"Why the Heart?"
by Monsignor Arthur B. Calkins
Now I willingly grant that there have been and are a great many saccharine and maudlin "objects of art" (unfortunately, probably the bulk of them!) depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary and innumerable "gushy" and sentimental hymns written in their honor (One need only think of "To Jesus' Heart All Burning" in the old Saint Basil's Hymnal in this regard). But obviously even abuse cannot negate legitimate use and the official magisterium of the Church continues to propose devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary to the faithful with no hesitation or apologies.
While there are many legitimate ways of responding to the query "Why the Heart?" (e.g. the history of spirituality and private revelations), I will do so from the perspective of the papal magisterium, specifically that of Pope John Paul II who shows himself to be particularly sensitive to the preoccupations and questions of our day. For instance, in 1985 Pope John Paul II gave 12 Angelus addresses on the Sacred Heart of Jesus  culminating in a marvelous exhortation inviting us to unite with the "admirable alliance" of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In 1986 he dedicated the same number of Angelus messages to this theme  and personally presented a letter to the Superior General of the Jesuits at Paray-le-Monial, site of the apparitions of the Lord to Saint Margaret Mary, encouraging the Jesuits to continue promoting this devotion whose
And categorically I can say without a moment's hesitation that he has spoken more frequently of the Heart of Mary than all of his predecessors combined. (On this topic alone I have amassed well over 150 pages of references in the magisterium of Pope John Paul II.)
Now again to the question: Why the Heart? In virtually every culture heart means much more than the physical organ which is considered the pre-eminent "vital sign" and which pumps blood through the body; it implies love, affectivity, attitudes, feelings, emotions, courage. It speaks of one's interior, of one's inmost being. Here is how a contemporary German author testifies to the popular use of the word herz in his language (and one readily notes how parallel the usage is in English):
Here popular usage testifies to what the Pope refers to as "the richness of anthropological resonance . . . which the word 'heart' awakens." He says:
From our own often unreflective use of language and from "the Pope's theology of the heart" , we may begin to perceive the significance of the fact that the Word of God became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary and
Very significantly in the pages of the Gospels the word "heart" is used of only two individual persons: Jesus (Mt. 11:29) and Mary (Lk. 2:19, 51). Surely this is not without import. In the Heart of the God-Man there is combined, according to the words of the Pope "an appeal from God and a response from man." This is a wonderful way of describing the unique mediation of Jesus (cf. I Tim. 2:5-6) who in His divinity presents the call from God to mankind and in his humanity makes the perfect response to God in his earthly life and the sacrifice thereof.
All of this is symbolized in his pierced Heart. Every disposition of his human soul, every state through which he passed in his earthly life is encapsulated in his Heart. By analogy the same can be said of the Heart of Mary. The theology of the "states" or "mysteries" of Jesus and Mary as comprised of the interior dispositions of their souls and most perfectly represented by their Hearts is a major contribution of the "French School" of spirituality which developed under the impetus of the great Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629), founder of the Oratory of Jesus. The insights of Bérulle and his disciples (de Condren, Olier, St. John Eudes) together with the doctrine of St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) set the stage for the revelations to St. Margaret Mary (1647-1690). 
If his Heart synthesizes the Redemptive sacrifice, man's perfect reparation to God, I would suggest that from a human perspective it represents, even more, "an appeal from God." In fact, this is precisely what John Paul II underscored in Vancouver when he said: "The Heart of Jesus Christ is a great and unceasing call from God, addressed to humanity, to each human heart!"  Not surprisingly, the first human heart to respond to this call was Mary's. Her fiat at Nazareth (Lk. 1:38) made possible the formation of his human heart (and all that it represented) beneath hers, a theme which the Pope never tires of alluding to. 
Mary's heart, by virtue of her Immaculate Conception, is from the first moment of her existence totally open to the call of God and from the moment of her fiat she is in communion with the "forming" Heart of Jesus. Her heart is the first to enter into the dialogue of salvation, that union of hearts to which we are all called. Here is how the Pope puts it:
If Jesus' Heart "is a great and unceasing call from God, addressed to humanity," then Mary's heart is the perfect response of humanity to the "call from God." If "when we say 'Heart of Jesus Christ,' we address ourselves in faith to the whole Christological mystery: the mystery of the God-Man,"  then when we say "heart of Mary," we address ourselves to the whole Mariological and ecclesiological mystery. For as the perfect human response to the "call from God," as that powerful symbol which evokes the whole mystery of Mary, especially with reference to her maternity,  it also summarizes all that the Church is meant to be in responding to the "call from God" which the Vatican Council refers to as "the universal call to holiness." 
