Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Before looking closely at the actual devotion it is good to look back at where the focus on the heart of Mary we should take a look at where Mary’s heart is mentioned in Scripture. There are two mentions of Mary’s heart in the Gospel of Luke. First, “But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Second, “And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart.” (Luke 2:51)
In his Encyclical, Redemtor hominis, Blessed John Paul II says that “We can say that the mystery of the Redemption took shape beneath the heart of the Virgin of Nazareth when she pronounced her “fiat”.
St. Faustina saw Mary’s heart as a channel of graces: “I saw, between heaven and earth, the Mother of God, clothed in a bright robe. She was praying with her hands folded over her bosom, her eyes fixed on heaven. From her heart issued forth fiery rays, some of which were turned towards heaven while others covered our country.” Diary of St. Faustina.
So Mary’s heart is seen in these examples as the source of her original “Yes” to God and the graces for mankind that come from her Son.
Devotion to her Immaculate Heart seems to have begun in the twelfth century based on the writings of the saints, but it wasn’t regularized and promoted enough to later become a practice throughout the Church until the 1600’s by St. John Eudes in France. His book The Admirable Heart of Mary is an in-depth explanation of the devotion. During his beatification Pope Pius X declared him the Father of Devotion to the Immaculate Heart.
In the visions of Fatima on July 13th, 1917, Mary told the children “to save poor sinners, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” In a series of visions in 1925 and 1926, the oldest of the visionaries, Lucia Dos Santos, received a further message from Mary asking that the five first Saturdays be devoted to help make amends for the offenses committed against her heart by the blasphemies and ingratitude of men.
In 1942, as the war Mary prophesied raged through Europe and the Church celebrated the 25th anniversary of the original visions at Fatima, Pope Pius XII consecrated the Church and the whole world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Also in 1942 he established the Feast of the Immaculate Heart to fall on August 22 during the Octave of the Assumption.
On May 4th, 1944 Pope Pius XII extended the celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to the universal Church. Following Vatican II the feast day was moved to the Saturday following the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus where it stands today.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.