The Feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and THE Immaculate Heart of Mary (June 8 and 9th) are liturgical days the Church has set aside for the Friday and Saturday immediately following the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Most Holy and Body and Blood of Christ). It makes good sense that after we focus on the ‘real presence’ of Jesus in the Eucharist (Corpus Christi) that we look more closely as to exactly where our Eucharistic presence comes from: the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Some medieval period mystics have said that before Jesus was conceived in the womb Mary through the power of the Spirit, He was conceived in her motherly heart. Mary’s love for God, her depth of faith, her great life of prayer and her devoted heart was really the grace-filled vessel by which the ‘Word made Flesh’ could be received. This said, one might say the Eucharist was born out of the Heart of Jesus who in turn was born out of the Heart of Mary. So we see a close connection between the Eucharist and these two ‘Feasts of Hearts.’
Historically, devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary were popularized and brought to the forefront by St. John Eudes in the 17th century; however, the devotion and theology that goes with them actually pre-dates this by quite a bit. As early as the 12th century, St. Bonaventure, St Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Anselm of Canterbury as well as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Gertrude all spoke of some devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary. Many other saints followed and continued this, including St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who truly popularized devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus based on her visions and St. Louis de Montfort who popularized devotion to Mary. It was not until Pope Pius IX set the date of Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi for the Sacred Heart in 1856 and Pope Paul VI set the date for the Immaculate Heart in 1969 (the Saturday following the Sacred Heart) that these two feasts came together.Neither of these devotions are central to our Catholic, Christian Faith. Just because you or I may (or may not) feel drawn toward this sort of spirituality does not mean we are anymore (or less) holy or Catholic. This said, the hearts of Jesus and Mary do provide us with more appreciation and insight into the humanity of Jesus, our Savior, and Mary as our spiritual Mother. Devotion to the Sacred Heart arose from the wounded side of Christ who was pierced in his side by a lance on the cross as blood and water flowed out (symbols of Baptism and Eucharist) while devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary stems more from the ‘Seven Sorrows of Mary’ beginning with Simeon’s prophesy that Mary’s heart would be pierced “…so that thoughts of many may be revealed.” (Lk 2,35).
Some argue the human soul consists of a ‘rational soul’ mostly of the mind, while others might argue the human soul resides mostly in the ‘heart’ or affectivity of a person. I would argue, it’s both! It seems to me that our sense of well-being, our sense of holiness and peace and connection to God is a constant interplay of mind and heart and these together sum up the essence of our eternal soul. I suppose one could (and probably should) argue the specifics of this point. None-the-less, it would good for us to reflect upon the hearts of Jesus and Mary and allow some of these insights to enter in our heart as well. May the love and peace of Jesus and Mary be with you all these summer months!