My Thoughts 15/02/2022

In many Catholic Churches you will find a statue depicting the Sacred Heart. The saint we remember today played a significant part in helping to make possible devotion to the Sacred Heart. His name is Claude de la Colombiere. Born in 1641 he became a Jesuit and after his Tertianship in 1675 he was appointed Rector of the Jesuit community at Paray-le-Monial, where he also became the spiritual director of the nuns of the Monastery of the Visitation located next to the church. In this way he came to know Sr Margaret Mary Alacoque. At that time Margaret Mary had suffered greatly from the disbelief of the other nuns of her monastery, and felt isolated in her situation of having experienced a series of private revelations from Christ in which she felt she was being called to promote devotion to his Sacred Heart. She later wrote that she saw that his spiritual gift “was that of bringing souls to God along the Gospel way of love and mercy which Christ revealed to us”. After speaking with her a number of times and after much prayer, as a result, he was convinced of the validity of her visions and became both her supporter and a zealous apostle of the devotion.

I did not realise that in 1676, Colombière was sent to England as preacher to Mary of Modena, then the Duchess of York, wife of the future King James II of England. He took up residence at the Court of St James, where he still observed all his religious duties as a member of the Society. He was also as active a preacher and confessor in England as he had been in France.

The English climate did not suit him as he had weak health. In November 1678, while awaiting a recall to France, he was suddenly arrested and thrown into prison, denounced as being a part of the Popish Plot alleged by Titus Oates against the English throne. Caught up in the anti-Catholic hysteria which resulted from this alleged plot, he was confined in severe conditions at the King’s Bench Prison, where his fragile health took a turn for the worse.

Thanks to his position at the Royal Court and to the protection of the King of France, Louis XIV, whose subject he was, he escaped death but was expelled from Great Britain in 1679. He returned to France with his health ruined by his imprisonment. He dies two years later.

While in prison Claude met a fellow prisoner, a Franciscan, John Wall, who was later hung drawn and quartered. After having spent a night in spiritual conversation with Colombiere, John Wall said, “When I was in his presence I thought that I was dealing with Saint John returned to earth to rekindle that fire of love in the Heart of Christ.”

“The past three centuries allow us to evaluate the importance of the message which was entrusted to Claude.   In a period of contrasts between the fervour of some and the indifference or impiety of many, here is a devotion centred on the humility of Christ, on His presence, on His love of mercy and on forgiveness.   Devotion to the Heart of Christ would be a source of balance and spiritual strengthening for Christian communities so often faced with increasing unbelief over the coming centuries.

May the canonisation of Claude La Colombiere be for the whole Church an appeal to live the consecration to the Heart of Christ, a consecration which is a self-giving that allows the charity and mercy of Christ to inspire us, pardon us and lead us in His ardent desire to open the ways of truth and life to all our brothers and sisters!”

St Pope John Paul II, during the canonisation of Saint Claude (31 May 1992)

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest