Our Morning Offering – 15 February – The Memorial of St Claude de la Colombiere S.J. (1641-1682)
Lord, be the Centre of Our Hearts by St Claude de la Colombiere
O God, what will You do to conquer
the fearful hardness of our hearts?
Lord, You must give us new hearts,
tender hearts, sensitive hearts,
to replace hearts
that are made of marble and of bronze.
You must give us Your own Heart, Jesus.
Come, lovable Heart of Jesus.
Place Your Heart deep in the centre of our hearts
and enkindle in each heart a flame of love
as strong, as great, as the sum of all the reasons
that I have for loving You, my God.
O holy Heart of Jesus, dwell hidden in my heart,
so that I may live only in You and only for You,
so that, in the end,
I may live with You eternally in heaven, amen
Saint of the Day – 15 February – St Claude de la Colombiere SJ (1641-1682) Religious Priest, Confessor, Patron of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Ascetical Writer, Teacher, Preacher, Missionary. Patronages – Devotion to the Sacred Heart, toy-makers, turners. St Claude was a Jesuit priest and the confessor of St Margaret Mary Alacoque, the visionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. St Claude was born on 2 February 1641 at Saint-Symphorien d’Ozon, Rhône, France and he died on 15 February 1682 at Paray-le-Monial, Saône-et-Loire, France of hemoptysis (coughing up blood). He was Canonised on 31 May 1992 by St Pope John Paul II in Rome, Italy.
CLAUDE DE LA COLOMBIÈRE, third child of the notary Bertrand de la Colombière and Margaret Coindat, was born on 2nd February 1641 at St Symphorien d’Ozon in the Dauphine, southeastern France. After the family moved to Vienne, Claude began his early education there, completing his studies in rhetoric and philosophy in Lyon.
It was during this period that Claude first sensed his vocation to the religious life in the Society of Jesus. We know nothing of the motives which led to this decision. We do know, however, from one of his early notations, that he “had a terrible aversion for the life embraced”. This affirmation is not hard to understand by any who are familiar with the life of Claude, for he was very close to his family and friends and much inclined to the arts and literature and an active social life. On the other hand, he was not a person to be led primarily by his sentiments. At 17 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Avignon. In 1660 he moved from the Novitiate to the College, also in Avignon, where he pronounced his first vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Afterwards he was professor of grammar and literature in the same school for another five years.
In 1666 he went to the College of Clermont in Paris for his studies in theology. Already noted for his tact, poise and dedication to the humanities, Claude was assigned by superiors in Paris the additional responsibility of tutoring the children of Louis XIV’s Munster of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert. His theological studies concluded and now a priest, Claude returned to Lyon. For a time he was teacher in the College, then full-time preacher and moderator of several Marian congregations.
Claude became noted for solid and serious sermons. They were ably directed at specific audiences and, faithful to their inspiration from the gospel, communicated to his listeners serenity and confidence in God. His published sermons produced and still produce significant spiritual fruits. Given the place and the short duration of his ministry, his sermons are surprisingly fresh in comparison with those of better-known orators.
The year 1674 was a decisive one for Claude, the year of his Third Probation at Maison Saint-Joseph in Lyon. During the customary month of the Exercises the Lord prepared him for the mission for which he had been chosen. His spiritual notes from this period allow one to follow step-by-step the battles and triumphs of the spirit, so extraordinarily attracted to everything human, yet so generous with God.
He took a vow to observe all the constitutions and rules of the Society of Jesus, a vow whose scope was not so much to bind him to a series of minute observances as to reproduce the sharp ideal of an apostle so richly described by St Ignatius. So magnificent did this ideal seem to Claude that he adopted it as his program of sanctity. That it was indeed an invitation from Christ himself is evidenced by the subsequent feeling of interior liberation Claude experienced, along with the broadened horizons of the apostolate he witnesses to in his spiritual diary.
On 2nd February 1675 he pronounced his solemn profession and was named rector of the College at Paray-le-Monial. Not a few people wondered at this assignment of a talented young Jesuit to such an out-of the-way place as Paray. The explanation seems to be in the superiors’ knowledge that there was in Paray an unpretentious religious of the Monastery of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom the Lord was revealing the treasures of his Heart but who was overcome by anguish and uncertainty. She was waiting for the Lord to fulfil his promise and send her “my faithful servant and perfect friend” to help her realise the mission for which he had destined her: that of revealing to the world the unfathomable riches of his love.
After Father Colombière’s arrival and her first conversations with him, Margaret Mary opened her spirit to him and told him of the many communications she believed she had received from the Lord. He assured her he accepted their authenticity and urged her to put in writing everything in their regard and did all he could to orient and support her in carrying out the mission received. When, thanks to prayer and discernment, he became convinced that Christ wanted the spread of the devotion to his Heart, it is clear from Claude’s spiritual notes that he pledged himself to this cause without reserve. In these notes it is also clear that, even before he became Margaret Mary’s confessor, Claude’s fidelity to the directives of St Ignatius in the Exercises had brought him to the contemplation of the Heart of Christ as symbol of His love.
