Heaven in Her Heart (Part 17)

Mother of Our Divine Life

            When preaching the word of God to his people, Jesus solemnly declared this holy and saving truth: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world… He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day… He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him… As I live because of the Father, so he who eats of me will live because of me…” (Jn. 6:51, 54, 56-57).

            We see from Jesus’ words that whoever receives his Body and Blood in Holy Communion (worthily, that is; see 1 Cor. 11:27-30) will live forever.  Yet such a person already has eternal life, says the Lord.  This life is “in you” (6:53).  What we usually think of as “eternal life” is the “live forever” part, which is, of course, true.  But this doesn’t express the whole truth.  To say that eternal life is in us when we eat and drink the Flesh and Blood of Christ, is to say that eternal life is divine life, the life of God, of Christ, in us.  God is eternal and therefore the life He gives is eternal—beginning now and lasting forever in Heaven.

            Our divine (eternal) life begins at baptism and is strengthened by faith and prayer, but primarily by the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus’ Flesh and Blood were given to us as food, “for the life of the world.”  We have this life of Christ in us; it is given as a gift.  It is for us to do our utmost to help maintain and preserve it so that we may be “raised up on the last day.”  But because of our weakness and inborn inclination to sin this is extremely difficult, and we risk losing our eternal life and happiness.

            This is where Our Lady comes in.  Mary is Mother of God the Son incarnate; she carried Him in her womb, gave birth to Him, nursed Him,Bavarian Madonna 3 resize raised Him, and took care of him.  What she does in our souls is analogous to what she did for Jesus on earth.  She nurtures his presence within us, from the moment of baptism to the hour of our death.  Mary is the universal Mother, given to us as such on Calvary.  She is now glorified in Heaven and exercises all the power God grants to her as Mother and Mediatrix of Grace.  It is her task to preserve and bring to full maturity the divine and eternal life in us, to keep it safe for the Kingdom of Heaven.

            We ought to be more consciously aware, then, of the presence of the Mother in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist at every offering of the Holy Mass or Divine Liturgy.  We may not always reflect on the fact that, as the mystery of Our Lord’s death and resurrection is sacramentally re-presented on every Catholic altar, the whole redemptive event—including the presence of Mary at the foot of the Cross—is likewise made present.  Blessed John Paul writes of this in his encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (Church of the Eucharist):

“In the memorial of Calvary [which is the Eucharistic Sacrifice], all that Christ accomplished by his passion and his death is present.  Consequently all that Christ did with regard to his Mother for our sake is also present.  To her he gave the beloved disciple and, in him, each of us…  To each of us he also says: ‘Behold your mother!’ (cf. Jn. 19: 26-27).  Experiencing the memorial of Christ’s death in the Eucharist also means continually receiving this gift.  It means accepting—like John—the one who is given to us anew as our Mother.  It also means taking on a commitment to be conformed to Christ, putting ourselves at the school of his Mother and allowing her to accompany us.  Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist.  If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist” (#57).

            Therefore we continually receive the gift of Mary as Mother every time we participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  This makes it all the more clear that she is the Mother of our Divine Life, which is in our souls as Christ’s abiding presence given to us in Holy Communion.

            Concerning Mary as Mother of Christ’s life in us, Fr Marie-Dominique Philippe, OP, writes: “Mary is eternally the Mother of the members of Christ: Mother of their divine life, a mother who never ceases to beget them to this divine life; a mother who never ceases to watch over them, carry them, feed them, sustain them, educate them and direct them toward the Heart of Jesus and toward the Father while teaching them to be completely docile to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit…

            “In His wisdom, God willed to fully establish Mary as Mother of His Son so that she might fully be Mother of [Christ’s] members, in order that she might eternally play this role as Mother of our divine life.  That is why the gift of this divine life which she gives to her children is realized in this particular modality of maternity.  She is the vital milieu where their divine life can blossom.  She is the one who carries and envelops their Christian life, who disposes their souls to the action of the Holy Spirit… Mary’s maternal rule over us primarily concerns the blossoming of our Christian life, the perfection of our life of faith, hope, and love…”  (from The Mystery of Mary; see his fuller treatment of this insight in Appendix C).

