MARGARET-MARY ALACOQUE  (1647–90), Visitandine, chief founder of devotion to the Sacred Heart. After an unhappy childhood—she was for years unable to leave her bed, and later had to suffer much from unsympathetic relatives—she entered the Convent of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial in central France in 1671, where she subsequently became Novice Mistress and Assistant Superior. Here she received several revelations of the Sacred Heart, the first in Dec. 1673, and the final one 18 months later.

    The visions revealed to her the form of the devotion, the chief features being Holy Communion on the First Friday of each month, the Holy Hour on Thursdays, and the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Her visions were at first treated with contempt by her superiors, who regarded them as delusions, but under the influence of her temporary confessor, St Claude de la Colombière, SJ (d. 1682), the opposition softened and eventually ceased. The devotion, however, was not officially recognized till 75 years after her death. She was beatified in 1864 and canonized in 1920. Feast day, 16 (formerly 17) Oct.

Crit. edn. of Vie et œuvres de la bienheureuse Marguerite-Marie Alacoque by L. Gauthey (3rd edn., 3 vols., Paris, 1915; incl. the best text of her autobiog., also pub. separately, 1920). Eng. tr. of her autobiog. by V. Kerns (1961). The standard Lives are those by J. J. Languet (Paris, 1729; ed. L. Gauthey, 1890; Eng. tr. in the series ‘The Saints and Servants of God’, ed. F. W. Faber, 1850), E. Bougaud (Paris, 1874; Eng. tr., New York, 1920), and A. Hamon, SJ (Paris, 1907; vol. 1 of his Histoire de la dévotion au sacré-cœur; frequently pub. separately). Among the better-known popular Lives is that of Mgr. M. Deminuid (‘Les Saints’, 1912); in Eng. there is a Life by G. Tickell, SJ (London, 1869). P. Blanchard, Ste Marguerite-Marie: Expérience et doctrine (1962). Pourrat, 4, pp. 402–19. J. Le Brun in Dict. Sp. 10 (1980), cols. 349–55, s.v. ‘Marguerite-Marie Alacoque’

SACRED HEART. Devotion to the physical heart of Jesus, though theologically defined and officially practised only since the 18th cent., can be traced back to the Middle Ages. It seems to have sprung from the cult of the Wound in the Side. It is to be met with in two treatises of St Bonaventure, ‘Vitis mystica’ (formerly attributed to St Bernard) and ‘De ligno vitae’. Extracts from the latter are incorporated in the present Office of the feast, and the devotion appears richly developed in the visions attributed to St Mechtild of Hackeborn (d. 1299) and St Gertrude (d. c.1302), both at the convent of Helfta. But the devotion was long confined to a relatively small number of mystics and saints, e.g. Julian of Norwich and St Frances of Rome.

A new departure was made in the 16th cent., when the devotion extended from the visions of the mystics to the regular practice of many given to the ascetic life, and it was fostered esp. by the Carthusians. A little later the Jesuits became its most ardent advocates in France and St Francis de Sales imbued with it his Visitandines, and these two orders worked together to obtain for the Sacred Heart a place in the official as well as the popular life of the Church.

The first to provide an elaborate theological and liturgical foundation for both devotion and feast, however, was St John Eudes (q.v.). But his efforts remained without much response until the famous visions (1673–1675) of the Visitandine nun, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, which gave a definite shape to the object of the devotion and its practices. Its most prominent feature was reparation for the outrages committed against the Divine Love, esp. in the Blessed Sacrament. From that time it became one of the most popular RC devotions, though its liturgical observance was not permitted until 1765, when Clement XIII authorized the Mass and Office of the feast.

It is observed on the Friday in the week after Corpus Christi. In 1856 Pius IX extended the feast to the universal Church; in 1889 Leo XIII raised it to a Double of the First Class, and ten years later solemnly consecrated all mankind to the Sacred Heart. The Mass and Office of the feast were revised by Pius XI in 1928 when it received a privileged octave. The octave was dropped in 1960. In the 1969 Roman calendar the observance is now classed as a ‘solemnity’.

J. Croiset, La Dévotion au Sacré-Cœur de N.S. Jésus-Christ (Lyons, 1691; 3rd and definitive edn., 1694; Eng. tr. from Ital., London, 1863; modern Eng. tr. from 1694 edn., Dublin and London, 1949). J.-B. Terrien, SJ, La Dévotion au Sacré-Cœur de Jésus d’après les documents authentiques et la théologie (1893). J. V. Bainvel, La Dévotion au Sacré-Cœur de Jésus (1906; Eng. tr., 1924). D. Chastelain, De Cultu Eucharistici Cordis Jesu: Historia—Doctrina—Documenta (Paris, 1928). Useful material in the Encyclical of Pius XI revising the Mass and Office (8 May 1928), pr. in AAS 20 (1928), pp. 165–78. P. Debongnie, CSSR, ‘Commencement et recommencements de la dévotion au Coeur de Jésus’, in Le Coeur: Les Études Carmélitaines (1950), pp. 147–92; K. Rahner, SJ, ‘ “Siehe dieses Herz!” Prolegomena zu einer Theologie der Herz-Jesu-Verehrung’, Schriften zur Theologie, 3 (1956), pp. 379–90; id., ‘Einige Thesen zur Theologie der Herz-Jesu-Verehrung’, ibid., pp. 391–415; Eng. tr. of both arts. in Theological Investigations, 3 (1967), pp. 321–52. G. de Becker, SSCC, Les Sacrés-Cœurs de Jésus et de Marie (Études Picpuciennes, 5; 1959), pp. 9–235; J. Le Brun, ‘Politics and Spirituality: The Devotion to the Sacred Heart’, Concilium, 9, no. 7 (1971), pp. 29–43. N. Busch, Katholische Frömmigkeit und Moderne: Die Sozial-und Mentalitätsgeschichte des Herz-Jesu-Kultes in Deutschland zwischen Kulturkampf und Ersten Weltkrieg (Gutersloh [1997]). J. Bainvel in CE 7 (1910), pp. 163–7, s.v. ‘Heart of Jesus, Devotion to the’; id. in DTC 3 (1908), cols. 271–351, s.v. ‘Cœur Sacré de Jésus (Dévotion au)’.

Sacred Heart of Mary. Devotion to the heart of the BVM was first seriously fostered in the 17th cent. by St John Eudes (q.v.), who linked it closely with the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1805 Pius VII allowed the observance of a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary; in 1855 a proper Mass, based on texts proposed by Eudes, was authorized for use in some places, and an Office followed in 1857. Words attributed to the BVM at Fátima popularized the cult; in 1942 Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and in 1944 he made universal a corresponding feast to be observed on 22 Aug., the Octave day of the Assumption. In the 1969 RC calendar this observance became an optional ‘memoria’.

Pius XII’s Oratio consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is pr. in AAS 34 (1942), pp. 345 f.; the new Office and Mass provided for the feast in Aug. 1944 are pr. ibid. 37 (1945), pp. 44–52. G. de Becker, SSCC, Les Sacrés-Cœurs de Jésus et de Marie (Études Picpuciennes, 5; 1959), pp. 239–437, with bibl. pp. 243–5. J. Arragain, ‘La Dévotion au Cœur de Marie’ in H. du Manoir, SJ (ed.), Maria, 5 (Paris, 1958), pp. 1007–48. See also works of St John Eudes.


Ital. Italian.

AAS Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Rome, 1909 ff.).

CE Catholic Encyclopedia (15 vols. + index, New York, 1907–14).



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