Weekly Challenge
Immaculate Heart of Mary

Week Beginning February 18

Immaculate Heart of Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, leads a perfectly sinless life. Without hesitation or regard for the personal cost, she completely and unconditionally remains faithful to the will of God. By delivering Jesus to mankind, she cooperates with God’s redemptive plan. In her womb, her blood is his blood, and their hearts beat together in unison. Saint Luke teaches us that in her heart, Mary keeps all the things she experiences as the mother of Jesus (Luke 2:1-52). We enter into her pure and sacrificial love when we come to know Jesus through Mary.

Jesus opens his Sacred Heart to humanity in love and mercy, teaching us how to transform our earthly lives so that we may follow him to his heavenly Father. Similarly, Our Lady opens her Immaculate Heart to us so that we may be led to her Son as we revere her and contemplate everything she holds in her heart. Saint Robert Bellarmine explains, “When we appeal to the throne of grace we do so through Mary, honoring God by honoring His Mother, imitating Him by exalting her, touching the most responsive chord in the sacred heart of Christ with the sweet name of Mary.”

The image of the Immaculate Heart contains insight into both the suffering and the joy of Mary. A sword pierces the top of her heart to illustrate the prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:35) and represent her Seven Sorrows. The roses that encircle her heart depict love and beauty, with white roses emphasizing her purity and red roses signifying her deep affection for Jesus. The Immaculate Heart burns with the flames of her virginal love for God and her maternal love for Jesus. It is also on fire with her motherly love for the world. Church Fathers agree that Mary becomes Our Blessed Mother when Jesus tells Saint John to “behold, your mother” at the foot of the cross (John 19:27). Saint Louis de Montfort observes: “If you put all the love of the mothers into one heart it still would not equal the love of the Heart of Mary for her children.” Her heart radiates with the heat of her warm and tender charity.

Saint John Eudes, the apostle of the liturgical devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary, elaborates: “When we honor the Holy Heart of the Mother of God, we honor the Heart that, of all hearts, after the Heart of her Son, is the most worthy of our admiration, the most perfect, the most beloved of God, the most adorned with every kind of virtue, the most full of grace and love; the Heart that has the most tenderness for poor sinners, that is the meekest, the most compassionate, the most merciful, the most charitable, the most beneficent, the most amiable; in a word, the object that after the Heart of Jesus has the greatest charm for Heaven and earth.”

Although private devotion to Mary traces back to apostolic times and continues throughout the lives of many great saints, pious meditations to the actual Heart of Mary become evident at the start of the second millennium. As popularity spreads, the first local feast to honor the Heart of Mary takes place in the seventeenth century. In 1799 Pope Pius VI grants the feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary for some churches in Italy. In 1805, Pope Servant of God Pius VII extends the feast throughout the world.

The 1830 visions of Saint Catherine Labouré disclose the immaculate nature of Mary’s soul and prompt the design of the Miraculous Medal. In 1854, Pope Blessed Pius IX solemnly proclaims the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The following year, the Congregation of Rites approves the Office and Mass of the Most Pure Heart of Mary without imposing them upon the Universal Church. Beginning in 1892, plenary indulgences are granted in conjunction with Saturday Marian devotions. By 1912, the indulgences become associated with devotions on First Saturdays and include making reparations for the sins of humanity, which hurt Mary by inflicting pain upon her Son.

Beginning in 1917, Our Lady appears to the children at Fatima where she simplifies and strengthens the devotion. In the following years, revelations to both Venerable Sister Lúcia de Jesus Rosa dos Santos and Blessed Alexandrina of Balazar help to clarify and promote her cause. In 1942, Pope Venerable Pius XII consecrates the entire human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Shortly thereafter, he institutes the universal feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be celebrated annually on August 22. To enhance the association of the two celebrations, Pope Saint Paul VI moves the memorial in 1969 to the Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Catholic Church dedicates the entire month of August to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, both public and private devotions with varying degrees of participation are practiced by the faithful. In recent decades, popes continue to renew the consecration of the world and the Church to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Numerous dioceses and many countries including the United States are also consecrated to the Immaculate Heart. The unblemished purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary makes her a powerful force in the promotion of peace, the victory over evil, and the salvation of souls.

This week, reflect upon how Mary’s traits preserve her immaculate heart. Pick one of her charms described by Saint John Eudes, and try to emulate that behavior. At the end of the week, consider how that habit helps to purify your heart with regard to obeying the will of God. Consider this advice from Pope Saint John Paul II: “Learn from her to be always faithful, to trust that God’s word to you will be fulfilled, and that nothing is impossible with God. Turn to Mary frequently in your prayer: for never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her help or sought her intercession was left unaided.”


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