            The whole of our life is held in her motherly arms, wrapped in her mantle of holy protection, watched over carefully to preserve the Divine Life within us.  This is her main concern and is also the concern of our guardian angels and patron saints and whoever we call upon in Heaven for help.  Nothing is more important to them (and nothing should be more important to us) than allowing this Divine Life—Christ abiding in us and we in Him—to flourish in us.

            It is almost as if our souls are like Mary’s womb, for we carry the life of Christ delicately within us, waiting for the full revelation of his Mystery when all is finally manifest.  The Divine Life in us seems as fragile and vulnerable as an unborn child, because with the terrible gift of our free will we are able to cast it from us by turning away from the Lord in a deliberate or even definitive manner.  So all of Heaven is praying for us, that the Divine Life in us will “come to term,” will grow and become ever stronger, sanctifying us and preparing us for an eternity of irrepressible life and joy in the Kingdom of Heaven.

            So in a spiritual sense Our Lady brings to birth countless children of God, nourishes and cares for their Divine Life as the heavenly Mother.  She sees and loves Jesus in us and takes care of us with the love with which God enabled her to love Jesus in such a surpassing manner, like no other. The Infant or Child Jesus in Mary’s arms can be for us a symbol of our Divine Life that she holds and draws to her Heart and loves and cares for. We are reflections of Him for her: the brothers and sisters of her Only-begotten.

            In the measure we give ourselves to her, she can embrace and protect our lives and insure that the Divine Life will grow in us in ways we could not accomplish on our own, even with the ordinary help of grace.  For if Mary, the all-holy, all-pure one, is leading and guiding us, and if we have placed everything in her hands, the life of Christ will come to perfection in us.  She can do this by the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, with whom she constantly and intimately works.  This is the main reason we consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

            Heaven weeps if we disregard or reject the gift of divine and eternal life, offered through baptism and Holy Communion.  The saints and angels do all in their power to help us restore it if we have foolishly lost it or thrown it away.  The meaning of our life is simply to cherish this inner Divine Life and make it bear fruit through whatever mission the Lord gives us.  For once we have the Divine Life in us, we are called to help others to open themselves to receive it, according to our particular vocations.

            Make sure, then, that you receive and live from the Divine, Eternal Life that is in you, especially through the Sacraments, through worthy and devout reception of Holy Communion.  Then allow the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the Mother of your Divine Life, to see to it that this Life grows and matures and is kept safe for the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Divine Life is everything.  There is no other reason we are in this world—except to share the knowledge of this precious gift with others, so that all the children of God can come Home to eternal happiness.

To be continued…

Heaven in Her Heart (Part 16)

Chapter Six: Loving the Immaculate Heart

Heaven's 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…

Heaven in Her Heart (Part 15)

Mary Continues Her Heavenly Mission

            The Marian Era is characterized by an unprecedented number of heavenly apparitions, always with an emphasis on praour-lady-of-america-detailyer and penance, return to God and to the sacraments, and to the whole life of the Church, often with the mention of Mary’s Immaculate Heart.  In the United States, Mary appeared to a nun named Sister Mary Ephrem, saying she wanted to be known by us as Our Lady of America, and that she had come to call us back to purity of life.  The United States has been formally placed under the patronage of Our Lady as the Immaculate Conception since 1846.  Our Lady appeared to Sister Mary Ephrem beginning in the mid-1950s, well aware of what was awaiting this country in the 1960s and beyond, if we didn’t heed her messages.  We didn’t, and the results are obvious and disastrous.

