“Who knows if [God] has not also saved up the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for our day, to warm our cold hearts and give us numberless graces through its means? For, as in Mary He has stored up all His treasures, so He has made her prayers the rule of His mercies.”
Devotion to Mary finds its roots in the Gospels. Yet, the particular devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart developed much later. Its initial growth emerged with St. John Eudes work, The Admirable Heart of Mary. In addition to founding two communities named in her honor, St. John Eudes worked to establish a liturgical feast for the admirable Heart of Mary, going so far as to compose a Mass and Office for it. It was approved by Pius VII in 1805 and the feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary was celebrated on February 8th.
While St. John Eudes spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in France, Fr. John Peter Pinamonti, SJ, proclaimed the same devotion in his missions throughout northern and central Italy. His book on the Immaculate Heart of Mary was published as seven “Considerations.” It provided simple and clear explanations of the basic doctrines on Mary and further specified devotion to her Heart.
During the Marian Age, which opened with the apparitions of the Miraculous Medal to St. Catherine Labouré in 1830, devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart continued to develop. In the second apparition, St. Catherine received the pattern for the Miraculous Medal. On the reverse side of the medal were images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary positioned side by side. This detail points to the unity between the two devotions.
A short time later, in 1832, Father Charles du Friche des Gennettes, pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Victories in Paris, was inspired to consecrate his parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary. In this time after the French Revolution when Mass attendance was down, he composed the rules for a confraternity of Our Lady and had it approved by the bishop. When he went to explain the rules of the Confraternity, four hundred people were in attendance. From that point on, Our Lady of Victories became a site of many miracles and conversions.
The prodigies of Our Lady of Victories had an epilogue in the visions of Sr. Justine Bisqueyburu. On September 8, 1840, Sr. Justine received instructions to have a Badge of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (also called the Green Scapular) made and distributed specifically for the conversion of sinners. The only requirement is that the prayer on the scapular: “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death,” is said by or for the person to be converted. Up until this time, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary had not explicitly been associated with the conversion of sinners.
The apostolic fruitfulness of the devotion soon caught the attention of St. Anthony Claret who helped to promote it in Spain and shared it with his friend Fr. Masmitjá, our Founder. The apparitions in France mentioned above along with Our Lady of Fatima, and the newly-approved apparitions in Wisconsin have lead to wide-spread devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as expressed through First Saturday devotions, the wearing of the Miraculous Medal and green scapular, and the founding of numerous religious orders devoted to the Immaculate Heart. All of these expressions of devotion to the IHM include the intention of the conversion of sinners, beginning with ourselves. To read more about the way in which our Institute lives our devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, visit our charism pages. May Mary’s Heart Immaculate, be forever praised!
The history of the feast of IHM