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Devotion makes a comeback thanks to Alliance of the Holy Family

The afternoon light streamed through the windows of the dining room, where a small group was gathered on a Sunday afternoon. At the center of the dining table sat a framed image of the unusual guests of honor — the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Father John Hansen, SMP, began the prayers as a trio of women sang lines from the Lourdes Hymn:

Immaculate Mary, thy praises we sing,

Thou reignst now in heaven with Jesus our King.

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria! Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

That afternoon, Mark and Laura Lavery had opened their home — and their hearts — to a new way of life. They hosted a home enthronement, a simple and solemn act of placing God in the center of their lives.

The home enthronement is a primary activity of the St. Louis chapter of the Alliance of the Holy Family, which promotes the devotion to the two hearts of Jesus and Mary. The local chapter has been active since 2000, after the founding of the Alliance of the Holy Family International 10 years earlier. The international Catholic movement falls under the supervision of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life and refers to the Holy Family, who lived in the spirit of covenant love.

The devotion cofuses on the alliance of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, which were made known through revelations received by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1675 and the visionaries at Fatima in 1917.

According to the devotion, the love of Jesus and Mary is an expression of perfect obedience to God's will, with Jesus as the redeemer of mankind and Mary as a model for humanity in her cooperation with God's salvific plan. The mission is to restore and strengthen holiness, unity and healing in the home as well as other areas, including clergy, family, youth and media.

Dr. Ruby Casino, who helped start the local chapter, said the devotion helps strengthen families, which is needed in today's broken culture. "We like the families to do this as means of battling the culture of death," she said. "The warfare is spiritual, so the 'weapon' must also be spiritual."

Holy Spirit calling

One morning in October of 2000, Casino drove to St. Luke's Hospital to make her rounds for the day. On the way, she turned on EWTN radio, and heard Mother Angelica interviewing a priest who spoke about a growing worldwide devotion to the two hearts of Jesus and Mary. The priest, Father Edgardo "Bing" Arellano, called the devotion an answer to the brokenness in the world, much of which originates with the family.

Casino was intrigued, but didn't think much more of it. On her way home from work, she picked up some Chinese food and parked herself in front of the TV in the family room as she waited for the rest of her family to join her. She flipped on the TV and saw the same interview with Mother Angelica and Father Bing. The following morning, on her way to work again, she heard the same interview on the radio.

"I thought, 'Uh oh, Mother Mary, what is this?'" On a whim, Casino set her alarm for 3 a.m., just to see what would happen if she turned on EWTN in the wee hours of the morning. She flipped on the TV — same interview.

"I said, 'OK Holy Spirit, you've got me.' I started writing down the contact information for the alliance."

Consecration and enthronement

One act of the devotion is to participate in a family consecration and home enthronement of the two hearts. After the Lavery family learned about the devotion, they and their four sons started attending the First Friday/First Saturday vigil Ascension Church in Chesterfield. There they met Casino, who asked if they would be interested in a home enthronement. The act includes prayers, confessions and a blessing of the home, and finally placing the image of the two hearts in the home.

"As parents, our primary goal is to evangelize our children and bring them into the faith," Laura Lavery said. "We want God to reign in their hearts, so we need Him to reign in our home. This is sticking that stake in the ground saying yes, He is a part of our home, and he's a part of our hearts."

The Laverys, who belong to St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Ellisville, said that as they teach their children in the faith, they look at how Jesus taught the first disciples before he sent them out to evangelize the world.

"He chose each one of them, but He didn't just say, 'Bless you, go. You'll be fine,'" Laura Lavery said. "He taught them everything He knew ... He let them witness miracles, He let them ask questions, He let them struggle. ... As parents we need to teach them everything we know — and we have so much at our disposal. (The devotion) is a beautiful way to teach the faith and anchor them with something they can continue."

Reparation and all-night vigil

At 8:15 on a recent Friday night, a few dozen people made their way into the pews at Ascension Church in Chesterfield. As they shuffled about, a gentle drone emerged from the ambo, as a woman prayed the Rosary. Flanking either side of the altar were images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

At 8:30, the church bells ring as the first Mass of the evening begins for the monthly Communion of Reparation all-night vigil, another major element of the devotion to the two hearts.

