Carmel in the World Magazine
Carmel in the World
2011. Volume L, Number 2 – Fiftieth Year
- A Gift that keeps on giving
- The Lamb of God and Carmelite Spirituality
- Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Church and in the Carmelite Order (below)
- The Dark Night and its Pastoral Applications in Clinical Settings
- John of the Cross and Visions
- Kenyans mourn Irish doctor and priest who served the poor with courage and devotion
- Carmel around the World
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Church and in the Carmelite Order
Emanuele Boaga O. Carm., translated by K. Alban, O.Carm., General Curia, Rome.
The Heart of Mary in Sacred Scripture
The roots of devotion to the Heart of Mary are to be found Luke’s Gospel where there are two references to the Virgin’s heart:
Luke 2:19 “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Luke 2:51 “…and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
In the world view of the Bible, the heart was considered to be the centre of human spiritual life. When applied to the Mother of God, the expression “heart of Mary” takes on a powerful meaning which is charged with spiritual energy. The two texts in Luke present Mary’s heart as the record and first Gospel where Christ’s sayings and events are preserved, particularly those relating to his infancy. It is this which gives devotion to the Heart of Mary a basis in scripture of incomparable value.
The Heart of Mary in Tradition
We can trace three main periods in the Church’s tradition: the patristic period when attention to Mary’s heart was first given; secondly, the medieval period which saw a development of the patristic ideas; finally a third period in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when there was a full flowering of devotion to the Heart of Mary.
In the first period we find various allusions to Mary’s heart in Church Fathers such as St. Ephrem, St. Fulgentius and Hesychius. St. Gregory the Wonderworker speaks of Mary’s Heart as a vessel which receives all mysteries, while the eastern writer Simeon Metafronte states that it is the place of Christ’s passion. In the Latin Fathers however, we see more frequently the idea that Mary conceives Christ aure, fide et corde, that is by listening, through faith and in her heart. Based on this St. Augustine develops the idea of the conception of the Word “previously and happily” in the heart and then in the womb of the Virgin. For St. Ambrose imitation of Mary becomes feasible when referred to her heart.
Above all from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries these ideas from the Fathers are taken up again and expanded in a strongly exuberant way full of life, of colour as they nourished flowering of true devotion and veneration of Mary’s heart. A number of important theological figures contribute to this development such as Anselm of Lucca, Rupert of Deutz, Hugh of St. Victor, Guerric, Amadeus of Lausanne, pseudo-Bernard, Aelred of Rievaulx and Richard of St. Laurence. Not to be forgotten in this context are the mystical experiences of St. Matilde of Hacheborn, St. Gertrude the Great and St. Brigid of Sweden. Above all for St. Bernardine of Siena in the heart of Mary there is a living furnace from which seven flames issue which are the seven acts of love, expressed by the seven words of Mary as recorded in the gospels.
After a brief decline in the fifteenth century, devotion to the Heart of Mary takes off again with great vigour with the spread of the works of the Carthusian John Lanspergio, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis de Sales, François Poiré, and Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle among others. The seventeenth century saw the full flowering of veneration of Mary’s Heart, familiar as it was to contemplatives who were devoted to the Mother of Jesus.
At the same time as this devotion was developing, theologians also enquired into the legitimacy of the veneration, as well as the object of it, which had been contested by the Jansenists. It gradually became clearer that to be devoted to the Heart of Mary was to contemplate that maternal love with which she, Mother of God, gave to the mystery of redemption, and as a spiritual Mother, gave also to the faithful in their lives. It was also a recognition that in this devotion God’s love itself became more comprehensible and accessible. Immersing oneself in Mary’s Heart is to live the fullness and the depth of the mystery of redemption and to put oneself at the service of one’s brothers and sisters.
We come to our own period in the person of Blessed John Paul II who in his 1979 Encyclical, Redemptor hominis, observes that “... the mystery of redemption is formed, we might say, in the heart of the Virgin of Nazareth when she pronounced her fiat. From that moment, her heart, both virginal and maternal, under the Holy Spirit’s special influence, follows her Son’s work and … all those whom Christ has embraced and continues to embrace in his inexhaustible love” (n. 22).
