Devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary: Its Origin and History

by Alliance of Two Hearts & Immaculate Mediatrix


Devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary originates in Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the saints. This article lists and explains many of scriptural references that demonstrate a strong basis for the devotion. Pope Pius XII taught that the Church Fathers proclaimed the love of Jesus for men, expressing itself through His human heart, and the love of Mary, who suffered along with her crucified Son. Finally, the article mentions St. Bonaventure and St. John Eudes as the two saints who most strongly advocated this devotion.

Publisher & Date

Alliance of Two Hearts & Immaculate Mediatrix, July 1995

In Sacred Scripture

The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are mentioned explicitly only briefly in the text of the New Testament. Nevertheless the many references to the love and compassion of Jesus and Mary, as well as implied references to their Hearts, provide a vivid revelation of the Two Hearts. It is remarkable that the few explicit references all bear upon the work of redemption. Some of the more important references are:

Matthew 11:25 — "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart."

This passage refers to Our Lord's invitation to imitate the dispositions and virtues of His own human Heart, reflecting upon His ineffable humility in becoming man and being born in a stable; His remarkable patience in living a hidden, obscure life for 30 years; His unsurpassed charity in preaching, teaching, working miracles, healing the bodies and souls of believers and unbelievers; His perfect obedience to the Father in enduring without complaint the bitter agony and infamy of death on the Cross.

Luke 2:19 — "Mary kept in mind all these things, pondering them in Her Heart."

This passage refers to the visit of the shepherds to the Child Jesus in His crib at Bethlehem. It refers directly to what they reported regarding the heavenly host of angels that came to announce the birth of the Messiah, and how all marveled at what the shepherds had reported.

Luke 2:51b — "His Mother kept all these things carefully in Her Heart."

This passage refers to the events surrounding the loss of Jesus for three days during a visit to Jerusalem, and how Mary and Joseph found Him teaching the doctors of the Mosaic Law in the Temple, to the amazement of all who heard Him.

Luke 2:35 — "Your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

This passage is spoken by the old man Simeon on the occasion of Mary bringing Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer Him to God according to the custom of the Mosaic Law. In it Simeon prophesies that Mary will share in the salvific sufferings of Her Son.

John 7:38b — "From His Heart will flow rivers of living water."

This reading is based on the most reliable texts of the Gospel of St. John. It refers directly to the Heart of the Messiah, and recalls the prophesies of Isaiah (Isaiah 12:3) And St. John goes on to explain in verse 39, that Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit, which He Himself will give, from His Heart, to those who believe in Him. The reading which is found in most translations-referring to the hearts of believers-is a variant believed to have its source in a textual mistake by Origen, a famous theologian who complied a multi-lingual edition of the Bible in the Third Century, A. D..

John 19:34 — "One of the soldiers opened His side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water."

This passage refers to the piercing of Christ's Heart as He hung in death upon the Cross. The blood and water have always been seen by Roman Catholics to mystically symbolize and effect the origin and the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. It was at the piercing of Christ's Heart in death that Mary's Heart was pierced in spirit, thus fulfilling Luke 2:35 (cf. above), and exemplifying the profound mystical union of the Heart of Jesus with the Heart of Mary in the work of our redemption. This union began when by the power of the Holy Spirit Mary conceived the Heart of Jesus beneath Her own Heart. It is consummated when at one and the same time these Two Hearts are immolated for our salvation. And now in heaven it continues forever as the sole source of mankind's salvation and sanctification.

Each of these passages are very significant, for they clearly indicate that Admirable Alliance of Hearts, which worked the salvation of the whole world: the Heart of Jesus, which suffered to the point of being pierced so as to pour forth upon all who believe in Him, the grace of the Holy Spirit, which makes them partakers of the Holy Eucharist in the communion of fellowship in the Catholic Church; and the Heart of Mary, always focused on Her Divine Son, which was predestined by God to suffer with Him for the salvation of mankind.

In the Fathers of the Church

"The holy Fathers, true witnesses of the divinely revealed doctrine, wonderfully understood what St. Paul the Apostle had quite clearly declared; namely; that the mystery of love was, as it were, both the foundation and the culmination of the Incarnation and Redemption. For frequently and clearly we can read in their writings that Jesus Christ took a perfect human nature and our weak and perishable human body with the object of providing for our eternal salvation, and of revealing to us in the clearest possible manner that His infinite love for us could express itself in human terms. (from Hauretis Aquas by Venerable Pope Pius XII, n. 44)

Likewise these same Fathers of the Church often meditated and praised the singular love and faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who so generously offered Herself to God to fulfill His plans for our redemption, and who so steadfastly persevered with Her Son Jesus Christ in His ignominious crucifixion and death.

In both these approaches the Fathers of the Church laid the foundation for true devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary by clearly indicating the union of charity which bound Them both in the work of redemption.

In the Writings of the Saints

Chief among the saints of the Catholic Church who fostered devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are St. Bonaventure and St. John Eudes.

St. Bonaventure, a Cardinal and Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, was a learned theologian and bishop of the Franciscan Order in the 13th Century. He wrote extensive theological works and is considered by the Papal Magisterium to be one of the two primary Doctors of the Catholic Church since the patristic era. St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican priest and contemporary of St. Bonaventure, is the other.

St. Bonaventure's writings on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are scatter throughout all his works, but a passage on the Sacred Heart that is particularly poignant is found in his devotional work The Mystical Vine, a description of the Passion of Jesus Christ. This passage is found in the Liturgy of the Hours for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in June.