            Here are a few words of Mary, concerning her message and her Heart:

“I am the Immaculate One, Patroness of your land.  Be my faithful children as I have been your faithful Mother… I desire to make the whole of America my shrine by making every heart accessible to the love of my Son… Will my children in America listen to my pleadings and console my Immaculate Heart? …

“Reform of life is what I ask as the sign and proof of my children’s love for me.  God looks at the heart, and if it resembles the Heart of His Divine Son, it is with the greatest pleasure that He regards it.  But to make your hearts grow more and more like the Heart of the Son, you must go to the Mother, whose Heart is most like His.  From this Pure and Immaculate Heart you will learn all that will make you more pleasing to the Divine Heart of the Son of God… Come to me, my children, come to me and learn… Do not disregard the voice of your Mother.  It is the voice of love trying to save you from eternal ruin… Come to me, poor suffering and frightened ones. I am your Mother.  Never will I forsake you.  Only come to me with a wholehearted and loving trust.  Place your souls into my keeping. I am that faithful Mother who never forsakes her children. Honor me by your confidence and love…

“My Heart, my Immaculate Heart, is the channel through which the graces of the Sacred Heart are given to men… time passes, and with it wasted graces and constant refusals on the part of man to cooperate with me in the accomplishment of the Divine Will for his own sanctification and salvation.  What am I to do, child of my Heart, when my children turn from me?  The false peace of this world lures them and in the end will destroy them… Souls who cling to sin cannot have their hands free to receive the treasures of grace that I hold out to them… Behold, then, my Heart pierced by a cruel sword!  Oh, what grief my children have caused me! … we must have more souls who love, love unselfishly and without reserve.”

            Another rich source of light concerning the heavenly mission of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the book of locutions received by the Italian priest, Fr Stefano Gobbi (1930-2011), through whom Our Lady established the worldwide Marian Movement of Priests.  The book of messages, given over a period of about 25 years, carries the imprimatur, which means there is nothing in it contrary to Catholic faith or morals, and the Movement has received the Apostolic Blessing of Pope (Blessed) John Paul II.  There has been, however, some controversy over the content of some of the later messages, which contained apocalyptic predictions that evidently have not come to pass.  It is not known whether Fr Gobbi misinterpreted certain things that were communicated to him, or perhaps unwittingly allowed some of his own personal convictions to influence and hence somewhat alter Our Lady’s messages.

            There is a simple solution to this: don’t bother with the apocalyptic messages.  The majority of the locutions—especially the early ones, in the 1970s and 1980s, which are likely to be the most authentic—are mainly focused on our consecration to the Immaculate Heart and how to live it. What is important is to develop our personal relationship with our heavenly Mother.  Thus we will be prepared for whatever is to come, without having to spend time speculating about it.  Our Lady’s messages here are very beautiful, and they draw us to her Heart in a very tender and loving way—though she is clear that she takes seriously our consecration and does not hesitate to tell us what it means to belong completely to her!

            Here are just a few messages from the Blessed Mother:

“Hasten to my Immaculate Heart.  Come to me… I have prepared a secure refuge for you where you must gather together to be comforted and saved.  This refuge is my Immaculate Heart! … You who are totally entrusted to me, listen to me and follow me… I myself, as Mother, am committed to make you just what my Son Jesus desires you to be… Allow yourself to be formed by me… in a very particular and personal way…

“If you remain in the garden of my Immaculate Heart, you become my property…  In my arms and in my Immaculate Heart you will be consoled… I will defend you from the evil one, who can do nothing to harm those who are part of my property… Walk in trust… I am your heavenly Mother and I am at your side.  I am protecting and leading you.  I am sheltering and defending you.  Do not be worried about what is going to happen to you, because everything has already been arranged in my Motherly Heart… I have drawn close to you; I have taken your heart in my hands… Do not be afraid anymore…  You always have with you the Mother who leads you by the hand, who presses you to her Immaculate Heart…”

            With these and many other messages from Heaven, Mary continues her mission to call us to repentance and a deeper life of prayer and faithfulness to Our Lord by consecrating ourselves to her Immaculate Heart.  Her mission is to see to it that God’s will is done in us and to keep us on the difficult but life-giving path to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Mary’s heavenly mission will continue until the end of time, until the full number of the elect has been secured for the life of everlasting happiness.  As Mediatrix of Grace, she is in a perfect position to help us, so we ought to have frequent recourse to her and not only cooperate with her in the work of our own sanctification and salvation, but also help her to win souls for God by our prayer and sacrifice.

