Many recent apparitions speak or have spoken about or on behalf of the Heart of Mary. I am thinking of:
El Escorial, Spain
Imo State, Nigeria
San Nicolas, Argentina
Binh Toi, Vietnam
Tre Fontane, Italy
There is, of course, Medjugorje. On October 25, 1988 Our Lady urged consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. You are most certainly familiar with the beautiful consecration prayers she gave to the children.
However, most of these mentions of the Heart of Mary in recent apparitions have their origin in the apparitions of Fatima.
(1) On June 13, 1917 Our Lady said: “Jesus wishes to make use of you (Lucia) to make Me known and loved. He wants to establish in the World devotion to My Immaculate Heart.”
(2) And on that very day, June 13, 1917, Our Lady said: “In order to save them (sinners) God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. In order to prevent war, hunger, persecution of the Church, I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate heart, and for the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays.”
(3) December 10, 1925 Our Lady and Child Jesus appeared to Lucia and requested the Five First Saturday Reparation Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
(4) February 15, 1926 the Child Jesus again appeared to Lucia asking Lucia if she had spread the Devotion of Reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
(5) June 1929 Our Lady again appeared to Lucia and said: “The moment has come when God asks the Holy Father in union with all the Bishops of the world, to make the Consecration of Russia to My Heart, promising to save it by this means.”
The beginnings of this devotion is much, much older than Fatima. It began in the Middle ages with saints like Anselm of Canterbury, and Bernard of Clairvaux (d.1155), but it was practiced and developed in a special way by holy women: Saint Mathilda, Gertrude the Great and Brigid of Sweden.
But it is Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) who can be called the “Doctor of the Heart of Mary.” In that Heart he sees, as it were, seven burning furnaces that give rise to seven flames which are the seven acts of love expressed in the seven “words” of Our Lady found in the Gospel.
After a brief decline in the fifteenth century, the cult of the Heart of Mary attains renewed vigor in the sixteenth century to such a point that it becomes in the seventeenth century well known to contemplative souls and those devoted to the Mother of Jesus. Saint John Eudes (d. 1680) is, in the words of Saint Pius X, “the Father, Doctor, and Apostle of the liturgical cult of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.” After him, the devotion to the Heart of Mary enjoys a continuing crescendo, with particularly favorable periods owing to the Miraculous Medal (1830) and the Appearances at Fatima (1917). On October 31, 1942, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Fatima, Pius XII consecrates the worldwide Christian Family and the whole human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and on May 4, 1944, he extends the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the Universal Church.
Today, the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated on the Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as optimal memorial.
But we can go a step further. The real roots of the devotion to Mary’s Heart are in Scripture, where on two occasions reference is made to Mary’s heart by Saint Luke:
(1) Lk 2, 19 “Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart”.
(2) Lk 2, 51 “His mother (Mary) meanwhile kept all these things in memory, meaning in her heart”.
The most beautiful biblical text about Mary’s heart is the Magnificat because it reveals to us the wondrous riches of Mary’s humble and regal heart. Her heart sings the praises of God, but it is not a solitary song, my song about the history of my soul, but the Magnificat is the song of the history of salvation for all God’s people.
But what does it mean when we speak of Mary’s heart? The expression “Mary’s heart” is to be understood in a biblical sense: it denotes the person of the Blessed Virgin herself, her intimate and unique being; the center and source of her interior life, of her mind and memory, of her will and love; the single-mindedness with which she loved God and the disciples and devoted herself wholeheartedly to the saving work of her Son.
In the Revelations of Saint Gertrude we read about one of her visions on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist. Allowed to rest her head near the wound in the Savior’s side, Saint Gertrude heard the beating of the Divine Heart and asked Saint John if, on the night of the last Supper, he too had felt these delightful pulsations, and if yes, why he had never spoken of the fact? Saint John’s answer was a very charming and, at the same time, a very disturbing one. John replied that this revelation about the beating of the Divine Heart, had been reserved for subsequent ages when the world, having grown cold, would have need of it to rekindle its love.
Here may be one of the reasons why the devotion to the heart of Jesus and Mary has attracted the attention of many Christians in today’s world. The world has indeed grown cold. It is in need of rekindling its love for the Heart that has pulsated for us every single heart beat of its life.
How then can we make this devotion ours in such a way that we may overcome the coldness and indifference of many? I would like to make some suggestions based on the deeper understanding of the word heart and how it affects our devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary.
(1) Heart is an invitation to greater attention to what is interior, essential, basic. We are all living and moving in the fast lane of life. Everything flows, nothing really sticks for longer than one of those short attention spans dictated by phone, email, TV and the artificially-induced need for the regular kick.
(2) Heart means the whole person
In the New Testament, two words, kardia and nous, are used to translate the word heart. They both denote the inner person as the source of action: kardia more specifically signifies volition and emotion, while nous indicates intellect. The human person is only one when all of these faculties come together: will, affection, and intellect; the outer person and the inner person.
An Amazon explorer tried a forced march through the jungle. The first two days went well. But on the third day the native porters wouldn’t move, saying: "We can’t go on. We have to let our souls catch up with our bodies!" This anecdote resonates with one of the sayings in Matthew: “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Mt 6, 21) The porters’ hearts were not with their job and the eager explorer’s zest; their real treasure was with their soul. To be whole again, they had to wait for the reunification of body and soul. For where there is no soul there is no life; where there is no heart there is no real enthusiasm and joy.
Probably the most wholistic or complete expression of our religious commitment is consecration. It is or becomes a habit of the heart where the whole person is challenged and involved.
