To Jesus, Through Mary.
As August comes to a close, I wanted to spend some time focused on what we as Catholics have dedicated the month to: The Immaculate Heart of Mary. Devotion to the heart of Mary is not new to our faith, we see it in the stories of many saints and meditations such as the Ave Maria and Salve Regina. More recently, this devotion has risen in popularity thanks to the visions given to Saint Lucia of Fatima – the oldest of the Fatima visionaries. About 100 years ago, sister Lucia was praying in her convent in Tuy, Spain when Our Lady appeared to her. In the visions Mary asked for the practice of the ‘Five First Saturdays*’ to help make amends for the offenses committed against her heart, the blasphemy within our world, and the ingratitude of men. Twenty years later, Pope Pius the 7th made a solemn Act of Consecration of not just the church, but the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We pray to remember this devotion year-round, but particularly during this month.
The veneration of Mary’s heart is analogous to the way in which we worship the Sacred Heart of Jesus, however, we devote ourselves to the Sacred Heart because it overflows with love for humanity. On the other hand, we devote ourselves to Mary’s Immaculate Heart because of the love it holds for her son and for our God. I should also note that the two devotions differ in that we venerate Jesus’ heart in a sense of love responding to love. When we devote ourselves to Mary, we do so in order to unite ourselves to God through her. This involves what is known as consecration and reparation.
We have the beautiful opportunity to consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – but what does this mean? To consecrate yourself means to heighten the depth and truth of your commitment to Christ. By consecrating yourself, you offer up your graces to Our Lady, knowing that she points us in the direction of the heart of Jesus. This means that we must live a life ever more in accord with the divine will and spirit of service in devout imitation of our Heavenly Queen. Thus, we must first live in union with Jesus through Mary – striving to imitate them, to become like them, and to recognize their presence as often as possible. We must also give ourselves over entirely to Jesus through Mary. In other words, we must become entirely dependent – allowing them the right to dispose of any and everything we have, spiritual or material. Finally, we must be obedient. Jesus and Mary have the right to ask us to do anything and everything, no rewards attached. When we consecrate ourselves to Mary we recognize that right and carry it out with love and generosity.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe used to speak of the relationship between consecration and our baptismal vows. When we are baptized we renounce Satan and all his works, promising to follow Jesus and his teachings. Consecration is the fullest kind of response to carrying out these promises. Think about it – Mary and her Immaculate Heart were the best fit to respond fully to our baptismal vows. Not only did she do that, she did it perfectly - to a point to which only God can comprehend. When we consecrate ourselves to the heart of Mary we are making a promise to ourselves and to God to strive for this kind of fulfillment, this kind of perfection. Although we will never be perfect like our Holy Mother, our consecration is a commitment to strive for that goal the best we can.
Let’s take a look at an example of the power and value of consecration to the Immaculate Heart: the messages brought to the visionaries at Fatima. Our Lady warned in her apparitions that the world was threatened with punishment for its sins, by means of war, famine, and persecution of the Church and its leader. Her message was as follows,
“To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated.” (Mother Mary to Saint Lucia, 1929; Tuy, Spain)
Our Lady did not want to see a second World War break out, so she called for the consecration of Russia in order to prevent it. This would prevent the spread of communist Russia and their atheist ideology throughout the world, thus avoiding war and persecution of the Church, martyrdom of many saints, suffering of the pope, and annihilation of many countries. However, instead of consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart, Pope Pius the 6th consecrated the entire world to the Immaculate Heart. While this was a beautiful act of love for all our brothers and sisters world-wide, Mother Mary acknowledged it as a work around of the original request, saying,
“They did not wish to heed my request…they will repent and do it, but it will be late. Russia will already have spread her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and the persecution of the Church; the Holy Father will have much to suffer.”
World War 2 broke out a few years later.
Think about it. If Russia had been consecrated, we could have avoided the massive spread of atheistic communism across the world. There would have been no WW2 in which Russia captured half of Europe, gaining the economic means to infect the world with its aetheistic ideology. There would have been no Soviet Union, no Red China, no communist North Korea, no communist Vietnam, no communist Cuba, and far fewer Christian martyrs in those countries. The list goes on – just imagine a peaceful world during the second half of the 20th century and all the difference it could have made in the war against religion. Pope Pius the 6th failed to make the consecration of Russia as requested and as a result we experienced great suffering, for the world and for the Church. It would not be until much later when Pope John Paul II came into power that the consecration would be made, but it was too late to prevent the evils foretold by our Holy Mother.
The story of the consecration of Russia reminds us that consecration is a powerful decision that will not only bring you closer to Mary, but to her son. If consecrating yourself to the Immaculate Heart is something that interests you, I recommend reading St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion book.
Our devotion to the Immaculate Heart also calls us to make what is known as ‘reparation’ for the offenses that not just ourselves, but others have committed against Our Lady and the Church. Why is this? It makes sense that we should be making amends for our own actions, but others as well? The answer is simple: every sin has caused grief and suffering to the union between Mother Mary and her son. Sin was the cause of the crucifixion on Calvary where Mary shared in the torment and pain of the great sacrifice. From that moment on, God willed that she too would bear the burden of sin. If you have ever hurt someone else, you know that an apology or an act of kindness can go a long way in repairing your relationship, if not bringing the two of you closer than before. Knowing this, we owe so much to the heart of Mary. Imagine how much closer we can be to Our Heavenly Mother, and thus, her son, Jesus Christ, if we were to work tirelessly to make reparations for our sins.
There is so much that can be done to devote ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady. I encourage you to spend the last week of August diving deeper into understanding this. Begin a formal consecration, dedicate your days to making amends for your sins, or participate in the Five First Saturdays devotion. Our Lady gives us a direct path to her Son, what more could we ask for? What are you waiting for?
*The Five First Saturdays were a request from our Lady of Fatima in reparation for the sins committed against her Immaculate Heart. In order to follow this devotion, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months you must go to confession (if not possible on the first Saturday you have an 8 day grace period before and after), receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the rosary, and keep Our Lady company for 15 minutes while meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary. Our Lady promised that whoever did this would be given the graces necessary for salvation at the hour of one’s death