Catholics who know the immense good that a spiritual director can have on a soul will have a ready appreciation for the role that St Claude de la Colombière played in the life of St Margaret Mary. Had it not been for St Claude de la Colombière SJ, St Margaret Mary might have gone down in the annals of history as a mad nun who the devil was tempting with false visions of the Sacred Heart.
Our Lord first appeared to St Margaret Mary in December 1673, but it was not until spring 1675 that she met St Claude, then a 30-something Jesuit. In the year between Our Lord first appearing to her and meeting St Claude, Margaret Mary tried in vain to be believed when she spoke of the intimate colloquies which were pleasing to the Sacred Heart to give her.
Her mother superior (at the Visitation convent in France where she was a nun) rebuffed her when she revealed that Christ had told her that she was His emissary, the person who would be His messenger and tell the world how He would like souls to return love for him, by doing the nine first Fridays devotion and by celebrating a feast in honour of His Sacred Heart.
A team of theologians pronounced that Margaret Mary was having demonically-inspired delusions when she told them of her visions, including that during an apparition, Our Lord had asked for her heart, which she begged Him to take, and He placed her heart in His Heart. In her diary, Margaret Mary said her heart looked like “a little atom which was being consumed in this great furnace”, and that after Our Lord withdrew her heart from His Heart, hers looked like a burning flame in the form of a heart, which He then gave back to Margaret Mary.
To be fair, I do not know if I would have believed Margaret Mary either. I’d like to think that I would, but I might have considered that she was having day-dreams that she desperately wanted people to believe so they would think of her as someone especially favoured by God. Or if I had believed her, I might have been jealous of the way Our Lord so clearly cherished her. Our Lord told her that he had a particular love for her, and called her “the beloved disciple of My Sacred Heart”.
The first person to see through all the fog of suspicion was St Claude. One day he came to the Visitation convent, and when he was preaching, Margaret Mary heard in her heart: “He is the one I sent you.” St Claude heard her confession, and became convinced of the validity of the visions. St Claude consecrated himself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and began to spread the devotion. St Claude was separated from Margaret Mary, and sent to London where he petitioned for her visions to be approved. Far from Margaret Mary, he continued to write to her and guide and console her with his letters.
During this month of the Sacred Heart, it was such lovely news for London-based Catholics to learn that the relics of St Claude and St Margaret Mary will be coming to central London for a special tour this coming November. While St Claude was not a witness to the visions of the Sacred Heart, he nonetheless was the trailblazer who believed every word that Margaret Mary told him, and he gave of his whole heart, mind and strength to spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart.