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Feasts of Love: The Sacred Heart of Jesus and The Immaculate Heart of Mary

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June 8 and 9 of this year give us again the opportunity to celebrate two very important devotions in our Catholic life. On June 8 is the traditional celebration of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The object of this devotion is the sacred, meaning divine, and human heart of Jesus that is pierced by a spear and crowned with thorns. The heart is symbolic of love. The Heart of Jesus is divine love given beyond suffering and death for the sake of love for us humans who are made in His image, that is, made to love. His love is unrequited, not returned but spurned by us ever since creation up to now. His creation wants to live a life of his own and thus heads for his own destruction. God cannot be frustrated, defeated. He loves us so much that He sent His own Son, revealing Himself to us as Father, and offered His Son as ransom for us. His work of saving us is done according to what was written in the Scriptures. His Son triumphed over death and already reigns yet He does not stop to rest on His laurels.

 He continues to reach out to us in love, to appeal to our hearts, to our intelligence, to our whole being, to be one with Him in His plan for us. But He needs our cooperation to accomplish it. He needs us for his plan to succeed. He will surely not fail.   He has already everything  in place.. Even if not all of us value what He did and is doing. He values us as Himself, as His own Son became human with usand showed us His way. He is patient. He has eternity to win us over.

 In order to make known his plan more clearly to us, he continues to enlist the collaboration of people,  particularly the small, the docile, those who can forget themselves to proclaim His greatness, His will and His way. This is how the devotion to the Sacred heart started, with monks and nuns in their convents praying in the silence of their monasteries and meditating  on the goodness of God. Led by the Holy Spirit they became His instruments as the world continues to sin.  They did not know God’s plan. They simply obeyed.

 St Marguerite Marie Alcoque, a hidden nun in a small convent of the Visitation in Paray-le-Monial, in the Burgundy region of France, in mid-17th century received visions of the Lord Jesus. Through this simple instrument, God made known His  plan to offer the faithful a way of life through the Sacred Heart of His Son through consecration and reparation that would enshrine His ways in the hearts of His children. He promised to the would-be devotees various graces and helps necessary to live out that way of life, that spirituality. It took a long while beyond her deathtwo centuries later, that the official Church (Pope Leo XII, 1899) fully confirmed God’s action and granted Jesus request for a feast and devotion to His Most Sacred Heart. The Pope himself  led the Act of Consecration of the Human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is now recited in  all Catholic  churches of the world on its  solemnity, the Friday after the Octave of the Feast of Corpus Christias our Lord requested it. The world was not the same ever since. God continues to work marvels in His creation, in our lives. He starts  in small things with simple and humble people and surprises us with great things. But He needs our cooperation.

 On the 9th of June we are celebrating another Heart. This time it is the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  It is immaculate, meaning, spotless, most clean because it was the heart that would love and be modeled after the love of Her divine Son, the Savior of all including His blessed Mother. This devotion started also quietly among the monks and nuns way back in the 13th century. They did not know that they were preparing the world for something great. It took St John Eudes who, about the same time of St Marguerite Marie Alacoque, wrote extensively on the devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The devotion then was to the Most Pure Heart of Mary and in !855 an office and mass were approved for this title of Mary without imposing them upon the whole Church. It was only in 1944 that Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on 22 August. But in 1969 Pope Blessed Paul VI moved it to the Saturday after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as we have it now, to show the close association of the two feasts to one another. It teaches us that after all the great feasts of Christianity, the Paschal Mystery, namely, the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Christ, His Ascension,the Pentecost, the honor we give to the Most Holy Trinity,  the celebration of the greatest gift of the Lord to us, His Body and Blood, and then everything goes back to the love and mercy  of the Father who is Jesus Himself whom we honor in  His Heart.  But that’s not the end of it all, there is still another heart that beats in unison with that of  the Son in love for the Father and in love for those who are beloved in the Son, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whose Heart was also pierced like that of her Son due to the ingratitude of mankind. They are united from the beginning in joy and in sorrow. These Hearts offer themselves to be imitated, to be consecrated to and to join in their work of reparation of the damage done to creation because of sin. They offer themselves so that in us the work of God’s love, mercy and salvation may continue until the return of the Lord. What a beautiful handiwork this isThis plan was, so to speak, to be sealed by yet another apparition.

 It started also in a small way, this time it was by an angel, who identified himself as the Angel of Peace, of Portugal. Again with the small and powerless! Who would suspect they would be chosen and prepared for such a mission. These three poor children pasturing the sheep of their families along the hillside in a place called Cabeco, a town in Portugal near a place named after the daughter of Mohamad, Fatima. He appeared three times from the Spring of 1916 through summer and autumn. They were taught  prayers  by the Angel, to offer sacrifices  and they were told, to “pray, pray much! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.” These apparitions left deep impression on them of the divine that they didand imitated what the Angel did and told them. They kept every thing to themselves.

 Until the following year, about the same time when the Angel appeared, the  13th of May they had this very strange visit of a radiant Lady who claimed she came from heaven and who asked them to pray the rosary, to come to the same place on the 13th of every month six times and on the last she would reveal to them who she was and what she wanted and give a sign.

