If you’ve been keeping up on social media, you know that I spent the last two weeks on an insane pilgrimage around France, Spain, and Portugal. I went with an amazing group of young people who have no patience for shopping and leisurely sight-seeing. They wanted to visit Saints and a lot of them. So we did. (You can stalk our pilgrimage here if you want.)
Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, Catherine Labouré, Thérèse, Louis and Zélie Martin, Louis de Montfort, Marie-Louise Trichet, Josefa Menendez, Bernadette, Margaret Mary Alacoque, Claude de la Colombière, John Vianney, Francis de Sales, Jane Frances de Chantal, John Francis Regis, Thomas Aquinas, Saturninus, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Elizabeth of Portugal, Lourdes, Fatima, Mont-St-Michel, and the Normandy Beaches. In 10 days.
I was really excited about this pilgrimage. I’d seen Thérèse before, but that was about it. And a lot of these are in really inaccessible places, so doing it on a tour bus is much easier than trying to go it alone. But it was day 5 that I really couldn’t wait for. Bernadette—the incorruptiest of the incorruptibles—and John Vianney, the only diocesan priest ever canonized. What a day!
And they really were amazing. Bernadette was incredible to see—as though she were just sleeping. Honestly, though, it was the sign near her body that struck me the most. Here lies a miracle of shocking proportions, a body dead 150 years that hasn’t decayed in the least, and the caretakers of the shrine seem almost blasé about it. “Yeah, yeah, she’s cool and all. But God himself is in the next chapel over. And that’s really the point of all this.”
John Vianney’s shrine was marvelous as well, not least because our incredible priest got to say Mass on the altar where John Vianney celebrated Mass, using his very chalice. What a grace!
But it was the afterthought of the day that got me: Margaret Mary and Claude de la Colombière.
You’d think that I’d already have been a Margaret Mary fan. After all, my name is Margaret.1 But I’d always thought of her as some nun Jesus appeared to. Like that’s not a big enough deal to warrant some attention??
And you’d think that I’d already have been a Sacred Heart fan. The statue of the Sacred Heart is my favorite spot on Notre Dame’s campus. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent sitting outside staring at it. Matthew 11:28-30 (a passage often connected with te Sacred Heart) was my favorite for years. And then there’s the fact that the whole point of the devotion to the Sacred Heart is the burning, passionate, desperate love of God, which is kind of my thing.
But most images of the Sacred Heart don’t really do it for me. There’s something wrong about Jesus’ face. So that’s never been a big devotion of mine.
And yeah, Margaret Mary’s real body was there, which was cool. And the art was much better than usual. Charles de Foucauld was unexpectedly represented in the apse of the chapel, which was exciting. But I don’t think it was any of that. I think that the Sacred Heart just wanted me to love him.
Here is the Heart of Christ, ripped from his chest for me. It’s marked by the cross, burning with love, and surrounded by the thorns of suffering. It’s rent open, broken for love of me. How can I not love him?
Underneath the relics was the charge Jesus gave to St Margaret Mary: I want you to to serve as an instrument to draw hearts to my love.
If there’s any better description of the mission God’s given me, I don’t know what it is.
So I spent the next few days just soaking in the love of God. I sat and said to him, over and over, “I love you I love you I love you.” I sang him silly love songs–Michael Buble’s “Everything” for one–and basked in some marvelous consolations.
But mostly I did something odd: I crawled into the pierced heart of Jesus.
I often want to be held by the Lord, but I’m too visual. I can imagine dancing with Jesus, but being held is more intimate, and then I’m wondering if I can sit on Jesus’ lap or if that’s too forward. Same thing with the image of being held by the Father: it’s nice for a moment and then suddenly I’m overthinking it.
This one, somehow, I couldn’t overthink because it was just too weird. All I could do was crawl inside the heart of Jesus and know that I was absolutely surrounded, that everything that impacted me came through him first, that I was protected and cherished and held.
I put other people in there, too. I’ve spent years holding people up at the foot of the Cross or handing them to Mary so she can offer them to the Lord. This time around, I was done with middle men. So when I got ugly news from beautiful friends, I walked right up to the pierced heart of Christ and put my friends inside. When I couldn’t hold them or help them or even handle their pain, I put them in his heart and let him hold them.
Off and on, this is where I’ve been since. I’ve been praying the Novena to the Sacred Heart and the Litany to the Sacred Heart, learning what it means to burn with the love of God and be marked by the Cross. But above all, I’ve been hiding in his heart. I hope I stay there.
God has loved us with an everlasting love; therefore, when he was lifted up from the earth, in his mercy he drew us to his heart.
PS If you’ve got any favorite books on the Sacred Heart, hook me up!
- Yes, really. No, it’s really not Megan. At all. In any way. Please stop calling me that. [↩]