Heart health in the month of the Immaculate Heart

August is the perfect month to focus on physical — and spiritual — heart health.

The Church’s liturgical calendar dedicates the month of August to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Devotion to the Immaculate Heart arose early on in the life of the Church. Christians venerated both Mary’s physical heart as connected to her immaculate person, but also saw deeper meaning in the Immaculate Heart as the place of Mary’s interior life and the place of direct unity with the Sacred Heart.

The Church Fathers speak of Mary’s Immaculate Heart as a perfect model for the love of God, a source of purity and virginity, and the dwelling where Mary first said “yes” to Christ, even before He was incarnate in her womb. Mary’s Immaculate Heart is a sanctuary of love for the heart of Jesus, and many saints and Christians through the ages turned to Mary’s Heart in the desire to grow close to the Heart of Jesus.

Just as the devotion to the Immaculate Heart has physical and spiritual significance, we can grow in our “heart health” this month in both those ways.

Physically, late summer offers plentiful opportunities to improve heart health. Adding more seasonal fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to one’s diet, can decrease risks of heart disease.
Choose healthy fats, like nuts, seeds, and avocado over hydrogenated, saturated, and trans fats.

Inactivity is a high risk factor for heart disease. The warm weather opens the door to many outdoor activities, which can strengthen the heart muscles and increase circulation. Physically active people have a 45 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.

Mary’s Immaculate Heart is the perfect place to start for increased spiritual heart health. Scripture tells us that Mary’s heart was the place where she pondered and treasured the events of her life, and the life of her Son (Lk. 2:19). We can set time aside amidst life’s busyness to meditate on the events of our day and to see and thank God for his presence even in the mediocre tasks.

Like Mary, we can make our hearts ready to receive Christ through increased devotion to the Heart of his Mother. Through reciting the rosary and litanies, and meditating on Mary’s life, we can enthrone the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our own hearts. This is the best “heart health” of all.

 

St. John Henry Newman wrote this litany in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us.
Heart of Mary, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, according to the heart of God, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, united to the Heart of Jesus, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, organ of the Holy Ghost, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, sanctuary of the Divine Trinity, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, tabernacle of God Incarnate, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, immaculate from thy creation, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, full of grace, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, blessed among all hearts, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, throne of glory, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, most humble, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, holocaust of Divine Love, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, fastened to the Cross with Jesus Crucified, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, comfort of the afflicted, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, refuge of sinners, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, hope of the agonizing, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, seat of mercy, Pray for us.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world: Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world: Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world:Have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
Immaculate Mary, meek and humble of heart: Make our hearts according to the Heart of Jesus.

Let us pray. O most merciful God, Who, for the salvation of sinners and the refuge of the miserable, wast pleased that the Most Pure Heart of Mary should be most like in charity and pity to the Divine Heart of Thy Son, Jesus Christ: grant that we who commemorate this sweet and loving Heart may, by the merits and intercession of the same Blessed Virgin, merit to be found according to the Heart of Jesus. Through the same Christ, Our Lord.

Amen.

Resources:
New Advent, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07168a.htm
New York TImes, Exercise’s Effects on the Heart, http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/specialtopic/physical-activity/exercise’s-effects-on-the-heart.html
Catholic Culture, https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/prayers/view.cfm?id=1121