After a year and half in Paray, in 1676 Father La Colombière left for London. He had been appointed preacher to the Duchess of York – a very difficult and delicate assignment because of the conditions prevailing in England at the time. He took up residence in St James Palace in October. In addition to sermons in the palace chapel and unremitting spiritual direction both oral and written, Claude dedicated his time to giving thorough instruction to the many who sought reconciliation with the Church they had abandoned. And even if there were great dangers, he had the consolation of seeing many reconciled to it, so that after a year he said: “I could write a book about the mercy of God I’ve seen Him exercise since I arrived here!”
The intense pace of his work and the poor climate combined to undermine his health, and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear. Claude, however, made no changes in his work or life style. Of a sudden, at the end of 1678, he was calumniously accused and arrested in connection with the Titus Oates “papist plot”. After two days he was transferred to the severe King’s Bench Prison where he remained for three weeks in extremely poor conditions until his expulsion from England by royal decree. This suffering further weakened Claude’s health which, with ups and downs, deteriorated rapidly on his return to France.
During the summer of 1681 he returned to Paray, in very poor condition. On 15th February 1682, the first Sunday of Lent, towards evening Claude suffered the severe haemorrhage which ended his life.
On the 16th of June 1929 Pope Pius XI beatified Claude de la Colombière, whose charism, according to St Margaret Mary Alacoque, was that of bringing souls to God along the gospel way of love and mercy which Christ revealed to us. (vatican.va)
It is said that the day after Claude’s death, Sister Margaret Mary received supernatural assurance that Claude needed no prayers, as he was in already heaven; he was enjoying the fullness of communio with the Trinity. Claude was considered a “dry” martyr, having suffered every abuse for the Christian faith except death. The life of Saint Claude was an example of being in correspondence with the Lord Himself –through the logic of Love– that he was known to be concrete example of mercy in the face of trials. Saint Claude’s life of holiness drew many of the Protestants to the Catholic Church. His was a trust that we must adopt: “In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded.”
May we learn from Saint Claude la Colombiere what it means to be in relationship with Jesus the Good Shepherd, true Divine Love.
One Minute Reflection – 13 December – The Memorial of St Lucy (c 283-304)
Cast me not our of your presence and your Holy Spirit, take not from me….Psalm 51:13
REFLECTION – “When the Holy Spirit is in a soul, He communicates Himself in one way or another.
We can say that He makes virtue contagious and turns a simple faithful into an apostle.”…St Claude de la Colombiere S.J. (1641-1682)
PRAYER – Heavenly Father, grant that Your Holy Spirit may inspire me to be a true follower of Your Son. May He dwell in me always and keep me ever on the path of holiness. May the prayer of the virgin Martyr Lucy, support us, O Lord, so that with each passing year, we may celebrate her entry into life and finally see You face to face and greet her with joy. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, in unity with the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever amen.
Saint of the Day – 16 October – St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) V.H.M. Virgin, Nun, Mystic, Saint and Apostle of the Sacred Heart. Born Marguerite-Marie Alacoque on 22 July 1647 at L’Hautecourt, Burgundy, France – 17 October 1690 of natural causes. Patronages against polio, against the death of parents, devotees of the Sacred Heart, polio patients. She was Beatified on 18 September 1864 by Pope Blessed Pius IX and Canonised on 13 May 1920 by Pope Benedict XV. When her tomb was canonically opened in July 1830, two instantaneous cures were recorded to have taken place. Her incorrupt body rests above the side altar in the Chapel of the Apparitions, located at the Visitation Monastery in Paray-le-Monial and many striking blessings have been claimed by pilgrims attracted there from all parts of the world.
She was born in 1647 AD at Janots, a small town of Burgundy, the fifth of seven children, of Claude and Philiberte Alacoque. Her father was a prosperous notary; the family owned a country house and farmland and had some aristocratic connections. Margaret’s godmother was a neighbour, the Countess of Corcheval. As a small child Margaret spent a great deal of time with her but these visits were brought to a sudden end by the death of the countess. The father died of pneumonia when Margaret was about eight and this was another severe shock to her. Claude had loved his family dearly but had been short-sighted and extravagant and his death put them in hard straits. However, Margaret was sent to school with the Urbanist Sisters at Charolles. She loved the peace and order of the convent life and the nuns were so impressed by her devotion that she was allowed to make her First Communion at the age of nine (normally around the age of 12 at that time). A rheumatic affliction kept her bedridden for four years. During that time she was brought home, where some of her father’s relatives had moved in and taken over the direction of the farm and household. She and her mother were treated almost as servants. This painful situation grew more acute after Margaret’s recovery, for the relatives tried to regulate all her comings and goings. Not allowed to attend church as often as she pleased, the young girl was sometimes seen weeping and praying in a corner of the garden. It grieved her deeply that she could not ease things for her mother. Her eldest brother’s coming of age saved the day, for the property now reverted to him and the family again had undisputed possession of their home.
