June 20 is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This Marian devotion focuses on the Blessed Mother’s interior life, celebrating her joys and sorrows, her virtues, and her love for God. While the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus focuses on how Jesus’ heart is full of love for us, the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary reflects on how Mary’s heart is full of love for the Savior. In this sense, it is another way of honoring Mary as the Mother of God. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel in the Basilica is dedicated to Mary under this title.
Saint John Eudes was instrumental in propagating the devotion, holding the first feast day at Autun in 1648, starting multiple religious societies in honor of the devotion, and authoring the book Coeur Admirable (Admirable Heart). Though his petition to Rome for an official feast day was unsuccessful, the devotion continued to grow in popularity.
With the revelation of the Miraculous Medal in 1830, attention was drawn to the devotion, and the Congregation of Rites finally approved the Office and Mass of the Most Pure Heart of Mary on July 21, 1855.
St. Anthony Claret and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Saint Anthony Mary Claret, a 19th-century Spanish missionary, was also influential in promulgating the devotion of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (also known as the Claretian fathers and brothers). The Basilica honors him in the Anthony Mary Claret Chapel, which is adjacent to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel. St. Anthony composed the following prayer to Mary, which is inscribed in his chapel:
O Heart of Mary, furnace and instrument of love, enkindle me with love of God and my neighbor.
Pope Paul VI on the Immaculate Heart of Mary
The Immaculate Heart of Mary gives us an example of how we as Christians should love. As Pope Paul VI said:
May the Immaculate Heart of Mary shine before the eyes of all Christians as the model of perfect love toward God and toward our fellow beings; may it lead them toward the Holy Sacraments by virtue of which souls are cleansed from the stains of sin and are preserved from it. May it also stimulate them to make reparation for the innumerable offenses against the Divine Majesty. Lastly, may it shine like a banner of unity and a spur to perfect the bonds of brotherhood among all Christians in the bosom of the one Church of Jesus Christ, which “taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.”
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel in the Basilica
At the Basilica, the focal point of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel is the hand-carved wooden medallion, which is surrounded by eight angels carved into the marble of the apse. As prescribed by Vatican II, the altar faces the people – the first in the Basilica to do so. The floor contains the seal of the Claretian fathers, while the side wall features a mosaic of Pope Pius XII consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Prayer in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel
The chapel at the Basilica contains the following prayer:
You prepared the heart of the Virgin Mary to be a fitting home for Your Holy Spirit. By her prayers, may we become more worthy of Your glory. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Basilica Guidebook, Dr. Geraldine Rohling