Updated: Nov 14
The Story Behind The Basilica Of Sacre Coeur In Paris, France
Dear friends, continuing with the visions of my last travel to France, I’d like to share my experience visiting beautiful church of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre in Paris.
The Sacre Coeur church is is just as emblematic to Paris as the Eiffel Tower, but few people know the true history behind it, and I find it deeply moving. The more that I read about the history of France since its foundation, the more I understand its profound beauty and significance and I’d like to share that with you.
To understand the significance of the Sacre Coeur, I have to give you some context. The kingdom of France had its origins after the fall of the Roman empire, when king Clovis, a pagan Germanic ruler, converted to Christianism in year 496. Married to Christian princess Clotilda who kept urging him to convert to Catholicism, he eventually converted in occasion of being suffocated by incursions of other invading tribes. When he was about to lose the battle, he raised his eyes to heaven and said, in summary:
“God of Clotilda, if you really exist let me win this battle and I will be baptized”.
He won after the enemy files immediately retreated, and Clovis, true to his promise, was then later baptized and anointed as king according to the Christian rite. After that he kept wining the battles and by the time of his death in 511 he had consolidated the Franks and expanded his influence and rule to include the Roman province of Belgica Secunda in 486 and the territories of the Alemanni (in 496), the Burgundians (in 500), and the Visigoths (in 507).
After this, and in great part by Clovis’ legacy, France came to be over the centuries a deeply Christian nation, so much so, that it was considered “the eldest daughter of the Church”, or the “new Jerusalem”. Visiting France is encountering a testament of their wealth and deep spirituality manifested in innumerable and beautiful religious monuments, churches and monasteries.
My opinion after seeing al that? God seriously loves France and favored her in a very special way over the centuries. Everywhere I went I saw a testament of France’s glory manifested in their beautiful monuments and their past wealth. But not only that, history reveals some serious supernatural aids that God sent to this nation when again she was in the midst of losing their independence, like Juana de Arco, of whom I will talk more later on a different post.
Another of these supernatural God-sent aids was through a nun by the name of Marguerite Mary Alecoque, born in 1647. Mystic and visionary, she received frequent visions of Jesus Christ who spoke to her with incredible familiarity and revealed to her his Sacred Heart burning in flames of love for mankind, and expressed to her his deep sorrow for the ingratitude and indifference in which he is regarded. He stressed that acts of loving reparation are only but urgent since justice demands it, and instructed her in how to make such acts of loving reparation and to pass in this information to everyone. His words were:
“My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love for men, and for you in particular that, being unable any longer to contain within Itself the flames of Its burning Charity, It must spread them abroad by your means, and manifest Itself to mankind in order to enrich them with the precious graces of sanctification and salvation necessary to withdraw them from the abyss of perdition. I have chosen you as an abyss of unworthiness and ignorance for the accomplishment of this great design, in order that everything may be done by Me.”
These acts of reparation that he requested include the institution of a day of solemnity for the Sacred Heart of Jesus 8 days after the feast of Corpus Christi, communion for 9 consecutive first Fridays of the month, and time in prayer from 11 pm to midnight on Thursdays, meditating on Christ’s agony in the garden of Getsemani.
I have been somehow familiar with the devotion to the Heart of Jesus for all my life, since it is widely known in Latin America and my family used to talk much about it, but I realized I never understood it until I recently deep-dived into the history of France and I came about the details of the French revolution. Then I understood.
The French Revolution
During the French revolution, which broke on June 17 of 1789, God was dethroned, disregarded, and prohibited from public life. And wow. How the heart of God must have hurt. Reading now the history from God’s perspective, I could now feel his pain and sorrow for the betrayal. And all of that to our own and to France’s detriment.
But the reason why I say that Marguerite Mary Alacoque was an aid sent by God in his infinite mercy to safeguard France is that along with revealing his heart to her and the need for just reparation, he commanded her to deliver an important message to the king of France Louis XIV, the most spectacular and wealthy monarch that the French dynasty ever had.
On June 17, 1689 Jesus asked Margaret Mary to communicate to Louis XIV that he wanted to bless him and protect him from his enemies, and for that to happen, the king needed to do three things:
The consecration of him and his court to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The inclusion of the symbol of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the national flag and all the kingdom of France’s symbolism.
The erection of a chapel dedicated to his Sacred Heart.
His exact words were as follows:
“Make Known to the eldest son of my heart, Louis XIV, that as his temporal birth was obtained through devotion to the merits of my Holy childhood, in the same manner he will obtain his birth of grace and eternal glory by the consecration that he will make of himself to my adorable Heart, which wishes to triumph over those of the great ones of the world. It wishes to reign in his palace, to be painted on his standards, and engraved on his arms, in order to render him victorious over all his enemies”
-Letter of Margaret Mary Alacoque to Mother de Saumaise, June 17, 1689
“He desires to make use in the execution of His designs, which is to have an edifice erected in which shall be a picture of His divine Heart, to receive the consecration and homage of the king and all the court.