The Communion of Reparation vigil includes Masses on the first Friday and first Saturday of the month, as instructed by the revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and later to the visionaries of Fatima. The vigil is a way for devotees to make reparations for the sins committed against the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart.

"The Communion of Reparation is a lifestyle," Casino explained. "There are four parts. We say CARE: Confession, (eucharistic) adoration, Rosary and the Eucharist (Mass)." The all-night vigil includes all of these elements, and concludes with a second Mass just after midnight on Saturday. Three parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis offer the monthly vigil.

Michelle and Bryan Ackerman, who have been coming to Ascension with their children for the past decade, said that making reparations is not just about atoning for our own sins, but those of all humanity. "These are great acts of love of neighbor," Michelle Ackerman said. "It's a sacrifice, and that's always pleasing to God. I think if we can offer that lovingly, it bears fruit for others, and it unites us to the cross." 

>> Origin of the two hearts devotion

In a revelation to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1675, Jesus asked her to make a "reparation" on the nine first Fridays to His Sacred Heart, which was hurt by the sins of humanity.

In 1917, Our Lady of Fatima's revelations included a request to make reparation to her Immaculate Heart on five consecutive first Saturdays because of the blasphemies against her Immaculate Conception, her virginity and motherhood, and the sins and sacrileges of others.

Our Lady indicated to Sister Lucia, one of the three Fatima visionaries, that "if my requests are heard, my Immaculate Heart will triumph ... and an era of peace will be granted to mankind." By 1925, Sister Lucia revealed Jesus' desire to have the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary be coupled with the devotion to His Sacred Heart.

The devotion fell to the wayside after World War II. By the 1980s and '90s, the Alliance of the Holy Family International, started by Father Edgardo "Bing" Arellano, renewed interest in the devotion, with a large following among Filipino Catholics. Dr. Ruby Casino and others founded the St. Louis chapter of the alliance in 2000. 

>> What is reparation?

To make reparation means to offer to God an act of compensation or making amends for our sins and the sins of others against Christ. The act essentially repairs the hearts of Jesus and Mary; those who follow the devotion live a lifestyle that includes regular confession, adoration, praying the Rosary and the Eucharist. All acts of reparation must be offered in union with the Eucharist.

In his 1928 encyclical, "Miserentissimus Redemptor" (On Reparation to the Sacred Heart), Pope Pius XI explained why Catholics should offer reparations to Jesus' Sacred Heart:

"... The creature's love should be given in return for the love of the Creator, another thing follows from this at once, namely that to the same uncreated Love, if so be it has been neglected by forgetfulness or violated by offense, some sort of compensation must be rendered for the injury, and this debt is commonly called by the name of reparation."

To read the full encyclical, visit www.stlouisreview.com/bd4 

First Friday/First Saturday vigil

As part of the devotion to the two hearts, nine first Friday vigils must be made in honor of Jesus' Sacred Heart on nine consecutive months. Communion also must be received.

The St. Louis chapter of the Alliance of the Holy Family (aka the Alliance of the Two Hearts) hosts a First Friday/First Saturday vigil at several churches in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The next will be held on March 3-4.

Ascension Church, 230 Santa Maria Dr. in Chesterfield

7:30-11:30 p.m. Confessions/adoration/Rosary

8:30 p.m. First Friday Vigil, Mass

Midnight First Saturday Vigil, concludes with Mass

Contact: Ruby Casino (314) 283-8950 or Mary Hodge (636) 532-0337

All Saints Church, 6403 Clemens Ave. in University City

8-11:30 p.m. Confessions/adoration/Rosary

8:30 p.m. First Friday Vigil, Mass

Midnight First Saturday Vigil, concludes with Mass

Contact: Felipe and Carol Manuel (314) 681-8594 or Josie Neil (314) 265-8941

St. Matthias the Apostle, 796 Buckley Road in Lemay

7:30-11:30 p.m. Confessions/adoration/Rosary

8 p.m. First Friday Vigil, Mass

12:10 a.m. First Saturday Vigil, concludes with Mass

Contact: Jess Gatmaitan (314) 602-5304 or Marissa Gatmaitan (314) 954-8420.

For more information, visit www.ath-stl.org. 


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