Tuesday 27 September 2022

Sacred Heart A Pilgrim's Companion to Paray-le-Monial - David Baldwin - CTS Christian Shrines Series

Sacred Heart: A Pilgrim's Companion to Paray-le-Monial
CTS Christian Shrines Series
David Baldwin
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860826283
CTS Booklet D718

Over the last few years, I have read over 300 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. I have greatly enjoyed many of the books in the Christian Shrines Series. This is the twenty second volume in the CTS Christian Shrines series, or 22nd time that I have read a volume in the series, for I have read many of them more than once. Many of them by David Baldwin. I approached this volume with completely new eyes. I have personally had an interest in Pilgrimage, for as long as I can remember. I have written about personal pilgrimage, and previously written about my desire for pilgrimage. I have a university degree in Religious Studies with a specialization in Roman Catholic Thought I would have loved to have had books from this series, and many from the CTS collections to use as a resource during my schooling. I knew about the Sacred Heart Devotion but was unaware of the specifics and the history. 

The description of this volume is:

“Set in the French shrine of Paray-le-Monial, this is the story of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, and of St Margaret Mary Alacoque and Saint Claude de la Colombiere in particular. It takes you to the principal pilgrim places of the modern genesis of this devotion, providing coherent commentary and narrative description, as well as suggesting appropriate prayers and meditations along the way.”

And about the author we are informed:

“David Baldwin, a retired Royal Marines office, lives in the south west of England and has written several CTS pilgrim’s companions.”

The books in this series are intended for two different types of readers. The first those going to these places in person, and as such it is an excellent spiritual travel guide. The second category that, which I find myself in currently, is the ‘armchair pilgrim’. I love that concept; it is for those who are going on pilgrimage spiritually. Or even virtually. But I would state that the book is great for a third category, those with a devotion or interest to the Sacred Heart, it will help you explore those places central to the beginning of this devotion. As such this is an excellent volume in a wonderful series and I highly recommend it. The chapters in the booklet are:

People, Places and History 
Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque 
Saint Claude de la Colombiere 
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart 
Chapel of the Visitation 
Adoration Chapel of Saint John 
Chapelle la Colombiere 
Final Thoughts

I highlighted several passages my first time through this volume. Some of them are:

“Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Catholic Church runs long and deep. In many Catholic churches - maybe all - you will invariably see the familiar image of the Sacred Heart, maybe by picture, but usually by statue, or sometimes at a side chapel or altar, of Jesus, with His Heart exposed at His chest, usually aflame and surrounded by the crown of thorns, sometimes held in His hand. Many households, in many countries, may display a picture or small statue; when abroad, you may also come across a street niche sheltering the statue.”

“The French priest, St John Eudes (1601-1680), started formulating and propagating a specific devotion through his Office of the Sacred Heart, winning recognition from Pope St Pius X as the Father of Worship to the Sacred Heart (and Immaculate Heart of Mary), and declaring him the Apostle and Doctor of these devotions.”

“However, it was only when, through the revelations and specific instructions of Our Lord to Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a nun in her convent in the depths of rural France at Paray-le-Monial, and assisted by the convent chaplain, St Claude de la Colombiere (1641-1682), that the devotion spread and took hold universally.”

“It was only when seeking out the shrines of France that my travels took me to the small town of Paray-le-Monial, in southern Burgundy - recognised as the physical wellspring of the 'modern' devotion to the Sacred Heart - that renewed in me a recognition of the significance of this devotion, and a desire to fan again the flames surrounding that 'Precious Heart'.”

“Paray-le-Monial is a small, relaxed, picturesque rural town of some 10,000 souls in the depths of southern Burgundy, about lOOkm northwest of Lyon. It is off the mainstream tourist trail, thus retaining its individual charm - as yet unblighted and unbranded by the 21st century's corporate outlets.”

“Despite its seeming anonymity, Paray is a significant place of pilgrimage, with devotees of the Sacred Heart coming from all corners of the earth. Up to 500,000 pilgrims come here over the year, so at times it may be busy in that sense - particularly on relevant feast days - but the spaces and places to cope with these numbers are there, whilst there are also many quiet spots for the pilgrim to seek out.”

