The Traditional Catholic Liturgy

Adapted from various sources.

Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary – August 22

Immaculate Heart of Mary"God wants to establish throughout the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart," Our Lady of Fatima said to the three children in 1917. When we practice devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we venerate not only the physical heart of Mary, but everything the heart symbolizes. In short, veneration of the Immaculate Heart is veneration for the whole person of Mary.

We know that Mary is Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, the Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, Spouse of the Holy Ghost, Mediatrix of All Graces, and our own Mother. In the devotion to the Immaculate Heart, all these titles and many others are combined.

This all-embracing devotion has been saved for widespread attention in recent times. The origin of the devotion, however, can be traced back several centuries. The devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary closely parallels the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In some ways, devotion to the Immaculate Heart prepared the way for devotion to the Sacred Heart, just as Mary prepares the way for Jesus.

Until the middle of the 17th century, devotion to the Immaculate Heart was unknown, except to a few privileged souls. We find traces of it in the writings of St. Ambrose and St. Bernard. It was included by St. Thomas à Becket in the devotion to the joys and sorrows of Mary; in St. Mechtilde and St. Gertrude it had two earnest adherents. St. Bernadine of Siena's sermons on the virginal Heart of Mary have been incorporated into the Office of the Feast:

What man, unless secure in a divine oracle, may presume to speak, with impure, indeed with polluted lips, anything little or great about the true Parent of God and of man, whom the Father before all ages predestined a perpetual Virgin, whom the Son chose as His worthy Mother, whom the Holy Ghost prepared as the dwelling-place of every grace? With what words shall I, a lowly man, give expression to the highest sentiments of the virginal Heart uttered by the holiest mouth, for which the tongues of all the Angels do not suffice? For the Lord says: A good man brings forth good things from the good treasure of his heart; and this word can also be a treasure. Among pure mortals who can be conceived of as better than She who was worthy to be the Mother of God, who for nine months had as a guest in Her Heart and in Her womb God Himself? What better treasure than the divine love itself, which was burning in the Heart of the Virgin as in a furnace?

And so, from this Heart as from a furnace of divine ardor the Blessed Virgin brought forth good words, that is, words of the most ardent charity. For as from a vessel full of the richest and best wine only good wine can be poured; or as from a furnace of intense heat only a burning fire is emitted; so indeed from the Mother of Christ no word can go forth except of the greatest and most intense divine love and ardor. It is also the mark of a wise woman and matron to speak few words, but words that are effective and full of mean-ing; and so seven times, as it were, seven words of such wonderful meaning and virtue are read as having been uttered by the most Blessed Mother of Christ, that mystically it may be shown that She was full of a sevenfold grace. To the Angel twice only did She speak; to Elizabeth also twice; with Her Son likewise twice, once in the temple, and a second time at the marriage feast; and once to the attendants. And on all of those occasions She always said very little; with this one exception that She spoke at length in the praise of God and in thanksgiving, namely, when She said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. But here She did not speak with man, but with God. Those seven words were spoken in a wonderful degree and order according to the seven courses and acts of love; as if they were seven flames from the furnace of Her Heart.

Immaculate Heart of MaryIn 1641 St. John Eudes began preaching devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Shortly before his death in 1680, he completed his Admirable Heart of the Mother of God. When Pope Pius XI canonized St. John Eudes in 1925, he called him the apostle of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

The Feast of the Heart of Mary was celebrated for the first time in 1648. A special Mass and Office for the occasion were composed by St. John Eudes. The Mass was celebrated in Autun, France. In this town at that time there was a one-year-old infant, Margaret Mary Alacoque, later to be a canonized Saint.

About thirty years later, Our Lord appeared to the same St. Margaret Mary and asked for devotion to His Sacred Heart. He requested a Feast of the Sacred Heart, the devotion of the First Fridays, and the Holy Hour of Reparation. In one vision St. Margaret Mary beheld the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and between them her own heart. The voice of Our Lord said: "It is thus that My Divine Love unites these three hearts."

