Rosary Crusade Clarion
Devotional bulletin of the Rosary Crusade in Canada

August 2002 Issue #20

Devotion to the Heart of Mary, and the History thereof

Immaculate Heart of Mary

The heart is one of the most important parts of the human body. It is the source from which and through which our life's blood flows to our veins, and is thus distributed to the various parts of our bodies. It is the first organ to function when we begin our existence as human beings, and the last to cease to operate when death comes. Many deaths are attributed to failure of the heart, and this might well be given as the cause of all deaths. Of all the organs of the human body the heart seems to be the most vital. With it life begins and ends. It is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, of our physical existence. When all our other members are conquered one by one, the final battle for life is fought in the arena of the heart. When the heart fails, death ensues, and the recording angel writes our finis.

The importance of the heart, however, does not consist so much in its physical qualities and operations as in that it is the seat of the affections. This is due chiefly to the close union that exists between the soul and the body. Through this union the corporeal heart responds promptly to the affections of the soul; it expands with joy, contracts with grief, melts as it were with compassion, quickens its pace with hope, and little by little becomes the prey to sorrow and sadness which finally devour it. The expression, "he died of heart trouble," is sometimes another way of saying, "he died of grief," or "he died of a broken heart."

The devotion to the heart of Mary will be the subject of this discourse. We shall consider this devotion under various aspects; its nature and object, its origin and history, and some of the forms by which it is known to us today.

The nature and subject of the devotion to the heart of Mary is first to receive our attention. Man is inclined to be satisfied with what he sees with his eyes, and to judge his neighbour according to external circumstances. But God. "the Searcher of reins and hearts," has a different way of seeing and judging. "Nor do I judge according to the look of man, " He says, "for man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart" (I Kings 16:7). The Psalmist tells us that "The searcher of hearts and reins is God" (Ps. 7:10). God's standard of judging should be ours in regard to our neighbour in general, and particularly in regard to our Blessed Lady, of whom it may be said that "all the glory of the king's daughter is within" (Ps. 44: 14).

In order to discover the secrets and treasures of nature and thus make their contribution to knowledge, scientists penetrate into the very bosom of the earth, explore unknown regions, descend into the depths of the ocean, ascend with the powers of their minds into the heavens above. Can we be less solicitous and industrious in our efforts to understand the greatness and glories of Mary? What are all the works of creation compared to this masterpiece of God's hand? The science of Mary is the greatest of all sciences, after that of God, and if we wish to acquire this science, we must penetrate into the very depths of Mary's heart.

By common consent, the heart is recognized as the symbol of our affections, of our passions good and bad, of our love - the source of all our affections. That "the heart is the man" is an old and a true saying - the man with all his various emotions and tendencies, his likes and dislikes, his strength and weakness; the man with all his delicacy and sensitiveness, which are the sources of all his pleasures and pains. Now, if all this may be said of any man it applies in a special to Mary, the most refined and the most sensitive of all human beings.

Immaculte Heart of Mary


Besides all this, the heart of Mary was the heart of a mother. And only mothers are capable of understanding a mother's heart. They alone know that a mother's love for her child, no matter how defective and unworthy he may be, is proof against every test to which it is subjected. Friends may desert us one by one until there are scarcely any left, but there is one friend who can always be depended upon - mother. If this is true of all mothers in general, how much truer it is of Mary! She is no ordinary mother: she is the Mother of God and the Mother of the whole human race. God's own Son was conceived in her womb and born of her. He became her Son, and she became His Mother. Consequently she is the Mother of God. And she became our Mother, and we became her children as she stood at the foot of the cross of her dying Son, when He said to her: 'Woman, behold thy son," and to St. John: "Behold thy Mother" (John 19:26,27).

Our devotion to the Heart of Mary is but one of many ways of honouring her. We honour Mary when we honour her Heart, with all that it represents and symbolizes: her joys, her sorrows, her sufferings, her virtues, her perfections, her love of God, her love of her divine Son, her love of us her sinful and unworthy children. Thus we select the Heart of Mary, the most noble and significant part of her body, as the object of our special attention and homage; and the honour we show that Heart is intended for the entire person of Mary, with all her personality.