            Our Lady said at Fatima: “Pray, pray very much and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”  It may very well be that some of our own family or friends might be lost forever if we do not pray and offer sacrifices for them, to obtain the grace they need to repent and be saved.  We have received much from the Lord, which others have not received.  Therefore much will be required of us in return (see Lk. 12:48), for we have a responsibility toward our fellow members of the Body of Christ.  So let us help our heavenly Mother to succeed in her ongoing mission to gather souls for the Lord!

To be continued…

Heaven in Her Heart (Part 14)

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 miraculousmedalsComing 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 our_lady_of_fatima_6entered 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…

Heaven in Her Heart (Part 13)

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Heaven in Her Hands

            We can find Heaven in the hands of Mary as well as in her Heart.  If her Heart is the image by which we understand her inner life, purity, and motherly love, then her hands express her maternal activity in praying for us, protecting us, and bringing God’s grace Vision of Our Ladyto us.  In sacred images and in our own spiritual life, we see Mary’s hands holding Jesus and presenting Him to us as our Savior.  We also see them folded in prayerful intercession for us, and we see them streaming with the light of the heavenly graces she brings to us as Mediatrix.  Most tenderly, we also recognize those motherly hands pressing us lovingly to her Immaculate Heart, thus offering us a foretaste of Paradise.

            A particularly striking experience of the heavenly hands of Mary was recounted by Lucia of Fatima, when Our Lady appeared to them: “Mary opened Her hands, and we were bathed in a heavenly light that appeared to come directly from her hands. The light’s reality cut into our hearts and our souls, and we knew somehow that this light was God, and we could see ourselves embraced in it…  She opened Her hands and for the second time, She communicated to us the rays of that same immense light. We saw ourselves in this light, as it were, immersed in God.  Jacinta and Francisco seemed to be in that part of the light which rose towards Heaven, and I in that which was poured out on the earth. In front of the palm of Our Lady’s right hand was a Heart encircled by thorns which pierced it. We understood that this was the Immaculate Heart of Mary outraged by the sins of humanity, and seeking reparation…”

            What  I find so fascinating and attractive is that Our Lady, who lives in Heaven with God and the angels and saints, is so full of Heaven, full of grace, full of God, that she can communicate his divine Light through her own hands.  She opens them and the whole light of Heaven that permeates her is spread out over the children, and they are thus able to enter into an extraordinary communion with God that draws them immediately to worship Him, as if they had just entered Heaven itself.  Mary holds Heaven in her hands, as it were, and she can communicate its light and grace to whomever God sends her.

            So it is through Mary’s hands that the light and grace of God are given to us.  This is expressed in the Church’s teaching on Mary as Mediatrix of All Grace:

            “St. Bernard comments thus: ‘Just as every rescript of grace or of pardon that is sent by a king passes through the palace gates, in the same way every grace that comes from Heaven to the world passes through the hands of Mary’” (The Glories of Mary, ch. 5).

            “…we are profoundly convinced that the destiny of God’s people is in the power of his grace, which in turn is abundantly dispensed through the hands of his Blessed Mother Mary…” (address of Blessed John Paul II, Oct. 1980).

            “…since Divine Providence willed that the God-Man should come to us through Mary, who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit and bore Him in her womb, we can now receive Christ only from the hands of Mary…” (Ad Diem Illum, Pope St Pius X).

            “God has made Mary the dispensatrix of all His graces and favors to men, so that absolutely nothing comes down from Heaven to man save through the hands of this holy Mother… This explains why our heart burns so ardently with love for Mary…  This influx of grace which gives life to the soul seems to proceed so directly from the loving Heart and hands of Mary… that She appears to us as the absolute Mistress of the divine treasures, from which She takes what She pleases in order to adorn our souls and render them beautiful in the sight of God…” (Venerable Marie Petyt).

            “No heavenly gift is given to men which does not pass through her virginal hands. Such indeed is the will of God, who has decreed that we should have all things through Mary…” (St Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, #25).

