Reparation to the Sacred Heart
Fr. Raoul Plus, S. J.
Section I: The History of Reparation
2. The Desire of Souls
IT would be vain for our Lord to desire souls to make reparation if there were not some souls with intelligence sufficient to understand the need of it, and with love sufficient to consecrate their lives to it. Happily throughout the history of the Church, we may even say throughout the history of the world, there have been souls with both the understanding and the will. Already Job had been accustomed to offer sacrifice to the Lord to make reparation for any guilt that there may have been in the probably quite legitimate, but doubtless sumptuous, repasts in which his sons used to indulge. But let us pass on to consider the history of Christianity. It would be a mistake to think that reparation was unknown till the time of Margaret Mary.
I. REPARATION BEFORE MARGARET MARY
If there is a life rich in teaching on the subject of reparation, surely it is that of the famous Dominican tertiary, St. Catherine of Siena. The great lesson of the Dialogues is the solidarity of mankind for good as well as for ill; and this is the basis of Reparation. Our Lord gave her the special mission to make reparation herself and to find other souls to work with her for the same object.
God knows, the world fared ill enough in those days. In addition to other evils there were grave disputes as to who was the real Sovereign Pontiff.
It was the time of the great Schism of the West: one Pope at Avignon, another in Rome. Which of them was the true one? How were the minds of men to have that peace and tranquillity which they needed if they were to give God some little honour and glory to make compensation for the brutal crimes, the injustice, the immorality-----even in the sanctuary itself-----and the general corruption of the day? [Catherine of Siena has some moving pages in the Dialogues on the sins of the clergy.]
One day as the Dominican Saint was lamenting these evils at the feet of her Saviour, she heard the words: "My dear child, your tears are all-powerful because they are shed for love of Me. I cannot resist your prayer. Look at the disfigurement of the countenance of my spouse. She is like a leper with impurity, selfishness, pride and avarice."
And on another occasion: "Remember that before the plague I showed you how horrified I was at the vice of impurity and how the whole world was infected with it. . . . I showed you the whole world. Everywhere, in every rank of life, you saw this terrible vice. Nowhere could you find refuge for Me or for My servants, for this leprosy was everywhere. The majority had body and soul stained with it. I showed you how amidst all the guilty a few remained pure; for among the wicked I have always some chosen ones whose virtue and good works restrain My justice and prevent me from bidding the mountains fall and crush the guilty, the earth to open and swallow them up, the wild beasts to devour them, the demons to carry them off, body and soul. I want to have mercy on them and make them change their lives. For this purpose I make use of My servants, who are free from this leprosy, and I make them pray for the guilty." (Dial. 124.)
St. Lutgarde, of Tongres in Belgium, Prioress of the Convent of St. Catherine at Saint-Trond, and later a Cistercian at Aywières (Brabant), was one of the first mystics to receive favours from the Sacred Heart. One night when she was ill, burning with fever and bathed in perspiration, she thought of dispensing herself from presence at Matins. Our Lord appeared to her and invited her to rise and go into choir to intercede for sinners. The Saint immediately obeyed. As she was going into the church Christ appeared to her, nailed to the Cross and covered with blood; He detached an arm from the Cross and embracing her, put the virgin's lips to the wound in His side. The Saint drew therefrom so much strength that thenceforth she devoted herself with the greatest ardour to the work of reparation. (Acta Sanctorum, t. iv, June, p. 193, n. 12.)
Shortly before the time of St. Catherine of Siena we have St. Bridget (1302-1373), who was sent by God to four Popes to put an end to the schism of the West. In a famous vision, when she was ten years old, our Saviour crucified had revealed to her the depth and the extent of his suffering. "Who has treated Thee so, O Lord?" asked the Saint. "Those who despise and reject My love," answered the Saviour. And often the Saint almost fainted during her prayers at the sight of the human iniquity which was revealed to her. "Happily," she tells us, "love tempered the cruelty of these insults." And whence came this love? From the reparation that was offered to God.
VIEW ST. LYDWINE
In the same year that saw the death of Catherine of Siena two women were born who were to play an important part in the history of reparation: St. Colette and St. Lydwine; both were to undergo suffering and death for the sake of the Church, still gravely troubled by schism.
"Widely different as their lives were," writes Huysmans in his masterly preface to the life of St Lydwine, "they nevertheless present striking points of similarity. Both were born of poor parents; both were pretty, but by their own desire became ugly; both suffered constant pain; both bore the stigmata of Calvary; both at death recovered the beauty of their youth, and their bodies gave forth a sweet odour. Both of them thirsted for suffering their whole life long; but only Colette remained in good health in spite of all, for she had to journey from one end of France to the other; while Lydwine, motionless upon her bed, journeyed in the world beyond. Each of them, too, was the saviour of her country."
