|The town of Paray-le-Monial in France|
Paray le Monial is a small town in the Bourgogne region of eastern France. I actually look at it more of a small village than a town and I love tiny picturesque villages specially in the area of France. It is quiet, quaint yet simple but it became popular because of the apparition by no less than Our Lord to a simple nun.
|The quiet town of Paray le Monial|
I was able to visit this place a couple of times in the past when I used to assist my late dad in his pilgrimage tours. My late parents were devotees of the Sacred Heart. In fact my mom passed away on a first friday on the month of Our Blessed Virgin Mary.
It is the place where the Sacred Heart of Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary of Alacoque. The apparitions and subsequent devotion to the Sacred Heart took place in the late 17th century. St. Margaret Mary’s spiritual director was St. Claude de la Colombiere. Both consecrated themselves to the Sacred Heart and promoted the devotion with much suffering. This devotion was strongly opposed in and out of the Church and suppressed in many places. In 1856, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the Feast of the Sacred Heart for the entire Church and exhorted the faithful to consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart (1875). St. Margaret Mary was canonized on May 13th, 1920.
Since childhood St. Margaret was formed by the Blessed Virgin. When she was ill she did many corporal penances with great charity. In 1671, she entered the Visitation Convent. One day while she was before the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus allowed her “to rest for a long time on His Divine Heart,” revealing to her “the marvels of His love and the unexplainable secrets of His Sacred Heart” ( Dec. 17th, 1673, Feast of St. John the Apostle).
Jesus said: “My Divine Heart is so passionate of love for humanity and in particularly for you that it is not able to contain itself in the flames of this ardent love. It’s necessary for you to be enriched with His precious treasures . .I have chosen you. . “ And taking her heart, He placed it in His “like a small particle consumed in the burning furnace.”
|Fresco right at the center of the Altar inside the Chapel of Apparitions|
Since that day the Sacred Heart appeared to her regularly, especially on First Fridays.
Jesus said: “Here is the Heart which has so deeply loved men, it has spared nothing even exhausted and consumed itself to show them my love and in return all I receive from the majority of them is ingratitude.”
Jesus: “ I promise you in the excessive of the mercy of My Heart, that His omnipotent love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the first nine Fridays of consecutive months, the grace of final penance.” (Benedict XV at her canonization)
“Sadly, we can say, Devotion to the Sacred Heart has diminished in some people; from now on, may it flourish more each day, may it be regarded by all as an authentic , excellent and secure devotion which our times demand according to the Second Vatican norms.” (Pope Paul VI).
|Chapel of Visitation where the Sacred Heart appeared to St. Margareth Alacoque|
The Chapel of the Visitation
The Chapel is located in the Monastery of the Visitation – Rue de la Visitation 71600. This is the actual place where the apparitions of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary took place in 1673. Here are housed relics of the Saint.
Pilgrims come to visit the remarkable 11th century Romanesque Cluniac Sacred Heart basilica and the 1535 St. Nicholas Church tower. However, the ultimate objective of all visitors is the Visitation Chapel, forever associated with the saint.
From a very early age, Margaret Mary believed that she had a calling to the religious life. This feeling wasn’t dispelled despite enduring years of illness and mistreatment at the hands of relatives following the early death of her father. A promise to devote her life to Our Lady resulted in a miraculous release from her sickness and at 22 she entered the Convent of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial.
The order had been founded in 1610 in France by St. Frances de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal as a contemplative community. Its 26th French foundation, Paray convent, was established in 1626.
Soon after arriving, Margaret Mary experienced a series of four visions of Our Lord in 1673 in which he requested frequent reception of the Eucharist and increased veneration of his Sacred Heart. He also desired that a special feast day be established to honour it.
Today, a sign proclaims the scene of appearances as the Chapelle des Apparitions. It’s not an impressive building: Built in 1633 to conform to standard stone chapel designs and renovated several times since.
|Frescoes at the center of the Altar with various Saints who were part of the devotion to the Sacred Heart|
Inside, the most compelling decoration, a large fresco above the altar, of the second apparition, by artist Luc Barbier, immediately attracts attention, with its unusual pastel hues that attempt to capture the heavenly light surrounding Christ.
Arms extended as on the cross, he presents his heart to Margaret Mary, flanked by figures of people associated with the devotion.
Many visitors are powerfully moved to find themselves in the very place where the saint experienced the apparitions more than 300 years ago, a place that seems to exude a natural aura of reverence.
