When we think of heart, we think of this biological organ that keeps our blood pumping and our life flowing. We also think of heart as the agency of our will, the impetus behind our choices. Heart also denotes passion and compassion. To act from one’s heart means one truly chooses, or acts with loving commitment. Our faith connects the heart to higher meaning in the doctrines of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Moreover, these doctrines and devotions clarify the character of God’s love for us amidst the challenges of evil in our world.
Sacred Heart of Jesus
While Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1670s) is the saint to whom Jesus revealed the devotion to His Sacred Heart, the practice of devotion to Jesus’ heart long precedes this – to the very early years of the Church. Read the history of devotion to the Sacred Heart here.
Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary in her suffering, and told her to rest her head upon His Heart. He told her:
- Honor Jesus’ image with a human heart of flesh.
- Set aside First Friday devotions to make reparations for the sins of indifference to His love.
- Seek frequent communion.
- Set aside Holy Hour devotions.
The purpose behind these devotions was to seek reparation for the sins of men. In a revelation dated 1674, Jesus revealed: Behold the Heart that has so loved men . . . instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part (of mankind) only ingratitude . . .
In devotion to the Sacred Heart, we return our love to He who is the source of love, and we do so in gratitude and in humble reparation for our own sins and for others’ sins of ingratitude and indifference to God’s love.
Look how Friday’s readings in the Liturgical Year reveal the fullness of this doctrine:
…the LORD, your God, is God indeed, the faithful God who keeps his merciful covenant down to the thousandth generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments, but who repays with destruction the person who hates him; he does not dally with such a one, but makes him personally pay for it. (Deuteronomy 7:9-10)
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. (Psalm 103:4)
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. (1 John 4:7)
We are reminded in this Feast of the Sacred Heart not only of God’s abundant love, but of the reality of evil. We are all called to make reparation for those who reject or remain indifferent to Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
Immaculate Heart of Mary
This observance in the Church dates from the revelations of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917-1929, but this principle of reverencing Mary’s Immaculate Heart dates back to the very origins of the Church, in the Gospel passages that affirm Mary “pondered” over all that happened and all that Jesus said and did “in her heart.” Read the full history of the devotion here.
The focus on Mary’s heart looks interiorly to Mary’s extraordinary love in her fiat – her great “yes” to God, in her sorrows for her Son’s sufferings, and in her exemplary model of loving devotion to Our Lord. Yet, Mary’s Immaculate Heart also points further: to the object of her heart – Jesus. “From Jesus to Mary,” St. Louis de Montfort reminds: Our devotion to Mary always leads us to Jesus, for she is the Christ-bearer.
Amidst the repression of Communism, three young children were chosen as messengers to a hard-hearted era in 1917 Portugal. Devotion to the Eucharist and the Rosary were affirmed throughout these revelations. The children were asked to pray the Rosary daily for reparation for the sins of the world. The final revelation, where thousands witnessed the Miracle of the Sun, included the promise that the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph over Satan in the end.
While observance of the Immaculate Heart of Mary remains optional in the Liturgical Year, the Gospel reading for this day speaks to the heart of the matter:
No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved. (Matthew 9:16-17)
The world must be renewed in love to receive Jesus’ abundant love, and the love of Mary which directs us to His love. Those who are in sin are shrunken and in ruins; they must be renewed to receive “its fullness.”
St. John Eudes wrote this Offering to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Perhaps you might add this to your daily devotions:
O Jesus, only Son of God, only Son of Mary,
I offer Thee the most loving Heart of Thy divine Mother
which is more precious and pleasing to Thee than all hearts.
O Mary, Mother of Jesus,
I offer Thee the most adorable Heart of Thy well-beloved Son,
who is the life and love and joy of Thy Heart.
Blessed be the Most Loving Heart
and Sweet Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ
and the most glorious
Virgin Mary, His Mother,
in eternity and forever.