What is the Meaning of Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
As we all know, this year, 2017 is the centenary of the Apparitions of Our Lady to the three children of Fatima. One of the major themes of the message of Our Lady at Fatima is promotion of devotion to her Immaculate Heart. She said to Lucia: ‘Yes, I will take Jacinta and Francisco soon. But you are to stay here for some time longer. Jesus wishes to make use of you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.’ This devotion is also a key theme in the Handbook of the Legion. It is surely an essential dimension of the interior life of an authentic legionary and of his apostolic work. But what does devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary really mean?
Let us start with some words of Pope Benedict: ‘In Biblical language, the “heart” indicates the centre of human life, the point where reason, will, temperament and sensitivity converge, where the person finds his unity and his interior orientation…To be “devoted” to the immaculate Heart of Mary means therefore to embrace this attitude of heart, which makes the fiat – your will be done – the defining center of one’s whole life.’ In other words this devotion means seeking to unite ourselves with what is deepest in the interior life of Mary which is her total identification with the salvific will of God – the salvation of the whole world without any exceptions.
The Handbook develops this teaching in some of its richest doctrinal passages. In the section under the headings: ‘Every action should endorse her Fiat,’ and ‘Glorify the Lord with Mary’ are especially sublime and inspirational. Let me quote just one passage: ‘Her consent and her maternal care are just as necessary to the daily growth of Christ in the individual soul as they were in his original taking of flesh. What does all this involve for the Christian? It involves many important things of which this is one: he must deliberately and wholeheartedly acknowledge Mary’s position as his representative in the sacrificial offering begun at the Annunciation and completed on the Cross, which earned redemption. He must ratify the things she then did on his behalf, so that he can enjoy, without shame in their fullness, the infinite benefits thereby brought to him.’
There are many other ways of entering into the meaning of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us briefly paraphrase the teaching of St. John Paul on Mary’s spiritual maternity as found in the encyclical Redemptoris Mater and in so many parts of the Handbook, especially in the section: ‘Through the Legionary, Mary loves and tends her Son.’
St. John Paul begins with the words of Our Lord on the Cross: ‘Behold your mother.’ By entrusting John to Mary, Jesus introduces him to what the essence of motherhood is: ‘a unique and unrepeatable relationship between two people.’ And what Our Lord says to John, he says to each one of us. These words: ‘Behold your Mother’ are the essence of the Gospel about Mary for every Christian and especially for us legionaries. The Holy Father writes: ‘they are words that determine Mary’s place in the life of Christ’s disciples and they express…the new motherhood of the Mother of the Redeemer: spiritual motherhood, born from the heart of the Paschal Mystery of the Redeemer of the world.’ It is striking and should never be forgotten that it was precisely when the world was covered in darkness and mired in horrific rejection of God that Jesus gives us his Mother as a response to evil.
Because the words of Christ from the Cross seem to me absolutely foundational in the interior life of Frank Duff and in the spirituality of the Legion, I would like to quote St. John Paul again on the spiritual maternity of Mary: ‘From the time when Jesus, dying on the Cross, said to John: ‘Behold your Mother,’ the mystery of the spiritual motherhood of Mary has been actualized boundlessly in history. Motherhood means caring for the life of the child. Since Mary is the Mother of us all, her care for the life of man is universal. The care of a mother embraces her child totally. Mary’s motherhood has its beginning in her motherly care for Christ. In Christ, at the foot of the Cross, she accepted John, and in John she accepted all of us totally. Mary embraces us all with special solicitude in the Holy Spirit. I just want to underline the truth that Mary’s maternity of each one of us is absolutely total: now and at the hour of our death, always and everywhere, when we are in grace and when we are submerged in sin, her maternal heart is always focused on each one of us.
Finally, let us come back to Fatima and some of the actual words Our Lady speaks to us: ‘In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.’ These words are a clear reminder on one of the most treasured texts in sacred scripture in the history of the Legion: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, between her seed and your seed, and she will crush your head. (Gen. 3:15). The first thing that God promised mankind after the fall of original sin is the gift of a Woman who would give us Our Saviour and Our Lord. Fatima reminds us of all these magnificent truths and how profoundly we need them today when so many Christians, including our legionary brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith and so many others who are called to be a presence of Mary in a militantly hostile secularist culture and can be sometimes tempted to discouragement in the midst of this spiritual warfare. We are not fighting a losing battle because victory comes through Mary, who gave us Jesus. Amen.
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