Like these two, Frances of Rome undertook the mission of reparation for the crimes of her contemporaries. "These three women," writes Huysmans, "sometimes by opposite paths, sometimes by the same, measured their strength against the infernal powers of their time. And what a terrible task that was! Never had the world been so near to ruin. Never, one might say, had God been busy in the task of preserving the balance between virtue and vice, piling up the tortures of the Saints, as the weight of iniquity increased."
The previous generation had seen Gertrude (1301) and Mechtilde (1298), two other pioneers of reparation. One day, when St. Mechtilde, the sister of St. Gertrude, was bewailing her inability to follow the rule by reason of her illness, she heard our Lord say to her: "Do Me the favour of giving some relief to My Divine Heart." And she understood Him to mean that whoever suffers willingly, in union with the love with which Christ suffered, brings relief to that Divine Heart which so ardently desires the salvation of humanity, and is so ill repaid.
The famous nun, St. Gertrude, used often to ask our Lord how she might assuage the bitterness of His Passion. The answer she received throws light on what we shall have to say later about effective reparation: "If anyone considers the will of another instead of his own, He repays me for the captivity, the bonds and the numerous insults that I suffered for the sake of mankind. He who humbly confesses his guilt recompenses Me for the accusations made against Me by false witnesses, and for the sentence of death passed upon Me. He who submits to ill-humoured superiors lightens the weight of My crown of thorns. He who, being offended by someone, makes the first approach to reconciliation, compensates Me for the carrying of My Cross. He who suffers insult or tribulation in order to save his neighbour from sin, makes up to Me for the death I suffered for humanity. If anyone suffers insult with humility, he takes Me down from the Cross. And he who puts his neighbour before himself, deeming him more worthy of honour and reward, repays Me for My burial." (The Herald of Divine Love, iv, 26.)
The conversion of Giacomo Benedetti-----better known as Jacopone de Todi, the author of the Stabat Mater-----was due to his discovery that his young wife was devoted to reparation. The facts are these. After he had finished his studies in law Giacomo had married, and he was very proud of his wife. One day in the year 1288, which happened to be a great festival at Todi, the stand on which his wife was, collapsed. He rushed to her rescue, and would have freed her from her garments. She refused, and when he insisted, his fingers felt a hair shirt next to her skin. The lips of the dying woman could not speak, but her look seemed to say: "This was for you." God was awaiting this moment. He sold all his possessions, became a beggar, and ten years later entered the Franciscan Order as a lay-brother.
Many other names might be mentioned; we can only make a selection, and choose the fairest flowers. Perhaps the sweetest of all is Rose of Viterbo, of whom a historian writes: "She lived as a recluse, offering herself constantly as a victim for the Church. Her whole life was, as it were, an episode in the Communion of Saints; she realized her membership of the great body of the Church of which St. Paul speaks, and this made her at the same time humble and proud. Humble, because she would have liked to take upon her frail little shoulders-----she was a child of seven-----responsibility for the sins that imperiled the Church; proud, because her membership of the Church seemed to her to give a special value to her life. She possessed a keen and precocious appreciation of the solidarity which united her to other Christians, of the way in which her poor little life was to be compenetrated by the collective life of the Church." (G. Goyau: Autour du catholicisme sociale, pp. 125-126.)
As centuries went on, sin increased and multiplied. We find it even in the person of the successor of St. Peter. But God willed to choose out instruments of expiation from the same exalted families that had given so bad an example to the world. The life of Alexander VI was not an edifying one; but in the very family of the Borgias, of which he was a member, we find by God's providence heroes of expiation, such as Marie Henriquez and Francis Borgia, formerly governor-general of the Indies, who later succeeded St. Ignatius as superior-general of the Society of Jesus.
These are a few whose names history has preserved for us. But besides these stars of the first magnitude, how many other heroes of reparation are there, no less gallant perhaps than they, though less well known. God alone could give us a full list of them. The little that we have said will suffice to show that well before the time of Margaret Mary there were many souls who had offered themselves, or had been chosen by God, for the great work of reparation. The word, perhaps, did not exist in the vocabulary of spiritual writers or Saints; but the thing was known; indeed, as history attests, it was the animating principle of many lives.