Finally, it is important to emphasise that in this whole development of the devotion various expressions were used to refer to Mary’s Heart in the past. Above all in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the most frequently used were “Most Pure Heart”, “Most Holy Heart” and “Sacred Heart”. After the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception (1854) the phrase “Immaculate Heart of Mary” began to be used and this became common in popular parlance as well as in the liturgy after the apparitions in Fatima in 1917.
The Heart of Mary in the Liturgy
The first traces of a public liturgical cult to the Heart of Mary are to be found in 1648 thanks to the efforts of Fr. Vincenzo Guinigi of the Clerics Regular of the Mother of God (Piarist Fathers). Also influential in the promotion and spread of public devotion were Fr. Ignazio del Nente (d. 1648) and Fr. Antonio Barbieux (d. 1661). The greatest exponent of this public Marian devotion was, however, St. John Eudes. Already from 1643 he initiated the liturgical feast of the Heart of Mary among his confreres of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. Five years later he celebrated the feast publically in the city of Autun with an Office and Mass he had composed himself, with the local bishop’s approval. Despite opposition from Jansenists, other French dioceses adopted the idea of the feast and the texts composed by St. John Eudes. However, in 1668 the Cardinal Legate of France asked Rome for official approval of the texts, but the Congregation of Rites rejected his request on the grounds that there were doctrinal difficulties. In 1765 the Holy See allowed a proper office for the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but there was no thought of including the Heart of Mary.
Once the difficulties had been overcome, in 1799, Pius VI allowed the celebration of the devotion in Palermo, Sicily. In 1805 Pius VII decided to grant permission for the feast to all those who had requested it, using the office of Our Lady of the Snows, with appropriate modifications. Under Pius IX, in 1855, the Congregation of Rites approved new texts for the Mass and Office based partly on Eudes’ proposals for those dioceses and religious congregations that had specifically requested them.
In 1914, with the reform of the Roman Missal, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was placed in an appendix for celebrations “in other places”. Many requests followed for the extension of this feast to the whole Church. Thus Pius XII on 8 December 1942, as war raged around the world, consecrated the whole human race to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and on 4 May, 1944, extended this feast to the whole world decreeing that it should be celebrated on 22 August, the octave day of the Assumption, as a double of the second class. Subsequently the Congregation of the Rites issued a decree, De rubricis, on 23 May, 1955, which suppressed the octave of the Assumption. The feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary continued to be celebrated independently using texts for the Mass and Office from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary with some proper prayers.
With the reform of the liturgy following the Second Vatican Council, the celebration in honour of Mary’s Immaculate Heart was designated as an optional memorial on the Saturday following the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is an appropriate pairing of the two devotions which in recent years had become rather static. Finally, in 1996, Blessed John Paul II raised the rank of celebration of this Marian devotion to that of an obligatory memorial and this is reflected in the third edition of the Roman Missal (Latin 2002, English 2011).
Devotion to the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Carmel
Devotion to the Heart of Mary is already present in Carmelite authors of the fifteenth century. For example, Arnold Bostius and John Paleonydorus speak of Mary’s heart as a symbol of clemency. In the various editions of the Carmelite Missal, from 1551 onwards, in the post communion prayer of Mary’s Presentation, there was a specific reference to Mary’s function: “May the sacraments we have received, O Lord, save us through Mary’s intercession, who with the devotion of her most pure heart always made a sacrifice acceptable to you.”
In the constitutions of the Florentine monastery of St. Mary of the Angels there is a reminder to priests to preach a homily to the postulants that recalls the nails which pierced the hearts of both Jesus and Mary and how this should nourish a grateful memory. St Mary Magdalen de’Pazzi lived in this same monastery and she also spoke often in her ecstasies of the hearts of Jesus and Mary. For example on 30 June, 1584:
“And Love followed saying: ‘Offer to the eternal Father the hearts of all creatures, together with the humanity of Jesus and the heart of the Virgin Mary, which He accepted more than willingly’.” Speaking of the Incarnation and of virginity, “You had an anxious thirst that Mary should be followed by virgins, and each time you took Mary’s pure heart to examine it, you desired a virgin’s purity so that you could not say of Mary’s heart, ‘Daughter bring me your heart’, because you always had it and embraced it in your hands.”