In origin and history the devotion to the Heart of Mary has much in common with the devotion to the Heart of Jesus. They are as closely related as are the Mother and the Son. The two devotions go hand in hand. We cannot think of the one without thinking of the other. They were originally most closely associated, and they are so today. It was only in the second half of the eighteenth century that they were temporarily separated for the sake of expediency. That is, the devotion to the Heart of Mary was kept in the background until such time as the devotion to and the feast of the Heart of Jesus were successfully established.

At a very early date the attention of the faithful was directed to the Heart of Mary. The devotion to the Heart of Mary had its origin in Holy Scripture and its development in the history of the Church. The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, which include Mary's entire life, invite our attention to the Heart of Mary, and they are all, either explicitly or implicitly, contained in the Gospel.... We cannot reflect upon these great afflictions of our Blessed Mother without being filled with compassion for her wounded Heart. In the first of these seven sorrows the saintly Simeon pictures the Heart of Mary pierced through and through: "Behold this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed" (Luke 2: 34, 35). Simeon's prophecy reaches its culmination as Mary stands at the foot of the cross of her agonizing Son, and especially when His dead body is taken down from the cross and placed in the sepulchre, thus removing it from her loving gaze.

These passages, however, are not the only ones in the Gospel that suggest devotion to the Heart of Mary. St. Luke, for example, says on two different occasions that Mary kept all the things that Jesus said and did in her Heart. One occasion was when the shepherds came to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph and the Infant; and seeing they understood what had been spoken to them concerning this Child; and all that heard wondered at the things that were told them by the shepherds: "But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). The other occasion was when Mary found the Child Jesus among the doctors in the temple of Jerusalem, hearing them and asking them questions; and all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers: "And His Mother kept all these words in her heart" (Luke 2: 51).

Then, too, many passages of the Old Testament are applied to Mary, especially the Canticle of Canticles in which it looks upon the heart of the spouse as the heart of the Virgin Mother of God, and the Book of Wisdom where Mary is represented as Wisdom personified, with her gentle charms, her divine knowledge, her holy fear, her steadfast faith, her firm hope, and her ardent love. St. Leo asserts that, through faith and love, Mary conceived her Son spiritually before receiving Him in her womb; and St. Augustine says that she was more blessed in having borne Him in her heart than in having conceived Him in the flesh.

Though, as we have seen, devotion to Mary has its foundation in Holy Scripture, and dates back to the beginning of Christianity, the development of this devotion, like many other great things in religion, has been a slow and gradual process. It is only in the first half of the twelfth century that we perceive any indication of a regular and systematic devotion to the Virgin Mary; this is contained in a sermon by St. Bernard (On the Twelve stars). Among the pioneers of the devotion to Mary wre have to include two great saints of the Church, St. Mechtilde and her sister, St. Gertrude, who lived in the second half of the thirteenth century.

Some of the forms under which the devotion to the Heart of Mary is known to us today will now receive our attention. Like the devotion to Mary in general, the devotion to the Heart of Mary was a slow, gradual process. This devotion may be considered under a threefold aspect: devotion to the Heart of Mary as such; devotion to the Most Pure Heart of Mary; and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

One of the first to stress the devotion to the Heart of Mary was St. Bernardine of Siena in the early part of the fifteenth century. From him the Church borrowed the lessons read in the second nocturn of the feast of the Heart of Mary. And St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) speaks of Mary's Heart as the model of our love of God. Many writers of this period make frequent reference to exercises of devotion in honour of the Heart of Mary. To St. John Eudes, however, must go the credit for having propagated and popularized the devotion. He made it known far and wide; he succeeded in having a feast celebrated in honour of the Heart of Mary in several parts of France; he instituted several religious societies to promote this devotion; and in 1681 he published a book Le Coeur Admirable, (The Admirable Heart). Almost a score of years later an Italian priest, Father Pinamonti, published a beautiful work on the Holy Heart of Mary.

The Most Pure Heart of Mary is the name of another devotion to our Blessed Lady. It also originated with St. John Eudes who made it the feast of his congregations of priests and nuns. On March 22, 1799, while in captivity at Florence, Pope Pius VI

granted permission to the Bishop of Palermo to celebrate a feast of our Lady under this title in some of the churches of his diocese. Six years later, his successor, Pope Pius VII, granted permission for a more widespread celebration of the feast....

