The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
By Jean M. Heimann
On June 4, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a devotional name used to refer to the interior life of he Blessed Virgin Mary, her joys and sorrows, her virtues and hidden perfections, and above all, her virginal love for God the Father, her maternal love for her son Jesus, and her compassionate love for all persons.* This feast takes place one day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The proximity of both celebrations reflects the deep connection between the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of His Mother.
The connection between the Hearts of Jesus and Mary was prophesied by Simeon at the Presentation in the Temple of Jerusalem. In Luke 2:35, we read: “and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
The fulfillment of this prophesy is found in John 33-34: “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.”
It was at the piercing of Christ’s Heart at His death, then, that Mary’s Heart was also pierced in spirit, thus fulfilling Luke 2:35, signifying the profound mystical union of the Heart of Jesus with the Heart of Mary.
History of Devotion to the Heart of Mary
The Feast of the Heart of Mary was first celebrated liturgically by St. John Eudes in Autun, France, on May 8, 1648 A. D with ecclesiastical permission. In 1799, Pope Pius VI gave permission to the archdiocese of Palermo, Sicily, to celebrate a similar feast. In 1805, Pope Pius VII extended this permission to all dioceses throughout the world. On July 21, 1855, the Sacred Congregation of Rites gave permission to the universal Church to celebrate and Office and Mass in honor of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. Following the apparitions at Fatima in 1917, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary became very pervasive. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions (1942) Pope Pius XII consecrated the Church and the entire human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Titles for Mary’s Heart
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.”
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.”
Fatima: Reparation and Consecration
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.”
It was Venerable Pope Pius XII who first consecrated the Church and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during World War II on October 31, 1942, and again, solemnly, on December 8, 1942. He repeated the Consecration in July 1952.
In more recent times, moved by millions of petitions and by the occasion of the attempted assassination of his own person on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II consecrated the world and every nation to the Immaculate Heart in 1982, and repeated this act in union with all the Catholic Bishops in 1983. In 1984, Pope John Paul II once again consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
* Bainvel, Jean. “Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.