August is the Month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a widespread devotion in the Church and patroness of the Relevant Radio® network. Where did this devotion come from, and what does it mean for us? Fr. Matthew Spencer, host of St. Joseph’s Workshop, recently discussed the Month of the Immaculate Heart and why you should celebrate it.
The devotion goes back centuries. “Do you see it in Scripture? Probably not in so many words. But back in the Middle Ages with St. Anselm and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, we started to refer to devotion to the heart of Mary—maybe not yet the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but saints would write about the heart of Mary,” explained Fr. Matthew.
“In Scripture, there is a reference to the heart of Mary that you’re probably aware of. When Mary and Jesus take Jesus to present him in the temple and they’re there before Simeon and Anna and Simeon takes the child into his arms and says, ‘Now Lord, you may let your servant go in peace. Mine eyes have seen the salvation that you have prepared in the sight of all the world.’ You know the passage I’m referring to from the Gospel of Luke. And it’s at that moment that Simeon also says to our Blessed Mother that a sword shall pierce her heart.”
You may be familiar with the Seven Sorrows of Mary devotion, and a striking image of Our Lady with seven swords piercing her Immaculate Heart.
“The sorrows of our Blessed Mother are a reminder of the different sufferings she experienced in her life. Sufferings that unite her to the suffering of her son, Jesus, in his passion and death, but also allow you and me to turn to Mary who understands what suffering’s about. And that’s really where devotion to the heart of Mary begins,” said Fr. Matthew.
Understanding the suffering of our Blessed Mother helps us to relate to her when we are going through trials, big and small, in our own lives. “I don’t think a day goes by when you and I aren’t going to experience some type of cross … but that means every day you and I can unite our own hearts to the heart of Mary which also experienced suffering, which also accepted the sufferings that the Lord allowed for her.”
Devotion to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart grew in popularity as time went on. “Saint John Eudes in the 17th Century is the one that really promoted it. And then in … 1799, Pope Pius VI gave a special permission to celebrate the Most Pure Heart of Mary.” After that, Marian apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré about the Miraculous Medal and the Fatima apparitions helped the devotion to become widespread throughout the Catholic Church.
This month is full of special blessings, says Fr. Matthew. “August has the most number of saints in a row that are on the universal calendar than any other month … thirteen straight feast days. … Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, through the many saints that you can be in communion with, there are many opportunities for you to entrust yourself yet again to our Father in heaven, to entrust yourself yet again to his divine mercy.”
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
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