St. John Eudes (1601-1680), however, is the founder of the modern public devotion to the Two Hearts. It was his mission to organize the scriptural, theological, patristic, and liturgical sources relating to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and to popularize them with the approbation of the Church. His chief writings on this topic were: The Admirable Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God, The Admirable Heart of the Mother of God, the Life and Kingdom of Jesus, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, The Admirable Heart of Mary. Included among his works was a mass and office for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and one for the Admirable Heart of Mary. He was the first to dedicate churches in the world to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

St. Albert the Great, St. Gertrude, St. Catherine of Siena, Bl. Henry of Suso, St. Peter Canisius, and St. Francis of Sales also did much to propagate and promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and Eckbert of Schonau, who wrote the first extant prayer to the Heart of Mary, St. Mechtild of Hackeborn, St. Gertrude the Great, St. Bernard, St. Herman Joseph, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Bernadine of Siena and St. Francis de Sales also did much to promote devotion to the Heart of Mary.

In the Nineteenth Century the Abbe Desgenettes consecrated his parish church, the Notre Dame des Victoires, in Paris, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and founded the Archconfraternity in Her honor. Later Father William Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, as well as St. Anthony Mary Claret, the founder of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, did much to promote devotion to Mary's Heart.

In the Liturgy

Even before the beginning of private revelations of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in modern times, St. John Eudes had obtained permission from the ecclesiastical authorities to celebrate the Feast of the Heart of Mary liturgically. This was done for the first time at Autun, France, on May 8, 1648 A. D.. In 1799 Pope Pius VI permitted religious societies in the archdiocese of Palermo, Sicily, to celebrate a similar feast. In 1805 Pope Pius VII extended this permission to all religious societies and dioceses throughout the world. On July 21, 1855, the Sacred Congregation of Rites approved for the universal Roman Catholic Church an Office and Mass in honor of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. It was Venerable Pope Pius XII who had the joy to institute the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the universal Church in 1945 A.D..

St. John Eudes also obtained permission to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the liturgy. This was done for the first time at the Grand Seminary of Rennes, France, on August 31, 1670 A. D.. This liturgical commemoration of the love of the Redeemer began just two years or so before Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alaqoque, asking her to reveal His Heart to the world. These celebrations thus served Divine Providence, for they drew down upon the world a new era of Mercy and Grace. Spurred on the Revelations to St. Margaret the liturgical celebration of the Sacred Heart gradually grew in popularity throughout Europe. At the request of innumerable petitions, in particular that of the entire Polish hierarchy, Pope Clement XIII requested the Sacred Congregation of Rites to examine the devotion. On January 25, 1765 A. D., devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was formally approved. Venerable Pope Pius IX extended the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the entire Catholic Church in 1858 A. D.. And Pope Leo XIII approved the litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Consecration to the Two Hearts in Papal Teaching

In 1864 A. D. Cardinal Gousset of Rhiems, supported by Archbishop de la Tour-d'Auvergen of Bourges, Bishop Mermillod and other bishops of France and Spain petitioned Venerable Pope Pius IX to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Archbishop of Bourges renewed this petition at Vatican I. During the council Father Pere Henri Ramiere, S.J., the great promoter of the Apostleship of Prayer, presented a request to consecrate the whole Church to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This petition was supported by 272 Bishops, but was not acted upon due to the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. In 1874 A. D. Cardinal Desprez, the archbishop of Toulouse, France, wrote to all the bishops of the world to promote once again the petition of Father Ramiere. By April of 1875 A. D., Father Ramiere was able to present this petition to Venerable Pope Pius IX along with the names of 534 Bishops and 23 superiors general of Religious institutes. In response to this petition, the pope had the Sacred Congregation of Rites compose and publish an "Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus" and he himself invited all the faithful to consecrate themselves on the 200th anniversary of Our Lord's apparition to St. Margaret, June 16, 1875 A. D..

In 1891 A. D. the archbishops of Milan and Turin led a movement to consecrate the dioceses of Italy to the Most Holy Heart of Mary. In September, 1898 A. D., the Marian Congress of Turin, at the promptings of Pope Leo XIII, unanimously approved to petition Pope Leo XIII to this effect. On December 12, 1899 the Sacred Congregation of Rites approved a formula for diocesan consecration to the Heart of Mary.

After the letters of Mother Mary of the Divine Heart (1863-1899) requesting, in the name of Christ Himself, that Pope Leo XIII to consecrate the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Father commissions a group of theologians to examine the petition on the basis of revelation and sacred tradition. This investigation was positive. And so in the encyclical letter Annum Sacrum (May 25, 1899 A. D.) this same pope decreed that the consecration of the entire human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus should take place on June 11, 1899 A. D.. In this encyclical letter the Pope attached Later Pope Leo XIII encouraged the entire Roman Catholic episcopate to promote the devotion of the Nine First Fridays and he established June as the Month of the Sacred Heart. Pope St. Pius X decreed that the consecration of the human race, performed by Pope Leo XIII be renewed each year. Pope Pius XI in his encyclical letter Miserentissimus (May 8, 1928 A. D.) reaffirmed the importance of consecration and reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Finally Venerable Pope Pius XII, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Pope Pius IX's institution of the Feast, instructed the entire Catholic Church at length on the devotion to the Sacred Heart in his encyclical letter Haurietis aquas (May 15, 1956 A. D.)

It was Venerable Pope Pius XII who first consecrated the Church and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 31 and again, solemnly on December 8, 1942 A. D.. In recent times, moved by millions of petitions and by the occasion of the attempted assassination of his own person on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II consecrated the world and every nation to the Immaculate Heart in 1982, and repeated this act in union with all the Catholic Bishops again in 1983 A.D.

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