The Heart of Mary is a mystery that we are just beginning to fathom. Saint John Eudes, the Father, Doctor and Apostle of Devotion to the Sacred Hearts says that , "Jesus Christ, the Heart of the Eternal Father, is the Heart of His Holy Mother."1 In the late 1600's, Saint John Eudes wrote about devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary decades before Jesus revealed His Heart to Saint Margaret Mary. In his book The Admirable Heart of Mary he gives a complete theology of devotion to Mary's Heart using Scripture, the writings of the Fathers of the Church and various saints. He refers both to "Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the Divine Heart of Mary." 2
Devotion to Her Immaculate Heart was one of the great requests of Fatima to which the faithful in the Church responded generously before Vatican Council II. "Jesus wishes to establish throughout the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart."3 Many older members of the Church remember the observance of the First Saturday Devotion which was requested by Mary during the apparitions at Fatima and during Sister Lucia's apparition of Jesus and Mary on December 10, 1925. "Do you at least try to console me and announce in my name that I promise to assist at the hour of death with the graces necessary for salvation all those who, on thefirst Saturday of five consecutive months, go to Confession and receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary and keep me company for 15 minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary with the intention of making reparation to me." At the Church of the Resurrection in Pittsburgh, Pa where I had ministered, I found evidence that in the 1950's a Fatima Rosary Group observed the First Saturday with the continuous praying of the rosary following the morning Mass until Midnight. At Fatima Mary had come as God's Prophet for our times to call us back to God, to conversion of heart, penance for our sins and to pray the rosary for peace and reparation, or we would face greater evils in the years ahead.
Unfortunately, a misunderstanding of the call for renewal by Vatican II, led the Church away from Marian spirituality to a more "liturgical, biblical and ecumenical" spirituality, shying away from the "apparition based, sentimental, devotions"4 of the past so as not to offend our Protestant brothers and sisters. The message of Fatima was set aside by many. Jesus' request that devotion to Mary's Immaculate Heart be spread throughout the world is ignored by many. I doubt that people even know there is a Feast in Her honor.
In 1974 seeing what happened with Marian spirituality in the Church, Pope Paul the VI wrote an encyclical on Devotion to Mary. 5 He called for a revision of the Liturgical Calendar to reflect the faith of the Church regarding Mary. Among the changes made it was established that on the Saturday, following the Feast of the Sacred Heart which is celebrated on the Friday after Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is to be observed. He had moved it from the traditional date of August 22 which became the Queenship of Mary, bringing together the honoring of the Two Hearts that are the source of grace and salvation for us.
Although many abandoned their devotion to Her, Mary did not abandon her children. She continues to draw us to Her Heart in whatever way She can. Apparitions, locutions, interior calls, dreams, preachers and simple hearts devoted to Her spread Her name and Her love throughout the world. She has risen up in the last part of this century, so much so, that even our Smithsonian Institution of Washington DC had an exhibit in her honor. Popes John Paul II, Benedict and now Francis have called us to return to love and devotion to our Mother and to find refuge in the Ark of Her Heart in these troubled times. As we approach the 100th Anniversary of Fatima in 2017, Her message is more urgent and necessary in our world which seems to be hurling itself toward destruction. Our fight is really with the powers of darkness taking over in human hearts and She is our General in this fight against evil, for "she will crush his head" Genesis 3:15.
As Jesus is the Head of His Mystical Body, I believe that Mary is the Heart of that Body, the Church. She was chosen and loved by the Trinity from all eternity to receive the fullness of Grace which is Divine Love. The Father entrusted His Son to Her Heart long before He dwelt in Her womb. The Spirit espoused Her at the moment of Her conception, preparing Her to be the Mother of the Word and has chosen to dwell within the Heart of His Spouse, forming and sanctifying all the members of the Church in Her Heart. Having dwelt below the beating Heart of His Mother for nine months, Jesus' love for His Mother made Their Hearts one in love of God and of all people. Together They suffered for the salvation of the world. As Saint Augustine said, "The Cross and the nails which crucified the Son's body, crucified the Mother's Heart as well."6
Why devotion to Mary, and to Her Heart? God has willed that one of our own cooperate fully with the Trinity in the salvation of the world. That One is Mary. Her Heart always belonged to God. God now wills that we accept His Mother as our Mother, that like Him we surrender ourselves into Her keeping and that through Her we receive the grace and identity that He has stored in Her Heart for us. God has made His home in Her Heart and invites us to dwell there with Him. It is the new Eden where we are restored to an intimacy of relationship with God; the Garden where we can walk with God in the cool of the evening. Her Heart is the throne of mercy upon which God sits to welcome all into His embrace.7
Mary will never stop seeking us out. She calls like a Mother to all of us, as night approaches, to come home to the safety of Her Heart. She is the Star of the Sea, the Refuge of Sinners, the Health of the Sick, the Comforter of the Afflicted. God has entrusted to Her the Peace of the world and She asks us to help Her bring this peace and salvation to all. With joy let us enter Her Heart and She will fill us with grace and our true identity, fashioning our hearts into the Image of the Heart of Her Son.
"The entire universe should therefore celebrate the Feast of Mary's Immaculate Heart."8
1 The Admirable Heart of Mary, Saint John Eudes, p. 24.