by Fr. Edward Looney
Each year Catholics dedicate the month of May to the Blessed Virgin Mary, affectionately calling it the month of Mary. In fact, each month has a devotional designation: June to Jesus’ Sacred Heart and July to His Precious Blood, for instance. The Friday Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, almost always celebrated in June, is followed immediately by the Memorial of The Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As we strive to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary during the month of May, one way we can do so is by fostering a devotion to her Immaculate Heart. Here are five simple suggestions.
1. MEDITATE ON THE SCRIPTURES
When I was in the seminary, my spiritual director challenged me in a very direct way. He said, “Edward, you love the Blessed Mother so much, but where is your Marian heart?” That question struck my heart, and I wanted to discover what it meant to live with her heart. The first thing I did was open up the Gospels and pray with the lives of Jesus and Mary.
As I read the beginning of Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, I would ask myself, “What is this telling me about Mary’s heart?” I came to identify 21 attributes of Mary’s heart (I’m certain there are more) which comprise the first part of my new book A Heart Like Mary’s: 31 Daily Meditations to Help You Live and Love as She Does (Ave Maria Press, 2017).
If we want to foster a devotion to the Heart of Mary, the first place we must turn is the pages of sacred Scripture. Devotion to the Immaculate Heart (and the Sorrowful Heart) wouldn’t develop for centuries, but we can say that it is truly a biblical devotion.
St. Luke tells us that Mary treasured the events of Jesus’ life in her heart (see Luke 2:19, 51). St. Luke also writes that Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart (see Luke 2:35). In the other events of Mary’s life, we discover the movement of her heart, especially at Cana where she reveals the concern of her heart for others (see John 2:1–12). Read the Gospels and discover the depth of Our Mother’s heart.
2. READ A BOOK
Many saints and authors have written books about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some of them are theological and help us understand Mary’s significance in salvation history and her role in the Church. Other books are devotional in nature.
One of the great witnesses of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was St. John Eudes (1601–1680), a French priest who preached extensively on Marian devotion and promoted Marian confraternities. His classic work on the Immaculate Heart is called The Admirable Heart of Mary (available from Loreto Publications). He reflects on Mary’s heart in three different ways: corporal, spiritual, and divine. You can also look for other books about the Immaculate Heart at your local Catholic bookstore.
3. FIRST SATURDAYS
Beginning in May 1917, three children in Fatima, Portugal, received monthly visits from the Blessed Mother, ending on Oct. 13, 1917. One message contained within Mary’s six apparitions was related to the Immaculate Heart. She asked that devotion to her Immaculate Heart be established, and she prophesied that, in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph. One of the things that has always struck me about the Fatima apparition is that Mary said, “God wishes to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world.” This speaks volumes because Mary doesn’t direct the attention to herself; rather, it is God who does so.
One way Fatima promoted devotion to the Immaculate Heart was through the observance of the Five First Saturdays, which were meant to make reparation for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary. To observe the First Saturdays, a person would go to confession, receive Holy Communion, pray the rosary, and keep Mary company by meditating on the mysteries of the rosary.
In an apparition received by Sr. Lucia while in the convent years later, Jesus explained the purpose of the Five First Saturdays, which dealt with making amends for five ways in which Mary is dishonored by individuals. Two of the three children, Sts. Francisco and Jacinta, died at a young age, but Sr. Lucia remained on earth for many years, and through her writings and witness promoted devotion to the Immaculate Heart, seeking to fulfill the request God made through Our Lady’s apparitions.
4. GIVE MARY YOUR HEART
Another aspect of Mary’s message at Fatima was the request for the consecration of Russia to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Centuries before the Fatima apparitions, another great Marian saint, St. Louis de Montfort, promoted total consecration to Jesus through Mary, and during the same period as the Fatima event, the Polish Conventual Franciscan St. Maximilian Kolbe also promoted and taught Marian consecration. We can view Marian consecration as a way for us to give our hearts to Mary, and in doing so, also to God.
Those who chose to employ this form of Marian devotion to the Immaculate Heart often will undertake a time of spiritual preparation, either using works from St. Louis de Montfort or St. Maximilian Kolbe or by reading 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration (Marian Press, 2011) by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC.
This preparation culminates in praying the prayer of consecration on a Marian feast day. After one’s consecration, a person might renew their consecration daily. One daily prayer consecrates our heart to the Blessed Mother:
My Queen and my Mother, I give myself entirely to you; and to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without reserve.
In another popular daily prayer, the Morning Offering, we can give our heart to Jesus through the heart of Mary:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day…
Besides meditating on and learning about Mary’s heart and observing the First Saturdays, we can foster a devotion to the Immaculate Heart by entrusting our own hearts to Mary.
5. ‘MARY, GIVE ME YOUR HEART’
When I was a teenager, James Bradley, an artist who had re-corded a music CD inspired by St. Teresa of Kolkata (affectionately called Mother Teresa), visited my parish and sang some of his music. There was one song that made an impression on me, which took the words of one of Mother Teresa’s prayers. Here’s the prayer:
Mary, my dearest Mother, give me your heart, so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, so full of love and humility, that I may receive Jesus as you did and go in haste to give him to others.
I thought it was a beautiful prayer, “Mary, give me your heart.” Later I would discover another saint, the great apostle of Marian consecration St. Louis de Montfort, who encouraged the faithful to “implore Mary to lend you her heart so that you may receive her Son with herd is positions.”
St. Louis de Montfort and St. Teresa of Kolkata offer us another example of how we can foster a devotion to the heart of Mary, by asking her to give us (or lend us) her heart. When I began to reflect on the heart of Mary using the pages of the Scriptures, I quickly identified several attributes that I desired: I wanted to be patient, prayerful, and generous. Every day I began to pray at the end of my Holy Hour for the grace to live with a Marian heart. My prayer went something like this: “Mary, give me a heart like yours, patient and loving.”
Mary, give me a heart like yours, patient and loving.
My devotion to the heart of Mary grew in this way as I asked her to form me into a saint and to become a more virtuous person. In my spiritual life, when I have neglected to pray for a Marian heart for several days or weeks at a time, I notice a difference, and I am reminded that I need to pray daily that I might live with her heart. If we want to foster a devotion to the heart of Mary, not only can we give her our heart, but we can ask her to give us a heart like hers.
Mary made a promise in Fatima. She told the children that, in the end, her Immaculate Heart would triumph. I slowly have come to realize that Mary’s heart will triumph in the world because it will triumph through each one of us. By fostering a devotion to the Immaculate Heart through meditation on the Scriptures, reading spiritual books, or living the message of Fatima, Mary’s heart will triumph in our lives and consequently in the lives of others and the world.
Through our prayer and devotion, we can advance the triumph of Mary’s heart in the world. Beginning this May, and for the rest of your life, foster a devotion to Mary’s heart, and you will notice that your heart will begin to change — and in the end, her heart will triumph.