The Immaculate Heart of Mary
The Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The contiguity of both celebrations is in itself a liturgical sign of their close connection: the mysterium of the Heart of Jesus is projected onto and reverberates in the Heart of His Mother, who is also one of his followers and a disciple.
As the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart celebrates the salvific mysteries of Christ in a synthetic manner by reducing them to their fount-the Heart of Jesus, so too the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a celebration of the complex visceral relationship of Mary with her Son’s work of salvation: from the Incarnation, to his death and resurrection, to the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Following the apparitions at Fatima in 1917, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary became very widespread. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions (1942) Pius XII consecrated the Church and the human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and extended the memorial to the entire Church.
The meaning of “the heart of the Virgin” is to be understood in a biblical sense: it denotes the person of the Blessed Virgin herself; her intimate and unique being; the center and source of her interior life, of her mind and memory, of her will and love; the single-mindedness with which she loved God and the disciples and devoted herself wholeheartedly to the saving work of her Son.
The formulary celebrates the loving kindness of God, who, after giving to the Church the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ as a proof of his love, gave it also the heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be contemplated as the model of the “new heart” of one who lives by the “new Covenant.”
Source: Excerpts from the introductory commentary to the Mass, Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Volume 1, Sacramentary, Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1992, p. 216.]
Throughout the history of this devotion different titles have been used for the Immaculate Heart of Our Blessed Mother such as “the Maternal Heart of Mary” and also the “Sacred Heart of Mary.” Sacred means holy, it does not mean divine.
St. John Eudes (d. 1680) wrote of “the Admirable Heart of Mary.”
In St. Luke (2:51) we read of Our Lady pondering all these things—about Her Son Jesus—in her Heart. Also from St. Luke (2:35) we see that Simeon at the Presentation prophesied that Our Lady’s Soul would be pierced with sorrow. This is depicted by showing a sword piercing the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The early theologians of our Faith, the Fathers of the Church, such as St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) and St. Epiphanus (d. 403) referred to Our Lady’s Heart.
St. John Damascene (d. 749) explained that the Immaculate Heart of Mary “lives solely on the contemplation and the love of God.” In the Middle Ages St. Bernard (d. 1153) wrote that at Calvary, “as Jesus died in Body so Mary died in Heart.” St. Thomas a Becket (d. 1170), the English Martyr, had a special devotion to the joys of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Blessed Mother appeared to him and promised to help those who also have this devotion, especially at the hour of death.
St. Gertrude the Great (d. 1302), the German mystic, was granted a vision of three rays of light coming from the Most Holy Trinity and entering the Immaculate Heart of Mary and then returning to God with great speed, to the Source from which they came. The rays represented Power, Wisdom and the Gifts bestowed upon Mary by the Most Holy Trinity.
St. Bridget of Sweden (d. 1373) was told by Our Blessed Lord, “the Heart of my Mother was like mine. Therefore I can affirm that we worked together for the salvation of the world. I, by the sufferings endured by My Body, She by the sorrows and love of Her Heart.”
And Our Lady told St. Bridget, “When my Son suffered, I felt as though my Heart endured the sufferings also. When my Son was scourged and torn with whips, my Heart was scourged and whipped with Him. His Heart was my Heart. My Beloved and I redeemed the world as with one Heart.” St. Bernadine of Siena (d. 1444), the Italian Franciscan, is especially known for his devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He wrote that the Immaculate Heart of Mary was “a fiery furnace of Holy Love.”
St. John Eudes, a great Apostle of Devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, prayed to both the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary by saying “AVE COR,” or Hail Heart in the singular, to show the unity of these Two Hearts.
St. Margaret Mary (d. 1690), the great Apostle of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, explained that “the most efficacious way to have devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” And St. Margaret Mary’s spiritual director, St. Claude de la Colombiere stated: “I turn to Mary and ask her to obtain for me the grace to imitate Our Lord’s Heart. I saw how perfectly her Heart copied His.”
St. Louis de Montfort (d. 1716), the great Apostle of devotion to Our Lady, tells us, “If you put all the love of all the mothers into one heart it still would not equal the love of the Heart of Mary for her children.”
St. Anthony Mary Claret (1807 – 1870), Cistercian Bishop who was also a monk and mystic wrote: “A son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a man who is consumed with love and who sets on fire everything in his path. He is a man who unceasingly expends himself to light the fire of divine love in the world. Nothing stops him; he places his joy in privations, he undertakes all works for the glory of God; he embraces willingly every sacrifice, he is happy in the midst of calumnies; he exults in torments. He can think of but one thing — working, suffering, and seeking at all times the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, to imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Venerable Father Francis Liberman (d. 1852), a Jewish convert wrote: “You do not know what a treasure the Holy Heart of Mary is. Jesus Christ has placed in it so great a fullness of grace and favors that they would be sufficient to satisfy not merely the whole world but a hundred thousand worlds and much more.”
At Fatima, Our Blessed Mother revealed her Immaculate Heart to the three shepherd children. We saw then that Our Mother’s Heart was surrounded by thorns—the thorns of sin. We were then asked to make reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by prayer and sacrifices—to console her Motherly Heart—to remove those thorns. Also at Fatima Our Lady requested that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart saying, “In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me and she will be converted and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”
She also told them: “Jesus wishes to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. I promise salvation to those who embrace it. Tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that they must ask them from her. Tell them that the Heart of Jesus wishes that by His side should be venerated the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tell them to ask peace through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; God has placed it in her hands.”
~ Excerpted in part from the Monks of Adoration. For more information on the nature of this devotion and on its history, see the Catholic Encyclopedia.