret aroused the Church to a new realisation of God’s love, symbolised by the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
God’s love indeed was being neglected, Jesus’s love for each and every one of us was being ignored for some time.
Margaret lived during the seventeenth century, the latter part of that century, a time of great conflict among the nations, between all the peoples.
The Protestant Reformation was already a hundred years old. But instead of bringing people together, it separated them even worse than before. Wars were fought on both sides and on every side, not only between Catholics and Protestants, but among all the smaller religious groups as well.
The Church was divided. And it seemed like everyone was speaking for God, except God Himself, of course. God Himself seemed to walk away from the whole business and in sorrow. And when men and women fight and argue about religion, the loss is this: that God is no longer present in such arguments.
Now St Margaret’s message, which was given to her by God for her own community, was simple. And this is the message: Jesus is calling us back together. Jesus weeps and wants our presence. Repent! Return to his most gracious love.
Jesus died to make the world free and now he wants us to love this world as he loves this world, to care for it and for the people in it as he cares for us all, and to live with him in mind and body, in spirit and in heart.
That is the message St Margaret brought to her community.
The message is simple: Turn around and come back to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He pours out his life for you that you may have a new life, a new start.
You must offer yourself as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross of Calvary for the healing and the salvation of yourself and the world in which you live. Jesus weeps and only we can dry his tears, because we are His children.
St Margaret was indeed a very simple kind of lady, very intelligent. She had a very difficult childhood, often sick, often alone, and when she was about twenty-three years old, she joined the Convent of the Sisters of the Visitation, a very ancient group of women.
When I was a boy in Brooklyn, we used to have the same Sisters of the Visitation in our own parish. They were the nuns who didn’t teach in schools, but they went around looking for the poor, the needy, the neglected, the ignored, the forgotten members of the parish.
And the truth be told, they had little else but love to give to them. But they were a daily reminder that the tears of Christ would be wiped away by the love of God Himself.
As for Margaret, she took her life very simply, very humbly and very seriously. She caused no harm, was almost overlooked, except for one thing: she had a burning something within her heart, something fiery and something fierce.
And while she was polite and cheerful and did everything perfectly that was wanted of a novice in a convent, there was something within her heart that suddenly sprang forth and people began to realise that she had a special gift, a gift from God.
And that gift was she was a saint. And if you have lived in a religious community life, you can hear this right away, like a soft whisper that speaks to the heart, an echo, a voice from God Himself. And this is what Margaret had.
But there were many in the convent who disagreed, and many who thought she was a fraud, a charlatan. And even bishops and priests discussed, debated and argued over the things that she said that came from God and the claims that she made that she said were God’s claims — that is the very things that Jesus was wanting us to hear and to know.
And so they argued and discussed, and discussed and debated. And for her, she was all alone. And many began to drop away, thinking there was something wrong with her.
But Margaret, humbly accepting everything, stayed true to the words of God that she found springing from her own heart.
And every time you think and pause and come to First Friday Devotions in our church, remember the person who put you there, remember St Margaret Mary. It is she who prays with you, she who prays for your healing, and for the healing and salvation of the world.
St Margaret Mary was canonised a saint in the year 1920, a saint of the Sacred Heart, by Benedict XV.
And, today, in this church, we pay our respects to the little girl who was never taken seriously, except by God.
She became the vehicle that brought us the wonder and the full meaning of Jesus who weeps for us and cares for us, and the humanity of Christ, not someone living far away high in the sky, but the one who eats with us and drinks with us and watches with us and cares for us.
And this is the God we embrace.
And the first one to say yes, I believe, I believe this, I, too, must become like Jesus, humble of heart, meek, caring and loving, the person who leads the way at this time is St Margaret Mary, who we are very fortunate to have, in this lovely church, as our special saint.