Obviously being Catholic I love that aspect of France. Living here I have begun to discover a history of Catholicism that ‘The Eldest Daughter Of The Church’ has uniquely and I thought I’d share some of these stories with you.
Claire Ferchaud was born into a family of peasant farmers from the Vendée. She had experienced visions of Jesus from the tender age of three; as she matured, the visions came to focus on the Sacred Heart. At the age of eleven, her formal education was curtailed so that she could work on the family farm. In the midst of World War, in 1916, Jesus is said to have appeared to her and told her to consecrate France to the Sacred Heart and have the symbol placed on the tricolored French Flag (on the white section in the middle) and on all the soldiers uniforms.
Jesus said that; “His Heart was broken and slashed by the sins of mankind. But He had an even deeper wound, that people do not believe in God.”……“He bared his sacred heart, and told her that God was on the side of France, and would lead the country to victory – so long as the country confessed its sins and rediscovered its true faith. Jesus pointed towards the wound on his heart, and explained “This signifies the official atheism of France.” The atheism He was referring to was that since the revolution the French had denied their faith and substituted secular laws for the Gospel.
Claire was not like that other famous Saint, Joan of Arc, as she never said that she was to lead the French army. Rather she was simply told by God to tell the President to ask the Bishops to consecrate France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and by this for parliament to place the ‘Sacred Heart’ image on the white portion of the French flag. It was this sign that would have brought a speedy end to the war, instead of the horrendously vindictive Treaty of Versailles.
Miss Ferchaud, with the guidance of a personal spiritual director and Claire’s growing celebrity, appeared before an ecclesiastical commission in Poitiers. In comparison with Joan of Arc, a woman of action who could galvanize an army, the timid Claire failed to impress in public. She was, however, found by the Church authorities to be “good, pious and chaste”. As a result Claire was taken to Paris early in 1917 and, thanks to the connections of her new mentors, met with the President, Raymond Poincaré.
She asked him to become Catholic and reject Freemasonry. To convince him she told him secrets, that no one could have known, about his family. At first, deeply moved by her supplication and convinced by her knowledge, he promised to put the Sacred Heart on the flag. However the president did not immediately recommended the change to his country’s flag as Claire had directed. Instead he allowed a day or so to pass and by this time his secular and irreligious advisors had convinced him NOT to listen to this ‘backward country girl.’
Imagine if Poincare had carried out his promise; the lives saved in WW1 due to its speedy end and no Versailles Treaty, from which so much hardship, that created conditions for WW2!
Claire was ridiculed in the press and she returned to Burgundy, yet she did not become bitter nor did she turn her back on God. She wrote letters in vain to all the generals in France to request what Jesus’ had asked for. Only one, General Foch, consecrated the French armed forces and the allies to the Sacred Heart. At the 2nd Battle of Marne, subsequently called The Miracle of Marne, Foch won a decisive battle of the war and saved Paris from the German Army.
Claire’s visions dovetailed with a popular campaign (bolstered by the ‘miracle’ of the Marne) to consecrate families, military units, towns and, indeed, the entire nation to the Sacred Heart. Many stories of miraculous saving of life were attributed to the emblem on the French flag, carried by soldiers in battle. Indeed, prior to Claire’s meeting with Poincaré he had already been sent sackloads of letters asking him to consecrate France to the Sacred Heart.
Later she entered a small convent where she lived out the rest of her life in prayer and penance.
Although some report that Claire was later rejected by the Church, however when the apparitions were taking place she asked for and was granted a perpetual Mass for France, which was approved by Msgr Humbrecht, the bishop of Poitiers, France on June 11, 1918.
For me as a Catholic what is important about her mission, aside from the wasted opportunity to end the war early and justly, is that she seems to be chosen by God to restore France, The First Daughter of the Church, to Catholicism.
List of Promises of our Merciful Savior to Sr. Claire Ferchaud, Loublande / France.
“I come, not to bring terror among you; I am the God of love, the God who forgives and wants to save you all.”
“My grace will work with great power on sinners who, without contrition, kneel before the picture of My Broken Heart, so that they will arise converted.”
“I will forgive their sins, even before the absolution, to those who with a true love kiss the picture of My Broken Heart.”
“My glance will touch the hearts of the indifferent and will inflame them with fervor so that they will practice goodness.”
“A single act of love, with the plea for forgiveness towards this picture, will be enough for Me to open heaven to the soul which, in the last hour, must appear before Me.”
“When some refuse to believe in the truths of the (Catholic) religion, one can put the picture of My Broken Heart in their room (dwelling) without their knowledge. It will bring, through the wonder of graces, sudden and supernatural conversions.”