II. FROM MARGARET MARY TO THE PRESENT DAY
For the history of Margaret Mary's desire to make reparation, it is enough, as we have seen, to turn the pages of the two volumes of the Paray edition. Even before the famous apparitions the Saint possessed this desire. Before she entered religion already "her only wish was to conform herself to the suffering life of our Lord, and throwing herself at the foot of her crucifix she would say: 'O my dear Saviour, how happy I should be if You would imprint upon me the image of Your suffering.' Our Lord answered; 'That is what I intend to do, provided you offer no resistance, and give your co-operation.' "
To prove her desire to make reparation she began to take the discipline and she continued this penance all during Lent in honour of the Scourging.
During the three days of Carnival she would have liked to tear her body to pieces, to compensate our Lord for all the outrages that sinners committed against the Divine Majesty. She fasted as much as she could. (I, 53.)
After her profession she increased in understanding; she felt "a distinct taste for what was most painful and mortifying; she regarded herself as a victim destined to suffer for sinners." (I, 74.) Sometimes, but rarely, the reparation necessary appeared to her in such menacing proportions that for a moment she hesitated and sought to escape, so heavy was the weight of justice upon sinners: " I am making you feel only a small part of it; it is borne by holy souls lest it should fall upon sinners." (I, 90.) The desolation she suffered seemed like that of the damned: "She would hardly have been able to bear this painful state for long, had our Lord's loving mercy not come to her assistance under the rigours of His justice." (I, 180; II, 418.) Usually, however, she finds her fullest happiness "when she is conformed to her crucified Master"; she writes to M ère de Saumaise: "I should like to avenge upon myself all the injuries that are done to my Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament."
P. de la Colombiere, whom God set in the path of St. Margaret Mary to confirm her in the devotion of reparation to the Sacred Heart, understood with equal clearness the needs of Divine Justice and Love. 1 "O adorable Saviour," he wrote, "vouchsafe to grant my desire to consecrate myself entirely to love and reparation to Your Divine Heart, and to accept the gift that I make to You of all that I am and all that I have. In reparation for all the outrages that have been committed against You and for the terrible ingratitude that You suffer from men, I consecrate to You myself and my life. . . . Give and take what You will; use me or set me aside as a useless instrument; give me consolations or give me trials; may Your will be done in all things. May all this glorify Your Divine Heart and make reparation to It, and I wish to make a full gift of all this to You, begging You to accept it and to use it freely for the salvation of poor sinners."
Here is an offer of reparation, which re-echoes that of P. de la Colombiere: "O my Jesus, You once gave Yourself up entirely for the sake of men; and they have thanklessly repaid You with insults. Still today Your Divine Heart burns with love for us in the Blessed Sacrament, and there is no greater response to Your love. Filled with sorrow at the insults and irreverence of which You are the object in this Sacrament of love, I prostrate myself humbly before Your Divine and loving Heart to make amends for such ingratitude. Would that with my tears and my blood I could for ever wipe out all irreverence, outrage and sacrilege! How happy I should be to give up my life in so noble a cause!"
(P. de Galiffet.)
If I were asked to say what new element is introduced into the history of reparation by Saint Margaret Mary I should say that the point to be stressed is this. In the case of Saints before her time there was indeed the desire and the invitation to make reparation, but spasmodically; it is rarely the motif of their whole lives. With Margaret Mary it is her whole life that is called to reparation; reparation is the axis upon which her devotion turns, it is the soul of her spirituality; hence the tragic character, the dramatic intensity of the confidences she makes to us. With a Mechtilde or a Gertrude, for example, despite occasional periods of darkness, "we are nearly always under a sky radiant with joy and glory." 2
To them Our Lord manifests rather the right that he has to our love than the contempt in which we hold that love; hence there is less of pain and sorrow in the revelations that he makes to them. To Margaret Mary the Sacred Heart appears, "just as glorious and radiant, but the sky of the visionary of Paray is nearly always darkened by the idea of the love that is not loved in return, that has suffered so much, if it is not suffering still." Not that the interior joy of the Saint is not complete; but it is ever accompanied by the thought of Gethsemani. To use an imperfect analogy, as our Lord during His agony was at one and the same moment perfectly happy and tormented with sorrow, because He had before Him at the same time the Beatific Vision of God and the horrible spectacle of sin, so Margaret Mary is at one and the same time ravished with delight and tortured with pain. The two sentiments would seem to exclude each other, and yet they are but one.
About the same period as Margaret Mary other souls begin to turn their thoughts towards reparation and the oblation of themselves as victims, drawn thereto by reasons which varied in individual cases but were in the main founded upon the one pregnant principle of compensation. I refer to d'Olier, Condren, Eudes and others.
