Today’s saint, Claude de la Colombiére, is a French Jesuit priest who served at the Court of St. James in London in turbulent times. He was also the first person to believe in the mystical visions given to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, in Paray le Monial in France.
Claude was born in 1641 near Lyon in France. At the age of 18 he was admitted to the Jesuits as a novice, and was transferred to the city of Avignon for his novitiate and studies. In 1665 there was a great liturgical celebration in Avignon for the canonization of St. Francis de Sales, who had died at Lyons in 1622. Though Claude was still a student, he was given the unusual honor of being chosen as the preacher for the occasion.
After completing his theological studies in Paris he was ordained to the priesthood, and was sent to Paray le Monial as Superior of the Jesuit community. It was there that he came to know St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and she chose him as her spiritual director sent to her by God. While others criticized her, he believed her, and encouraged her to continue in her belief.
In 1676 he was sent to the Court of St. James in London, to be chaplain to the Duchess of York, whose husband was the heir to the throne. It was during Claude’s time in London that the notorious Titus Oates plot was uncovered alleging a conspiracy by Catholics to overthrow the king and take over all of England.
Claude was arrested with other Catholics as being part of that conspiracy, and was put in prison, in danger of being put to death for plotting against the throne. Due to his title of chaplain to the Duchess of York, and the intervention of the French king, Louis XIV, he was saved from death, but was deported, and returned to France in 1679.
The time in prison had seriously affected Claude’s health, and he never really recovered. He was sent to Paray le Monial in the hope of improving his health, but while he was there Sister Margaret Mary told him it had been revealed to her that he would die there.
The two saints were in constant communication with each other, encouraging and supporting each other in their journey here on earth. Claude’s health was declining by the day, and after a life of prayer, patience and humility, he breathed his last on the afternoon of February 15, 1682. He was just 41 years of age.
Margaret Mary Alacoque was declared a saint by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.
Claude de la Colombiére was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II in 1992.