"Perfect Servant and Faithful Friend"


Those are the words that Jesus used to describe the Jesuit saint whom my community is celebrating today. St. Claude La Colombiere died on this day in the year 1682 at the age of 41. He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1992. Jesus called him His "perfect servant and faithful friend" when He told St. Margaret Mary that he was the one He had sent to confirm that the revelations of His Sacred Heart were authentic. The following is from notes that St. Claude wrote during one of his annual retreats.

My God, if only I could travel all over the world and proclaim in every country what you require of your servants and friends! When God revealed his will to this person [St. Margaret Mary], and she had communicated it to me, I told her to put it down in writing. I have no scruples about copying the words into my retreat journal, for it is God's will to use me in this cause. These are the holy woman's words:

"Being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament one day of the octave [of Corpus Christi], I received from God excessive graces of His love. I was moved by the desire of making some return and of giving love for love, and he told me: 'You could not make me a greater return than to do what I have so often asked of you.'

"And showing me His divine heart: 'Behold the heart which has loved men so much that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, to prove its love to them. And as thanks I receive from the greater number only ingratitude, because of the disregard, the irreverence, the sacrilege, and the coldness which they have for Me in this sacrament of love. But what is still more offensive is that these are hearts which are consecrated to Me. That is why I ask that the first Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi be dedicated as a special feast to honor My heart by making a reparation of honor, ... by receiving communion on that day to repair the indignities which it has suffered during the hours it was exposed on the altars. And I promise that My heart will expand to pour out with abundance the graces of its divine love on those who will render it this honor.'

"'But, dear Lord [she answered], to whom are you applying? To a wretched creature, a poor sinner whose very unworthiness would be capable even of preventing the accomplishment of Your plan? You have so many generous souls to carry out your purpose.'

"'Ah, poor innocent that you are [Christ replied], don't you know that I make use of the weakest subject to confound the strong, that it is ordinarily the smallest and the poor in spirit to whom I make my power visible with greater brilliance, so that they will not attribute anything to themselves?'

"'Give me, then,' I said to Him, 'the means of doing what you command.'

"It was then that He told me: 'Turn to my servant N. [Claude La Colombiere] and tell him from Me to do all he can to establish this devotion and to give this pleasure to My divine heart. Tell him not to be discouraged by the difficulties he will meet with, for they will not be lacking. But he must learn that he is all-powerful who completely distrusts himself to place his trust in Me alone.'"

In May, 2003 during my annual retreat I read various things about St. Claude, a true Apostle of the Sacred Heart. I asked for his help because I was anticipating a letter from Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the Superior General of the Jesuits. It was the letter appointing me to be the national director of the Apostleship of Prayer and its arrival was delayed because it got lost in the mail. After the retreat, when I found that there was no letter awaiting me, I called the U.S. Jesuit Conference offices to ask if there had been a change in plans. There wasn't. A new letter was sent and I became the U.S. director on July 31, 2003. I went into this assignment with a desire to be an Apostle of the Sacred Heart the way St. Claude was and I've been consoled by these words of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary.

They echo St. Paul's words in his letters to the Corinthians. "God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God" (1 Cor. 1: 27-29). "But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us" (2 Cor. 4: 7). Jesus predicted difficulties for St. Claude in his life and his work. These difficulties were a sign that he was doing a good work that the devil opposed in every conceivable way. These difficulties led St. Claude to depend on God alone.

I find myself grateful today to be following in St. Claude's footsteps. I can't think of a better assignment in my Jesuit life at this time than to be an Apostle of the Sacred Heart.