(3) Heart is the place where real conversion happens. Conversion happens when the following come together:
+ past and future (change - rejection of past) !repentance!
+ theory and practice (decide to act)
+ obligation and affection (put my heart to the task)
+ self and others (courage to go public)
+ receptive/openness (knowing that the real player - victory is grace)
(4) Heart is seat of love: Mary’s heart is the place (cradle, tabernacle) where Jesus rests and lives. Not knowing whether you love somebody or not, ask yourself the question: Would I give him/her a place in my heart? Is there room in my heart for others than myself? Am I able to love unconditionally?
Once there was a singularly unattractive little girl in an orphanage. The people in charge didn’t like her and dearly hoped that some long-lost relative would come and claim her. One day one of the staff spotted the little girl writing a note and leaving it tucked in a branch in a tree near the gate; he reported it to the authorities. They were delighted. Could she at last be communicating with a friend, perhaps even a relative? Hopes soared. As soon as she was out of sight, they went to the tree, fished out the wrinkled note, and opened it. There in a child’s scrawl were the words, “Whoever finds this, I love you.”
This is the language of Jesus and Mary: They both say: Mary after Jesus: Whoever finds this, I love you. Are we able to follow suit?
(5) Heart of Jesus and Mary is a gathering place. It is the place where we find a home, a resting place, compassion and generosity. But it is also a place from where we are sent. We like the first part more than we like the second part. We like our Church to be a Comfort Inn, much less as a place from where we are sent forth. God’s love as represented by the Hearts of Jesus and Mary must be passed on.
David had been educated by his uncle and aunt. When he left home he asked them:
“How can I ever repay you two for what you’ve done for me?” His uncle spoke gently, “David, there’s a saying, ‘The love of parents goes to their children, but the love of these children goes to their children.’” “That’s not so,” protested David, “I’ll always be trying to...” His aunt interrupted. “David,” she said, “what your uncle means is that a parent’s love isn’t to be paid back. It can only be passed on.”
Are we ready to pass on what we received?
(6) Heart and silence. The language of the heart is frequently a language of silence. In sum, Our Lady of the Heart is primarily Our Lady of Silence. She is the great ponderer—on Saturdays especially. She does not speak. She is simply present. She does not put forward one of her many privileges, but she is the faithful companion, an integral part of the liturgical cast. Our Lady of the Heart is a homemaker but she is also a pacemaker, humble, but casual. Content to stay in the background, she points to her child. Standing at the closure of the week and wrapping it up in the folds of her mantle, she rings in the day of her Son.
Our Lady of Silence is neither tight-lipped nor close-mouthed. Her bearing is soundless, but peaceful. She may be wordless, but she is never voiceless. Our Lady’s message is an unspoken one; much of what she has to tell us is implicit or implied. But never could we be so foolish as to call her inactive, quiescent or passive. For Our Lady of the Heart is also Our Lady of Boldness and Vigilance.
(7) The heart is the seat of meaning. Persons, events, and things we really cherish we never forget. Mary pondered, meaning she remembered, because she lovingly kept in her heart the message of God and the words of her Son. If we wish to go into the world as the Heart of Christ sends us, as fishers of men, we need to make ourselves into the same bait of love that Jesus was. We need more unconditional love. In the words of Saint Francis de Sales—this challenge reads as follows: “Try as hard as you like, but in the end only the language of the heart can ever search and find another heart while mere words, as they slip from your tongue, don’t get past your listener’s ear.” As we know, these same words later became John Henry Newman’s motto as cardinal: Cor ad cor loquitur. The Heart speaks to the Heart.
In conclusion: God, after giving the Church the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ as a proof of his love, gave it also the Blessed Virgin Mary to be contemplated as the model of the “new heart” of those who live by the new covenant.
Being the sons and daughters, the sisters and brothers of Mary, we are invited to join her at the very heart of the Church. A story is told of a teacher who said that he was going to write the word “church” on the blackboard. He then printed, “ch..ch.” The students told him that he left out two letters at the center of the work: “ur.” The teacher responded, “You are correct. ‘You are’ the heart and at the center of the church.” Yes, we are at the heart of the church because God has loved us unconditionally. Let us take this godly bait and swallow it hook, line and sinker.
Consecration to the Heart of Jesus
O Jesus, we know that You are sweet,
That You have given Your Heart for us.
It was crowned with thorns by our sins.
We know that today You still pray for us
So that we will not be lost.
Jesus, remember us if we fall into sin.
Through Your most Sacred Heart,
Make us all love one another.
Cause hatred to disappear among men.
Show us Your love.
All of us love You.
And we desire that You protect us
with Your Heart of the Good Shepherd.
Enter into each heart, Jesus!
Knock on the door of our hearts.
Be patient and tenacious with us.
We are still locked up in ourselves,
because we have not understood Your will.
Knock continuously, Oh Jesus.
Make our hearts open up to You,
at least when we remember the passion
which You suffered for us. Amen
Consecration to the Immaculate Heart
O Immaculate Heart of Mary, overflowing with goodness,
Show us Your love for us.
May the flame of Your Heart, Oh Mary,
Descend upon all people.
We love You immensely.
Impress in our hearts a true love.
May our hearts yearn for You.
Oh Mary, sweet and humble of heart,
Remember us when we sin.
You know that we are sinners.
Through Your most sacred and maternal Heart,
Cure us from every spiritual illness.
Make us capable of looking at the beauty of Your maternal Heart,
And that, thus, we may be converted to the flame of Your Heart.
--Rev. Johann. G. Roten