Their desire for reparation arose not so much from a vision as from a conception. For them the determining factor was less the sight of Christ suffering on the Cross for men, and to a great extent suffering in vain, than the understanding of the doctrine that every Christian forms a part of the complete Christ and, if he wishes to live up to his vocation, must become a victim together with his Master. What led Condren to the desire and the life of victimhood was, in the words of the title of his book, an exact "Idea of the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ." It was the same with Olier and B érulle. St. John Eudes, who also consecrated his life by a vow to the work of reparation, takes us farther back than the Eucharist and rightly points to Baptism as the Sacrament whereby every Christian is called to a priesthood. His is the phrase which is at first sight rather startling but, in the light of our union with Christ in the work of Redemption, is seen to be so true: "The grace of Baptism is a grace of martyrdom."
John Eudes founded his Institute in 1643; the great revelation of Paray was made in 1675. Each of these Saints shows the same understanding of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, but undoubtedly it is Margaret Mary who more stresses the fact that the ineffable love of our Lord is an outraged love, an unrequited love; and thus the idea of reparation is more in the foreground of her thought. Not that it is absent in the case of P. Eudes: in his book Le Cœur admirable, after speaking of the love of our Lord for us, he says: "And yet what are we doing, and what is the majority of mankind doing? They treat this adorable Redeemer with such ingratitude that one would think that He had done them all the harm in the world, and that they had never received any benefits from Him at all. And yet . . . " He then quotes the revelation made by our Lord to St. Bridget: "If I could suffer the torments of My Passion as many times as there are souls in Hell I would suffer them willingly, so ardent is the love of My Heart." Then he continues: "Why do the majority of men treat the adorable Saviour as if He were their worst enemy? How can they be so cruel as to crucify Him every day! Yes, crucify Him; for whoever commits a mortal sin 'crucifies again to himself the Son of God'; and their crime is worse than that of the Jews, who did not know Him. Let us shrink from such ingratitude." 3
We have already seen how the idea of compensation, so rich in meaning, which is salient in the writings of Margaret Mary, gave rise to the further and even more significant idea of completion. With the fuller understanding of our identification with Christ and the need of identifying themselves with the redemptive mission of the Saviour -----according to the famous words of St. Paul to "fill up . . . those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ" [Col. 1:24)-----men brought a clearer insight and a more whole-hearted generosity to the work of co-operation with the Saviour in reparation. From this point of view the present age, though so backward in other respects, may be said to be preeminent; the nineteenth, and still more the twentieth century, may be called the age of reparation.
We find individuals and communities in great numbers all inspired with the same object, that of reparation. Some of these names have already been mentioned by us. 4 It can be said with certainty that there is not one Saint, not one community during the past century which has not aimed solely, or at any rate chiefly, at reparation.
Leaving aside published lives, which are within the reach of any interested enquirer, we will give here only a few examples of heroes whose lives have never been written, but for the authenticity of which the writer can fully vouch.
A young man falls seriously ill at the very moment in which he is about to start his career; but he finds comfort in the reflection that his sufferings will avail to atone for sin. This is what he writes to a sick friend: "I live here right out in the country with my father and mother, whom I am fortunate enough still to possess; but I am completely isolated from the world. Yet this solitude does not depress me; far from it. I love the peace and the silence which, as Psichari puts it, 'brings light.' I find it a great help to prayer and meditation, and my soul rises to God without effort and revels in the contemplation of God as in its element. But here below there is no joy without some admixture of sorrow, and this solitude, which is so much in keeping with my state of mind, on the other hand imposes a hard privation: I am deprived of the Holy Eucharist. I am five kilometres from a church, and the good priest, having a large district to care for, cannot bring me Holy Communion as often as I should like. This is a great sacrifice; but I accept it as the Will of God.
"Situated as I am, you will readily understand that I have little opportunity for talking; I pass whole months without seeing a soul, and even the rare visits that I do receive give me little pleasure since they only bring those banal expressions of sympathy for which I have no use at all. I sometimes tell my visitors that I am not unhappy at all, that you can always find supreme happiness in whatever state you may happen to be, if only you know where to look for it, and that is in God. When I speak like this I meet gazes of astonishment, mingled with a little anxiety, as if I were suffering from some weakness of the brain. People nowadays do not seem to understand the meaning of the spirit of self-sacrifice; it has been stifled by an unrestrained desire for selfish enjoyment. Thank God there are quite a number of exceptions; but the majority are as I say. And this is why we, who have the joy of understanding the value and the need of reparation by suffering, are truly privileged, and on that account owe a great debt of gratitude to God.
"Our trials, my friend, are very similar, and this forms a further link between us. But while I am undergoing mine under the best possible conditions, surrounded by the affectionate care of a beloved mother, you are completely isolated.
