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According to Thomas Merton, Saint Lutgarde (d. 1246), a Cistercian mystic of Aywieres, Belgium, was one of the great precursors of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A contemporary of St. Francis, she ". . . entered upon the mystical life with a vision of the pierced Heart of the Saviour, and had concluded her mystical espousals with the Incarnate Word by an exchange of hearts with Him. " Sources say that Christ came in a visitation to Lutgarde, offering her whatever gift of grace she should desire; she asked for a better grasp of Latin, that she might better understand the word of God and sing God's praise. Christ granted her request and Lutgarde's mind was flooded with the riches of psalms, antiphons, readings, and responsories. However, a painful emptiness persisted. She returned to Christ, asking to return his gift, and wondering if she might, just possibly, exchange it for another. "And for what would you exchange it?" Christ asked. "Lord, said Lutgarde, I would exchange it for your Heart. " Christ then reached into Lutgarde and, removing her heart, replaced it with his own, at the same time hiding her heart within his breast.