The time—the 1670s AD. The place—the Convent of Paray-le-Monial, France. Jesus has given a nun of the Visitation Order a number of revelations of His Sacred Heart. These revelations were meant to show men the depth of His love for us, and to get us to return this love. These apparitions were capped by a number of promises Our Lord gave to her for the whole world. He said that this was to be his last attempt to appeal to us to come to him.
In a book I read over twenty years ago about these apparitions to St. Margaret Mary, there was a section I have never seen in any other book, but this section is very important for world historical events, and was probably not included in other books because it did not relate to the personal spirituality of the normal reader. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the book, nor have I come across it again since then.
What was so important in this book? Our Lord told St. Margaret Mary that if the king of France, Louis XIV at the time, would put the emblem of His adorable Sacred Heart on his shields and banners, there would be nothing He would not do for him! The message was relayed to the king, but the king would not do it. This same king gave St. Louis de Montfort a hard time by making him take down a large Calvary he had set up after a mission in a French town.
The time—1789–1799. The place—France. Forces of the so-called Enlightenment were festering for a long time. These forces, mostly intellectual, proclaimed that reason was the only source of truth, that the Church was a blight on French society, and that a new society had to come about. This resulted in the French Revolution, a shameful period in French history where Catholicism was scoured from French society, a prostitute was enthroned in Notre Dame Cathedral as the Goddess of Reason, and many, many clergy, religious, nobles and commoners were put to death. Priests and bishops who refused to sign the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which essentially gave control of the French Church to the government, were either exiled or hunted down like rabbits as they secretly tried to minister to their flocks. The main resistance came from the western part of France—the exact part of France where St. Louis de Montfort did most of his missionary work one hundred years prior. The armies of the Vendée, as this section of the country was called, put the emblem of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on their shields and banners.
Eventually, the king, this time Louis XVI, was executed and the valiant resistance of the Vendée was put down by a general named Napoleon, who, in 1799, staged a coup, became dictator, and forced the pope to crown him Holy Roman Emperor. Napoleon engaged Europe in warfare for the sake of power and territory to satisfy his megalomaniac desires until 1815, bringing endless suffering and death to the continent.
France repented for a time, and there was a Catholic restoration, which had its ups and downs until 1870, the time of the Paris Commune, which was an attempt to hold a communist revolution in Paris. In reparation for the Commune and even for the failure of Louis XIV to put the Sacred Heart of Jesus emblems on his shields and his banners, the French approved the building of a beautiful basilica on the spot of a major location of the events of the Paris Commune. Incidentally, it was on the spot where St. Ignatius of Loyola and his early followers used to meet and St. Ignatius used to say Mass for a time after his ordination. This beautiful church is called Sacra Coeur (Sacred Heart). It was finally consecrated just after World War I.
The parallels of these French events to those from the Old Testament should be clear to the reader. The paradigm goes like this. The nation enjoys the special favor of God. Israel, the lands of the great judges, kings David and Solomon, and the prophets; France, “the Eldest Daughter of the Church,” where our Catholic Faith flourished despite some flagging at times, the place where countless saints lived, etc. Then the country begins to slip away from the Faith. As was pointed out in the last entry, for the sake of God’s holiness, trouble then befalls the nation. Then there is repentance, and a period of peace returns.
Unfortunately for Judah, its rejection of the Savior, and the subsequent martyrdom of St. Stephen and St. James, the bishop of Jerusalem, coupled with a triumph of the zealots, led to the total destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the surrounding territories, and the suicide of the remaining Zealot defenders at Massada in 70 AD. Jesus predicted this event, and the Christians remembered his warning and fled to the town of Pella, prior to the real beginning of hostilities. The horrors suffered by Jerusalem are told in Flavius Josephus’ book,The Jewish War, which Josephus actually witnessed, and in St. Eusibius’ Ecclesiastical History.
What about France? Well, France, despite everything, suffered a resurgence of secularism and anti-Catholicism. In 1880, the Jesuits were expelled from France and other religious orders suffered persecution. By 1900, radicals, similar in thought to those from the time of the French Revolution, had taken over. Finally, in 1914, World War I broke out, the bloodiest war in history up until that point, and the stupidest. The war took a total of 16 million lives and there were 21 million wounded. France alone suffered 1.7 million dead and 4.2 million wounded—all for nothing.
Here the sad truth displays itself again. When people fall away from God en mass, evil befalls them, for the sake of God’s holiness. So often we get lost in the historical details of events that we lose the spiritual dimension. God is the Lord of History. He is active not only in our personal lives, which so many people deny today, but the rejection of God in our personal lives is reflected in larger events. The Church is like St. John the Baptist—a voice crying in the wilderness—“Make straight of the way of the Lord.” Open your heart to him; do not see him as an enemy cramping your style; see him as a loving God who only wants what is truly best for you! This “best” will lead to eternal beatitude, and peace in your country.
Next time, we are going to look at events in 1917 and thereafter. The pattern repeats itself all too soon.
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight in is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in due season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in judgment,
nor the sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.