If St. Vincent is an exemplar of the via activa (achieving sanctity by a life of action), St. Margaret Mary (and St. Theresa of Lisieux, the subject of our next window) exemplify the via contemplate (the life of contemplation and prayer).
Margaret Mary was a contemporary (1647-1690) of St. Vincent De Paul, but not directly associated with his work. After a sickly and unhappy youth, she joined the Visitation order. Pledged “not to be extraordinary except by being ordinary”, she was an exemplary nun, humble, simple, frank, kind and patient, if somewhat slow, clumsy and a bit humorless. Between 1675 and 1677, she experienced apparitions of Christ who exhorted her to spread devotion to His sacred heart, “which has so loved humanity that it has spared nothing.” The thrust of the revelations was that God loves all of His people, not only some (once again we see the battle against Jansenism) and called them to repentance.
Margaret Mary’s revelations were first greeted with much skepticism and she suffered not a little from the disapproval of other members of her community. But her burning ardor for God and her simple virtues eventually won over those antagonistic to her. Made mistress of novices, even veteran nuns attended her instructional conferences.
The top medallion of our window shows the traditional representation of the Sacred Heart, surmounted by a cross rising from flames of love. The heart is bound by a crown of thorns and issues forth a drop of blood. Rays of glory beam forth indicating that Christ’s glory, as well as that of those who follow Him, lies in His cross and His suffering.
Margaret Mary’s convent is depicted as a Romanesque building (an architecture especially suited to contemplation). The purple curtain hanging from a brass rod probably symbolizes the cloistered nature of her life. She is dressed in the habit of the Visitation order, the folds of cloth expertly depicted, her arms open in a gesture of acceptance, with beautifully rendered hands and a lovely face with alert, wide-open eyes gazing at an apparition of Christ.
Above and behind Jesus, rays of glory pour forth from clouds. As usual, and unique to Him, his halo contains a cross (with Trinitarian trefoils in the arms). He gazes at Margaret Mary with the half-lidded eyes and mild expression of face and hands so favored by 19th century pious representations but now considered lacking in vitality. Jesus’ left hand, showing a nail print, indicates His glowing sacred heart (duplicating that in the top medallion) while his right hand blesses Margaret Mary. He wears a lovely embroidered red robe with violet lining and a gold-embroidered white undergarment. His feet, with a nail print obvious in the right one, rest on a cloud. His figure floats above an open copy of the Scriptures as the one Christians see as spoken of by the prophets and the evangelists. The bush behind Margaret Mary, and the low wood and stone wall behind Christ provide a lovely garden setting for the scene. Finally, the medallion below depicts the three nails of the crucifixion surrounded by the crown of thorns woven into a Star of David, recalling Jesus’ title of “Son of David.”
The symbols of Christ’s passion throughout are to illustrate the utter extravagance with which God loves us all and how He has spared nothing so that we might be happy. Seeing that, what can we do other than join in the deathbed prayer of Margaret Mary: “I need nothing but God and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”