In the notes on her “reports” of her ecstasies we read,
“We understood once again that in this night Jesus changed the heart of this blessed soul (i.e. Mary Magdalen de’Pazzi) and gave her that of the Virgin Mary. But we only extracted this secret from her with the greatest of effort and with many prayers for she only said: ‘Jesus has changed my heart’. But after when we said, ‘did he give you the heart of the Virgin?’, she confessed it was true.”
We can find similar expressions in the writings of Ven. Matthias Labita (1612-1649) and of Ven. Serafina of God (1621-1699). Labita pleads: “Give me, sweet Mother, your heart if you yearn for my love”, and Serafina recognizes that: “You saw me in the Heart of the Queen of Angels”.
In this we can see the influence of an environment of love which characterises Carmelite mystical experiences. Venerable Michael of St. Augustine in his Pia Vita in Christo (published in Brussels in 1663) indicated the advantages of living always “in the hearts of Jesus and Mary”. In other words: sure spiritual progress, the absence of any anguish a life pure and innocent in the eyes of God and his angels, preservation from every scruple and every imperfection. In another of his works, Vita angelica, he describes the sweet reality of encountering Jesus and his mother in the hearts of the faithful:
“After a devout Communion, the faithful feel that they have within them the furnace of the most loveable heart of Jesus in an incomparably more ardent way, and these flames of love have an affinity with those of the most loveable heart of the beloved Mother. In this way the two hearts of Jesus and Mary are brought together in a mutual and loving impulse; these interchangeable flames penetrate the heart of the faithful who have received Communion and are responsible for very intimate and loving actions. In fact, since these devout people are almost hidden in Mary’s heart and through Communion they have received the Heart of Jesus, it happens that Mary’s heart works in Jesus’ Heart, through the hearts of these persons who are contained in his Heart, and conversely the Heart of Jesus works inside Mary’s heart. Thus the individual believer’s heart experiences the reciprocal actions of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who together bring about this union of hearts.”
In a typically sixteenth century style, Andrea Mastelloni, the famous Marian preacher from Naples, took his listeners to sublime spiritual heights speaking of Mary as the Queen of our hearts because she is the bride of the Holy Spirit:
“Virgin Mary, our heart and Queen of our hearts, may God save you: Hail! Hail Holy Queen. Queen of our hearts, we bow before your greatness with an act of profound devotion and delighting in being your vassals, with great enthusiasm, we voluntarily place ourselves under your most sweet sceptre. Let us make our home in your realm whose doors we open and to whom we consign a golden basin in tender devotion. Hail Holy Queen. Universal Queen of Heaven and Earth … Queen of all creatures … Queen of Holy Mother Church … how many are there, and who can count them? How many are the realms that you possess? How many are the titles that adorn you? But although we venerate them all, we put them to one side, and we only wish to call you by that title which is dearest and most tender to us, that of Queen of our hearts. Queen of our hearts we greet you. Hail Holy Queen.”
Among the other figures in the Order in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who make reference to Mary’s heart, and that of Jesus, and whose devotion is attested, we can mention the following. In Italy many nuns chose the term “of the Heart of Mary” as part of their name in religion and towards the end of the seventeenth century novices were encouraged to revere and adore the Heart of Jesus for the Virgin and the Heart of the Virgin for that of Jesus. Many preachers also contributed to the development of the devotion to Mary’s heart, among whom Andrea Ferraro in 1673, Vito Alberto Mustaccio in 1696 with his ‘The indwelling of the Heart of Mary in the heart of Messina’, and finally Giuseppe Antonio of St. Elias. In Spain we find Maria Escobar (1599-1634), Iago Aranz Gabriel Pons; in Portugal, Gaetano do Vencimento; in Germany, Giacinto of the Mother of God and Eusebius of S. Tiburius. Carlo of St. Teresa, in 1655, inserted a series of greetings to the heart of Mary in a devotional book for the Confraternity of St. Charles and an anonymous Polish Carmelite, in 1669, added a short treatise in which the heart of Mary is mentioned several time to the work Diva Virgo Cracoviensis.
