The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with a Solemnity this year on June 11. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated on the following day. Both of these feasts are focused on love with the heart as a symbolic representation. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a reflection on Jesus’ heart full of love for humanity, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary shows the fullness of Mary’s heart with love for the Savior.
Both devotions have a long history starting with the scriptural writings of St. John and St. Paul being full of messages of the love of Jesus, including the famous passage, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life”. (John 3:16) In the 13th Century, St. Bonaventure’s works had many references to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Great mystics like St. Bernard and St. Gertrude, as well as St. Francis de Sales, among others, were also great promoters of the devotion to these two hearts. However, it was St. John Eudes (1601-1680), a priest from France, who is considered to be the originator of the modern devotion to the two hearts; and founder of the Eudists (also known as the Society of Jesus and Mary). In addition to his many texts, he was permitted to establish the Feast of the Heart of Mary in 1648 and the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1670. Just about two years later, Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) in Paray-le-Monial, France asking her to reveal His heart to the world. The revelations at Paray-le-Monial were many and especially memorable is the apparition when Jesus permitted Margaret Mary, as He had formerly allowed St. Gertrude, to rest her head upon His Heart, and then disclosed to her the wonders of His love, telling her that He desired to make them known to all mankind and to diffuse the treasures of His goodness, and that He had chosen her for this work (see reference to the Catholic Encyclopedia below). The revelations to St. Margaret Mary combined with the revelation of the Miraculous Medal in 1830 to St. Catherine Labouré at Rue du Bac in Paris brought great popularity to the devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Franciscan devotions to the Five Wounds (including Jesus’ heart) and Society of Jesus (Jesuits) practice of placing an image of the Sacred Heart on their books and walls of the churches also help spread the pieties.
Images in Churches
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary became a widespread theme in the naming and dedication of churches in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. In these churches, the image of Jesus with His Sacred Heart is generally as described in the following reference from Christian Iconography, “Jesus shows the viewer His heart aflame with love for mankind. He is almost always wears a cinched full-length robe and a mantle that hangs from just one shoulder. In older images the robe will be red and the mantle green, or vice-versa. When pictured full-length, His feet are always bare and sometimes bear the nail marks from the crucifixion. The hands, when visible, will be similarly marked. The heart is usually surmounted by a cross, surrounded by a crown of thorns, and framed by a burst of light. Sometimes it is also pierced by a sword. It is almost always seen on the breast of Jesus, who points to it while engaging the viewer with his eyes.” The revelations of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque are popular stained-glass windows in many churches. In these windows, St. Margaret Mary is generally shown in a nun’s habit kneeling before Jesus in display of the Sacred Heart. A differentiating feature in images of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, especially in versions before the 19th century, is that it is shown being pierced by a sword of Simeon’s prophesy as described, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34–35).
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Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – https://www.nationalshrine.org/blog/the-immaculate-heart-of-mary-and-the-inspiration-of-marys-love/
Catholic Encyclopedia – https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07163a.htm
Christian Iconography – https://www.christianiconography.info/sacredHeart.html and https://www.christianiconography.info/heartMary.html
Divine Office – https://divineoffice.org/about-sacred-heart/