Mystical events scorned
Relating her mystical experiences, Margaret Mary encountered skepticism and strong opposition from her superior, other nuns and clergy who investigated her story.
|Father Claude de la Colombiere|
Fortunately, the arrival at Paray of (St.) Father Claude de la Colombiere provided the support she needed to actively promote the cause of the Sacred Heart. Eventually, her community accepted the fact that her visions were coming from God and became active in supporting the devotion.
|The remains of Father Claude de la Colombiere found in another chapel nearby|
The first celebration of the new feast took place at Paray 13 years after the visions and the observance was extended to the universal Church in 1856 by Pope Pius IX.
Margaret Mary died in 1690 and was canonized in 1920.
|The relics of St. Margareth is encased in this wax body including her brain which is intact.|
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart
The Sacre Coeur Basilica (Sacred Heart) was built by the Cluny monks in the 11th century. Today it is a very active center for pilgrimages and great religious celebrations. As well, the Chapel of la Colombière is close by. Here are housed relics of St. Claude de la Colombière, confessor of St. Margaret, who along with her ardently spread the devotion to the Sacred Heart. He was canonized on May of 1992.
Close to the Heart of the Son is the Heart of the Mother
The Church, in this month of June, giving us the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, wishes us to understand the consequential devotion to Our Lady traditionally lived in the Marian month par excellence: the month of May. The Heart of Jesus is the See and Throne of Divine Mercy, revealed to the world in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI speaking of the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus two years ago said: “In biblical language, “heart” indicates the centre of the person where his sentiments and intentions dwell. In the Heart of the Redeemer we adore God’s love for humanity, his will for universal salvation, his infinite mercy. Practising devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ therefore means adoring that Heart which, after having loved us to the end, was pierced by a spear and from high on the Cross poured out blood and water, an inexhaustible source of new life” (Benedict XVI, Angelus 5 June 2005).
The call which comes from this important feast day is first of all a call to Eucharistic adoration, because in the Sacred Host the Lord Jesus is truly present and He offers each of us His Heart, His Merciful Love. To spend time in the Presence of the Eucharistic Lord, to adore Him, is the best expression of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which, as we know, spread all over the world thanks to Jesus’ revelations to Saint Margherita M. Alacoque in the 17th century: “Behold the Heart which so loved mankind”!
As a prolongation and accomplishment of this message, the Lord appeared to another Sister in the 20th century revealing the abyss of His unfathomable mercy; she was Saint Faustina Kowalska who wrote in her Diary, now world famous, these words of Jesus: “I have opened my Heart as a living source of Mercy, from it all souls draw life, all approach with deep confidence this sea of Mercy. Sinners will obtain justification and the just will be strengthened in goodness. I will fill the souls of those who put their trust in My Mercy with My divine peace at the hour of their death. My daughter, continue to spread devotion to My Mercy, in doing so you will refresh My Heart which burns with the fire of compassion for sinners. Tell my priests that hardened sinners will be softened by their words if they speak of my boundless Mercy and of the compassion which My Heart feels for them. I will give priests who proclaim and exalt My Mercy wondrous power, unction to their words and I will move all the hearts to which they speak” (Book 5, 21 January 1938).
The deepest longing of Christ’s Heart is that we discover how much he loves us, the extent of his tender love for creatures who, cooled by their selfishness, look only inwards at themselves, as if they were afraid to let themselves be loved unconditionally by their Creator, who asks nothing and gives all!
How society, culture, economy, politics today need this Heart! It is really true, the more man distances himself from God-Love the more he becomes ‘heartless’, agitated about a thousand things because he has mislaid the principal one: to let oneself be loved by Christ and to respond to this Love with our love.
Many times during history the Supreme Pontiffs have reminded humanity that without the Lord Jesus life has no real meaning, man gropes in the dark to find himself! The Servant of God John Paul II introduced the Church into the Third Millennium with a mandate to become “Apostles of Divine Mercy”. The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI picked up where his Predecessor left off and never tires to remind us of the necessity to rediscover the merciful Heart, this infinite Love of God, who reveals Himself in our lives if we open to Him. “Open, open wide the doors to Christ” the voice of the Holy Spirit continues to say. By means of Eucharistic adoration we are “opened” from within by His invisible working in us. The Most Holy Eucharist, celebrated and adored, as the Church teaches us, is the greatest and most effective treasure of our salvation, an infinite treasure which must be safeguarded with profound respect and deepest devotion.
Close to the Heart of the Son is the Heart of the Mother whom the Church celebrates the day after the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let it again be the Holy Father who illuminates us with regard to this mystery: “The heart that resembles that of Christ more than any other is without a doubt the Heart of Mary, his Immaculate Mother, and for this very reason the liturgy holds them up together for our veneration. Responding to the Virgin’s invitation at Fatima, let us entrust the whole world to her Immaculate Heart, which we contemplated yesterday in a special way, so that it may experience the merciful love of God and know true peace” (Benedict XVI, Angelus 5 June 2005).
— Rev. Luciano Alimandi, Agenzia Fides 13/6/2007