Archive for the ‘St. Margaret Mary Alacoque’ Category

Mass Apparitions of Our Lord

June 26, 2019

So there’s Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Knock, Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady of lots of places. Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Good Help, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady of Victory, Our Lady of Grace, Our Lady of Peace, and Our Lady of lots of other good things, too. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize that all these ladies were the same lady. But eventually I figured out that these were all titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary. With that confusion cleared up, I went on to wonder why there seems to be so many apparitions of Mother Mary throughout Church history and so few of her Son, Jesus Christ.

Sure, there are famous exceptions. In the 18th century, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to invite devotion to his Sacred Heart. The month of June is now dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And in the 20th century, St. Faustina Kowalska had visions of Jesus encouraging devotion to his Divine Mercy. As a result, the first Sunday after Easter is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. But it’s usually Mary who we hear about appearing here or there around the world, encouraging people to repent, to listen to her Son’s words, and be saved.

So I wondered, “Why aren’t there more apparitions of Jesus in the world?” Eventually I figured out the reason: there’s an apparition of Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. At every Mass, Jesus’ words are proclaimed. At every Mass, he works a miracle for us. At every Mass, his Real Presence come to us by the Eucharist. Compared to how frequently Jesus appears before us at Mass, Marian apparitions are the rarity.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed more than five thousand people (and that’s just counting the men.) He has them sit in groups of about fifty, blesses and breaks the food, and hands it to his disciples to serve the people. They all eat and are satisfied, and the leftovers are more than Jesus had started with. The day after this amazing event (a miracle recounted by all four Gospels) St. John tells us that Jesus was in Capernaum, teaching in the synagogue about the Bread of Life:

I am the bread of life,” he said, “whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” At this the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” And Jesus replied, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. …My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. …The one who feeds on me will have life because of me. …Whoever eats this bread will live forever.

The crowds were perplexed by this teaching and St. John notes that after this many of Jesus disciples left and no longer followed him. But Jesus doesn’t chase them down saying, “Come back, you misunderstood, I was only using a figure of speech.” Instead, he turns to his apostles and asks, “Do you also want to leave?” St. Peter, not understanding but trusting, replies, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” After the Last Supper, recounted by St. Paul in today’s second reading, the Early Church understood Jesus’ teaching. Multiplying five loaves into enough bread to feed thousands is a miracle, but Jesus’ far greater miracle is feeding the world with bread transformed into himself.

If someone asked you, “Are you an object? Are you a thing?” how would you answer? If someone asked me if I was an object, I’d say that I do have many qualities and traits of an object; I have size, and shape, and color, and weight. But an object or a thing can be bought or sold, used and discarded, held cheaply and treated cheaply. You and I are not merely objects or things, but persons; persons meant to be loved and to recognized as worthy of love. So much about our devotion is set right when we recognize that the Holy Eucharist is not merely an object but a person.

When we dress up for Sunday Mass, we dress up for him. When we sing as Mass, we’re singing for him. Unlike Judas, who took the morsel and left the Last Supper before it was over, we remain until the end of Mass because he is here. Sunday Mass in not merely an obligation, but an opportunity for encounter with him. And when we visit him (on Sundays, or at a weekday Mass, or just stopping by the church) he is please that we are here. In love, Jesus offers us a communion with himself through the Eucharist more intimate and profound than that shared by spouses. Our Eucharistic Lord wants us to behold him, recognize him, and rejoice to receive him. So, if a Christian ever asks you, “Have you personally received Jesus?” you can answer, “Yes, in my hand, on my tongue, into my body and blood, in my soul and in my heart, through the Most Holy Eucharist, which is his very self.

Princess Grace (née Kelly) of Monaco receives
the Holy Eucharist at her 1956 nuptial Mass


October 17 — St. Margret Mary Alacoque

October 18, 2009

Sacred Heart by Margherita. Vatican

Today we celebrate St. Margret Mary Alacoque of France who lived in the latter half of the 1600’s. Throughout her life, Jesus would appear to her and converse with her, but this did not surprise Margret or seem strange to her. She assumed that other people experienced the same sort of things all the time. After she become a nun, Jesus gave her a  mission: to establish devotion to His Sacred Heart.

You’ve seen images of the Sacred Heart before; a red heart, crowned with thorns, pierced along its side, with a cross and flames emerging from its top. If this devotion seems strange to us, its because we do not understand what it means.

Sacred Heart of Jesus

When I was in seminary I heard a story about the Sacred Heart that I not been able to confirm with the internet, but I share it with you as a great illustration, even if it might only be a legend. The story goes that after St. Margret Mary Alacoque died, devotion to Jesus’ Sacred Heart was spread by the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order, in their missionary work. In one mission territory (it might have been Papua New Guinea) the priests introduced this devotion to the people, but it wasn’t resonating with them.  The people just didn’t seem to get it. As they missionaries learned more about the native culture, they learned that these people did not look at the heart as the organ that symbolizes love and emotion.  For them, some other abdominal organ, the liver I think, was the seat of human love and emotions. In response, these missionaries replaced the Sacred Heart devotion with another, a devotion to the Sacred Liver. The natives people got it, and responded enthusiastically.

When we consider the Sacred Heart today, we can be a lot like the natives in this (possibly fictional) story. We today tend to be a people of science, materiality, and literal interpretations, who look at a heart and see an organ for pumping blood. But the Church in the 1600’s saw the world differently, in a much more poetic way—they saw the Sacred Heart and understood its message.

Jesus’ Heart is aflame with fire, because His love for you is intense and passionate. His Heart is pierced, crowned with thorns, and holding up a cross, because Jesus suffered for you out of love. Jesus presents this devotion to us, because He wants us to remember that He is a human being like us and that He loves us with a human heart. The Sacred Heart is a symbol of His love for us, that He loves us deeply, with a human heart.

Since modern-day Catholics understand and resonate with the Sacred Heart less easily than we used to, Jesus seems to have given the Catholic Church another sacred image to convey very similar message. In the 1930’s, Jesus appeared to another nun and gave a mission to promote a new devotional image. That nun was St. Faustina Kowalska of Poland, and the devotion she was to spread was the Divine Mercy. The two devotions are very much alike. For example, both devotions emphasize Jesus’ humanity.  Both are accompanied by popular prayers devotions.  And both show that Jesus’ abundant loves and mercy for all.  The question is not which devotion is better, the question is which devotion resonates or connects with you in communicating Jesus’ love for you.

Sacred Heart PaintingDivine Mercy

And now I come to my final, and most important point. I’m sure all of you know the right answer to the questions, “Does God love everyone,” and “Does Jesus love you?” None of you would get these wrong on a test. But I suspect that for most of you the concept that God loves you remains just an idea. Have you experienced this truth as a reality? Do you know that Jesus Christ likes you, that He enjoys you, that He is pleased with you? If you’re uncertain about this, then you have not yet experienced His love for you as profoundly as He desires. Personally knowing Christ’s love for you, rather than just knowing about it, makes all the difference in the world.

So here is your assignment… Ask Jesus Christ to reveal to you today, or in the very near future, some palpable sign of how, and how much, He loves you. Then, keep your eyes open. Jesus is clever and powerful, and knows how to reach you. He doesn’t want His love for you to be a secret.