St. John Eudes worked in France. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was widely known in that country by the time he died in 1680. The French Revolution, however, almost wiped out the devotion. It was kept alive by the Eudists, an order which St. John had founded.

In 1830, Our Lady gave a great impetus to the devotion when She appeared to St. Catherine Labouré and instructed her to introduce the Miraculous Medal of the Immaculate Conception. As we know, one side of the medal represents the Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary, side by side. St. Catherine was ordered by her director to ask what words should be inscribed on the Hearts. Mary replied that no words were needed. The union of the two Heart told the whole story. Thus, in Her first message to the modern world, the Heart of Mary was given great emphasis.

Six years later, Fr. Charles des Gennettes, of Our Lady of Victories Church in Paris, heard the words, "Consecrate your church and parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary." From that moment the church underwent a great transformation. Today it is the famous Shrine of Our Lady of Victory.

At Blangy, in 1840, Our Lady gave Sister Bisqueyburu the Green Scapular, which is called the badge of the Immaculate Heart.

At Fatima in 1917, Our Lady told Lucia that she was to remain on earth to help establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart. A few moments later, the children saw in front of Our Lady a Heart surrounded by thorns. They understand this to be the Heart of Mary pierced by sins and desiring reparation. After Lucia was in the convent, Our Lady appeared to Her and asked for the devotion of the five First Saturdays in reparation to Her Immaculate Heart. Those who practice the devotion are promised Mary's assistance "at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation." When She asked for the devotion, Our Lady used words strikingly similar to those used by Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary when He asked for the devotion of the nine First Fridays in reparation to His Sacred Heart. Our Lady appeared to Lucia again in the convent and asked that Russia be consecrated to Her Immaculate Heart.

In 1932 Our Lady showed the five children of Beauraing Her Heart as a heart of gold.

Immaculate Heart of MaryIn 1942 Pope Pius XII consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and made a special mention of Russia. The following year he fixed the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Universal Church on August 22, the Octave Day of the Assumption. The Office for the Feast includes a lesson, which sums up the decree by which it was instituted:

The liturgical devotion, through which due honor is given to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, and for which many holy men and women have prepared the way, the Apostolic See itself first approved in the beginning of the 19th century, when Pope Pius VII instituted the Feast of the Most Pure Heart of the Virgin Mary, to be piously and reverently celebrated by all the dioceses and religious families who had asked for it. Afterwards Pope Pius IX added an Office and a proper Mass. But an ardent desire and longing, which had arisen in the 17th century, grew day by day, that namely, the same Feast, given greater solemnity, might be spread to the entire Church. In 1942 Pope Pius XII, graciously acceding to this wish, and during the terrible war then ravaging almost the entire world, pitying the infinite hardships of men, and because of his devotion and confidence in our heavenly Mother, in solemn supplication earnestly consecrated the entire human race to Her most generous Heart, and in honor of the same Immaculate Heart, he ordered a Feast to be kept forever with its own proper Office and Mass.

The Holy Father has set the example. If we are to carry out Mary's wishes, we must consecrate all things to Her Immaculate Heart. We must consecrate our dear ones so that we will all be united more closely in the Mystical Body of Christ. We must consecrate our parish, our diocese, and our country. And we must unite in the Holy Father's consecration of the whole world, because Mary is its Queen and ours.

Today, when the world needs Mary as never before, it is well to ponder Jacinta's words to Lucia: "Tell everyone that Our Lord grants us all graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that all must make their petitions to Her; that the Sacred Heart of Jesus desires that the Immaculate Heart of Mary be venerated at the same time. Tell them that they should ask for peace from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as God has placed it in Her hands. Oh, if I could only put in the hearts of everyone in the world the fire that is burning in me and makes me love so much the Hearts of Jesus and Mary."

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