Testimony of the Fathers and Ascetical Writers
Having listened to the Holy Spirit, whose divine Heart is the third foundation of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God, revealing to us through Sacred Scripture many marvelous truths which should inspire us to render fitting honor and praise to Mary’s admirable Heart, we must next hearken to the Spirit of God promulgating this devotion through the writings of the Fathers and authoritative writers of the Church.
First, there are twelve Fathers and ascetical writers: St. Augustine, St. Leo the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Anselm, St. Peter Chrysologus, St. John Damascene, St. Bernard (who with other members of the Cistercian Order received most signal favors from our Lady) St. Bonaventure and St. Bernard, two illustrious sons of St. Francis, St. Lawrence Justinian, Richard of St. Lawrence, and venerable Louis of Grenada, (son in religion of the great St. Dominic, who preached so extensively the devotion to the Holy Rosary.)
Our first quotation is from the pen of St. Augustine. In a sermon on the Annunciation he brings out our great obligation to the loving Heart of Mary in return for her admirable consent to the Angel’s request.
O most happy Mary, who can render thee adequate thanks for the help thou hast given to a lost world by thy consent (2) to Gabriel’s demand? What praise can be presented by our fallen nature, which found the beginning of the deliverance through thee? Accept, we beseech thee, our thanks, humble and weak though they be; accept our resolutions and excuse our sins by thy prayers. Receive what we offer thee, give us what we ask thee, pardon what we fear, thou who art the sole hope of our happiness (3).
Another testimony of the ardent devotion of St. Augustine to the Admirable Heart of Mary is found in his book on the Mother of God: Materna propinquitas nihil Mariae profuisset, nisi felicius Christum Corde, quam carne gestasset. “The divine maternity would not have profited Mary if she had not first borne Jesus Christ in Her Heart more happily and advantageously than in her womb” (4).
St. Leo the Great, who lived in the same century as St. Augustine, also speaks of the Holy Heart of Mary. He preached the glory of Mary’s virginal Heart in the city of Rome, as is proved from the following words from his sermon on the Birth of Christ: “A royal virgin, of the race of David, is chosen to be the Mother of the Infant-God and to conceive Him in her Heart before bearing Him in her womb” (5).
St. Anselm, the illustrious Archbishop of Canterbury and worthy son of St. Benedict, clearly reveals his love and devotion to the Mother of God in his writings, especially in a book called: The Excellence of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One passage in this work makes a special mention of the loving Heart of Mary. After the saintly Archbishop has pronounced a beautiful eulogy on the glorious Assumption of Our Lady, he speaks thus: “What praise and thanksgiving do men and all other creatures owe the Blessed Virgin Mary! The most pure holiness and the most holy purity of her pious Heart, which surpasses incomparably the holiness and purity of all other creatures, merited that God choose her to be the restorer of the world which was lost” (6).
St. Anselm is right in attributing the resurrection and restoration of man and of all things to the most pure and holy Heart of the Mother of the Sovereign Restorer. It was by the purity and holiness of Mary’s Heart that she drew God the Son into her holy womb so that we might have a redeemer.