In the thirteenth century, a devotion to Jesus and Mary began under the titles of the “Sacred Heart of Jesus” and the “Immaculate Heart of Mary.” The heart is the source and center of life, and life flows out to the faithful from the hearts of Jesus and Mary. St. Bonaventure focused in particular on the wound to the heart that Jesus received from the spear of the Roman centurion. From that wound, blood and water flowed — a sign that Jesus gave everything for us (see Jn 19:34). Devotion to the heart of Mary draws from the Gospel of Luke (2:35), in which Simeon tells Mary,“A sword will pierce through your own soul.” Simeon prophesied that Mary would share in the sufferings of her Son and Redeemer, Jesus.
In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes promoted these devotions. He also developed Mass texts and daily readings focused on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Admirable Heart of Mary. He proposed that both be made into feasts in the Church’s liturgical calendar.
As the devotion to the Sacred Heart spread, a cloistered nun, Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque, received a series of visions. Christ himself directed St. Margaret Mary to foster devotion to His Sacred Heart. One of these devotions was to make the first Friday of each month a special day of observance. Specifically, the devotion involved receiving Holy Communion on nine consecutive first Fridays with the intention of making reparation to “the Heart that has loved men so and is loved so little in return.” Jesus told St. Margaret Mary of His great love for souls and His desire to shower His mercy on those who were devoted to Him. He revealed several promises for those who lovingly practiced the First Friday devotion. Among the promises were: final perseverance in the Catholic faith, reception of the sacraments before death, and death in the state of grace, as well as the consolation of Christ’s love at the time of death.
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary developed alongside devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The heart of Mary mirrors the heart of Jesus both in great love and in sharing His suffering. This devotion increased after the appearances of the Blessed Mother to three children of Fátima, Portugal, early in the twentieth century.The Blessed Mother told the eldest of the children that she would “assist at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls” all who, for five months, on the first Saturday of each month:
- confess their sins,
- receive Holy Communion,
- recite the Rosary,
- and keep Mary company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary,
- all offered in a spirit of reparation.
Of course, all of this assumes the context of a prayerful life and the struggle for holiness. It would be blasphemy to approach the hearts of Jesus and Mary in supplication while fully intending to continue a life of sin.
We want to mirror the heart and mind of God. We want to see people, the world, and every situation with God’s eyes. We want to love as He loves. We want a heart like His. If we have such a heart, we will begin to love as God loves; yet we will also begin to know how much God is offended by the sins of the world. Then, with such love joined to such a horror of sin, we will want to make reparation for our sins and the sins of others.This is the way that Jesus and Mary loved: by offering their lives to atone for the failings of others.
As we meditate on the hearts of Jesus and Mary, we see the great love they have, even for sinners, and we see how God continues to reach out in love and forgiveness. But we also see how poorly people respond to this loving invitation to life and relationship with God. Some go so far as to actively reject God. We begin to obtain a glimpse of the injustice of habitual sin, which rejects God and abuses His mercy.
The suffering and rejection of the cross continues, but the mercy and grace of God continue to flow to men and women in our time.
Jesus and Mary, make our hearts like yours!
To Be United with the Heart of Jesus
O Heart all lovable and all loving of my Savior, be the Heart of my heart, the soul of my soul, the spirit of my spirit, the life of my life and the sole principle of all my thoughts, words, and actions, of all the faculties of my soul, and of all my senses, both interior and exterior. Amen.
— St. John Eudes
A Prayer of Adoration
From the depth of my nothingness, I prostrate myself before You, O Most Sacred, Divine, and Adorable Heart of Jesus, to pay to You all the homage of love, praise, and adoration in my power. Amen.
— St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
Collect for the Feast of the Sacred Heart
Clothe us, Lord God,
with the virtues of the Heart of your Son and set us aflame with his love,
that, conformed to his image,
we may merit a share in eternal redemption. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
To the Immaculate Heart of Mary
O Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, and Queen of the World, rule over us, to- gether with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, Our King. Save us from the spreading flood of modern paganism; kindle in our hearts and homes the love of purity, the practice of a virtuous life, an ardent zeal for souls, and a desire to pray the Rosary more faithfully.
Taken from “The How-To-Book of Catholic Devotions” by Mike Aquilina and Regis J. Flaherty.