Chosen by and for the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Two months after his solemn profession in February 1675, Claude de la Colombière was named Superior of the Paray-le-Monial School. It was an exceptional honor to entrust the government of a house to a recently ordained priest; but on the other hand, the small community of Paray consisted of only 4 or 5 priests, an insignificant amount for the great gifts Claude had.
This was all a part of the designs of God so that he may contact a soul needing his help: Margaret Mary Alacoque. This religious was in a troubled period of her life with much suffering due to the extraordinary revelations given by the Sacred Heart of Jesus which became clearer and more intimate every day.
Following the indications of her superior, Mother Saumaise, Margaret Mary had confided her experience to a learned priest who lacked knowledge on mysticism. The priest thought that Margaret Mary was a victim of the devil’s deception. This confused St. Margaret Mary even more.
Moved by Margaret’s prayer, God sent her his faithful servant and perfect friend, Claude de la Colombière.
Father La Colombière one day went to preach to the Visitation community. While he was speaking, Margaret wrote, “I heard in my heart these words: He is the one I sent you.” Since the first time that Margaret went to confession with Father La Colombière, he treated her as if he was aware of all that was occurring. The saint felt a tremendous repugnance to opening her heart and did not do so even though she was convinced God’s will was that she confess with Fr. La Colombière. In the following confession, Father La Colombière told her he was very happy to know that he was the motive behind her self-denial. Margaret Mary said: “Immediately, without hurting me, he discovered the good and the bad in my heart. It consoled me very much and he exhorted me not to be afraid of God’s ways as long as I remain obedient to my superiors, renewing my offering totally to God so He can treat me as He pleases. Father Claude showed me to appreciate God’s gifts and to receive them with faith and humility.” This was the great service of Father Claude de la Colombière to Margaret Mary. On the other hand, the saint worked tirelessly, promoting the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He saw in this devotion the greatest remedy against Jansenism.
Testimony before persecution
The saint did not spend much time in Paray. His following occupation was very different. By recommendation of Father La Chaize, who was the confessor of Louis XIV, his superiors sent him to London as the preacher to Maria Beatriz d’ Este, Duchess of York. The saint preached in England with his example and words. Love of the Sacred Heart was his favorite theme. The process of beatification spoke of his apostolate in England and the numerous Protestants he converted. The position of Catholics in this country was very difficult because of the hostility against them. A movement was formed in court to exclude the Duke of York from the succession to the crown because he converted to Catholicism. He was substituted by the Prince of Orange.
The imprudence of Titus Oates and his followers invented a story about a “conspiracy of the Papists,” in which Father La Colombière was included with the rest of the Catholics. The conspiracy’s object, according to the slanderers, was to assassinate King Charles II and the destruction of the Church of England. Claude was accused of exercising his priestly ministry and of converting many Protestants. He was imprisoned, and by the intervention of Louis XIV, his life was prevented from martyrdom.
The saint was simply taken into exile in England. The prison had taken an effect on his weak health. Upon his return to France in 1679, the saint was terminally ill, even though at times he recovered a little and exercised his priestly ministry. A kidney disease left him restless. His superiors sent him to Lyon and Paray thinking he would recover his health. During one of his visits to Paray, Margaret Mary told him that he will die in this city.
Father Claude arrived at Paray in April 1681, as recommended by the doctors, to recover his health. During this time there were communications between Father Claude and Sister Margaret Mary, sharing the ardor of their souls and apostolic projects in favor of the Sacred Heart.
Father Claude’s illness worsened. He thought of moving somewhere with a different climate, but St. Margaret Mary advised him that he should stay in Paray if it did not cause a disobedience. She sent him this message: “He has told me that He wants the sacrifice of your life here.” Such an affirmation eliminated all plans to travel.