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​ Our Lady made reference to Her Immaculate Heart in her third apparition at Fatima, Portugal on July 13, 1917, of the 20th century when she said the following words: "You have seen Hell - where the poor sinners go. To save them God wills to establish throughout the world the devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If people will do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. The war is going to end. But if they do not stop offending God, another and worse war will break out in the reign of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you, that He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, hunger, persecution of the Church and the Holy Father." 

 "To forestall this (World War II), I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If they heed My requests, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not, she shall spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecutions of the Church; the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated; in the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted, and some time of peace will be given to the world.

 At Medjugorje, Our Lady has made reference to Her Immaculate Heart in her messages numerous times. Here are two of them:

 November 25, 1994: "Dear children! Today I call you to prayer. I am with you and I love you all. I am your Mother and i wish that your hearts be similar to my heart. Little children, without prayer you cannot live and say that you are mine. Prayer is joy. Prayer is what the human heart desires. Therefore, get closer, little children, to My Immaculate Heart and you will discover God. Thank you for responding to my call."

 September 25, 2009: "Dear children, with joy, persistently work on your conversion. Offer all your joys and sorrows to My Immaculate Heart that I may lead you all to most beloved Son, so that you may find joy in His Heart. I am with you to instruct you and to lead you towards eternity. Thank you for having responded to my call."

  At San Nicolas, Argentina, in the year 1983, of the 20th century, Our Lady made reference to Her Immaculate Heart when she said: "I am the Mother of all God's children. I am the Mother of Christ. Blessed are they who take refuge under my mantle in My Immaculate Heart. In My Immaculate Heart there is enough purity to purify the whole world. In My Immaculate Heart there is enough love to sweep away all the hatred of the ages accumulated in hardened hearts. In My Immaculate Heart there is enough light to enlighten every soul ever created and the entire creation. Do not be ashamed of sin. My Son is the Savior of sinners. Be ashamed of not loving God. Be ashamed of not trusting God."

 Whenever we speak of the human "heart", we commonly say things like "What's on your heart?" or "That really touched my heart" or "I can tell that what you wrote came straight from the heart". In all these expressions, we are speaking of the heart as a symbol of the deepest mystery of a person: what a person, deep down, really thinks, feels, and desires. The Catechism tells us in entry 1563: "The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully."

 When we speak of the "Heart of Jesus", therefore, we are referring to the deepest mystery of His person: the unfathomable love of the divine Son of God incarnate for His Heavenly Father, and for us. 

 According to the Bible, some people are cold-hearted or hard-hearted; they have hearts of "stone" (e.g. Ezek 11:19). The mystery of the Heart of Jesus, however, has been revealed to us through the Gospels, and beautifully expressed in His apparitions to St. Margaret Mary. Whatever we may say about other human hearts, this person, Jesus of Nazareth, has a heart that is aflame with love: love for His heavenly father and love for us. That is why He showed His physical Heart to St. Margaret Mary as flaming with fire, surmounted by a cross, and pierced and surrounded by thorns. All of these were clear signs and symbols that this Heart -- the person of Jesus Christ -- is pure love: the Sacred Heart of Jesus as all love and all lovable.

 In a similar way, when we speak of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we are pointing to the deepest mystery of her person. We are pointing to the mystery of love that finds expression in all that she said, did, and suffered. That is why the Catholic Tradition symbolically depicts the Heart of Mary as surrounded by flames, shining with light, and encircled by pure white flowers: because her deep, "hidden center" was completely pure, never stained by any sin at all (hence, we call her Heart "immaculate)". In fact, divine grace made her Heart as transparent as a clean clear-glass window, so that the fire and light of the Holy Spirit shone through her every thought, word, and deed at every moment.

 In his book True Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Father Robert Fox gave to the Church a clear exposition of the Blessed Virgin's journey into ever deeper holiness when he wrote: 

 "What is holiness? Essentially holiness is the possession of sanctifying grace. It is made present in a person from the moment of baptism, making one resemble God ... , We grow in holiness by doing the will of God once His sanctifying grace is implanted in our souls at baptism. Then everything done for the love of God makes one grow in grace. An increase of grace is achieved by every good work, every prayer, every loving act ... .

