The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary – 24 June 2017 – the Saturday following the Feast of the Sacred Heart
The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a devotional name used to refer to the interior life of the 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. Two elements are essential to the devotion, Mary’s interior life and the beauties of her soul and Mary’s virginal body. According to Roman Catholic theology, soul and body are necessary to the constitution of man. It was in 1855, that the Mass of the Most Pure Heart of Mary formally became a part of the Catholic practice. Traditionally, the heart of Mary in artwork is depicted with seven wounds or swords, in homage to the seven sorrows of Mary. Also, roses or another type of flower may be wrapped around the heart.
Veneration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary generally coincides with the worship of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. However, there is a difference that explains the Roman Catholic devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is especially directed to the “Divine Heart”, as overflowing with love for humanity. In the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, on the other hand, the attraction is the love of her Immaculate Heart for Jesus and for God.
A second difference is the nature of the devotion itself. In devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Roman Catholic venerates in a sense of love, responding to love. In devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, love is formed from study and imitation of Mary’s yes to God as the mother of Jesus. In this devotion, love is more the result, than the “object” of the devotion; the object being rather to love God and Jesus by uniting one’s self to Mary for this purpose and by imitating her virtues, to help one achieve this.
History of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is connected in many ways to that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Christians were drawn to the love and virtues of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and this paved the devotion from the beginning. Early Christians had compassion for the Virgin Mary and the Gospels recount prophecy delivered to her at Jesus’ presentation in the temple, and that her heart would be pierced with a sword. The image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with the pierced heart is the most popular representation. St. John’s Gospel further invites us to the attention of Mary’s heart with its depiction of Mary at the foot of the cross at Jesus’ crucifixion. St. Augustine tells us that Mary was more blessed in having born Christ in her heart, than in having conceived him in the flesh.
The Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary
The Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary is based on the historical, theological and spiritual links in Catholic devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The joint devotion to the hearts was first formalized in the 17th century by St. John Eudes who organized the scriptural, theological and liturgical sources relating to the devotions and obtained the approbation of the Church, prior to the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the devotions grew, both jointly and individually through the efforts of figures such as St. Louis de Montfort who promoted Catholic Mariology and St. Catherine Labouré’s Miraculous Medal depicting the Heart of Jesus thorn-crowned and the Heart of Mary pierced with a sword. The devotions, and the associated prayers, continued in the 20th century, e.g., in the Immaculata prayer of St. Maximillian Kolbe and in the reported messages of Our Lady of Fátima which stated that the Heart of Jesus wishes to be honored together with the Heart of Mary.
The Popes have supported the individual and joint devotions to the hearts through the centuries; in 1956 the encyclical Haurietis aquas, Pope Pius XII encouraged the joint devotion to the hearts, In 1979 the encyclical Redemptor hominis, Pope John Paul II explained the theme of unity of Mary’s Immaculate Heart with the Sacred Heart. In his Angelus address on 15th September 1985 he coined the term The Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and in 1986 addressed the international conference on that topic held at Fátima, Portugal.