Saturday, 15 February 2014

Feast of St. Claude de la Colombière.

In an earlier post I mentioned, en passant, that Servant  of God Catherine (Kolyschkine de Hueck )Doherty (1896–1985)  argued in her famous  (must read) book, The Gospel Without Compromise,  that the story of our relationship to God was a passionate love affair.  ( Not like, but was.) It is interesting to note that so many of the saints and mystics who are associated with the heart of Jesus saw and experienced the Sacred Heart in these kind of terms: as a passionate and intense love affair.  We see this in the prayers of those women and men who are closely associated with the development and propagation of the devotion to the heart of Jesus.  Today we remember someone who was to bring the devotion to London in 1676 - St. Claude de la Colombière, S.J (1641- 1682).

As a Jesuit website outlines:  'In 1675 Claude was named rector at the Jesuit college at Paray-le-Monial, France. While in Paray, Colombiere became the spiritual advisor for Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The Lord was revealing to Margaret Mary visions of his compassionate heart for the world. Margaret Mary was filled with anxiety and uncertainty about what she was experiencing. The Lord instructed through Sr. Margaret Mary Alacoque that the world be devoted to his Sacred Heart. Colombiere assured Sr. Margaret Mary that her visions were authentic. He also instructed her to write down all that she had experienced. In accepting the authenticity of Margaret Mary’s visions, Claude de la Colombiere pledged himself to the mission of spreading the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.'
 Read more HERE

He was canonized by Blessed John Paul in 1992.

St. Claude was a scholar and noted preacher who was utterly convinced by St. Margaret Mary – unlike her fellow sisters who were very skeptical, if not quite hostile towards her.  Reading the account of her experiences it is not difficult to understand why: they show a young woman who must have been quite difficult to live with - who was passionately and totally in love with Jesus. Her autobiography does indeed read like a love story. She is physically sick with love, longing and desire for Christ, her Lord and her God, her lover and her spouse.  Above all things she wished to be drawn closer and closer  to His heart.  The love story reaches its climax on the feast of John the Beloved Disciple – who rested his heart on the breast of Christ – on the 29th December 1673 when she received the first of her ‘great revelations’ and rests her head upon His Sacred Breast. She offers her heart to Jesus and He places her heart within His ‘Adorable Heart’.

St Claude, thank God,  believed her great love story, and it was his life’s work to promote the devotion to the Sacred Heart – a mission which was subsequently embraced by the Society of Jesus.

Now I have to confess that I feel uncomfortable reading her autobiography because it is so very intimate and personal.  Being a scholar, however,  St. Claude naturally told her to write it down so that these experiences could be read by others.  In the history of the devotion her account is not ‘off the curve’, but actually very representative of the experience of so many saints and holy men and women before and since.  What we see in the lives of so many saints is that  God desires us. God loves us with fire and passion.  God desires to give His love and receive our love in the most intimate sense.  But, in Jesus, the Holy Trinity shows us that God will not force himself upon us.   St. Francis de Sales, who ( with St. Jane Frances de Chantal)  established the order of which St. Margaret Mary was a member,  put this very beautifully when he asked:

But what are then the ordinary cords whereby the divine providence is accustomed to draw our hearts to his love? … we are not drawn to God by iron chains, as bulls and wild oxen, but by enticements, sweet attractions, and holy inspirations, which, in a word, are the cords of Adam, and of humanity, that is, proportionate and adapted to the human heart, to which liberty is natural. The band of the human will is delight and pleasure. We show nuts to a child, says St. Augustine, and he is drawn by his love, he is drawn by the cords, not of the body, but of the heart. Mark then how the Eternal Father draws us: while teaching, he delights us, not imposing upon us any necessity; he casts into our hearts delectations and spiritual pleasures as sacred baits, by which he sweetly draws us to take and taste the sweetness of his doctrine.  (Treatise on  the Love of God, Book 3, chapter 12)

Blessed Henry Suso, another great promoter of the devotion, put it this way:

Oh, eternal wisdom!... how skillfully you play the game of love; how well you can adapt yourself to the one you desire! Who else would woo his beloved as long as you do? Who would wait as patiently? Who else would remain as constant, in face of so many rebuffs, as you do, gentle, faithful, adorable Lord and Spouse of all loving souls? And because of all this, my own soul leans toward you, for you are the Good that—through its essential goodness—draws to itself all the ends of the earth....
Up, my children, the time has come!... Open the door, unlock your heart, let your lover enter, make up for the long time you have wasted by giving yourself to him in tender, devoted love. ( in his Sister's Guide) 

God loves us. Therefore, God plays a ‘game of love’: He does not force us to love him.  But this game is played out differently with every person - because every person is unique and special - thus He 'adapts'  Himself to 'woo' us. Nobody can make another love them – and many have tried.  Love is about an exchange of hearts.  In Jesus God has given His heart.  He waits patiently for ours. As St Louise de Marillac expressed it:

Let us remember that God…has chosen never to put force upon our will. Let this be deeply impressed upon your heart: God in his love for us has desired to save us by his Son, but our salvation is not his will unless it is ours also. ( in Saunders, ed Some Counsels of Saint Vincent de Paul..p14) 

St Claude de la Colombière realized that  the devotion to the Sacred Heart was a powerful way in which we human beings could begin to grasp something of the enormity of  the fire and passion  of Divine Love.  On this special day we can pray one of his prayers:

O God, what will you do to conquer the fearful hardness of our hearts?
Lord, you must give us new hearts, tender hearts, sensitive hearts,
to replace hearts that are made of marble and of bronze.
You must give us your own Heart, Jesus. Come, lovable Heart of Jesus.
Place your Heart deep in the center of our hearts
and enkindle in each heart a flame of love as strong,
as great, as the sum of all the reasons
that I have for loving you, my God.
O holy Heart of Jesus, dwell hidden in my heart,
so that I may live only in you and only for you,
so that, in the end, I may live with you eternally in heaven.

The Sacred Heart is nothing less than a request from God to come and dwell in your heart.   Jesus waits patiently for you to unlock your heart.

St Claude de la Colombière, pray for us.
St Margaret Mary, pray for us. 
All saints of the Sacred Heart, pray for us. 

1 comment:

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