17 April 2008

In 1675, a nun of the Visitation Order in the obscure little town of Paray-le-Monial received a vision of Christ in the monastery's chapel. He showed her His Heart and said, “See here the Heart that has so loved men, to the point of exhausting and consuming itself to witness to its love, and in return I receive from most ingratitude…” St. Margaret Mary was entrusted with the task of spreading devotion to His Most Sacred Heart. Thus in this forgotten little part of the world, the Sacred Heart devotion began, and has since spread through all the earth.

It is here we came on our second pilgrimage, and received the great grace of consecrating our family to the Sacred Heart. I had wanted to do the act of consecration for some time, but to have the chance to do it here, in the town where it all began, where the remains of the apostle of the Sacred Heart and her most trusted advisor and friend rest, was a blessing indeed.

The nearby Romanesque Basilique de Notre-Dame de Paray-le-Monial was consecrated in 977, and remained a Benedictine priory until the fall of l’Ancien Régime after the Revolution.

The Visitandine Monastery and its chapel (la Chapelle des Apparitions) are on this street, as well as our lodgings.

Dad and daughter on the way to the Foyer

Our lodging, the Foyer du Sacré-Coeur, sits just across the way from the chapel where St. Margaret Mary received her visions. In the background you can see a spire of the basilica.

View of la Chapelle des Apparitions from our window

The Sacred Heart statue above the Apparition chapel

Interior of la Chapelle des Apparitions.

I am making you the heiress of My Heart. Statue of St. Margaret Mary within which her incorrupt heart is encased.

The grille behind which the Visitandines participate in the Mass, and where St. Margaret Mary would receive Holy Communion.

A side chapel dedicated to Our Lady.

The little confessional in the back of the church, where the Heart of Jesus pours forth His mercy upon penitents.

It is in this sanctuary that Our Lord spoke these great words: “Here is My Heart that has so loved men!”

Just a block away is La Chapelle Colombière, built in honor of St. Margaret Mary’s confessor, the Jesuit saint Claude de la Colombière. In a vision, Jesus told St. Margaret Mary that He would send her His “true and perfect friend.” Shortly afterward, St. Claude arrived to become her spiritual director.

Interior of La Chapelle Colombière

After eighteen months at Paray-le-Monial, St. Claude was appointed official chaplain to Mary of Modena, wife of James the Duke of York. He came to St. James’s Palace to live in the last days of King Charles II. A fellow Frenchman later accused him of “converting heretics” and speaking ill of the King; this was the same year as the alleged Titus Oates plot, and thus a Jesuit living in the very Palace of the King would hardly be looked upon favorably by the non-Catholic public. He was imprisoned and interrogated, then banished from England, not before his health began to fail. He returned to Paray and was offered only light duties because of his fragile state. Towards his death, St. Margaret Mary sent him a note informing him that Our Lord wanted him to make the sacrifice of his life at Paray; he therefore withdrew his request to leave the town, and died shortly thereafter at the age of forty-one.

King Charles officially converted to the Catholic faith on his deathbed.

Shrine to St. Claude. He was the first to believe St. Margaret Mary’s visions and to espouse her cause. Through his help, the prioress and other nuns also came to believe in the message of the Sacred Heart.

Relics of St. Claude

This chapel built in 1930 contains the reliquary where the Jesuit Saint Claude de la Colombière reposes. Born in 1641, died in 1682, spiritual advisor to Saint Margaret Mary. Canonized in 1992. On October 1986, Pope John Paul II ended his pilgrimage here at Paray-le-Monial

Anterior view of the Basilica from the Parc des Chapelains

Federation of Cluniac Sites. The Benedictine Abbey of Cluny, founded in the tenth century in nearby Mâcon, became the leader of western monasticism in the Middle Ages, founding monasteries and churches throughout France and Europe. The Basilica of Paray-le-Monial is considered a “site clunisien par excellence.”

Interior of the basilica, renovated and whitewashed, as so many other churches, into more modern, minimalist appearance

Original High Altar

Anterior view of the High Altar with light from the stained glass windows

The Lady Chapel, where the Sacred Host is reserved.

Another view of the basilica

Our Lady of Sorrows

Allée behind the basilica

Grotto of Christ and St. Michael on the grounds of the Parc des Chapelains

Rotunda in the Chaplains’ Park

Cor Sacratissimum Iesu, miserere nobis!

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