I wonder why Roman Catholics show devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary if their devotion can be shown to Jesus Christ and Mary instead? What's the difference?

  • Wonder if this question would be even more useful if framed as something like "why do Catholics venerate particular attributes of Jesus and Mary"? Besides their hearts we also have devotions to their names, to the body and blood of Jesus (there used to be a separate feast day for each), to the face of Jesus, to his wounds, to the sorrows of Mary... I'm probably missing some. Also we keep feast days to commemorate each of the major events in their lives.
    – Ben Dunlap
    Aug 9, 2013 at 16:02
  • Base on the entry on Wikipedia "Devotion to the Sacred Heart (also known as Most Sacred Heart of Jesus) is one of the most widely practiced and well-known devotions, taking Jesus' physical heart as the representation of his divine love for humanity." I don't mind the symbolic reprenstation of the heart for Christ's love, I just wondered why not be devoted to Christ Himself. Aug 9, 2013 at 16:42
  • Anyway, base on the said entry on Wikipedia, it's possible that there are could be cultural and historical reasons during the Medivial times that I haven't considered. Aug 9, 2013 at 16:44
  • 2
    I think just about any Catholic would tell you that devotion to the Sacred Heart (or the Holy Name, or the Holy Face, or the Five Wounds, or the Precious Blood) just is devotion to Christ himself. That said, I think this is a good question because it's worthwhile to elaborate why Catholics venerate the Lord by focusing on particular attributes of His. But I think the Sacred Heart is in the same category as any of those other focused devotions, just happens to be the best-known -- so the question as phrased might be a little narrow.
    – Ben Dunlap
    Aug 9, 2013 at 17:46

2 Answers 2


Ok. I don't know if this will be an appropriate answer, because I have not had the time to dig deeply into finding any expert Catholic writings on this specifically. Pope Pius XII's Encyclical HAURIETIS AQUAS on devotion to the Sacred Heart is about the closest I can find in the near term, but I have not read it fully to see if it addresses your question sufficiently.

By my own reason though, I think of the analogy to understanding a very complex subject, design, etc. in our earthly life or to understanding any given person. If you contemplate a very complex thing as a whole, as humans, it is hard to understand it at a very deep level. If we narrow our focus of the subject in our contemplation, then we start to develop a deeper understanding of the larger subject. I believe that is a large reason that the Catholic Church recognizes various titles, roles, and view points on Jesus, Mary, God the Father, the Church, and even ourselves. It is to allow our limited human perception to penetrate the hugely complex (infinitely complex in the case of God) to understand them much more fully.


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The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary have been intimately related to one another ever since the moment of Incarnation. Most parents know, especially Mothers, that if there is one thing that connects them to their child, it is the heart. Faithful Christians throughout the Church's history have deductively assimilated the connective reality between the hearts of Jesus and Mary through study of the Gospels, private revelation, and reason. Like all orthodox Christian practices, these devotions flow from Christ's divinity.

The Catholic Encyclodepia presents three foundational aspects for the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: the historical, the theological, and the scientific:

(a) Historical foundations

In approving the devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Church did not trust to the visions of St. Margaret Mary; she made abstraction of these and examined the worship in itself. Margaret Mary's visions could be false, but the devotion would not, on that account, be any less worthy or solid. However, the fact is that the devotion was propagated chiefly under the influence of the movement started at Paray-le-Monial; and prior to her beatification, Margaret Mary's visions were most critically examined by the Church, whose judgment in such cases does not involve her infallibility but implies only a human certainty sufficient to warrant consequent speech and action.

(b) Theological foundations

The Heart of Jesus, like all else that belongs to His Person, is worthy of adoration, but this would not be so if It were considered as isolated from this Person and as having no connection with It. But it not thus that the Heart is considered, and, in his Bull "Auctorem fidei", 1794, Pius VI authoritatively vindicated the devotion in this respect against the calumnies of the Jansenists. The worship, although paid to the Heart of Jesus, extends further than the Heart of flesh, being directed to the love of which this Heart is the living and expressive symbol. On this point the devotion requires no justification, as it is to the Person of Jesus that it is directed; but to the Person as inseparable from His Divinity. Jesus, the living apparition of the goodness of God and of His paternal love, Jesus infinitely loving and amiable, studied in the principal manifestations of His love, is the object of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, as indeed He is the object of the Christian religion. The difficulty lies in the union of the heart and love, in the relation which the devotion supposes between the one and the other. Is not this an error long since discarded? If so, it remains to examine whether the devotion, considered in this respect, is well founded.

