The Clerics Regular Minor and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
On October 31, 1942, as the world was on the threshold of World War II, Pope Pius XII solemnly consecrated the World to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. By means of this Marian consecration, Venerable Pius XII entrusted the world to the Virgin Mary, as Queen of Peace, through her Immaculate Heart. The words of his prayer began with the following phrase, “Queen of the Holy Rosary, Help of the Christians, Refuge of the human race, Conqueress in God’s battlefields, To You and to Your Immaculate Heart, In this tragic hour of human history We entrust and consecrate ourselves, And the Holy Church.”
“Consecration to the Mother of God,” noted Pope Pius XII on another occasion, “is a total gift of self, for the whole of life and for all eternity; and a gift which is not a mere formality or sentimentality, but effectual, comprising the full intensity of the Christian life – Marian life.” This consecration, the Pope explained, “tends essentially to union with Jesus, under the guidance of Mary.”
In the January-March 1943 issue of the magazine “San Francesco Caracciolo” an article was written entitled “The Clerics Regular Minor and the World Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. The article stated that, and I quote,:
This providential devotion is not new and the Clerics Regular Minor have the consolation of having introduced it to Rome for the first time a century ago, as was illustrated in the following news article published in L’Osservatore Romano on December 1, 1942. The Clerics Regular Minor have a particular reason to rejoice for the increased and renewed devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, due to the prodigious apparitions of Fatima and the consequent consecration of the human race made to Her by the Supreme Pontiff himself.
It was precisely a century ago that the aforementioned veneration was solemnly inaugurated in the parish church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, then the residence of the General Curia of the Clerics Regular Minor. Father Ferdinando Papi, CRM was the Parish Priest and Father Gioacchino Meli, CRM was the Superior General. They were two chosen souls who were filled with Wisdom and zeal. It was dear to them to continue and broaden the traditions of the Order, which from its birth (1588) by means of its best children , advocated the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin and obtained, among the first, the faculty of the Holy See to celebrate the divine office and Mass in her honor.
A pious association to honor the Immaculate Heart of Mary was established in San Lorenzo in Lucina and a booklet was printed entitled “Statuti dell’unione del S. Cuore di Maria Santissima” and published in 1842. Many members joined this solidarity and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary increased. A local newspaper of the time, the NOTIZIE DEL GIORNO , Num. 26, from Thursday, June 27, 1844, stated:
It is the third year since the Venerable Parish Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina of the Clerics Regular Minor established the Pious Union of Prayers to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary for the conversion of sinners, and it is the third year that this Feast is celebrated with solemn splendor.
Preceded by a Sacred Triduum, the said feast was therefore celebrated on the 16th of June, and at the first dawn the people began to gather with modest recollection before the main altar of that Church, to be admitted to the participation of the Holy Eucharist. The crowds who attended the solemn Mass, which was accompanied by choice music, was pontifically celebrated by Monsignor Francesco Cometti Bishop of Nicomedia, and the number never lessened at the foot of the altar….. In the afternoon the people who had come together were even more numerous than in the morning, as a sign that the vast Temple was not able to count the devotees who had come to listen to the enumeration of the merits of the Sacred Heart of Mary by Cardinal Costantino Patrizi Naro, Vicar General of His Holiness……… The people could not be counted, who devotedly genuflected as far as the atrium and the square. They joined their devout prayers with the multitude that the sacred Temple contained. Everything was sacred: everything inspired devotion. The image of the Blessed Virgin, with visible in the middle of her chest, that immaculate Heart all love for us miserable, was placed under a magnificent pavilion, which stood on the high altar vaguely adorned. A copious number of lamps with beautiful order were arranged around the heart of the devotees, who already in number, about 4400, prostrated themselves before her image, who is our refuge, our asylum. May this number increase! May this devotion grow ever wider. Thus, shall the means of repentance increase for sinners…
In 1868 the little chapel on the left of the Main Altar was completely renovated and embellished. The painter- a mediocre artist, whose name could not be found, decorated it with Marian symbols, figures and floral motifs. The inscriptions of passages taken from the Holy Scripture referring to the Blessed Virgin are abundant: on either side of the altar are two tombstones commemorating the mentioned favors given by Gregory XVI. The painting of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which forms the altarpiece, is not original. It is a figure of the Immaculate Conception crushing the infernal serpent, to which a silver heart with flame and a crown of stars upon the head has been added.
The external solemnity that suffered a certain decrease in the years immediately after 1870 were resumed again for the zeal of the parish priest, Father Raffaele De Caris, CRM. In 1880 the Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Raffaele Monaco la Valetta, had a manifesto published in his name, in which he was pleased to associate the devotion to “The Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of God, who has a compassionate heart towards sinners, with that of Saint Francis Caracciolo, Spreader of devotion, and zealous for the salvation of the wayward, therefore called the Hunter of Souls”
Let us close with an excerpt of Pope Francis’ prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on December 8, 2016.
O Mary, our Immaculate Mother,
On your feast day I come to you,
And I come not alone:
I bring with me all those with whom your Son entrusted to me,
In this city of Rome and in the entire world,
That you may bless them and preserve them from harm……
We are in need of your immaculate feet,
To go toward those who know not how to make the first step,
To walk on the paths of those who are lost,
To find those who feel alone.
We thank you, O Mother, because in showing yourself to us
You free us of all stain of sin;
You remind us that what comes first is the grace of God,
The love of Jesus Christ who gave his life for us,
The strength of the Holy Spirit which renews all things.
Let us not give in to discouragement,
But, trusting in your constant help,
Let us engage ourselves fully in renewal of self,
Of this city and of the entire world.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God!
Rev. Michael Marotta, CRM
Novice Master-Vinzons (C.N.)