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Immaculate Heart of Mary


Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has always been closely associated with devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It has, however, a distinct history, a distinct essential nature, and a distinct and specific purpose among spiritual devotions.

Since 1942, when pius xii solemnly consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, this devotion has been incorporated into the official liturgical worship of the Church. In 1944, to commemorate this special consecration, Pius XII extended the solemn feast to the universal Church, naming August 22 as the new feast date and giving it a proper liturgical formulary.

History. Devotion to the heart of the mother of god can be traced to the commentaries of the Fathers on the Sponsa of the Song of Songs. However, although the heart of Mary is twice mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, there is no indication of any truly significant devotion of this nature in the early centuries of Christian history. It was not until the 16th century, and notably in the 17th, under St. John Eudes, that there arose a widespread devotional practice honoring Mary's heart. In 1805, Pius VII granted general approbation for the celebration of a special feast by any diocese or religious institute that desired to adopt it.

In recent times, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and new theological studies have brought the devotion into

prominence, and the special recognition of Pius XII has established it as a singularly worthy form of consecration.

Meaning. The heart of Mary is the material object of this devotion, and it is from the material object that its title is derived. It is however, the formal object, namely, Mary's love, that gives the devotion its true meaning and significance.

All forms of Marian cult, of course, whether they look to some particular mystery in the life of Our Lady, or to some special attribute, have in common a single objectthe person of Mary. Devotion to the heart of the Mother of God is most fitting, therefore, since veneration is directed toward an object that symbolizes and encompasses all the qualities that are predicated of her.

In a very real sense, the heart of the Virgin played an important role in her physical maternity and is associated directly with the affections of her maternal soul. The splendor of Mary's sanctity and the great mysteries of her life, especially that of the divine maternity, are closely related to her love, and since the word "heart" frequently has a symbolic or metaphorical meaning, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is properly understood to include and represent Mary's entire sanctity and inner life, along with her various gifts and perfections, all related intimately to her love.

The Church considers it fitting to approve for veneration objects that are sensible manifestations of spiritual truth, for man himself is composed of elements both sensible and spiritual. It is, therefore, appropriate that a physical element, such as Mary's heart, be chosen to objectify the great charity or love of the Mother of God.

Finally, in any Marian devotion a threefold homage is rendered to Mary. Honor is paid to her maternity, her sanctity, and her role in the redemptive mission of Christ, her Son. Since each of the three is inseparably associated with her love, and is thus truly reflected in her heart, the Church has further reason for fostering this devotion.

Beyond what it obviously incorporates and symbolizes, devotion to the Immaculate Heart has as a prime purpose the recognition of the special instrumentality of Mary in the bringing of souls to God. This is achieved in the practice of the devotion through two acts, themselves part of the devotionthe acts of consecration and reparation.

Since one is consecrated to Mary only because she is the Mother of God and closely associated through her Queenship with the Deity, such a consecration is always referred ultimately to God Himself. Proper foundation for a consecration to Mary, however, is to be sought in her dominion over and concern for her spiritual children. This is typified in her Queenship, and the better this is understood, the more evident becomes the dignity of the act of consecration, and the more clear all that is implied in it. It is significant, therefore, that the opening words of the formula of consecration employed by Pius XII in the world consecration ceremonies of 1942 directly concern Mary's sovereignty and call upon her as "Queen."

A true and complete act of consecration is actually a state in which the faithful are totally and perpetually dedicated to the Heart of Mary, entrusting to her all that they have and are. For this reason the act of consecration constitutes a relationship that affords Our Lady complete veneration.

Because of the broad nature of its objectthe entire sanctity and love of the Mother of Godand because of the ramifications and significance of an act of consecration, the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary can be regarded as the synthesis of all Marian doctrine and devotion.

Bibliography: pius XII, "Regina del Santissimo Rosario" (Prayer, Oct. 31, 1942) Acta Apostolicae Sedis 34 (1942) 345346, act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart. Office and Mass of the feast, with decree of promulgation and changes in rubrics, ibid. 37 (1945) 4452. e. dublanchy, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 3.1:351354. j. eudes, The Admirable Heart of Mary, tr. c. di targiani and r. hauser (New York 1948). t. m. sparks, Summarium de cultu Cordis Immaculati Beatae Mariae Virginis (Turin 1951). j. f. murphy, Mary's Immaculate Heart (Milwaukee 1951).

[j. f. murphy]

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