We Live in the Marian Era
The year 1830 marks the beginning of what many have called the “Marian Era,” a period of time extending from that date until the Second Coming of Christ. In 1830 Our Lady appeared to St Catherine Labouré, revealing to her the image that she wanted to have made into a medal. This later became known as the Miraculous Medal, because of the countless miracles worked through the invocation of Mary by those who devoutly wore it. It seems that God Himself was calling our attention to the beginning of this Marian Era, because in the vision granted to St Catherine, the year 1830 was inscribed in the globe upon which Our Lady was standing.
The Blessed Mother appeared with brilliant rays streaming from her hands, signifying her mediation of divine grace to her children. It is also significant that Mary appeared crushing the ancient serpent beneath her, as the words appeared around her: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.” Mary’s Immaculate Conception was the beginning, and the basis, for her complete victory over the devil, which will be consummated at the end of time. So Mary not only brings God’s grace to us, she also protects us from the snares and attacks of the evil spirits.
The truth of both Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her absolute power over the devil were confirmed just two decades later. In 1854, Blessed Pius IX, formally and infallibly defined the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of the Church. In the course of the declaration he wrote: “The most holy Virgin, united with [Christ] by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.”
Four years later, Our Lady herself came from Heaven to Lourdes, France, to reveal and confirm the truth of this divine mystery. When the holy child Bernadette asked the Beautiful Lady her name, Mary brought her hands together in prayer, lifted up her eyes to Heaven, and spoke these words, which will resound in Christian hearts forever: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Having the infallible word of the Church and its extraordinary confirmation by the Mother of God herself, we can happily rest in the truth of this beautiful mystery.
Fatima: The Definitive Revelation of the Immaculate Heart
The course for the Marian Era was clearly and definitively set when the Mother of God came from Heaven to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. There she called all people to convert their hearts, to do penance and to pray the holy Rosary daily, and she gave urgent warnings concerning what would happen if we did not listen to her. In addition, Our Lady revealed to us a crucial aspect of the will of God concerning this final era of human history: “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”
While the veneration of Mary as the holy Mother of Jesus is practically as ancient as the Church herself, specific devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in one form or another begins to appear in the Church around the 13th century. In the 17th century, St John Eudes widely and successfully promoted devotion to Mary’s Heart, and by the end of the 18th century Pope Pius VI granted, for certain dioceses, the celebration of the feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. A special Mass and Divine Office of the Most Pure Heart of Mary were formally established a few decades later.
It seems that the specific expression “Immaculate Heart” became universally used only after the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the apparition of Our Lady at Lourdes. Today, of course, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the day after that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
When Our Lady spoke of her Immaculate Heart at Fatima, her message came from Heaven and from the eternal wisdom and will of God. This means that Mary’s Heart has always been the Immaculate Heart, even if the revelation of this mystery was not made fully explicit in the early centuries of the Church. Now the fullness of time has come, and God has clearly made known that He wants us to be devoted and consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, as she revealed it at Fatima in 1917, and also during subsequent apparitions to Lucia after she entered the convent, consists mainly of various prayers and practices designed to offer reparation to the Heart of Mary. This reparation, which we’ll discuss more later, is for all the ways her pure and tender Heart has been wounded and grieved by the sins and blasphemies of men.
This wounding of Mary’s Heart is not a small thing in the eyes of the Lord, who is deeply offended by anyone who would dare to say or do anything against the one He loves most. Mary once appeared to Sister Lucia saying: “There are so many souls whom the Justice of God condemns for sins committed against me, that I have come to ask for reparation: sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray…” Evidently, then, to sin grievously against the Immaculate Heart of Mary is to incur eternal damnation, but our heavenly Mother thinks not of the injury she receives from callous evildoers, but only of their repentance and salvation. So she asks us, her children, knowing that we love her, to offer reparation to her Heart so as to win the mercy of God and the grace of repentance for these sinners.
Blessed Jacinta, one of the Fatima visionaries, loved Our Lady’s Heart very much, and so she offered many and extraordinary sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and for reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Sister Lucia wrote in her memoirs:
“Our Lady opened Her hands, and from them streamed a light that penetrated to our inmost hearts. I think that on that day, the main purpose of this light was to infuse within us a special knowledge and love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, just as on the other two occasions it was intended to do, as it seems to me, with regard to God and the mystery of the most Holy Trinity. From that day onwards, our hearts were filled with a more ardent love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. From time to time, Jacinta said to me: ‘The Lady said that Her Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God. Don’t you love that? Her Heart is so good! How I love it!’”
Sister Lucia continues:
“Jacinta chose from the litany of short prayers which Father Cruz suggested to us, this one: ‘Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation!’ [This is understood, of course, in light of her role as Mediatrix of the grace of Christ in union with the Holy Spirit.] After saying it, she used to add sometimes, with the simplicity that was natural to her: ‘I so love the Immaculate Heart of Mary! It is the Heart of our dear Mother in Heaven! Don’t you love saying many times: Sweet Heart of Mary, Immaculate Heart of Mary? I love it so much, so very much.’ At other times, as she gathered wild flowers, she sang a little tune that she made up herself as she went along: ‘Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation! Immaculate Heart of Mary, convert sinners, save souls from hell!’”
Would that we could always have such innocent, childlike love and devotion and confidence!
To be continued…