Philiberte had expressed a hope that Margaret would marry; the girl considered this but at the age of twenty, inspired by a vision, she put aside all such thoughts and resolved to enter a convent. While awaiting admission, she tried to help and teach certain neglected children of the village. At twenty-two she made her profession at the convent of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial. The nuns of the Order of the Visitation, founded in the early years of the seventeenth century by St. Francis de Sales, were famed for their humility and selflessness. As a novice Margaret excelled in these virtues. When she made her profession, the name of Mary was added and she was called Margaret Mary. She began a course of mortifications and penances which were to continue, with more or less intensity, as long as she lived. We are told that she was assigned to the infirmary and was not very skillful at her tasks.
Some years passed quietly in the convent and then Margaret Mary began to have experiences which seemed to be of supernatural origin. The first of these occurred on 27 December 1673, when she was kneeling at the grille in the chapel. She felt suffused by the Divine Presence and heard the Lord inviting her to take the place which St John had occupied at the Last Supper. The Lord told her that the love of His heart must spread and manifest itself to men and He would reveal its graces through her. This was the beginning of a series of revelations covering a period of eighteen months. When Margaret Mary went to the Superior, Mother de Saumaise, with an account of these mystical experiences, claiming that she, an humble nun, had been chosen as the transmitter of a new devotion to the Sacred Heart, she was reprimanded for her presumption. Seriously overwrought, Margaret Mary suffered a collapse and became very ill. The Mother Superior reflected that she might have erred in scorning the nun’s story and vowed that if her life were spared, she would take it as a sign that the visions and messages were truly from God. When Margaret Mary recovered, the Superior invited some theologians who happened to be in the town—they included a Jesuit and a Benedictine—to hear the story. These priests listened and judged the young nun to be a victim of delusions. Their examination had been a sheer torture to Margaret Mary. Later a Jesuit, Father Claude de la Columbiere, talked to her and was completely convinced of the genuineness of the revelations. He was to write of the nun and to inaugurate this devotion in England.
For many years, Margaret Mary suffered from despair, from self-inflicted punishments and also from the slights and contempt of those around her. In 1681, Father Claude returned to the convent and died there the following year. Margaret Mary was appointed assistant and novice-mistress by a new Mother Superior who was more sympathetic towards her. In 1683, opposition in the community ended after an account of Margaret Mary’s visions was read aloud in the refectory from the writings left by Father Claude, who had taken it upon himself to make known to the world the nun’s remarkable experiences. Mother Melin was elected Superior and named Margaret Mary her assistant. That she was finally vindicated was to her a matter of indifference. She later became Novice Mistress, saw the convent observe the feast of the Sacred Heart privately beginning in 1686 and two years later, a chapel was built at the Paray-le-Monial to honour the Sacred Heart; soon observation of the feast of the Sacred Heart spread to other Visitation convents. When she was forty-three, while serving a second term as assistant superior, Margaret Mary fell ill. Sinking rapidly, she received the Last Sacraments, saying, “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.” Margaret Mary died at the Paray-le-Monial on October 17, 1690. Margaret Mary was canonised a saint in 1920. She, St John Eudes, and St Claude La Colombiere are called the “Saints of the Sacred Heart”; the devotion was officially recognised and approved by Pope Clement XIII in 1765, seventy-five years after her death.
In seventeenth-century France, the faith of the people had been badly shaken; there had been rebellion against the Church and neglect of its teachings; the rise of Protestantism and the spread of the heresy of Jansenism both had a part in the weakening of the structure built up through the ages. But as every threat brings its response, so now there rose up fresh, strong forces to counter these trends. Three famous religious, who are today venerated as saints, were particularly effective: Saint John Eudes and StClaude de la Columbiere were French Jesuit priests and writers; Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque was a simple nun of the order of the Visitation. Their special work was to popularise the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Although the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was practiced before this time, it now gained a strong new impetus through the work of Father John Eudes and the writings of Father Claude. “The Sacred Heart is the symbol of that boundless love which moved the Wordto take flesh, to institute the Holy Eucharist, to take our sins upon Himself and, dying on the Cross, to offer Himself as a victim and sacrifice to the eternal Father.”
The devotion to the Sacred Heart first became popular in France, then spread to Poland and other countries. The first petition to the Holy See for the institution of the feast was from Queen Mary, consort of James II of England. The month of June is appointed for this devotion and since 1929 the feast has been one of the highest rank and is celebrated on the Friday after the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
St Claude de la Colombiere S.J. (1641-1682 Memorial 15 February) was the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and helped immensely to bring the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the world. He is known as the faithful servant and perfect friend to the Sacred Heart. Please join us in saying this Novena, not only for our own needs but that through the power of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the whole world and it’s many ills, may benefit.
Novena to St Claude de la Colombiere
O divine Lord, You said,
‘Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you’.
You promised to bestow abundant blessings
on all the undertakings of those who honour your Sacred Heart.
Hear our humble, confident and incessant prayers
and grant us the grace we ask of Your infinite mercy in this novena.
We ask it through the intercession of St Claude La Colombiere,
whom You have honoured with the title ‘faithful servant and perfect friend’
and who had such filial, unbounded and unwearied confidence in You.
O St Claude, most ardent apostle of the Divine Heart of Jesus,
deign to intercede for me with this divine heart,
that I may obtain the grace I ask for in this novena.
(make your request)
Our Father…Hail Mary…Glory be…
Pray for us, St Claude, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.