            A few passages from Mary’s messages from Heaven direct us to her motherly hands as well: “With the act of consecration you have put your life in my hands.  Now it belongs to me; it is mine… With my own hands, I root out from you whatever might, in any way, be displeasing to the Lord… Let yourself be led always by the hand of your heavenly Mother… I have taken your heart into my hands; I have placed it into my motherly Heart… My Son gives to me all those souls who come to me with confidence, calling upon my aid. Their salvation is in my hands…”

            Finally (though all the above is just a sample of what we can meditate upon while contemplating the hands of our heavenly Mother), there is the extraordinary vision of Our Lady granted to the unbelieving Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne, who immediately afterward converted to Catholicism and shortly became a priest.  The following is part of the account of his vision and conversion:

“Ratisbonne drew out his medal [a Miraculous Medal he had been given, and put on only as a lark], kissed it, and showed it me, saying, ‘I saw her! I saw her!’ and again emotion choked his words, but soon he grew calmer and spoke.  I shall give his own words: ‘I had only been in the church a moment when I was suddenly seized with an indescribable agitation of mind.  I looked up and found that the rest of the building had disappeared.  One single chapel seemed to have gathered all the light and concentrated it in itself.  In the midst of this radiance I saw someone standing on the altar, a lofty shining figure, all majesty and sweetness, the Virgin Mary just as she looks on this medal.  Some irresistible force drew me towards her.  She motioned to me to kneel down and when I did so, she seemed to approve.  Unable to look up because of the blinding light, I fixed my glance on her hands, and in them I could read the expression of mercy and pardon. In the presence of the Most Blessed Virgin, even though she did not speak a word to me, I understood the frightful situation I was in, my sins and the beauty of the Catholic Faith.  Though she never said a word, I understood her perfectly’ … At first he had been able to see the Queen of Heaven clearly, appearing in all the splendor of her immaculate beauty; but he had not been able to bear the radiance of that divine light for long.  Three times he had tried to look up to her, and three times he had found himself unable to raise his eyes higher than her hands, from which blessings and graces seemed to be falling like so many shining rays.”

            It is a delicate detail that Mary “spoke” to Ratisbonne through her hands.  In seeing their beauty and the divine light shining through them, he learned all he needed to know.

            We ought, then, to place ourselves in the loving hands of Mary, allow her to press us to her Immaculate Heart, and to carry us in this way to Our Lord.  All graces come to us from God through Mary’s hands, so we ought to turn to her in all our needs, and also honor her fittingly for this extraordinary and unique privilege granted her by the infinite love of the Lord.  Let us not hesitate to kiss the hand through which God’s gifts are granted to us, and do so even when his gifts take the form of a cross.  This will be a profound expression of our love and trust, and it will be rewarded by God.

            If we are faithful to the end, we will live with God in Heaven forever.  When it comes time for us to leave this world, the heavenly Queen and Mother, to whom we have prayed countless times to pray for us “now and at the hour of our death,” will come joyfully to us—with Heaven in her hands.

To be continued…

Heaven in Her Heart (Part 12)

Chapter Five: The Heavenly Mission of the Immaculate Heart

            There’s actually one more element to Our Lady’s earthly mission, but it serves as a bridge to her heavenly mission, so let’s begin with that.  It is her consecration as Queen and Mother of the Church by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Her manifestly glorious, heavenly coronation would have to wait until she was bodily assumed into the Eternal Kingdom, but even while on earth she undoubtedly held a place of special honor among those who formed the first communities of the newly-born Church.

            Mary was the closest link to Jesus once He ascended to Heaven.  She knew Him more intimately than anyone else, and she enjoyed a more profound mystical communion with Him after He had ascended to his Father.  Mary had been filled with the Holy Spirit, intimately united to Him and wholly possessed by Him from the moment of her conception.  But at Pentecost the Holy Spirit placed a new and special anointing upon the Immaculate Heart of his beloved Spouse.   Jesus told St John at the foot of the Cross to behold in Mary his own Mother, and the Holy Spirit at Pentecost opened the eyes of all the disciples to behold the same.

            So the Heart of the Blessed Virgin was opened to receive everyone as her own children.  Thus she became the universal Mother, who would eventually be recognized as the heavenly Queen, when she would be exalted at the right hand of her divine Son.  While she was still in this world, it was not Mary’s mission to evangelize the nations like the Apostles, but rather to be the contemplative Heart of the Church, the Seat of Wisdom, the honored Lady to whom all could have recourse when they needed counsel or prayer.

