But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19
Historically, devotion to Mary Most Holy in the form of her Immaculate Heart first occurs in the thirteenth century with St. Mechtilde, St. Gertrude, St. Bernardine of Siena and others. In the seventeenth century, St. Francis de Sales was an exponent of this devotion. But it was St. John Eudes the great apostle of the Immaculate Heart (1601-1680), who gave the decisive impulse to the practice.
In the same century, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus came to light through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and her confessor, St. Claude de La Colombiere. As the devotion to the Sacred Heart spread, so did the devotion to the Immaculate Heart. Both St. Margaret Mary and St. Claude, were deeply dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as well.
Beginning with Pope Pius VI, several popes incrementally spread the devotion, but in 1944 Pope Pius XII extended it to the whole Church, fixing the celebration on August 22. Today, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated on the Saturday following the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is moveable, always observed on a Friday, nineteen days after Pentecost Sunday.
The Physical Heart, Symbol of the Spiritual Heart
The Fathers of the Church consider that when, from the Cross, Our Lord Jesus made the Blessed Lady the mother of St. John, He also appointed her the mother of all men.
Thus, Mary’s heart is the physical symbol of her boundless love for God and human kind. But Our Lady’s physical heart is also the symbol of her spiritual heart. Thus, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary we also honour her inner life, her virtues, her perfect purity, her boundless humility, her affections and her sorrow.
Poignant in Catholic tradition is the representation of Mary’s heart pierced by a sword, symbol of her immense sorrow at witnessing and willing her Son’s passion and death for the salvation of our souls.
Fatima and the Immaculate Heart of Mary – The Five First Saturdays Devotion
In the second apparition of Fatima, Our Lady showed the seers, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, her heart encircled by thorns. Later, on December 10, 1925, in a private apparition to Sister Lucia, she asked for the devotion of reparation of the Five First Saturdays.
The Blessed Mother appeared alongside the Child Jesus who stood over a luminous cloud. Our Lady rested one hand on the Child’s shoulder while she held on the other hand a heart pierced with thorns.
The Child said,
“Have pity on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother which is covered with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment with no one to extract them with an act of reparation.”
Our Lady expressed her request in the following words,
“See, my daughter, My Heart surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at every moment with blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, make sure to console me and announce that all those who for five months, on the first Saturdays, go to Confession, receive Communion, say five decades of the Rosary and keep me company for 15 minutes meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the purpose of making reparation to Me, I promise to assist them at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls.”
Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Queen of Heaven and Earth, and tender Mother of men,
in accordance with Thy ardent wish made known at Fatima,
I consecrate to Thy Immaculate Heart myself,
my brethren, my country and the whole human race.
Reign over us, Most Holy Mother of God,
and teach us how to make the Heart of Thy Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ reign and triumph in us
even as It has reigned and triumphed in Thee.
Reign over us, Most Blessed Virgin,
that we may be Thine in prosperity and in adversity,
in joy and in sorrow, in health and in sickness, in life and in death.
O most compassionate Heart of Mary, Queen of Heaven,
watch over our minds and hearts and preserve them from the impurity
which Thou didst lament so sorrowfully at Fatima.
Assist us in imitating Thee in all things, especially purity.
Help us to call down upon our country and upon the whole world
the peace of God in justice and charity.
Therefore, Most Gracious Virgin and Mother,
I hereby promise to imitate Thy virtues
by the practice of a true Christian life without regard to human respect.
I resolve to receive Holy Communion regularly
and to offer to Thee five decades of the Rosary each day,
together with my sacrifices,
in the spirit of reparation and penance. Amen.
Litany of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Immaculate heart of Mary, Pray for our dear country.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Sanctify our clergy.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Make our Catholics more fervent.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Guide and inspire those who govern us.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Cure the sick who confide in thee.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Console the sorrowful who trust in thee.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Help those who invoke thine aid.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Deliver us from all dangers.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Help us to resist temptations.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Obtain for us all we lovingly ask of thee.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Make our family life holy.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Help those who are dear to us.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Bring back to the right road our erring brothers.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Give us back our ancient fervour.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Obtain for us pardon of our manifold sins and offences.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Bring all men to the feet of thy Divine Child.
Immaculate heart of Mary, Obtain peace for the world. Amen.
Note: The above litany was taken, with permission, from a leaflet at Our Lady of Mercy Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
1-Statue of Saint John Eudes, by Silvio Silva
2-Pope Pius XII extended the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the entire Church. Photo credit: Ambrosius007