History of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

August 22, 2020
Source: District of Asia
History of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Though the devotion is well founded in the Scripture (cf. Luke 2), and the devotion as private cult well established in the early Middle ages. Here we present the history of the Public devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.Though the devotion is well founded in the Scripture (cf. Luke 2), and the devotion as private cult well established in the early Middle ages. Here we present the history of the Public devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The period of public cult began approximately in the second half of the seventeenth century with the entrance of devotion to the Heart of Mary into the devotional and liturgical life of the faithful. In 1640 a Confraternity of the Heart of Mary was canonically erected at Naples by Father Vincent Guinigi, of the Clerics Regular of the Mother of God. This seems to be the first public, although non-liturgical, cult of the Heart of Mary introduced into the Church.

About the same time two Dominicans helped to spread the devotion by their writings. Father Ignatius del Nente published a devotional book in honor of the Heart of Mary in Florence in 1642 and Father Anthony Barbieux, of Flemish origin, published another at Lillie in 1661.

The central figure of this devotion, however, was St. John Eudes (1601 – 1608), was merited from Pope Pius X the title of Father, Doctor and Apostle of the liturgical cult of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. St. John Eudes, like many of his contemporaries, considered devotion in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary as inseparable. He founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary for priests – the Eudists – and tow Congregations of nuns. He often spoke of the Heart of Jesus and Mary as one because of their intimate moral union. Wishing to obtain true stability for the devotion to the Hearts, he composed an Office and Mass in their honor and sought episcopal approval. He had the great joy of seeing the Office and Mass of the Heart of Mary celebrated for the first time in the Cathedral of Autun of February 8, 1648, an historic date in the liturgy for their own dioceses. The Office and Mass of the Sacred Heart, however, were not celebrated publicly by the Eudists until more than twenty years later, in 1672.

In 1668 Cardinal de Vendome, Legate a latere of Clement IX, approved the Office and Mass of the Holy Heart of Mary and authorised them to be celebrated on February eighth. However, the advancement of the cult received a temporary setback when the Sacred congregation of Rites refused a similar approval at Rome the following year.

Nevertheless, many Religious Orders and Congregations sought to obtain the feast of Heart of Mary composed by St. John Eudes and confraternities in her honor were erected, many of them through the personal intercession of St. John Eudes, who obtained Bulls of approval from Clement X. By 1672, St. John Eudes who able to write that the feast was celebrated in nearly the whole of France and in many Religious Orders.

Besides, St. John Eudes there were two outstanding Jesuits whose names have been linked with the early spread of public cult. They are John Joseph Gallifet (1663 – 1749) in France, and John Peter Pinamonti in Italy.  Gallifet has been called the first postulator of the feast of the Heart of Mary. In 1727 he sought papal approval of the feast of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, but his request was reject-ed in 1729. The two feasts were then separated and the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus alone was proposed and finally approved in 1765. Pinamonti, an indefatigable preacher, was instrumental in spreading devotion to the Heart of Mary throughout Italy. He is best known for his beautiful little book Il Sacro Cuore di Maria Virgine. His concept of this devotion coincided exactly with that of St. John Eudes.

The spread of the cult of the Immaculate Heart met with many obstacles during the seventeenth century, especially from the Jansenists. All the early promoters suffered at the hands of enemies. St. John Eudes complained in his writings against his adversaries who accused him of sixteen heresies. Despite this opposition the cult continued to grow and found fertile field in Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

In 1799 Pope Pius VI granted permission to the Archbishop of Palermo to authorize the feast for his diocese. A still greater liturgical victory was won on August 31, 1805, when the Sacred Congregation issued a Decree of Pius VII granting the feast of the Heart of Mary to those who made formal request for it. The Office and Mass were taken from the feast of Our Lady of Snows with the lessons of the second nocturn from the fifth day within the Octave of the Nativity of Mary.

Following the papal approval of 1805, the rest of the nineteenth century was a long, almost uninterrupted, series of successes for the cult of the Immaculate Heart. Among them we should mention the foundation of many Religious Congregations of men and women who, dedicated to the Heart of Mary, became true apostles in the spread of this devotion. Also worthy of mention are: the conversion of the Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne, the Miraculous Medal (1830), the famous confraternities and archconfraternities (Paris, 1836) with their millions of members, the Apostleship of Prayer of Fathers Gautrelet and Ramiere, the apparitions of Pontmain (1871) and of Pellevoisin (1876), the Green Scapular of the Heart of Mary (1846), the Scapular of the Most Pure Heart of Mary for the conversion of sinners (1877), the Apostolate of St. Anthony Claret, and finally the consecration of dioceses, Ecclesiastical Provinces, Religious Orders and Congregations to the Immaculate Heart.  It is highly significant that a crusade for the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart began in 1900 after Pope Leo XIII had consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

To these facts must be added the outstanding liturgical triumph of this cult in the nineteenth century, namely, the approval of the feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary with its proper Office and Mass, granted on July 21, 1855, by Pope Pius IX in the decree Hispaniarum. This feast was accepted by many dioceses, Religious Orders and Congregations, and was generally celebrated by them on the Sunday after the octave of the Assumption. Later in 1914 it was transferred to the Saturday after the feast of the Sacred Heart, until the new feast of the Immaculate Heart, granted in 1944, supplanted it.

 The twentieth century has completed the triumph of the public and liturgical cult of the Immaculate Heart. The apparitions of Fatima in 1917 speeded the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart. In 1942 Pope Pius XII, burdened with the anxiety of the times, turned to Mary as a last resort for world peace and consecrated the Church and the world to her Immaculate Heart. In 1944 he established the universal feast of the Immaculate Heart to be celebrated yearly on August 22 as a remember of this consecration. This is the highest stamp of approval which the Church gives to a cult. Thus, the cult of Mary’s Heart enjoys today a prominent position in the spiritual and liturgical life of the Church, along with the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Extracted from the ‘Theology of Doctrine of the Immaculate Heart of Mary’ by Rev. Kilian Healy, O.Carm.