Marian Shrines and Apparitions

Shrines of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Basilica of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at Sittard

Every day the Morning Offering goes up to Heaven from those who are still faithful throughout the world. Many, if not all, offer their prayers, works, joys and sufferings to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

This is as it should be. We go through Mary to Jesus, and we go with full and unfaltering confidence, because this is the proper and natural course to follow in the order of things established by Our Lord in view of the great mystery of the Incarnation. Mary Most Holy gave Jesus to the world, and His Sacred Heart was formed from Her most pure blood. To glorify Her, He gave Her in return, all power over His adorable Heart, and made Her, as St. Bernard teaches, the Dispenser of all Its treasures.

Thus it comes to pass that the true instinct of Catholic love and devotion has given to that peerless Virgin a name and a title that points out Her share in the distribution of the blessings of Her Divine Son's Heart, that implies Her influence with His loving Heart. This influence and power enable Her to obtain for Her children all the graces and blessings they need; and so we call Her "Our Lady of the Sacred Heart."

The title of "Our Blessed Lady" involves a great deal. Lady – in the language of the Church, Domina – means Sovereign, Mistress, Queen, of the Heart of Jesus. It seems hardly necessary to warn Catholics that there is no question here of an absolute, irresistible power, which no creature can wield over the Creator; but that intercessory power which some Holy Doctors have styled omnipotentia supplex – an intercession which Our Lord will not reject. The great Commentator on Holy Scripture, Cornelius à Lapide, explains this unique privilege of Our Lady as founded on what he calls the jus maternum – the "Mother's right." When Our Lord chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be His Mother, He gave Her, with this holy and unique dignity, all that it includes.

In 1849 three young students of the Bourges Seminary bound themselves by a vow to the task of honoring in an especial manner the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. They received Holy Orders and went different ways. In 1854 two of them met at Issoudun, France, as priests attached to the same church. The old idea was found germinating in the minds of both. Their scheme was to found an association of missionaries, but there were difficulties in the way, as they possessed neither money nor influence.

At length an idea occurred to them. It being close upon the time of the promulgation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, they said between themselves: "Let us make a novena to the Blessed Virgin and ask Her, as the first fruits of the Dogma of Her Immaculate Conception, to let us know if it is the will of God that our project be carried out."

The novena was begun. The answer came on December 8, 1854, at the exact time when the Dogma was being proclaimed in Rome. In the course of that very hour, ever memorable in religious annals, because of what was going on in the capital of Christendom, one of these young priests was summoned to the rectory.

A visitor awaited him there, who said: "Monsieur l'Abbé, a gentleman unknown in these parts, and who wishes to remain so, offers you 20,000 francs for the founding of some good work at Issoudun."

"What good work?" asked the priest.

"Anyone you like," was the answer; "nevertheless, an institution of missionaries would best correspond with the donor's wish."

The benefactor in question was the Abbé de Champgrand of Paris, priest of Saint Sulpice.

The young priest, who had just heard what to him was joyful news, went to seek his fellow priest, and found him praying before a statue of the Blessed Virgin.

"Come quickly," he said; "I have something to tell you."

"And I," said the other, "have something to tell you. The Blessed Virgin Mary has just made me understand that our prayer is answered."

Thus was a new work born – thus was the world to be made acquainted with a fresh form of Marian devotion, that of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, having its seat at Issoudun.

The young priest who had been summoned to the rectory to receive the visitor, was afterwards to be known to the world as Rev. Pere Chevalier, founder and Superior of the Congregation of Missionaries of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun.

The work, which was so evidently born of prayer, prospered not only spiritually but materially also, to the extent that, at the time when the foundations of the Church of the National Vow, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, were being laid at Montmartre in Paris, Issoudun could look on a splendid church of its own, already raised to the dignity of a Roman Basilica, with a hundred lamps burning before its high altar. Already its missionaries were spreading in different parts of the world, under a single invocation, devotion to Our Lady and to the Sacred Heart.

In addition an Association of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was formed to give glory to the Blessed Virgin in the relation of ineffable love that exists between Her Immaculate Heart and the Sacred Heart of Her Divine Son. Moreover, since Mary, according to St. Ephrem, is the hope of those who are in desperate straits, this Association was to plead with Her for Her powerful intercession especially in difficult and hopeless cases, both in the spiritual and temporal order: and thus, "Hope of the Hopeless" was added to Her title.

** Issoudun **

The Association was canonically erected on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, January 29, 1864, and in the month of June of the same year, Pope Pius IX gave it his approbation and granted to it various indulgences. It was soon after raised to the dignity of an archconfraternity, the statue of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at Issoudun was solemnly crowned by the Archbishop of Bourges, in the name of the Sovereign Pontiff, the church of the Missionary Fathers of the Sacred Heart, in which the statue stands, was enriched with the indulgences of the Portiuncula, and many other favors were conferred upon the Association, which also has a church in Rome.

Many confraternities have been affiliated to it in all parts of the world. In 1866, a Confraternity was begun by the Ursuline Sisters at Sittard, a Dutch town situated very close to both the German and Belgian borders. By 1868 this Confraternity had its own copy of the statue of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Issoudun. So many pilgrims, processions and members of the Confraternity would visit this statue, that it was decided that a new church must be built. By 1879, the beautiful neo-Gothic structure was finished and consecrated. On May 6, 1883, Pope Leo XIII raised this church to the rank of minor basilica, the first church to be so honored in Holland.

Interior of Sittard Basilica

The devotion spread to the new world as well. On May 31, 1910, a replica of the Issoudun Basilica was consecrated in Quebec.

May 31 was originally named the Feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, it being the day before the Month of the Sacred Heart. When that day became the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, the Feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart began to be celebrated on different days, such as on the First Saturday of the month of June or on the Saturday after the Feast or after the Octave of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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