[I have written a booklet on devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which I’m going to post here a little at a time, once a week, for six months or so. An abridged version is forthcoming in print form, for free distribution, and the entire version is available on this blog in the Heaven in Her Heart page above. It’s quite long for a blog page, so if you’re not in a hurry, you can just read it in short portions, to give yourself some time for reflection.]
Introduction: Rebuilding the House of the Lord
On Pentecost Sunday 2012, I sought a word from the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, as is my custom. When I opened the Bible to the first two chapters of Ezra, I wondered what the Lord could possibly say to me there, since these chapters consist mostly of long lists of names. But there was an important word there for me, in the very first verses. Because those verses mention the accomplishment of “the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah,” I then turned to the Prophet Jeremiah for additional insight and direction.
Let’s begin with the word from Ezra: “The Lord, the God of Heaven…has charged me to…rebuild the house of the Lord” (1:1-3). This sounds quite solemn and dramatic, and it is well beyond my capacity even to begin to do anything like this, but there it was. Saint Francis once received a similar message, hearing the voice of the Lord Himself, but I don’t mean to suggest I’ve attained anything like his spiritual stature. Yet even that great saint had to take some time to reflect upon the word of the Lord, to interpret and understand it correctly.
The “house of the Lord” can be considered the Church. This could certainly apply to the clarifying words I received in Jeremiah (chapters 18-20), as they contain the Lord’s lamentation over his beloved ones: “My people have forgotten Me…they have stiffened their necks, refusing to hear my words.” Everyone knows of the various crises that afflict the Catholic Church today, and that she is in urgent need of renewal on several levels. But what she needs is not the “renewal” that many people promote, which is little more than the adoption of the mentality and agenda of the largely degenerate societies that should instead be her mission field. Rather, true renewal is a revitalization of the Church’s living Tradition, a re-opening of the sources of grace that have sustained her through her 2000-year history, a recovery of that which once created saints and ignited their hearts with divine love.
Still, this interpretation indicates a task of such magnitude—bringing about the cleansing, illumination, and inner transfiguration of the mystical Body of Christ—that even the great saints of our own times have enjoyed only modest success in it, despite their extraordinary efforts. So I had to find my special place in this vast undertaking, which must be carried out in various ways by many people all over the world.
Then the thought came to me: Mary! Could my task in rebuilding the house of the Lord have something to do with helping restore devotion to Our Lady, or perhaps with offering reparation to her Immaculate Heart? Is Mary, is her Heart, the “house of the Lord” to which my energies are to be directed?
I wondered if I was stretching the interpretation a bit. But immediately after this I opened a book of Our Lady’s messages from Heaven, and there before me were the words: “My Heart is the house where the Word was formed.…”! This made sense. Mary is traditionally known as the Lord’s house, temple, city, or any image that refers to a dwelling place, for she was the “place” in which Our Lord chose to dwell, in a unique and unrepeatable manner.
The chapters of Jeremiah where I found the first words also contain these: “The word of the Lord has become…in my heart as it were a burning fire” (20:8-9). The Divine Word breathed by the Holy Spirit is the Flame of Love in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Therefore it is her mission to work in union with the Holy Spirit to communicate this Fire to the hearts of all her children. But if, as the Lord lamented through Jeremiah, many people have forgotten Him, how many more ignore or reject his beloved Mother?
In her apparitions at Fatima and subsequent ones, Mary makes it clear that God is not pleased with the sins committed against her Immaculate Heart, and that He requires reparation to be made, if the souls of these sinners are to be saved. But who thinks about these things anymore? How many people take seriously and practice devoutly what Heaven has communicated to us through the Blessed Virgin?
The level of the vitality and fervor of Marian devotion has always been a major indicator of the spiritual health and fruitfulness of the Catholic Church. When the faithful begin to ignore the Mother of God or devalue the importance of Marian devotion, they also tend to fall away from the sacraments and all the means of salvation offered by the Church, and even from Catholic moral teachings as well. Once that happens, they begin to look to the secular trends of the present age for direction on making the Church into what they think she should be, if they don’t forsake the Church altogether in favor of the ways of this world.
I believe, then, that in asking me to share in the work of “rebuilding the house of the Lord,” God is directing me to the Heart of Mary. He wants me to help restore devotion to her, and to encourage more loving reparation to this motherly Heart, pierced, as she has said, by the thorns of the blasphemies and ingratitude of men. When Mary’s children are all united to her in love and devotion, she can form in their souls the capacity and desire to offer a complete “yes” to God’s will as she herself did. Thus the Church shall be renewed.
Therefore I offer these reflections on the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a way to invite you to help revive Marian devotion in the Church—starting with the consecration of your own heart to hers—and thus to share in the great renewal willed by the Holy Spirit, who wants the Catholic Church to be, like the holy Mother of God, the immaculate dwelling place of the Lord.
To be continued…