Behold this Heart which Has So Loved Men.
The Twenty-Eighth Wednesday of Ordinary Time; the Memorial of Saint Hedwig, Religious;* or, the Memorial of Saint Margart Mary Alacoque, Virgin.
Lessons from the proper for the Virgin, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ephesians 3: 14-19.
• Psalm 23.
• Matthew 11: 25-30.
…or, from the feria:
• Romans 2: 1-11.
• Psalm 62: 2-3, 6-7, 9.
• Luke 11: 42-46.
…or, any lessons from the common of Virgins for One Virgin.
If a Mass for the memorial of St. Hedwig is taken, lessons from the feria as above, or from the proper:
• Sirach 26: 1-4, 13-16.
• Psalm 128: 1-5.
• Mark 3: 31-35.
…or, any lessons from the common of Holy Men & Women for Religious, or the common of Holy Men & Women.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Hedwig, Widow.*
Lessons from the common of a Widow, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Proverbs 31: 10-31.
• Psalm 44: 3, 5.
• Matthew 13: 44-52.
6:05 PM 10/16/2019 — The parish where I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, is named after Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, who was, as you know, the founder of the Visitation Sisters, of which Saint Margaret Mary was a distinguished member. The parish was founded in 1950; and, before the church had been built, the parish would gather in the chapel of the nearby Visitation Convent for Holy Mass; so, in gratitude, the parish was named after their founder. Before the sisters vacated and the convent was sold, that convent was one of the oldest in North America. I served Mass in that chapel many times. Consistent with most of the Catholic churches of the times, it was decorated mostly with oil paintings rather than statues, and over the high altar was a massive one depicting St. Margaret Mary receiving the last of her apparitions of our Lord in the manifestation of His Most Sacred Heart. That image stuck with me, and I'm sure had a lot to do with my decision to become a priest.
Many years later, after I had been a priest for a few years, five of us, all priests, decided to make a pilgrimage to various holy sites in France. One of these was Paray-le-Monial, where Saint Margaret Mary received her visions. It's an extremely busy place, more so than any other pilgrimage site we had visited.
Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in 1647 and entered the Visitation convent at Paray-le-Monial in 1671. Our Blessed Lord appeared to her many times displaying His Most Sacred Heart, sometimes torn and bleeding on account of the coldness and sins of mankind, sometimes in the form of a burning furnace. In 1675, it was revealed to her that she and her spiritual director, Father de la Colombiére, now Blessed, were to be the chief instruments for instituting the Feast of the Sacred Heart. She died on October 17th in 1690, when her feast was originally established, and it was moved to this day to make room for the Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antoch.
There's a reason Paray-le-Monial is the most popular pilgrimage destination in Europe: there is something about the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus which attracts us, and the Gospel lesson for this Mass on the Memorial of Saint Margaret Mary captures it perfectly: “Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon yourselves, and learn from me; I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11: 28, 29 Knox).
Sometimes, in our struggle to live the Gospel and maintain our spiritual equilibrium in this often hectic and less than spiritual world, we find ourselves spiritually exhausted from the fight. It's in those moments that we need to rely on our Lord's promise, to take a step back from the fight once in a while and repose in the shelter of our Lord’s most adorable Heart.
And as this Mass today brings back to my mind that wonderful trip I took with other young priests, I would ask you to do me the favor of remembering in this Mass all priests, that when they find themselves burdened from their labors, they may find the rest they need in our Lord's Most Sacred Heart.
For ourselves, today's memorial is a good opportunity to review the promises made by our Blessed Lord to Saint Margaret Mary for those who honor the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus:
“I will give them all the graces necessary for their state in life.
“I will establish peace in their families.
“I will console them in all their difficulties.
“I will be their assured refuge in life and most especially at death.
“I will pour out abundant benedictions on all their undertakings.
“Sinners will find in my heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
“Tepid souls shall become fervent.
“Fervent souls shall advance rapidly to great perfection.
“I will bless the houses in which the image of my Sacred Heart will be exposed and honored.
“I will give to priests the power of moving the most hardened hearts.
“Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names inscribed in my Heart, and they shall never be effaced from it.”
And, finally, “I promise thee, in the excess of the mercy of my Heart, to grant to all those who receive Communion on the First Friday of every month, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance and that they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments, and my Heart will be their secure refuge at the last hour.”
* The wife of the Duke of Poland and a mother of seven children, Hedwig (1174-1243) led a life of piety and solicitude for the poor and the sick, founding, with her husband, several monasteries and hospitals. After her husband's death, she retired to a Cistercian monastery.