Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

August 22 is the feast day of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

What is this immaculate heart? Well, perhaps counter-intuitively, it’s that sacred heart-looking image you see in tattoos and in Catholic art, sometimes aflame, and/or pierced by (a) sword(s), and/or roses, lilies, and/or thorns. It’s sometimes pictured alone and sometimes in the anatomically correct place over the clothing of the Blessed Mother. (Jesus sometimes has a very similar one — his is usually “The Sacred Heart of Jesus” and hers is “The Immaculate Heart of Mary.”)

It’s immaculate in the sense of spotless purity, love, and devotion to her son.

A novena from the back of a prayer card I’ve got illustrates some of the qualities associated with the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially …(special intention) We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever. Amen.

Because of the iconography, the symbols of this devotion are sometimes associated in vodou with Erzulie Freda.