           Virgin-Mary-Miraculous-Medal Mary’s mission as Mother and Queen continues in Heaven.  God has made the Immaculate Heart of Mary the Mediatrix of all Grace so as to fulfill this heavenly mission.  Mediatrix of all Grace is the highest honor God could possibly bestow upon a creature, for it gives Mary an authority and an exalted mission held by no other save God Himself.  The element of power and authority that is Mary’s as Mediatrix belongs to her role as Queen; the actual distribution of graces that is Mary’s mission as Mediatrix belongs to her role as Mother.

            An article by Dwight P. Campbell entitled “The Holy Spirit and Mary,” gives us a concise expression of the mystery of Mary’s maternal mediation, according to the insights of St Maximilian Kolbe: “All grace, says the Polish saint [i.e., St Maximilian], ultimately comes to us from God the Father, through the merits of Jesus Christ, his Son, and is distributed by the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit, in distributing all grace, works in and through Mary—not because he has to do so, but precisely because in his plan of salvation, God wills to do so.  And God wills to do so for a reason: Jesus, the Source of all grace, came through Mary via the work of the Holy Spirit; therefore it is fitting that all grace continue to come through Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit.”

            St Maximilian himself says: “Just as the Son, to show us how great his love is, became a man, so too the third Person, God-who-is-Love, willed to show his mediation as regards the Father and the Son by means of a concrete sign. This sign is the Heart of the Immaculate Virgin, according to what the saints tell us, especially those who love to consider Mary as the spouse of the Holy Spirit. This was the conclusion drawn by St Louis de Montfort, in accordance with the teaching of the Fathers… Since the death of Christ, the Holy Spirit acts within us too, by means of Mary.”

            Let us remember the divine logic and beauty of this mystery: “Jesus, the Source of all grace, came through Mary via the work of the Holy Spirit; therefore it is fitting that all grace continue to come through Mary by the work of the Holy Spirit.”  Why should any grace not come to us through Mary once the divine Source of grace came to us through her?  If the Blessed Mother of God really is to be the Mother of God’s children, then God must give to her everything she needs to take care of us.  What we need most, because nothing is more important than eternal salvation, is divine grace, so God has seen fit, in his infinite wisdom and everlasting love, to entrust Mary with all his graces.

            Thus, in union with the Holy Spirit—a union which characterized her entire life—the Immaculate Heart and heavenly hands of Mary are the means by which all graces are granted to us.  While it is not necessary to explicitly invoke Mary for every grace we seek, if we choose to do so we will discover such a wealth of love, beauty, sweetness and goodness that we will always desire to be as personally and consciously united to our heavenly Mother as possible.

            Our Lady’s mission is accomplished in us through the events and experiences of our daily lives.  As Mother, she is also teacher, and our union with her Heart is the means by which she communicates divine truths to us and helps us live according to the Gospel of Christ and the Tradition of his Church.  If we make Mary’s Heart our home and refuge, as she has asked us, we will be able to see the events of our lives and of our world through the “lens” of her Heart.  She will help us see things as she does and will help us understand and interpret them in the light of the Holy Spirit.

            Mary will also help us understand the Scriptures if we consciously unite ourselves to her Heart and seek her assistance whenever we read the Bible.  A good mother will take her child on her lap, and from the earliest years of the child will teach him or her about God and the Faith.  Our heavenly Mother does the same for us.  She has witnessed the events through which our salvation was won for us, and she herself was an integral part of them.  She has been filled with the Holy Spirit from the first moment of her conception, so she is rightly called the Seat of Wisdom.

