The Catholic Counter Reformation was in full flower in France when, on July 22, 1647, Margaret Mary was born into the Alacoque family in the provincial town of Lauthecourt. Her childhood was marked by difficulties. The death of her father left her mother with five small children and few means. Thus Margaret Mary received little education until she was placed in a convent of Poor Clares at the age of eight. Continual illnesses cut short her convent stay. Subsequently, she and her mother were reduced to a state of virtual domestic captivity by relatives who assumed charge of their affairs. Being shy and of an imaginative nature, the young girl began to seek out solitude and the consolation of prayer with her beloved Jesus. This prayer, which took various forms, including conversations, visual imagery, and divine appearances, would continue to be the focal attraction of her entire life.
Despite her mother’s entreaties, Margaret Mary avoided an adolescent proposal of marriage and clung to her growing desire to enter religious life. This she did in June of 1671 when she entered the Visitation Monastery in Paray-le-Monial, a community founded as part of loyalist Catholic efforts to counteract the powerful Protestant presence in the region. Her early years in the monastery were trying ones, as her superiors were wary of her singular inner life. They sought to teach her more normative methods of mental prayer, which she seemed incapable of learning, and stressed exact obedience to the monastic rule, which seemed to elude her. Gradually, through interior instruction from Jesus, Margaret Mary Alacoque was able to submit to the discipline of the monastery. She came to understand her sufferings as part of the plan that he had for her.
Taking final vows in 1672, the rest of Margaret Mary’s life was spent, to all outward appearances, in the daily routine of prayer and work that characterizes the monastic life. However, her inner life was far from routine. Gradually, the inner drama that was her chief preoccupation became public. The narrative