The heart is the perfect human image for the faith: Just as our heart pumps living blood through our veins, so the heart of our faith courses through our souls. We have two concrete presentations of this in our rich faith tradition: the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The heart is internal, and it operates instinctively. My cultivating awareness and devotion to these central hearts of our faith, we too will grow in holiness, so that our spiritual heart is aligned to the beat of the Sacred Heart and remains pure like the Immaculate Heart. Let’s get to the heart of the matter…
Sacred Heart of Jesus
This devotion traces specifically to the revelation to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 17th century France. This was a time in France when protestantism and heresy raged. Imagine, in the midst of threats to the faith, God sends his very heart. Not a sword or flaming sign, but a beating and bleeding heart.
St. Margaret Mary suffered in her family life and in the convent. She joined the Order of the Visitation, a community that followed the teachings of St. Francis de Sales, despite obstacles. At the convent, St. Margaret Mary was ridiculed at first for the revelations she shared. It was only after a priest supported her that she was encouraged to write down her revelations. Here’s a sample:
“Behold this Heart which has so loved men that It spared nothing, even going so far as to exhaust and consume Itself, to prove to them Its love. And in return I receive from the greater part of men nothing but ingratitude, by the contempt, irreverence, sacrileges and coldness with which they treat Me in this Sacrament of Love. But what is still more painful to Me is that even souls consecrated to Me are acting in this way.” (Louis Verheylezoon, S.J., Devotion to the Sacred Heart, Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1955, pp. xxvii).
At her early death (age 42), she wrote: “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”
A love that sustains and empties itself for us – that is the heart of Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. The Sacred Heart image always includes the crown of thorns. This reminds us that the purest love offered to us is always amidst suffering. What a model for our lives! Remember the Sacred Heart always, and especially during the month of June, when our Church encourages this devotion. Pray this Novena to the Sacred Heart during June.
Immaculate Heart of Mary
Honoring the heart of Mary traces to Church fathers and popes — from the 12th-17th centuries. This devotion grew in popularity because of two events: The 1830 revelation of the Miraculous Medal and the writings of St. Louis de Montfort, especially his True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Mary, who was conceived without sin, gave that eternal yes to God, became the vessel of the Savior, birthed him in a stable, and walked beside him through his entire time on earth. The Seven Sorrows of Mary – the prophesy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, losing Jesus at the Temple, meeting Jesus on the Way of the Cross, the Crucifixion, taking down Jesus body from the Cross, and Jesus’ burial – pinpoint key times when Mary’s heart was pierced. And depictions of Mary’s Immaculate Heart always include one or more (sometimes seven) swords or knives imbedded in her heart. Often a ring of roses surrounds the image of Mary’s Immaculate Heart too – to symbolize her purity.
Teaching children the Heart(s) of the matter
Enthrone images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Whether you choose icons, pictures or statues, make sure these images are present to your children and students. Sacramentals provide outward reminders of eternal truths. We are people who live in our bodies, and children even moreso. Use that which appeals to the senses to form their hearts in the faith – from the visible to the invisible.
Make a Morning Offering Prayer each day and teach your children it
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your sacred heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all the apostles of prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
Here’s a simple one for young children:
My God, I offer up to thee my soul and heart, thine own to be; And all I do, or hear, or say, and all my work and play.
Find Prayers and Devotions you connect with
Our Catholic faith and liturgy provide us an endless bounty of prayers, devotions, saints and practices. Some really pop for us, more than others. Explore and find one (or some) you can pray regularly. You can find these in any prayer books and throughout the web. Here are a couple: Prayers to the Sacred Heart and Prayers to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Read St. Louis de Montfort and make the Consecration
It takes about a month, and it’s a wonderful and blessed experience to follow the steps toward Total Consecration to Mary, which St. Louis de Montfort shared. He reminds us that it is through Mary that Jesus comes into the world; likewise, through her intercession we are led to the Son. Her heart is one with His.
Prayer the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, during the hour of Mercy (3-4 pm) daily, call upon our Lord and acknowledge his Mercy. If you can, set aside 10 minutes to pray the full Divine Mercy Chaplet. On the Cross, Jesus’ side was pierced; and blood and water poured forth. St. Maria Faustina received the image of Divine Mercy, and we should all have one in our homes as well.
Craft for little ones
Make two connected hearts. Break pieces of toothpicks and cross them over, then glue to the Sacred Heart. Put a toothpick into Mary’s heart, and color white flours across as well. Hang it in a visible place, so your children hold their hearts close to the Sacred and Immaculate hearts of Jesus and Mary. Glue on a copy of some simple prayers to Mary and Jesus. Check out these prayers for children.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.