St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in 1647 at a place called L’Hautecour in Burgundy, France. She had a difficult childhood. Her father passed on when she was eight years of age and a rheumatic affliction kept her bedridden for four years. Her unhappy childhood grew worse when her father’s relatives moved in and took control of her home where she and her mother were treated as servants. Margaret Mary was a serious child with a great focus on God. Not allowed to attend church as often as she pleased, she was often seen weeping and praying in the corner of the garden.
She made a vow to enter religious life and on 25th May 1671 she entered the Visitation Convent at Paray. She purposefully chose for herself what was most repugnant to her nature making her life one of suffering. Margaret Mary was inspired by Christ to establish the Holy Hour and to pray lying prostrate with her face to the ground from eleven till midnight on the eve of the first Friday of each month, to share in the mortal sadness He endured when abandoned by His Apostles in His Agony.
Our Lord Jesus appeared to her frequently, conversed with her, and gave her the mission to establish devotion to His sacred heart. He made known to her His ardent desire to be loved by men and His design of manifesting His Heart with all Its treasures of love and mercy, of sanctification and salvation.
Due to her chosen vocation Margaret Mary was subjected to opposition and criticism by others. She only responded with humility, kindness, and charity to those who persecuted her.
In her last illness she refused all alleviation, repeating frequently: “What have I in heaven and what do I desire on earth, but Thee alone, O my God”, and died pronouncing the Holy Name of Jesus. She died on October 17, 1690
Gemma’s friendship with St. Margaret Mary:
St. Margaret Mary, in conjunction with St. Gabriel Possenti helped Gemma when she was suffering from spinal meningitis which almost caused her death. Out of gratitude Gemma wanted to embrace the kind of life the Saint had followed. She also introduced Gemma to the Holy Hour and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
When Gemma’s health had deteriorated even further and the doctors had given up Gemma’s confessor, Monsignor Volpi, suggested that she should make a novena to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The name of St. Margaret Mary was new to Gemma. Gemma initially showed little enthusiasm over this due to mixed feelings over being healed and her desire for union with God. Gemma did not care whether she was cured or not as her main concern was that God was pleased.
Sister Julia Sestini had also suggested that Gemma ought to make a novena, and she advised that it should be made to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The following is what she deposed in the Processes:
‘I said to her: “Gemma, I know that a miracle by Blessed Margaret is needed for her canonization. Let her perform one for you and they will make her a saint.” We agreed that this novena should end on the first Friday of March. The prayers were only a few Our Fathers. I brought her the Manual of our holy foundress. It was entitled “Preghiamo” and contained the Holy Hour, which I made Gemma promise to practise every first Thursday of the month. The novena began on Thursday, and I went to visit her on the following Sunday. “Do you know with whom I am making the novena?” she asked me. “With your aunts or your sisters,” I replied. Smilingly she answered: “No,” adding: “With little Confrater Gabriel who comes to help me to say the Our Fathers.” To which I replied: “Isn’t the Lord good to send His saints just as He sends our guardian angels to us?”
Gemma started the Novena on Friday 23rd February. It was to last 9 days and finish on Sunday 1st March. During each of the nine evenings that Gemma practised the novena St. Gabriel would come. Placing his hand on her forehead they would recite the novena together, and then he made her add the Glory be to the Father in honour of Blessed Margaret Mary.
The same person (it was St. Gabriel) came every evening and placed his hand on her forehead as before. They recited together the Our Father to the Sacred Heart, and then he made her add the Glory be to the Father in honour of Blessed Margaret Mary.
Shortly after her cure Gemma went to the Visitation Convent to thank her heavenly friend St Margaret Mary. She also kept her promise to God which was to make a Holy Hour every Thursday evening. This was where Gemma would go on to receive even greater graces.