Chapter Six: Loving the Immaculate Heart
For our own spiritual life, this is perhaps the most important chapter of all, because in loving the Immaculate Heart of Mary—with all this implies for Marian devotion and consecration and living accordingly—we will in fact experience something of Heaven in her Heart. We will embrace and cherish her precious Heart as our refuge and our way to God. Mary offered her Heart to us for this very purpose, so our consecration to her bears Heaven’s approval. She urges us to consecrate ourselves for our own good and that of others.
If we are serious about faithfulness to our devotion to Our Lady, this devotion will bear fruit in a personal consecration to her. To be “consecrated” simply means to be set apart for a sacred purpose. A person can be consecrated to God in an official, ecclesiastical way by the profession of religious vows. One can also offer oneself to God and Our Lady in a private, personal way by means of various prayers of consecration, along with applying the meaning of that consecration in daily life. In the case of consecration to Mary, the “setting apart” is for the purpose of honoring the Mother of God and living in union with her as an integral part of one’s way of life in Christ. If you love Mary, you will not be satisfied with offering a few prayers or practicing certain devotions every now and then—you will want to enter into a profound union with her Immaculate Heart.
This union with the Heart is Mary is meant not only as the best way to love her and to receive her love, but ultimately as the best way to love God. As we are increasingly attracted by the beauty, sweetness, and exquisite love of Mary’s Heart, we will beg her to enclose us spiritually in her Immaculate Heart, desiring to experience this Heart as both a maternal refuge and our way to God. Something profound then happens, as the mystic Venerable Marie Petyt of St Teresa describes from her own experience: “At times it also seems that I am… enclosed within Her most pure Heart. I become mad with love for Mary and for God at once, and I abandon myself entirely to this union. Thus is realized a divine life, at once twofold and simple, which brings about a pure, lofty, and perfect manner of loving our holy Mother… This life for Mary and in Mary and, at the same time, for and in God, is properly reserved for Her true lovers, for Her darling children whom she has chosen.”
So once we are enclosed within the Heart of Mary, not only does the Holy Spirit lead us to love Mary beyond anything we have before experienced, we begin simultaneously to love God with Mary’s own love, her own Heart. This is far beyond anything we could produce of ourselves, even aided by grace, for in Mary is the fullness of grace and the summit of love. Thus by seeking union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we “become mad with love for Mary and for God at once”! The more we love Mary, the more we will love God with her own Heart; and the more we love God, the more He will be pleased to increase our love for the Woman He loves most!
We set limits to our love if we do not consecrate ourselves to Our Lady. In an article in the Marian Helpers Bulletin, Fr Joseph Pelletier wrote this, concerning Marian consecration:
“Consecration to Mary is certainly an important step forward in a devotion to her, particularly if this consecration is repeated often enough with a fullness of heart. The consecration, by its nature, implies a desire to draw closer to Mary, to assure her influence over one’s entire life. If repeated often enough—for example on rising or during morning prayers, at Mass, or Holy Communion—the consecration will create an intimate relationship between Mary and the soul. It will invariably have a powerful effect on one’s spiritual life.”
So the real goal of consecration to Mary is to “establish a life of close union with her. This step could be considered a sort of extension of the consecration of the soul to Mary, that is, a means of strengthening that consecration and bringing it to fruition. Union with Mary is the immediate goal of true devotion to Our Lady, union with God being the ultimate objective… any person can legitimately aspire to it and dispose oneself for it.”
Notice that Fr Pelletier says that frequent repetition of our consecration to Mary helps “create an intimate relationship between Mary and the soul.” You cannot merely wish to be united to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If this is what you really want, you have to take concrete steps to attain it. Praying often to her and renewing your consecration will help keep you mindful of her presence and her love, and you will also thus be more inclined to live in a manner that pleases her. All of this contributes to disposing your soul for a deeper and more personal union with our heavenly Mother.
More on the Meaning of Consecration and Union
I’d like to share a few excerpts from a book entitled One More Gift, by Fr Luigi Faccenda, about the Marian spirituality of St Maximilian Kolbe, the final paragraph of the excerpts consisting of quotes by the saint himself. These will help us understand the kind of personal gift we make to Our Lady with our consecration—a gift that is all-encompassing, and which only thus can bear the most spiritual fruit for the glory of God and for Mary’s honor as well. This is very beautiful, and the more you know and love Our Lady, the more you will love to give yourself to her! Fr Faccenda writes:
“Through our consecration we offer to Mary our soul with all its powers and faculties: affections, memory, intellect, will, and freedom. We offer to her our material goods, both present and future. We give her our spiritual goods, which means our merits, virtues, and past, present, and future good works. This offering involves not only the goodness in us, but also our sinfulness and weaknesses. The Heart of Mary is like an altar on which all that we are becomes like incense, because she purifies and enriches it with her fullness of grace and her merits. Mary takes possession of our whole being, offering it to God as her own…
“Those who consecrate themselves to Mary and experience her strength in temptations and her consolation in difficulties feel their desire to share their joy with others, so that they too may be drawn to Mary. In this way, Mary will enlighten their hearts, warm them with her maternal love, and enkindle them with the fire of charity which burns in the divine Heart of Jesus…
“‘Let us not limit our love; let us love Jesus with her Heart, for she loved Him with that very Heart. Let our love for God be the very love of the Immaculata. For this to be a reality we must be hers—entirely, completely, and in every way—hers… All that is good flows through the hands of the Immaculate Mediatrix of Grace from God… Trust without limit in her and all your weaknesses will be turned about to your own good… We must radiate Mary in the midst of our surroundings, winning souls for her, so that souls might open to her, that she might rule within them all… and that her life would be deepened in us day to day, hour upon hour, moment by moment, and without limit… souls consecrated to her live by her and frequently think about her. They love her wholeheartedly and endeavor to know her desires, whether from her own lips or those entrusted by her in the form of interior aspirations. They strive to make her will known and loved, drawing more and more souls to a perfect knowledge of her and a more heartfelt love of Jesus’ divine Heart in and through her.’”
A couple of points can be made here. We give everything to Mary so she can give it to God, for she can do so more perfectly than we can. Since she alone is all-pleasing to the Lord, He will immediately accept whatever is offered to Him at her hands. There is a very striking passage on this point in the writings of Venerable Marie Petyt. In describing one of her mystical visions, she wrote: “When I was about to receive Holy Communion, I saw my dear Mother near me, to my right, and also Her dear Son, Jesus; He was directly in front of me. I gave my heart to this lovable Mother, so that She might deign to give it to Jesus…” Even when Jesus was standing right before her, in her humility and her trust that whatever we wish to give to God is most purely and fruitfully done through Mary, she gave her heart to Mary so that the Blessed Virgin would give it to her Son!
Mary cannot offer our prayers and sacrifices and our very selves to God as her own if they, and we, are not in fact her own. Our consecration is not mere pious language. We really have to belong to Mary. We have to hand ourselves over to her and make ourselves her personal property. Only thus can she can freely give us to Jesus as something she has a right to give, something belonging personally to her—and hence as something completely pleasing to Him, for no one pleases Him more than Mary. St Louis de Montfort makes clear in his writings that Jesus will accept with pleasure anything we offer—on condition that it is offered by the hands of Our Lady. If our goal really is to give the greatest possible pleasure and glory to the Lord, giving all to Mary first is the best way to achieve it.
To be continued…