(c) Philosophical and scientific foundations

In this respect there has been some uncertainty amongst theologians, not as regards the basis of things, but in the matter of explanations. Sometimes they have spoken as if the heart were the organ of love, but this point has no bearing on the devotion, for which it suffices that the heart be the symbol of love, and that, for the basis of the symbolism, a real connection exist between the heart and the emotions. Now, the symbolism of the heart is a fact and every one feels that in the heart there is a sort of an echo of our sentiments. The physiological study of this resonance may be very interesting, but it is in no wise necessary to the devotion, as its foundation is a fact attested by daily experience, a fact which physiological study confirms and of which it determines the conditions, but which neither supposes this study nor any special acquaintance with its subject.

See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07163a.htm

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Veneration of the Heart of Mary is analogous to worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is, however, necessary to indicate a few differences in this analogy, the better to explain the character of Roman Catholic devotion to the Heart of Mary. The Devotion to the Heart of Jesus is especially directed to the "Divine Heart" as overflowing with love for humanity. In the devotion to the Heart of Mary, on the other hand, the attraction is the love of her Heart for Jesus and for God. A second difference is the nature of the devotion itself. In devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Roman Catholic venerates in a sense of love responding to love. In devotion to the Heart of Mary, study and imitation hold as important a place as love. Love is more the result than the object of the devotion, the object being rather to love God and Jesus better by uniting one's self to Mary for this purpose and by imitating her virtues

The Catholic enceycopedia also highlights the slight difference in the historical and theological growth of these closely related devotions:

The history of the devotion to the Heart of Mary is connected on many points with that to the Heart of Jesus; nevertheless, it has its own history which, although very simple, is not devoid of interest. The attention of Christians was early attracted by the love and virtues of the Heart of Mary. The Gospel itself invited this attention with exquisite discretion and delicacy. What was first excited was compassion for the Virgin Mother. It was, so to speak, at the foot of the Cross that the Christian heart first made the acquaintance of the Heart of Mary. Simeon's prophecy paved the way and furnished the devotion with one of its favourite formulae and most popular representations: the heart pierced with a sword. But Mary was not merely passive at the foot of the Cross; "she cooperated through charity", as St. Augustine says, "in the work of our redemption".

See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07168a.htm

  • Care to post links? newadvent.org may have the article/s you've mentioned. If it's not possible, I won't mind, though citiation/s will reinforce your answer. Aug 12, 2013 at 11:03
  • @OnesimusUnbound Yes I was citing Newadvent. See my edit.
    – user5286
    Aug 12, 2013 at 13:25
  • Any biblical basis for this?
    – Daniel
    Aug 12, 2013 at 14:10
  • The worship of Jesus in general is biblical for obvious reasons. As Ben Dunlap pointed out above any form of adoration to any symbolic part of Jesus sacrificial body is deductively assumed that it ultimately is worship of Jesus himself. Focusing on certain aspects of the Passion helps to draw oneself deeper into Christ's love. However, from what I understand, the adoration specifically directed to the heart organ of Jesus (or veneration of Mary's) isn't explicitly displayed in Scripture.
    – user5286
    Aug 12, 2013 at 15:50
  • The same goes for veneration of Mary's blood pumping organ. Veneration of Mary in general is definitely evident in scripture. See scripturecatholic.com/blessed_virgin_mary.html. The specific devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary have more historical, theological, and philosophical foundations, as do many Catholic devotions. Something consider on the flip side...is there any biblical basis for explicitly condemning these devotions?
    – user5286
    Aug 12, 2013 at 15:58

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