Hence, when in his prophetic Angelus address of 15 September 1984, the Pope spoke of "that admirable alliance of" the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,  he was speaking, consciously or not, of the union of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary as paradigmatic of the synergy of divine and human, grace and nature, salvific initiative of God and cooperative response of man, redemption by the God-Man and "co-redemption" by Mary in the sense of St. Paul's words to the Colossians: "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Col. 1:24). The response of Mary's heart became the first answer of the Church to the "call from God" and remains its most perfect reply. It also becomes the model for our response.
In this sense, then, it is not surprising that on at least two occasions the Pope has intimated that consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means effectively consecrating it to the pierced Heart of the Savior  for he says of this act carried out most solemnly on 13 May 1982 and 25 March 1984:
There is a profound inner logic to all of this which may well escape the worldly wise (cf. I Cor. 1:18-2:16). To respond to the "call from God" symbolized in the pierced Heart of Jesus, we must belong to Mary that she might teach us the dispositions of her heart and become our tutor in the spiritual life. As we learn from her, we take on her characteristics and become ever more perfectly that immaculate spouse "without spot or wrinkle" (Eph. 5:27) which the Church has already become in the person of Mary.  It is Christ's will that we be perfected in this way. Here is how the Pope puts it in his Marian Year Encyclical and I can think of no better way to conclude these reflections:
 Édouard Glotin, S.J. "Jean-Paul a Paray-le-Monial ou Pourquoi le `Coeur'?" Nouvelle Revue Théologique 108 (1986): 685-714. This is condensed from a larger study which appeared in Jésus-Christ Rédempteur de l'Homme (Venasque: Éditions du Carmel, 1986) under the title "Le centre de l'âme et l'Icône sacrée du Coeur. De Thérèse d'Avila à Marguerite-Marie" 103-54.
 From the beginning of June to mid-September. They may be found in the English edition of L'Osservatore Romano (henceforth ORE with the first number indicating the cumulative weekly edition number and the one after the colon indicating the page) 889:1; 890:1; 891:1; 892:1; 893:7; 895:1; 896:2; 897:2; 898:2; 901:9; 902:8; 904:1.
 Angelus Address of 15 September 1985, ORE 904:1. It should be noted that this was on the traditional date of the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, but since the date occurred on a Sunday there was no liturgical observance. The Pope, however, did not wish to let the date pass unobserved.
 ORE 941:5; 942:11; 943:12; 946:2; 947:5; 948:1; 949:11; 950:2; 95l:2; 952:2; 953:2; 960:4.
 ORE 960:7.
 Joachim Becker, SS.CC., "The Heart in the Language of the Bible," Faith in Christ and the Worship of Christ: New Approaches to Devotion to Christ trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986) 23.
 28 June 1984, from homily at Gemelli Polyclinic and Faculty of Medicine, Rome. ORE 843:9.
 Paul L. Peeters, "Dominum et Vivificantem: The Conscience and the Heart," Communio 15 (1988) 148.
 28 June 1984, from homily at Gemelli Polyclinic, ORE 843:9. Final emphasis my own.
 On Margaret Mary's relationship to the French School, cf. Glotin, "Le 'centre de l'âme'" 110-36.
 l8 September 1984, from homily at Vancouver's Abbotsford Airport, ORE 855:17.
 Cf. Redemptor Hominis #22.
 8 September 1986, from Letter to Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, President of the International Symposium on the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Miles Immaculatae 23 (1987) 42-43. An English translation of the proceedings of this symposium is to be published by the Sanctuary of Fatima, Portugal.
 18 September 1984, from homily at Vancouver airport, ORE 855:16. It should be noted that John Paul's insight is in total harmony with the French School on this point.
 In this regard note the words of the Sacred Congregation of Rites in the Decree establishing the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
 Lumen Gentium, chap.5 (#39-42). This theme would be singled out for further attention in the Extraordinary Synod of 1985, cf. Relatio Finalis (Final Report) II.A.4.
 Cf. footnote #3.
 Cf. homily at Fatima, 13 May 1982, ORE 743:4 (#8).
 22 September 1986, from address to participants in the International Theological Symposium on the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, ORE 959:13.
 Lumen Gentium #65.
 Redemptoris Mater #46. In saying that this self-entrusting has its beginning in Christ the Pope is clearly alluding to Jn. 19:26-27. Cf. Redemptoris Mater #45.
Copyright ©; Msgr Arthur Calkins 1989, 2003.
This Version: 6th May 2003