Monday, February 15, 2016

St. Claude de la Colombiere: Apostle of Love and Mercy




The saint of the day for February 15 is St. Claude de la Colombiere (1641-1682), a Jesuit missionary, (1641-1682), a Jesuit missionary, who was the brilliant and pious spiritual director of St. Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.

Claude de la Colombiere is best known for his association with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and the devotion of the Sacred Heart, but his life has its own drama. He was sent to England after his spiritual direction of St. Margaret Mary was over and became entangled in the Titus Oates "Popish Plot,” was imprisoned, then exiled from England. His story is part of the history of the seventeenth century.

He was born near Lyons, France in 1641 to a very devout family and at the age of 17 entered the Society of Jesus at Avignon, where he made his vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Following his novitiate, he taught grammar and literature in Avignon. At the age of 23, he attended the College of Clermont in Paris for his studies in theology. After completing his studies in Paris, he became tutor to the sons of Colbert, the financial minister of Louis XIV, but was dismissed from his post and returned to Avignon.

In 1675, after his solemn profession as a Jesuit, he was appointed superior at Paray-le-Monial, in which the convent of St. Margaret Mary was located. Here he became her spiritual director, encouraged her in the spread of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, and was described by our Lord as His "faithful and perfect friend."

Claude was well-known for his solid and serious sermons. They were aptly directed at specific audiences and, faithful to their inspiration from the gospel, communicating to his listeners peace and confidence in God. His sermons were consistently fresh and inspiring.

Because of his remarkable gifts and judgment, he was sent to England, to be court preacher to the duchess of York, wife of the future James II, and took up residence in London. This was a challenging assignment because of the conditions existing in England at the time. When the alleged "Popish Plot" to assassinate King Charles II shook the country, Claude was falsely accused of involvement in the plot and imprisoned.

Thanks to his title of preacher to the Duchess of York and to the protection of Louis XIV, whose subject he was, he escaped death but was condemned to exile in 1679. The last two years of his life were spent at Lyon where he was spiritual director to the young Jesuits there, and at Paray-le-Monial.

He died on February 15, 1682, an apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. St. Margaret Mary described his main charism as that of drawing souls to God along the gospel way of love and mercy. He was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI and canonized in 1992 by Pope John Paul II. His relics are preserved in the monastery of the Visitation nuns at Paray-le-Monial.

St. Claude on Prayer

“Since by the mercy of God I feel myself somewhat drawn to prayer, I have asked of God, with a large heart, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, that He would give me the grace to love this holy exercise more and more, unto the hour of my death."

"It is the one means for our purification, the one way to union with God, the one channel by which God may unite Himself with us, that He may do anything with us for His glory.  To obtain the virtues of an apostle we must pray; to make them of use to our neighbor we must pray; to prevent our losing them while we use them in His service we must pray."

Prayer of Saint Claude de la Colombiere 

Lord, I am in this world to show Your mercy to others.
Other people will glorify You
by making visible the power of Your grace
by their fidelity and constancy to You.
For my part I will glorify You
by making known how good You are to sinners,
that Your mercy is boundless
and that no sinner no matter how great his offences
should have reason to despair of pardon.
If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer,
let me not offend You even more
by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon Me.
Amen.

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