Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary


In the midst of the second world war Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the special protection of our Savior's Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart, and in 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not a new devotion. In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. Pius XII instituted today's feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession "peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue" (Decree of May 4, 1944).


The attention of Christians was early attracted by the love and virtues of the Heart of Mary. The Gospel itself invited this attention with exquisite discretion and delicacy. What was first excited was compassion for the Virgin Mother. It was, so to speak, at the foot of the Cross that the Christian heart first made the acquaintance of the Heart of Mary. Simeon's prophecy paved the way and furnished the devotion with one of its favorite formulae and most popular representations: the heart pierced with a sword. But Mary was not merely passive at the foot of the Cross; "she cooperated through charity", as St. Augustine says, "in the work of our redemption".


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Jesus remained behind . . . asking them questions. (Luke 2:43, 46)


Did you know that Jesus asks more than three hundred questions in the Gospels? By contrast, he directly answers just a handful. That’s because instead of giving easy, straightforward answers, he prompts people to search their hearts, examine their attitudes, and deepen their relationships with God and each other.


Jesus even questioned his sinless mother, Mary, when she and Joseph found him in the Temple after three anxious days of searching: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).


It could sound as if Jesus were giving his mother back talk or showing Mary and Joseph some measure of disrespect. How many of us would give our children a stern rebuke if we were treated that way? But Mary responded differently. At first, like the elders in the Temple, she was “astonished” at Jesus’ question (Luke 2:47, 48). But she moved beyond her initial surprise and took up a more prayerful attitude: she “kept all these things in her heart” (2:51).


This is probably one of the clearest illustrations of Mary’s immaculate heart. She trusted that Jesus had the best of intentions when he stayed behind at the Temple. She didn’t nurse a grudge against him for putting her and Joseph through the ordeal of searching for him. She didn’t act defensively or presume that Jesus was disrespecting her when he asked his question. She didn’t feel the need to put Jesus in his place or to use harsh words to establish her authority over him. She just took her concerns to God in prayer and asked him to help her understand.


Like Mary, you may not understand everything God seems to say or do in your life. But as you take the time to ponder and pray, the Holy Spirit will help you. What’s more, you can ask Mary to intercede for you. She’s the perfect model of someone who embraced Jesus’ words with a pure and trusting heart, and she can help you do the same.


“Holy Mary, pray that I may have a heart as pure as yours.”


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Grant, Lord God, that we, your servants, may rejoice in unfailing health of mind and body, and, through the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, may we be set free from present sorrow and come to enjoy eternal happiness.

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The Cathedral of Saint Peter is the Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton. The Cathedral has been serving the faithful of the diocese and beyond since 1853.

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