The three hundred year old relics of Saint Claude la Colombiere, the Jesuit saint who helped spread devotion to the Sacred Heart, will be brought from France to a Cathedral or chapel in every diocese in Ireland by Irish Jesuit priest Bernard McGuckian.
The relics will be taken to the Visitation Monastery, Stamullen Co. Meath on Wed 14th June, daytime, before being moved that night to St.Peter’s Church, Drogheda, home to the relic of St. Oliver Plunkett who was in jail in Ireland in 1679, the same year that St Claude was imprisoned in England. St Claude’s relics will then be moved to St Francis Xavier’s Church in Gardiner St. Dublin for three days (June 15th, 16th and 17th ) before going to Clongowes Wood College Co. Kildare and around the other dioceses in Ireland.
St Claude la Colombiere (1641-1682) was the friend and spiritual advisor to St Margaret Mary Alacoque, whose Sacred Heart visions appear in stained glass, statues and paintings in practically every church throughout Ireland. Her visions of the loving heart of God contrasted with the prevailing Jansonistic ethos at that time, of a God of wrath and retribution and she looked to Claude for guidance with her extraordinary revelations.
According to Fr. Bernard McGuckian SJ, almost every Catholic home in Ireland has had or has a picture of the Sacred Heart and the devotion to it has been a feature of Irish Catholicism for so many years. “There is widespread interest in the arrival of the relics with hundreds of volunteer organizers working in every diocese. St Margaret Mary said that Claude’s special gift was ‘to lead people to God’ and he was the first person to spread the word of Sacred Heart devotion after being sent from France to England. And he began it quietly in the Palace of St James, where many years later Princess Diana lay in state! He was chaplain there to the Duchess of York and subsequent Queen of England.
According to Fr. McGuckian, “When we venerate his relics, it’s a powerful symbolic way of expressing our faith in the love of God as revealed to us by a faithful Saint who was once human just like us. We hope that through the widespread veneration of his relics, Ireland of the 21st century will be inspired like him to grow in devotion to the Sacred Heart, and we will recommit ourselves to the rich values of the Gospel”.
The friendship of St Claude and St Margaret Mary led to the foundation of more than 280 religious orders, male and female, featuring Sacred Heart in their title and to the worldwide spread of devotion to the Sacred Heart. St Margaret Mary was canonized by Pope Benedict XV in 1920, but it wasn’t until 1992 that Claude was canonized by Pope John Paul II. This was because his original canonization in 1773 was abandoned after the then Pope, suppressed the Jesuit Order, a suppression which lasted forty years.
Saint Claude contracted TB whilst in prison in England and died a few short years after his return to France, in Paray-le-Monial in Feb. 1682 at the age of 41. His friend St Margaret Mary died eight years later. In her writings another great French saint, Therese of Lisieux, tells us of the inspiration St Claude was to her, and thousands of pilgrims continue to visit Paray-le Monail every year.