Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary permeates the whole story and message of Fatima. One may well say that it is the very core of the message, as well as the solution presented for the problems of today’s world.
In 1916, the angel1 who came to prepare the three shepherd children for the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin said to them, “The Hearts of Jesus and Mary are attentive to the voice of your supplications.”2
In another apparition, the angel repeated the message: “Pray, pray a lot. The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy upon you.”3
And the Mother of God herself, in the second apparition, told Lúcia:
“Jesus wants to use you to make me known and loved. He wants to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world. To those who accept it, I promise salvation and those souls will be loved by God as flowers I have placed to embellish His Throne.”4Upon learning that she was going to be alone on earth after the death of her cousins, Lúcia was distressed. The Blessed Virgin consoled her, saying:
“I will never leave you. My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”5These two statements—that Jesus wants to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the world, and that her Immaculate Heart is the refuge of suffering souls and the path that leads to heaven—summarize Fatima spirituality.
Symbolism of the Heart
Man expresses his ideas not only through concepts and words, but also through symbols.
Symbols are sensible signs that evoke or represent a higher and more abstract reality. For example, the national flag represents the homeland; the lily evokes purity; the scepter and crown represent royal power.
Of all symbols, the human heart is perhaps the most common and universal.
Closely linked to emotions that alter one’s heartbeat, the heart symbolizes one’s preference, and especially one’s love.
A mother’s heart, for example, is a symbol of selfless love, full of affection and unconditionally capable of the greatest sacrifices.
On the other hand, the epithet of Richard I of England (1157-1199), “the Lion-Hearted,” expresses his fearlessness, courage, indomitable prowess, and indefatigable combativeness.
Several examples of the various symbolic meanings of the word "heart" are found in both the Old and New Testaments:
- “With all watchfulness keep thy heart, because life issued out from it.” (Prov. 4:23)
- “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezech. 36:26-27)
- “Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8)
- “That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts.” (Eph. 3:17)
- "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Ps. 50:10)
The Immaculate Heart of MaryJust as devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is essential, for it highlights the redeeming love of the Incarnate Word, so also is devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, since it emphasizes the co-redeeming love of the Mother of God.
Unlike the Heart of Jesus, the Heart of Mary does not participate in the hypostatic union and is, therefore, a purely human heart. It is the heart of the most perfect of creatures who took the love of God to the highest point possible and was closely united to the Heart of Jesus in a maternal and filial intimacy. This intimacy began with the Incarnation of the Word in her most pure womb, culminated with her final offering on Calvary—where She offered her Son for our salvation—and continues now in Heaven.
By the Heart of Mary, as Fr. José Maria Canal, CMF explains, “we understand her intimacy, maternal feelings, mercy and tenderness toward sinners.”6 For Pope Pius XII it is “a symbol of all interior life, whose moral perfection, merits and virtues are beyond all human understanding!”7
Pius XII also emphasizes this maternal Heart’s compassion: “The Most Pure Heart of the Virgin [is the] seat of that love, compassion and all most lofty affections that participated so much in our redemption, especially when She ‘stabat iuxta Crucem,’ stood vigilantly next to the Cross." (cf. John 19:25)8
Therefore, Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Heart of Mary Must Go Together:
“In order that favors in greater abundance may flow on all Christians, nay, on the whole human race, from the devotion to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, let the faithful see to it that to this devotion the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God is closely joined.... It is, then, entirely fitting that the Christian people—who received the divine life from Christ through Mary—after they have paid their debt of honor to the Sacred Heart of Jesus should also offer to the most loving Heart of their heavenly Mother the corresponding acts of piety, affection, gratitude and expiation. Entirely in keeping with this most sweet and wise disposition of divine Providence is the memorable act of consecration by which We Ourselves solemnly dedicated Holy Church and the whole world to the spotless Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”9
1 It was the “Angel of Peace” or “Angel of Portugal.” [return to text]
2 Solimeo, Fatima, 25. [return to text]
3 Ibid., 26. [return to text]
4 Ibid., 41. [return to text]
5 Ibid. [return to text]
6 Jose Maria Canal, CMF, La Consagracion a la Virgen y a su Corazon, I, 250. (Our translation.) [return to text]
7 Pius XII, Radio Message to the National Marian Congress in Spain, Oct. 12, 1954, in Discorsi e Radiomessasaggi, t. XVI, 197. (Our translation.) [return to text]
8 Ibid. [return to text]
9 Pius XII, Enc. Haurietis Aquas, nn. 63, 72, 124. [return to text]