On the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, the Catholic Church celebrates the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the one from whom He took his flesh – hence, their hearts are joined not only mystically, but as mother and son. And what greater bond there be? And what greater model to follow in imitating Christ, than the mother whom He himself imitated, from whom he learned, and to whom, as today’s Gospel tells us, He was obedient, as he grew in stature and in grace?
This devotion has its origins in the early Middle Ages, with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153), growing in popularity through the ages, with Gertrude the Great (+1302) and Bridget of Sweden (+1373), Bernardine of Siena (+1444), called the ‘doctor of the heart of Mary’, Frances de Sales (+1622) and, most of all John Eudes (+1681), who waxed eloquent on the perfections of Our Lady, the greatest of all God’s creations.
It was soon after this that Pope Pius VII – who spent much of his pontificate suffering under the tyrannical rule of Napoleon, who took the Pontiff into exile – who made this a universal feast, first on August 22 (now the Queenship of Mary), and now, joined to Christ liturgically to His own heart.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary still beats within her human, and now glorified, body, and the Mother of God promises will triumph in the end. Devotion to Mary is, as the saints have always said, a sure and certain path to eternal life, for Christ refuses no request of His Mother. Our faith is such a human faith, the link, of course, being the Incarnation, which really does change everything. To paraphrase Irenaeus, if God is Man, then Man can become God, and all things have indeed been made new.