 God first loves us. If we respond in faith to His love, we grow in grace. That grace first given to children in baptism is entirely out of the goodness of God's heart with no act of faith or response on their part. The same was true of Mary in an eminent way. Mary did not merit her Immaculate Conception ... This is why Mary is called God's masterpiece. He has given this woman a dignity worthy of His Mother, with more grace than all the angels and saints taken together ... .

 What growth of grace took place in her at the Annunciation! ... God chose to use her Immaculate Heart to accept the Savior in freely agreeing to become the Mother of the Most High, the Word Incarnate, the Messiah, the long-awaited One ... .

 Mary says "Yes". The increase of grace in the soul of Mary when she answers "Yes" for the whole world is unimaginable. The fact that God in his loving providence looked to the free consent of Mary for the Word to be made flesh and dwell among us gives a Marian quality to every aspect of Christianity ... .

  There was then the carrying of the Word made flesh in her holy womb for nine months. She became the world's first tabernacle for the Word Incarnate. Today in the tabernacles of our churches, He is present in the Most Blessed Sacrament ... as she carried Him under her heart she continuously grew in grace.

 Grace grew in Mary as she nurtured the infant Jesus, tended to His growing needs, served Him at table, performed domestic duties. In a human way she taught Jesus as any good mother teaches her child ...

 Mary was with Jesus to the end as He hung dying on the cross, redeeming the world. As grace was merited for the world, abundant grace flowed beneath the cross of redemption ...

 Mary grew in grace after the Ascension of Christ by the reception of her divine incarnate Son in Holy Communion. After the redemptive acts of the Cross, the Apostle John took her into his own home (see Jn 19:27). We may be sure that our Blessed Lady received the Holy Eucharist frequently, even daily, as was the practice of the early Christians (see Acts 2:46). She lived with John the priest, the beloved disciple ... .

 The Holy Spirit came upon Mary when she conceived the Christ Child. Now that the Church is to be identified as Christ's body, with the Holy Spirit as its Soul, this Spirit of Love descended upon all in the upper room and found a special temple adorned for His presence in Mary's heart ...

 Such magnificent beauty, such radiant brightness of the light of life, we see in Mary's Immaculate Heart."

 At the same time, while Mary was growing every day in sanctifying grace, and united at all times in the center of her soul with the Heart of her Son, she was also completely filled with His merciful love. Saint John Eudes tell us:

 "To the heart of Mary God communicated in great abundance His merciful inclinations, and established in it the throne and reign of His mercy more gloriously than the heart of any other creature, save the sacred humanity of Christ. 

 Divine Mercy reigns so perfectly in Mary's heart that she bears the name of Queen and Mother of Mercy. And the most loving Mary has so completely won the heart of God's mercy that He has given her the key to all His treasures, and made her absolute mistress of them. St. Bernard says, 'She is called the Queen of Mercy because she opens the abyss and treasure of Divine Mercy to whom she chooses, when she chooses, and as she chooses'.

 Divine Mercy holds such complete sway over Mary's heart and fills it with such compassion for sinners and for all persons in need that Saint Augustine addressed her thus, 'Thou are the sinner's only hope after God'. 'My dearest children,' says Saint Bernard, 'her heart is the ladder by which sinners go up to heaven; this is my reliance; this is the only reason of my hope.'"

 What does this mean for us today? It means that Mary's Heart is now a living fountain of divine love and sanctifying grace. She looks upon the hearts of her children as parched and arid ground, but with plenty of potential, needing only to be watered by divine grace and planted with the seeds of the Gospel in order to spring into abundant life. 

 In fact, there is no place in the whole created universe where we can draw closer to the Heart of Jesus than the Heart of Mary. Her Heart is the chapel where Jesus dwells, ready to pour out His merciful love upon us whenever we come to Him.

 Let us always seek Him there, in the Heart of Mary, where we shall always surely find Him."

SOURCE: MARY Who She is and Why She Matters, by Robert Stackpole, STD

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