Moreover, this divine Heart wishes to make itself the defender of the sacred person of the king, his protector against all his enemies. Therefore has it chosen him as its faithful friend, to have the Mass authorized by the Holy Apostolic See, and to obtain all the other privileges that ought to accompany devotion to this divine Heart.
It is by this divine Heart that God wishes to dispense the treasures of His graces of sanctification and salvation, by bestowing His benediction on the king's undertakings, according a happy success to his arms, and making him triumph over the malice of his enemies.”
-Letter of Margaret Mary Alacoque to Mother de Saumaise, August 25, 1689
The crucial thing to understand about the timing of this message is that it was given to Marguerite Mary exactly 100 years before the breakout of the French revolution: on June 17 1689. The revolution broke on June 17, 1789. There are no coincidences in God’s designs.
As for Louis XIV it is said the he was advised by his counselors not to follow the request made by Margaret Mary and thus the message was disregarded. Not only that, but the request of instituting the repairing devotion to the Sacred Heart was not publicly approved but until year 1765, 75 years after Marguerite Mary’s death in 1690.
I am continuously impressed how God always wants to help us in very concrete ways, and we choose to do the stupidest things instead.
What came of king Louis XIV after that was a series of disastrous decisions and events that had the apex of their consequences during the reign of Luis XVI, the king that was infamously dethroned and beheaded during the 1789 French revolution.
Not only that, later in year 1870 broke a war between France and Germany, the Franco-Prussian war, where France was defeated and partially occupied by the German troops. The French, overwhelmed for what seemed to them the spiritual consequences of their bad decisions, decided to finally start the construction of a temple dedicated to the Sacred Heart as an act of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The planning of the church started in 1870 and the the main building was completed and opened to the public in year 1891. The church was later consecrated on October 16, 1919 after the installation of the bell, the campanile and the lanternon cross.
Margaret Mary was proclaimed Saint by the Catholic church on May 13, 1920.
My Personal Reflection
Friends, God is present in our history. He cares about the health of our nations at the temporal and material level, but more importantly, he cares about our transcending, spiritual health at the individual level, and wants to pour himself torrentially into our hearts since he is burning himself with that infinite love. Only the heart of a God that loves so much would intervene in history on France’s behalf with such loving request to warn, to advice, to protect, to prevent so many deaths and injustices that came afterward.
We are so hardened in our hearts, yet we are constantly unfulfilled and unsatisfied, putting our trust and ambitions in temporal things, and trying to look for happiness where it cannot be found. Ignorant and oblivious to God’s calls and interventions, who screams for our attention, and yet we don’t know how to recognize his voice, how to access and understand the information about his interventions throughout history. Furthermore, his voice is constantly suffocated by the world, wether for lack of belief, for the infinite amounts of distractions in our lives, or worse, because for some, it may result inconvenient to hear.
This trip to France has opened my eyes in ways beyond measurable. To come to this point of understanding, I have had to read and digest a good amount of books of history and read the lives and biographies of critical historical figures like Margaret Mary Alacoque, Joann of Arc, St. Therése of Lisieux, who carry the perspective of God, since, when it comes to history, you should always read both versions of the story, and these days, the perspective of God is always omitted, leaving us in complete darkness in our understanding of how have we come to be where we are these days.
Oh France, how much you’ve been loved! France’s story is just but a mere example of what happens when we are under God’s friendship and protection, and then what happens if we don’t attend his requests, when we think that we can figure things out only on our own. God knows the hearts of all men, he sees the past, the present and the future, and therefore He has a clear vision of the dangers to come and the remedies necessary to avoid such dangers. And yet, we stubbornly think that we know better, refuse to be guided, and even worse, take away his name and his voice from all our institutions and all our decisions. How silly of us.
After all this that I have read and seen, all I have to say is: Oh, how my heart is burning, too!
Friends, if you would like to know my book list and how in part I came to this understanding, here are some references. Unfortunately some of these books are only in Spanish, others are accessible in English and other languages. Please, do your own research.
Lots of love,
Joseph Dirvin (2009) “Saint Catherine Labouré”. Tan Books Publishing; New edition. 306 pages. English Edition. ISBN-10: 0895552426. ISBN-13: 978-0895552426.
Luis Gamas (2014) “La Autobiografía De Santa Margarita María Alacoque”. Palibrio Publishing. 146 pages. Spanish Edition. ISBN-10: 146339182X. ISBN-13: 978-1463391829.
Therese De Lisieux (2013) “Historia De Un Alma: Manuscritos Autobiográficos”. Ignatius Press; First Edition. 336 pages. Spanish Edition. ISBN-10: 1586179020. ISBN-13: 978-1586179021
Alfredo Sáenz (2020) “La Nave Y Las Tempestades”. T. 7: La Revolución Francesa: La Revolución Cultural. Gladius Publishing. 400 pages. Spanish Edition. ISBN-10: 9509674885. ISBN-13: 978-9509674882
Marie De La Sagesse Sequeiros (2018) “Santa Juana De Arco. Reina, Virgen Y Mártir: Primer Estudio Documental En Español A La Luz De Sus Procesos”. Katejon Publishing. 452 pages. Spanish Edition. ISBN-10: 9872942277. ISBN-13: 978-9872942274