“The town's more distant history is vested mainly in the arrival of the Benedictines, and the building and development of their first monastery church and community from 973 onwards. More recent history has made the town into a pilgrim venue. The Visitation nun, Margaret Mary Alacoque, whose mystic experiences and visions of Our Lord from 1673 to 1675 and subsequent promotion of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which brought her the crown of sainthood, also brought to her adopted town the responsibility of being the foremost shrine in the world, and the host for this devotion. The other principal person associated with St Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart, was St Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit priest and latterly chaplain to the Visitation sisters' community.”

“The principal pilgrim places in Paray associated with the Sacred Heart and these two saints are the striking and harmonious 11th century Romanesque Basilica of the Sacred Heart; the small, prayerful convent Chapel of the Visitation; and the arresting 20th century chapel commemorating St Claude de la Colombiere.”

“Paray is not overwhelmed with the plethora of devotional shops that encircle the sanctuary at Lourdes - it is all very low key and discreet.”

“One of the other aspects of Margaret Mary's early life that shines through very clearly and consistently, was her strong, determined devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. During the difficult years, when her family was oppressed by relatives, she was denied every opportunity to slip away to the local church to pray before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. She learned to overcome this by mentally prostrating herself before Jesus, maintaining her adoration through prayer 'at a distance'.”

“In the eighteen months starting on 27th December 1673, Margaret Mary began experiencing the amazing encounters with Christ that would clarify and specify her mission to the world - that of spreading the devotion to His Sacred Heart.”

Prayer of St Margaret Mary Alacoque
Lord Jesus,
let my heart never rest until it finds You,
who are its centre, its love, and its happiness.
By the wound in Your Heart
pardon the sins that I have committed
whether out of malice or out of evil desires.
Place my weak heart in Your own divine Heart,
continually under Your protection and guidance,
so that I may persevere in doing good
and in fleeing evil until my last breath. Amen.”

“One of its notable and unusual devotional adornments is the Stations of the Cross, grouped closely together at the right rear of the church - each carved wooden Station depicting just the expression of Jesus' face.”

“The lovely thing about reading about or - better still - going to Paray-le-Monial, is that because of its very 'ordinariness' there are no major distractions if you are there on pilgrimage - or even just visiting - but in some, maybe even undefined way, seeking out the Sacred Heart. The holy buildings and places are perfectly keyed to help facilitate your search, again without undue distraction. The other striking thing, is that by virtue of the very humble and low profile that St Margaret Mary adopted, there are no strong personality cult distractions. The way - on all fronts - is completely clear to focus totally on Jesus, and His Sacred Heart.”

This was one of the hardest books in this series to track down. I am very thankful for a friend in Ireland who found a copy and made it available for me. I only have two volumes remaining in this series, at least from the ones listed in the backs of the ones I have read. Both of those are significantly longer they are on Rome, and France. This is the last of the booklet styles. 

It is an excellent read. It will bless all who pick it up. And it is a small volume that can be returned to time and time again. You can pick it up and read it through, or revisit specific places. It is a great resource and one I will return to again soon. I encourage you to pick it up and give it a read or two. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Christian Shrines series click here.

Other Books in the CTS Christian Shrines Series:
Message of Assisi
Message of Fatima
Message of Guadalupe
Message of Walsingham
Santiago: Santiago de Compostela - The Pilgrim Way of St James

CTS Books and Booklets n the life and spirituality of St Thérèse:
Thérèse of Lisieux - On the visit of her relics to Great Britain (Do 810)
Thérèse, teacher of Prayer, by Bro Craig (D 693)
Thérèse of Lisieux, a biography, by Vernon Johnson (B 204)
The Little Way of Thérèse, In her own Words (D 707)
Louis and Zélie Martin, Parents of Thérèse of Lisieux, by Paulinus Redmond (B 709)
Lisieux: A Pilgrim's Companion - David Baldwin - CTS Christian Shrines (D 706)

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