February 15th 1682 - Claude La Colombière
† in Paray
He came from a notary family and was born as the third son on February 2nd 1641 in St Symphorien d'Ozon in the Dauphiné (France). At an age of seventeen he entered the noviciate of the Jesuits in Avignon. During the interstice, after the study of philosophy, he lectured grammar and literature for several years at the college in Avignon.
In order to study theology at the college in Clermont he was sent to Paris in 1666. At the same time he got the honourable order to give as private tutor lessons to the children of Colbert, the Minister of Finance under Ludwig XIV. His gift, his intelligence and his refinement enabled him for that task.
After the study of theology and the ordination (1671) he was called to Lyon, to make there his tertianship and then to take over the leadership of the Sodality of Our Lady.
In 1675 he was appointed Rector of the college in Paray le Monial, as the first Superior of the newly opened residence. He gave also the monthly lectures for the Sister Community of the nunnery 'Our Lady's Visitation'. To that community belonged also Margareta Maria Alacoque. Claude became her spiritual director. Both were engaged in the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and were strengthened in it by visions. In Jesus' Heart they saw the symbol of his love.
Already one and a half year later an intermediate activity in England followed for Claude. The Duke of York and his wife Mary Beatrice d'Este had requested a minister. Claude was destined for that task. He moved into the St James Palace in London and worked as preacher, and as advisor and minister of converts. It was a large comfort for him that many Anglicans returned to the Catholic faith.
But also the heretics made mobile. By their intrigues Claude was arrested some night. By mediation of the French Envoy he was released from prison after three weeks, but by Royal Decree banished from the country. On January 10th 1679 he arrived in Paris and was sent as spiritual director to the college in Lyon. His health was no longer equal to that task. Seriously ill he returned in summer 1681 to Paray. At the first Lent Sunday, February 15th 1682, he was attacked toward evening by a strong haemoptysis, which he not survived.
The veneration of Jesus' Heart is very old, and is rooted in the sacral cult of the Eucharist. The devotion of Christ in Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises does not use the names 'Heart of Jesus', which is also not found in the 'Anima Christi', the favourite prayer of St Ignatius, but both are clearly shaped by it.
The first ascetical writers of the Order and many of its Saints sympathized with that thought, above all Petrus Canisius, who on September 4th 1549 got before the sacrament altar in St Peter's Church in Rome a revelation from the Divine Heart, which he describes in his memoirs.
Christ's revelations to Margareta and Claude contain the message that the Society of Jesus is called to cultivate and spread the veneration of Jesus' Heart, to make it a popular devotion, and to experience its blessings abundantly.
The XXIIIth General Congregation 1883 solemnly declared in decree 46 that the Society of Jesus takes over with great joy and readiness that office, given to it by Jesus Christ. On January 1st 1872 the Order carried out the consecration in all houses, and Father General Beckx ordered that it had to be renewed year by year.
Many communities with the name 'Heart of Jesus' came into being. Also the in 1846 created 'Prayer Apostolate', and many publications and works of the 'Apostolate of the Sacred Heart of Jesus' have close relations to the veneration of Jesus' Heart.
Claude died in 1682 at an age of forty one. Margareta Maria Alacoque outlived him. She died on October 16th 1690 at an age of forty three. On June 16th 1929 Pope Pius XI beatified Father Colombière. The canonisation took place in the year 1992.
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