The Jesuit community at Paray-le-Monial is making the relics of Saint Claude la Colombière available to Irish dioceses. St Claude was the spiritual director of St Margaret Mary, recipient of the great revelations of the Sacred Heart, writes Bernard McGuckian SJ.
This summer marks the occasion of two important anniversaries in the history of Sacred Heart devotion in the Church. The Feast of the Sacred Heart was extended to the Universal Church in 1856 and a hundred years later Pius XII published Haurietis Aquas, his important encyclical letter on Sacred Heart Devotion. In this special year the Jesuit community at Paray-le-Monial has made available the relics of Saint Claude La Colombière (1641-1682), the close friend and spiritual director of St Margaret Mary, recipient of the great revelations of the Sacred Heart, for the veneration of the faithful in Ireland. They will be taken to a church, most often the cathedral, in each diocese in Ireland between 14 June and 21 July, 2006, so that as many people as possible will be able to venerate this great saint who was canonised on 31 May, 1992, by Pope John Paul II. Since childhood, we have all been aware of the extraordinary dealings of the Sacred Heart with Margaret Mary which feature in the stained glass, statuary and paintings of all our churches. She was asked to have a feast of the Sacred Heart established in the Church. To help her in this work the Lord sent her St Claude, whom he described as “my faithful servant and perfect friend”. She herself said of Claude that his special gift was “to lead people to God”. We hope that through widespread veneration of his relics we Irish of the twenty-first century will be inspired, like him, to grow in our Devotion to the Sacred Heart, regarded by all the Popes of modern times as a sure and certain way to God. The Novena of the Sacred Heart (15 – 23 June) provides us with an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the practice of our faith in all its richness, to personal and family prayer, renewal of sacramental life, especially frequentation of the sacrament of penance, fidelity in our relationships, temperance in our habits, the reading of good religious literature especially the Sacred Scriptures and involvement in some apostolic activity as an expression of our desire to contribute to a more just society. During the last years of his life Claude was incapable of work because of debilitating tuberculosis contracted in a London prison before being deported back to France. It was revealed to Margaret Mary that his patient acceptance of suffering glorified God more than all the work he had done as preacher and chaplain to the Duchess of York earlier in his life. We hope that our sick, as they venerate his relics, will take inspiration from his example. In her writings another great French saint, Thérèse of Lisieux, tells us of the inspiration he was to her. He died on 15 February, 1682. His friend, St Margaret Mary died eight years later in 1690. St Claude La Colombière, pray for us.