Due chiefly to the efforts of St. John Eudes in the seventeenth century, the two devotions to the Heart of Mary and to the Most Pure Heart of Mary prepared the way for the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Sinners. The celebrated Sanctuary of Our Lady of Victories in Paris may be looked upon as the birthplace and the cradle of this latter devotion, for it was there that she first wished to be honoured under this title. She is the Patroness of the Archconfraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners. Another devout client of Mary, Blessed Anthony Claret, was instrumental in propagating this devotion in the eighteenth century. For his purpose he founded the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as well as several sisterhoods.

It was only in the present century, however, that this devotion reached the high position which it now occupies. As in 1858 our Blessed Lady appeared to the humble girl, Bernadette Soubirous, on eighteen different occasions in the little village of Lourdes in France, so she appeared in 1917 to three peasant children six different times, on or about the thirteenth of each month from May to October, at Cova da Iria in the parish of Fatima in Portugal. To Bernadette she recommended the devotion of her Immaculate Conception; to the three Portugese children she recommended the devotion to her Immaculate Heart....These apparitions and manifestations were duly certified by the ecclesiastical authorities, who also approved of the five First Saturdays and all the other devotions that originated at Fatima in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

It is significant that Eugene Pacelli, now Pope Pius XII, was consecrated a bishop on the very day of the first apparition of our Lady to the three children at Fatima; and that on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the apparitions the same Holy Father consecrated the human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He urges all Catholics to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to recite frequently this act of consecration to which he has attached rich indulgences: (prayer on the back page).

-from Discourses on Our Lady, by Fr. O'Rafferty.


Consecration of the Human Race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
by Pope Pius Xll

"Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Refuge of the human race, Victress in all God's battles, we humbly prostrate ourselves before thy throne, confident that we shall receive mercy, grace, and bountiful assistance and protection in the present calamity, not through our own inadequate merits, but solely through the great goodness of thy maternal Heart.

"To thee, to thy Immaculate Heart, in this, humanity's tragic hour, we consign and consecrate ourselves, in union not only with the Mystical Body of thy Son, Holy Mother Church, now in such suffering and agony in so many places and sorely tried in so many ways, but also with the entire world, torn by fierce strife, consumed in a fire of hate, victim of its own wickedness.

"May the sight of the widespread material and moral destruction, of the sorrows and anguish of countless fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and innocent children, of the great number of lives cut off in the flower of youth, of the bodies mangled in horrible slaughter, and of the tortured and agonized souls in danger of being lost eternally, move thee to compassion!

"O Mother of Mercy, obtain for us from God, and above all procure for us those graces which prepare, establish and assure peace! Queen of Peace, pray for us and give to the world now at war the peace for which all people are longing, peace in the truth, justice, and charity of Christ. Give peace to the warring nations and to the souls of men, that in the tranquillity of order the Kingdom of God may prevail.

"Extend thy protection to the infidels and to all those still in the shadow of death; give them peace and grant that on them, too, may shine the sun of truth, that they may unite with us, proclaiming before the one and only Saviour of the world, 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will' (Luke 2:14).

"Give peace to the peoples separated by error or by discord, and especially to those who profess such singular devotion to thee and in whose homes an honoured place was ever accorded thy venerated image, now perhaps often kept hidden to await better days: bring them back to the one fold of Christ under the one true Shepherd.

"Obtain peace and complete freedom for the Holy Church of God; stay the spreading flood of modem paganism; enkindle in the faithful the love of purity, the practice of Christian life, and an apostolic zeal, so that the servants of God may increase in merit and in number.

"Lastly, as the Church and the entire human race were consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so that in reposing all hope in Him, He might become for them the sign and pledge of victory and salvation: so we in like manner consecrate ourselves for ever also to thee and to thy Immaculate Heart, our Mother and Queen, that thy love and patronage may hasten the triumph of the Kingdom of God and that all nations, at peace with one another and with God, may proclaim thee blessed and with thee may raise their voices to resound from pole to pole in the chant of the everlasting Magnificat of glory, love, and gratitude to the Heart of Jesus, where alone they can find truth and peace."