A Word About Hearts
Some people ask why Catholics are devoted to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, as if we were focusing our attention and prayer merely upon a bodily part or organ. But the heart means so much more. The whole tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, and the Fathers of the Church is filled with references to the heart as the spiritual center of the person, the seat of love and even of thought. One’s heart is most specially one’s very self, one’s deepest identity and inner life. When we speak of someone as having a “good heart,” we are saying that he or she is a loving, generous, compassionate person. The heart is synonymous with the person.
So to be devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is to be devoted to Mary herself, her essential self, which is her love, her inner truth and goodness, her pure and holy interior in which God dwells more completely and profoundly than anywhere else in the universe. The pictorial image of the physical human heart, especially if it is beautifully adorned, is an appropriate symbol of the inner reality and is a helpful way to focus our attention on the essence of the person.
In Mary’s case, since she already experiences with her Son the full glorification of both body and soul in Heaven, her actual bodily heart does in fact share in this glory. If only we could see the awe-inspiring heavenly beauty of her Immaculate Heart, we would have no more questions about the fittingness of being devoted to her Heart! Besides, we don’t need to reason whether or not this is a good and holy thing to do. If we will only listen to the voice of the Queen of Heaven—“God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart”— we will know that this is pleasing to both the Lord and his dear Mother.
This little book is primarily about the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but it should be understood that Mary’s Heart is inseparable from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The love of the Heart of Mary derives from that of the Heart of Jesus and depends upon it, for the Lord is the Source of all love, goodness, grace, truth, and blessing. The Lord has made it clear to us through several saints that He desires devotion to the Heart of Mary to be practiced along with devotion to his own Heart. We will meet some of these saints later in this book.
Our Lady has offered us her Heart as our “refuge and way to God,” so it is within Mary’s Heart that we most sweetly encounter the Heart of Jesus. It is also through her that we most worthily approach Him. We give ourselves to Mary so that she will give us to Jesus, thus giving Him the greatest glory possible. Keep this in mind as you read about devotion and consecration to her Immaculate Heart.
I would like to emphasize from the beginning the teaching of the Catholic Church that the whole of our life is oriented to God and to everlasting communion with Him in Heaven. As our Mother, Mary nourishes our life in Christ and provides heavenly assistance surpassing that of all the angels and saints. We experience what a priceless gift Our Lord gave us when He made Mary our Mother. Our consecration to her secures this loving relationship and enables us consistently to benefit from her maternal care. Therefore the immediate goal of Marian consecration is union with Our Lady, but this is always in service of the ultimate goal, which is union with Christ in God. Marian devotion is thus not a sort of parallel spirituality or an interesting option for those who like that sort of thing, nor is it a minor or dispensable element of Christian life.
As Blessed John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Mother of the Redeemer, Mary “is in the mystery of Christ,” and therefore she is not merely alongside it or, worse yet, irrelevant to it. If Mary is in the mystery of Christ, then this mystery is incomplete without her. The Blessed Virgin Mary has an essential and integral place in the whole plan of salvation, and therefore she has her rightful place in our spiritual lives and in our hearts.
In taking us to herself, Mary ensures that we will stay on the narrow path to the Kingdom of Heaven. For in taking us to herself, she takes us to her Son. Our spiritual life ought to be Christ-centered, for He is the Lord and Savior. Yet it should also be Mary-surrounded, for she is the Mother, the Protectress, in whose arms we find shelter and warmth. Our Lady helps open our eyes to see the majesty of the divine mysteries, for she has shared more deeply in them than anyone else.
Mary guides us lovingly in the ways of God, as the Flemish mystic Venerable Marie Petyt wrote: “She has taken me under her maternal guidance and direction, much as the school mistress guides the hand of the child when she teaches him to write.” So to give ourselves to Mary is ultimately to give ourselves to God. Or, perhaps more precisely, it is to allow ourselves to be given to God by the loving hands to which Our Lord entrusted us when, at the climax of his Sacrifice, He said: “Behold, your mother.”
To be continued…