We should also note that in the course of the eighteenth century devotion to the Heart of Mary is more and more linked to that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This can be seen in the dedication of altars to the “Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary”, such as that in the church in Syracuse in 1756.
Another detail in the spread of devotion to the heart of Mary should be emphasised, particularly in the provinces of Upper Germany and Belgium-Flanders. It was the custom to make a heart with the initials “MR” on it, topped by a crown and sometimes underneath the phrase “Love of Carmel” doubtlessly indicating the heart of Carmel which loves the Virgin.
In his room in San Martino, Rome, Blessed Angelo Paoli made two rough mosaics, one a heart with the initials “HJS” and the other with “MR”. These were presumably visual aids to help in the Blessed’s meditation on the two hearts of Jesus and Mary. Unfortunately, these mosaics were lost when the house of San Martino was refurbished.
The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Carmelite Liturgy
Some authors claim that the Carmelites in Apt, France, were the first in the Order to celebrate the liturgical feast of the Heart of Mary as early as the fourteenth century. This is difficult to verify. After the destruction of the original church the Carmelites of Apt built a new one at the beginning of the fifteenth century. It is to this Church that a document of 1699 makes reference to a fourth chapel where there was a devotion to the Most Pure Heart of Mary. In 1704 Clement XI granted indulgences to the confraternity of Renne which was named after the Most Sacred Heart of Mary. Father Benjamin of St. John instituted the feast and confraternity of the Sacred Heart of Mary in the house of Puy in 1739.
Making reference to Pius VII’s provisions in 1805, the Vicar General of the Order, Giuseppe Bartoli, obtained approval for an Office and Mass for the whole Order in 1814. The liturgical texts were those indicated by the Congregation for Rites, that is those for the celebration of Our Lady of the Snows, with modifications. The feast was inserted into the Order’s calendar on the Sunday after the octave of the Assumption. Subsequently on 6 July, 1849, the Congregation laid down that if that Sunday should fall on 24 or 25 August, then the feast of the “Most Sacred Heart of Mary” should be transferred to the next free day. On 18 August, 1846, the Congregation had already allowed the Carmelites to celebrate the feast with the rank of a double major of the second class. In the official liturgical calendars of the Order the title of this feast appears, at the end of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, as the “Most Pure Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. It is to be noted that the first province in North America, erected in 1890, was dedicated to the Most Pure Heart of Mary and that later on 8 December, 1942, the Prior General, Hilary Doswald, consecrated the whole Order to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
Regarding the liturgical texts, in 1879 the Vicar General, Angelo Savini, obtained from the Holy See permission to adopt those texts which had been approved in 1855 by the Congregation of Rites for the dioceses and religious families that had requested them.
With the reform of the perpetual calendar proper to the Order in 1935, following norms laid down in 1911, the feast of the “Most Pure Heart of Mary, Mother of God”, a double major of the second class, was placed on the Saturday after the octave of “Corpus Christi”. Thus we have the Carmelite missal published in 1938 with the 1855 liturgical texts. However, from 1944 the feast was celebrated on 22 August, in accordance with the wishes of Pius XII when he extended the feast to the entire Church. The Carmelite Order, however, did not adopt the Roman rite texts because it already possessed texts in its own rite.
With the liturgical reforms that took place after Vatican II, the Order gave up its own proper rite in 1972 and in the current Carmelite calendar there is no celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary since it is already envisaged in the universal calendar of the Church as an obligatory memorial on the Saturday after the second Sunday after Pentecost.
Notes for further reading
John Paul II, Redemptor hominis – Encyclical at the beginning of his papacy, 1979.
V. Borg, Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Mary with Particular Reference to its Development in the Carmelite Order, Rome, 1953 – unpublished dissertation.