"Here are the details of my illness: Pott's disease, with paraplegia, 5 but without any abscess; paralysis is gradually taking hold of my shoulders and arms; the only joints in my body that I can move are my ankles, my wrists and my right elbow. See how good Providence has been to me; my right arm being practically normal, I can write, read and eat without assistance. My illness began on April 8, 1914, and I have been bedridden since September 15, 1915. In 1919 I was told definitely that there was no chance of a cure, and since then I have enjoyed perfect peace and tranquillity, offering it all up for the sake of Reparation. I suffer little pain now; my attacks, though frequent, are not very violent. In a word, my cross is very bearable." (Feb. 17, 1921.)
Here is a similar case from another country; bedridden, suffering from the same disease, a woman writes: "My happiness -----I had almost said my pride-----is increasing at the thought of having been chosen to 'fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ' and to help Him to win souls. I am ready for any suffering, to bring souls back to the fold, and especially one soul that is very dear to me; I do not mind what it costs me. I am only a poor creature, but I want to give, and give myself, without stint. He on His part constantly asks me for more, and every day grants me new light. I am confounded at so many graces. And so I am ready to give Him all that He wishes, no matter what it may be, so long as the work progresses and my sacrifice is fruitful.
"For months I have been thinking of death, during these last days especially; and the thought, far from afflicting me, gives me great consolation. What a happiness it will be to see God face to face and thus enjoy Him for all eternity! Bitterly I regret the time I have lost; I wish I could regain it by means of suffering arid love, so that during the short time which remains to me I may console and make up to our Saviour for that time past, which causes me such sorrow. It seems as though He wishes to help me realize this desire, by sending me more and more suffering. Lately I have suffered much physical pain, the tumours are growing and have had to be pierced several times, and this is very painful. I feel that it makes me weaker; but 'I abound with joy.' God gives me transports and desires for penance; but obedience will not allow me to put them into effect."
A little later she wrote: "I have to make use of my secretary again because my poor arm and hand are powerless. Two new abscesses have appeared, one under the right arm and another on the right shoulder. Infection has set in, causing further complications; I have fever, and such pain that I cannot rest in any position. This is the participation in Christ's sufferings that I have so much desired. Although my pain is so intense I am perfectly happy and I have not for a moment lost union with our Lord. Happily He is too near me for that; otherwise I could not bear the painful treatment of my wounds nor the torture that I suffer every day. I have had the great happiness of receiving the last Sacraments, and I cannot tell you what I felt when I received them. I passed an hour in great intimacy with our Lord; I was filled with graces and overcome with joy. A new horizon has opened out before me; I want Him to use me ever more and more in this great work of Redemption. At one moment I thought I was going to see our Lord face to face, and this idea filled me with joy, making me quite indifferent with regard to the future, so that I desired and asked nothing more. May His Will be done!"
Another young girl on the eve of entering religion was afflicted with severe ear-trouble, with the prospect of meningitis, and such pains as made it appear impossible that she should ever enter a convent. She writes: "Thank you for helping me to understand. I now see the full meaning of suffering and I bless it. I can no longer hear anything with my left ear. On Monday they are going to operate; the specialist hopes, but he does not promise, that it will improve matters. Now everything is simple. Since I formally abandoned myself to the Divine will I seem to have got rid of all uneasiness. Yes, everything is quite simple now. Please, Father, pray at Mass that I may receive a full and intense share of the spirit of sacrifice. With all my soul I want to make reparation by complete surrender to the will of God, whatever it may be."
There may often be examples of excess; sometimes virtue put to the test may fail-----hence the need for great prudence in spiritual direction and for judgment in the discernment of spirits;-----but it cannot be denied that there are many souls that feel the attraction for the life of complete sacrifice and reparation, earnest, prudent souls, but souls that do not hesitate to offer themselves in sacrifice without reserve.
1. On May I, 1928, the Congregation of Rites met to discuss three miracles attributed to the intercession of the Ven. Claude de la Colombiere, and proposed for the Cause of his Beatification. He died in 1632.
2. P. Bainvel: La dévotion au Sacré Cœur, part 3, ch. i, p. 200 (ed. 1911).
3. See Lepin: Idee de Vietime, pp. 367, 368, 395.
4. See The-lj!al of Reparation, Christ in Our Brethren, The Folly of the Cross";bythe'same author. Burns Oates & Washbourne.
5. Pott's disease is a presentation of extrapulmonary tuberculosis that affects the spine. Precisely it is called tuberculous spondylitis and the original name was formed after Percivall Pott, a London surgeon. It is most commonly localized in the thoracic portion of the spine.
Common signs and symptoms
are: back pain, fever, anorexia and weight loss.
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