            If we ask our Mother, we will be able to interpret the Scriptures from the perspective of her own Heart, and she will show us things we’ve never recognized or understood before, and at times she herself will speak to us through the inspired words.  We can hear her voice, for example, in passages like this: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you making my prayer with joy… And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  It is right for me to feel thus about you, because I hold you in my heart… For God is my witness, how I yearn for you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:3-8).  All this is just a part of what it means to live in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

To be continued…

Heaven in Her Heart (Part 11)

Two Pierced Hearts

            Mary’s Heart was definitively pierced in the mystery of the piercing of another Heart, that of her divine Son on the Cross.  The sorrows of two pierced heartsher life and the anxious anticipation of this inescapable moment all came to their climax and full realization as Jesus offered his life in sacrifice for us.  The Lamb of God was taking away the sins of the world as his human life was being taken away from Him.  Yet we know that this could happen only by his own will and choice, for He said, “I lay down my life, that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (Jn. 10:17-18).

            The Mother shared in the sufferings of the Son in a unique and incomparable manner, not only feeling his pain but also sharing in the sacrifice, the offering of his life to the Father.  A prayer to Mary, which is part of a devotion to the Five Sacred Wounds of Jesus, speaks of “the offering you made to the Eternal Father of His and your Only-Begotten, for a holocaust and victim to appease His wrath for my sins.  I compassionate you for the bitter pain which you suffered.  I thank You for that immeasurable love through which you bereaved yourself of the fruit of your womb, true God and true Man, to save me, a sinner…”

            As the Mother was about to be bereaved of her only Son, He gave her countless children through his precious words, proclaiming to the whole world, to you and to me, through the holy Gospels: “Behold your mother” (Jn. 19:26-27).  Having offered his sufferings for our sins, and then entrusting us to Mary—as an assurance that we would be cared for in this land of exile—Jesus was ready to return to the Father.

            I believe that the piercing of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was consummated at the moment Jesus’ own Heart was pierced by the soldier’s lance.  Jesus had already died by this time, so He could not feel the lance piercing his Heart.  But Mary felt it in her own Heart, and this was her way (we each have our own) of “completing in [her] flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col. 1:24).  Thus the Two Hearts, which were inseparably united in love, were now even more profoundly united in the suffering that is the highest expression of love.  And this suffering, this love, were at the heart of the mystery of the redemption of the world.

            In an article entitled “The Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary,” Mother Adela, foundress of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, writes this, beginning with a quote from Blessed John Paul II:

“‘At the foot of the Cross, a sword pierces Mary’s soul, fulfilling the words of Simeon… united to the redemptive Sacrifice of her Son is the maternal sacrifice of her heart’ (Homily, September 15, 1988).  John Paul II spoke of this singular participation of the Virgin Mary in the redemptive suffering as a ‘spiritual crucifixion.’  It is a ‘spiritual piercing’ whose purpose is to actively cooperate in giving birth, communicating life through the openness of Her maternal Heart. The spiritual maternity of Mary over mankind reaches its full realization on Calvary when, in an explicit way, Jesus exclaims from the cross, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’

“John Paul II, in his visit to the Sanctuary of Fatima in 1982, explained to us that these words of Jesus opened the Heart of Mary for Her spiritual maternity over the Church: ‘Woman Behold Your Son’ opened in a new way Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Then the Roman soldier opened the Sacred Heart of Jesus with a lance shortly after He expired.  Thus, ‘Mary’s Heart was opened by the same love for man and for the world with which Christ loved man and the world.’  Just as the Heart of Jesus in the moment it was pierced gave birth to the Church and remained eternally opened to pour graces of salvation over humanity, the Heart of Mary, united spiritually to the piercing of Her Son, remained opened to always embrace with maternal love all those who accept the redemption of Her Son and to exercise Her maternal mediation over all men and in every historical moment…

“The love of the Heart of Jesus was capable of transforming death into life, pain into redemption, and the wound from His side into an open door and fountain of salvation.  The love of the Heart of Mary was capable, through Her perfect and unconditional communion with the redemptive work, of bearing the same destiny of Her Son, unto the foot of the Cross.  From the pierced Heart of Christ we have received salvation, liberation, and redemption.  How many graces flow through the wound of His Heart!  From the pierced Heart of Mary is born Her spiritual maternity which she exercises with generous diligence, powerful intercession and maternal mediation over the Church and the world.”

            This passage suggests that as the earthly mission of the Heart of Mary would come to a close, her heavenly mission would begin.  To this we now turn.

To be continued…