The Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary
"My Mother's Heart has the right to the title of Sorrowful. I desire that it be set before her title of Immaculate because She herself has won it. The Church has recognized what I Myself did for My Mother: her Immaculate Conception. Now it is necessary and it is my wish, that this title, which is by right My Mother's, should be understood and recognized. This title She earned by her identification with all My sufferings, by her sorrow, her sacrifice, her immolation on Calvary, and indeed for the salvation of man- kind."
Our Lord made the above statement to a holy Franciscan Tertiary, Berthe Petit. This humble Belgian mystic (1870- 1943) voluntarily offered herself as a victim for the expiation of sin, and spent a life of hidden sufferings in the world. Among the graces she received were repeated revelations from Our Lord of his desire that the whole world should be publicly dedicated to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
"When we say `Immaculate Heart of Mary' we recall what she received from God in the first instant of her conception. When we say `Sorrowful Heart', we recall all that Mary has suffered and offered for us in union with her Son, from the words of holy Simeon to Calvary, and until her holy death." ( Rav. Father Garrigou Lagrange, O.P.)
The miraculous medal was given in 1830, and followed in 1858 by the great events at Lourdes. In 1846, the Sorrowful Virgin was manifested at LaSalette. In l871 occurred the visions of the Blessed Virgin at Pontmain. The wonderful revelations of Fatima took place in l9l7.
In 1933, Belgium was favored with two independent series of apparitions at Beauraing and Banneux. Although each of these heavenly manifestations differs from the others, the same theme is common to all: the urgent, poignant, beseeching appeal of Mary for prayer and penance from mankind. She begs her children for prayer, penance, and above all, love, to counteract evil. In the revelations to Berthe Petit, Our Lord tells her that recourse to Mary under the title of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart is succor, or help, for the world.
The devotion of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, when completely understood, has a two-fold effect on souls. First, their love will correspond in an ever-greater measure with the love of Mary for men. The love Our Lady wishes to find in our hearts is a strong love like her own. This is a love that will subordinate all else to the Will of God. Souls will turn to God and answer the same "fiat" that Our Lady did --- "Thy Will be done". Secondly, since it is in hearts that a change must be effected, souls will give reparatory love. In response to the wishes of Our Queen, souls will offer reparation to the Heart of Jesus for their own sins and for those of the world. Mary is often referred to as "Queen of Martyrs". In imitation of her under this title, anyone who suffers in conformity with Christ collaborates in the redemption of the world by Christ. This is affirmed by decree -- the Communion of Saints. Together with her, men are called to share in the great redemption, and to offer themselves as a holocaust of love to the Triune God.
The picture most representative of Mary under the title of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart is somewhat mysterious in origin. It is venerated at the Convent of Ollignies, Belgium. The picture was discovered at the time of the armistice of l9l8 in the cellars of the boarding school conducted by the Bernadine Nuns where Berthe Petit has been educated. After the departure of the troops, one of the nuns was tidying up and putting the convent in order. She found a piece of cardboard on which was pasted a pornographic picture. She tore off the picture to throw it in the fire, and to her great astonishment discovered that the picture was covering a very beautiful representation of Mary. This picture of Our Lady was put in a place of honor, and soon many favors were attributed to prayers made before it.
A number of things indicate that the picture is of French origin. When Berthe saw it in l9l9, she recognized in it the two-fold symbol of the Virgin of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. The picture shows Mary holding in her left hand a lily, symbolic of her immaculate purity. The index finger of her right hand points to her Sorrowful Heart surrounded by flames and pierced by a sword. The features resemble those of the Pieta, or Sorrowful Virgin, so well known in many churches. Her far-seeing gaze seems to contemplate with sadness the sins of the world - the cause of the sufferings expressed on the gentle face.
Berthe and her friends lost no time in propagating this picture as representative of the devotion to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of the Virgin. Soon copies of the picture were in demand everywhere in Belgium, and the devotion had begun to spread throughout Europe, worldwide.
Since 1959, the Camaldolese Religious in La Seyne-sur- Mer, France, where the first church dedicated to Our Lady under this title was erected, have been in charge of the devotion. Slowly, and surely, the devotion has spread world- wide. In dioceses on every continent, aided by a number of religious orders and pious associations, the title of Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary is becoming known to those who honor Mary in order to give more honor to her Son.
Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, help me remember that like you, God gave me many graces. Recall constantly to me, however, that He also gave me a charge and a responsibility which only I could complete. Remind me that I must earn, as you did, my own place by co-operating in His Divine plan. Let me never forget that one of the greatest graces, and heaviest responsibilities which I have is that of free will. Help me to freely chose Good over Evil. Let me share in your sorrow today that I may rejoice in the Kingdom to come.
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Copyright © 2004 by Ann Ball
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