Margaret was born in 1647. The fifth of seven children born to Claude and Philberte Alacoque, Margaret would have been described as the “shy one”. As a young child she lived with her godmother, the Countess of Corcheval, where she learned at an early age the merits of living a virtuous life. Many hours were devoted to prayer and meditation, even at a very early age. Through the Countess’ influence, Margaret even dedicated herself to a life of virginity— at the age of four. Visits to churches, daily Mass and rosary, prayer and meditation— these became the foundation of Margaret’s daily routine. While most children played, Margaret prayed. No doubt this unique dedication to prayer and virtuous living led to a litany of verbal rebukes from siblings and friends who viewed young Margaret as, well, strange. One wonders how a four-year-old’s self-consecration to virginity was understood by those who knew Margaret and her family.
Her young life was turned upside-down by the deaths of her godmother and father when Margaret was eight. Unprepared to manage the family’s financial affairs, Margaret’s mother was forced to turn over the estate to her husband’s brother-in-law who ruthlessly treated the Alacoque family with contempt. Margaret and her mother were thrust into a life of domestic servitude in their own home.
Margaret was sent to boarding school under the supervision of the Poor Clare Sisters. She was drawn to the simple life of prayer exemplified by the nuns, and they, too, marveled at Margaret’s devotion to God and Church. Margaret was granted early First Communion at the age of 9—and began a sacramental love affair between communicant and Lord which lasted the rest of her life. If only her schoolmates were just as loving. Margaret met abuse and humiliation by students who viewed her piety as unusual.
A rheumatic fever afflicted young Margaret for four years, where she was virtually unable to use arms or hands. The Sisters sent her back home. Margaret was forced to leave the peaceful discipline she grew to love through the care of the nuns, and return to the dysfunctional setting of her home overtaken by uncaring family members.
Next time: Margaret overcomes obstacles in her journey to her vocation.