 We know what happened since the 13th of May 1917 up  to the 13th of October and hence forth. Last year, one hundred years ago, the sister and brother Francisco and Jacinta Sarto who died two years after the apparitions were declared Saints of the Church by His Holiness Pope Francis himself in Fatima. Lucia dos Santos entered the convent and  joined the Dorotheans  while receiving further messages in Tuyand Pontevedra and ultimately to become Sister Maria Lucia de Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart, when she joined the Carmelites at Coimbra in Portugal. She passed on into eternity in February 13, 2005 to join her namesake and friend after fulfilling her task of guiding the Church through long years into a deeper understanding of the messages given them at Fatima and beyond. According to her; THE HEART OF MARY GAVE TO FATIMA NOT ONLY ITS INDIVIDUALITY AMONG THE CHARISMS OF THE CHURCH, BUT IMPARTED UNITY TO ALL THE OTHER THEMES.” An expert on Fatima said: “ If Our Lady is, in the Church, a “sacramental presence of the maternal traits of God” nothing portrays her better than the symbol of a Heart. Her heart indeed is the echo of Her Son’s, a clear image, a safe way, a refuge and haven for all of the Fathers children.

 These two liturgical days are teaching us about the deep unity between Son and Mother,  in their relationship to the Father, to one another,  and their relation to all of us. As if putting a stamp to the assertion of the Church, about the truth revealed, Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima was meant to guide us to the Heart of Her Son,  to present to us the Way and to prepare us for His second coming. The two devotions therefore complement each other and are parts of the one and the same plan of salvation of the Father and Lord of all.

 At this point we can say something about the cenacles of the Marian Movement of Priests. We all know Fr Stefano Gobbi, a lowly and simple Italian priest who madea pilgrimage to Fatima and he prayed  before the Image of our Lady at the Chapel of Apparitions, May 8, 1972, 55 years after the Fatima appararitions.  He was then praying for some priest friends who were planning to leave the priesthood and rebel against the church authorities, He felt a strong interior force urging him to have confidence to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady, making use of him as a poor instrument, would gather all those priests who would accept her invitation to consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart, to be strongly united to the Pope and to the Church united with him, and to bring the faithful into the secure refuge of her Immaculate Heart.” He sought confirmation of this with a little sign which he got at the end of the same month while praying at the Shrine of the Annunciation at Nazareth. With the help of his Spiritual Director, he set out to begin his mission. He was guided by Our Lady through interior locutions, themessages of which, he committed to writing. 604 messages collected into a book from 1973 to 1997 under the title, TO THE PRIESTS Our Lady’s Beloved Sons”.It started quietly with three priests, now forty-six years later it has reached to whole world, with thousands of priests, among which are hundreds of  bishops and some Cardinals and hordes of unnamed laymen and women who constantly inspire and support us among the clergy.

 It is very clear that Fatima is continued by the MMP. The Cenacles are the schools of Mary. They are the cohort prepared by our Lady to find refuge in her Immaculate Heart. These  cenacles become the small groups like the apostles in prayer with the Mother of Jesus in  the upper room who received the Holy Spirit and were sent into the world to proclaim the triumph of her Heart and that of the Sacred Heart and that of His Eucharistic reign. Fr Gobbi has returned to his Mother in heaven whom he so assiduously served here on earth. The movement he started continues making Our Lady and our Lord center in the lives of those who form the cenacle.

 These devotions are ways of life, spiritualities, if you may call them, that started quietly in the hearts of people who allowed  themselves to be led by the Sprit of God. They did not know what God will do. They simply responded to the stirrings in their heart in faith just as the people who  were called in Scriptures responded to God’s call. It took time before we can make any sense of the bits and pieces that the Great Architect put together for his building. We, however, are grateful to see ourselves part of  the unraveling of the plan. We are grateful to the Church Our Lord left us with to be our guide here and now. Like, not all apparitions are honored by the Church but with the gift of wisdom and guidance promised by our Lord Himself to the leaders He left with us in the Church and with wealth of  experience through long centuries, She can point to us where the Lord is or where He is not. As Mother and Teacher, aptly called by Pope St John XXIII as Mater et Magistra, the Church guides us to God’s truth and way of life, of holiness. She holds in front of her the example of Our Lady who herself is Mother, who gives us love and everything we need and Teacher in the way that leads us surely to Her Son.  

 The Church teaches us in these two devotions that while both are focused on the Heart they have one meaning which is love. However the Sacred Heart’s love which is divine is object of worship, hence this is shown in the kind of celebration given: a Solemnity.  However, that of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart is human and though endowed with special privilege of being Immaculate, a condition for Her being Mother of God and participant in the work of salvation, all in her is dependent on the mercy of God for all mankind.  Mary is not divine hence her role is always in the service of the Father, truly a “handmaid of the Lord,” and therefore the rank of celebration offered  her is an Obligatory Memorial. The Church venerates the Memory of Our Mother Mary. The Church, in guiding us  makes present God Himself in our midst as teacher.

We are awed by the greatness of God. We are made to experience this in the Church though Scriptures and Tradition as celebrated in our liturgies. We are, the Body of  Christ. We are part of it. We are receivers of God’s bounty yet as we receive we too  become  sharers of it to others. Just like these ancestors of ours in the faith who allowed God to do His work in them let us allow Him to use us too to do His work in us  for the coming generations.

By Religious Contributor, Monsignor Cesar Pagulayan

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