What is the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

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Immaculate Heart of Mary2
FLORES Santa Marta by Juan J. Prieto Iglesias

Also known as the Holy Heart of Mary, the Immaculate Heart of Mary devotion has its origins in early writings about Mary's maternal love for her son which is mirrored in her love for the church. By the Middle Ages many prayers and much theological attention was given to the heart of Mary open to the world as the mother of mercy.

The image varies in its details, although Mary's heart is always externally perceptible and is generally wreathed with roses and radiant with fire or light. The image sometimes includes a small sword driven through her heart or seven smaller daggers piercing her heart. These recall the prediction of Simeon at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary's heart in her union with her son. The multiplication of swords to seven recalls a tradition of Mary's seven sorrows from medieval times popularized by the Servite order.

Seventeenth-century French missionary Saint John Eudes linked the devotion to that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Eudes wrote of the mystical union between the hearts of the Son and his Mother: "You must never separate what God has so perfectly united. So closely are Jesus and Mary bound up with each other that whoever beholds Jesus sees Mary; whoever loves Jesus, loves Mary; whoever has devotion to Jesus, has devotion to Mary." As a result of his teachings we often find these two images paired in portraits of open and accessible hearts on fire in similar poses.

The feast was first celebrated liturgically in 1648 as a result of Eudes' promotion. Pope Pius VII authorized the devotion altogether in 1805. Attraction to the Immaculate Heart soared after the Fatima apparitions in 1917 in which it was reported that the Virgin Mary herself invited the church to contemplate this image and its implications. The feast of the Immaculate Heart was originally added to the universal calendar in 1944 on August 22—although that date is now reserved for the memorial of the Queenship of Mary. The memorial of the Immaculate Heart has been moved to the Saturday immediately following the solemnity of the Sacred Heart in June.

Just as Sacred Heart devotions involve commemorations on the First Fridays of every month, Immaculate Heart devotions are celebrated on the First Saturdays. The practice includes receiving the sacrament of reconciliation and Holy Communion on five consecutive First Saturdays as well as reciting five decades of the rosary and meditating on the mysteries.

Luke 2:22-35, 43-45; 1:46-55; Matthew 2:13; John 19:26-27

"Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary" by Father Matthew R. Mauriello

Into the Heart of Mary: Imagining Her Scriptural Stories by Rea McDonnell, S.S.N.D. (Ave Maria Press)
The Seven Sorrows of Mary: A Meditative Guide by Joel Giallanza, C.S.C. (Ave Maria Press)

Reprinted with permission from PrepareTheWord.com. ©TrueQuest Communications.

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