Marguerite Marie Alacoque was born in Burgundy, France on July 22, 1647. She was the fifth of seven children. When her father died, the eight-year old Margaret was placed in a convent school where she was immediately attracted to the life of the nuns. The nuns, in turn, were surprised at the little girl’s devotion and spiritual progress and were able to get permission for her to receive her First Communion at the age of nine. During the 17th century, it was extremely rare for a Catholic to receive Communion before he or she was a teenager.
At the age of 11, Margaret became bedridden when she developed paralysis because of polio. Margaret recovered in 1662 after vowing to become a nun. Her last nine years at home were not easy, however. Her mother had turned Margaret and her sisters into little more than servants and she was completely against her daughter’s religious ideas. After her brother kindly supplied her dowry, Margaret joined the Order of the Visitation in June of 1671.
Margaret had received visions of Our Lord throughout the majority of her life and, consequently, had forgotten how rare this gift is. Once in the convent, she renewed her devotion to God after struggling with several other nuns who doubted her vocation. Also, Margaret was beginning to see terrifying visions of Our Lord undergoing His Passion.
On December 27, 1673, Margaret was in Adoration when she received a vision of Jesus who invited her to take the place of Saint John the Apostle at the Last Supper and to rest her head on His heart. He told her how much He loves mankind and that He had chosen her to be the disciple of His Scared Heart.
Jesus appeared to Margaret several more times and asked her to promote frequent Holy Hours and the First Friday devotion. He also asked that the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi be designated at the Feast of the Sacred Heart.
Margaret’s superior did not immediately believe what her daughter told her. When Margaret later became ill, Mother de Saumaise said that if God let her die, it was a sign that her visions were false. When the nun miraculously recovered, however, she was forced to present Margaret’s case to higher authorities.
At first, Margaret was condemned as a liar. However, her confessor, Saint Claude de la Colombiere, believed her and, with his help, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus spread.
During the last part of her life, Margaret suffered from temptations of vanity and became very ill because of the strain it put on her mind. During the early 1680s, she became the mistress of novices but was accused of being unorthodox by a young woman who had been asked to leave the convent.
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque died on October 17, 1690. She was, unfortunately, not canonized until May 13, 1920. She is considered the patron saint of devotees to the Sacred Heart and of polio patients.
Although her feast day was originally October 17, it was later moved to October 16 in order to give precedence to Saint Ignatius of Antioch.
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints