Completing the Armour of God

Reflections on my Pilgrimage to Pellevoisin… on the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

A soldier going into combat knows that he must choose his supplies carefully, for he can only use what he can carry. Armour is heavy, and whatever is chosen must be carried through the day of battle. But few soldiers would leave aside from their kit a photograph or token of their wife, to give them strength in their darkest hour.

In my undergraduate days, a member of the student rosary group once commented on how a scapular closed a gap which would otherwise exist in the “Armour of God” – for the list given in Ephesians 6:10-17 contains no item to protect one’s back. Since a scapular is composed of panels over one’s back as well as one’s heart, my friend saw his Brown Scapular as a sign of Our Lady standing behind him to guard him from unexpected attacks.

The rear panel of the Scapular of the Sacred Heart of Pellevoisin

In the case of the Scapular of Pellevoisin, Our Lady did not prescribe a design for the rear panel, but said “I reserve it for myself”; Estelle should make a suggestion and the church should decide. Estelle proposed an image of Mary as she had appeared at Pellevoisin, encircled by roses and with the Lord’s graces flowing from her hands. The Church authorities agreed, but decided that a title should be printed there: MATER MISERICORDIAE – Mother of Mercy. To wear the Scapular of the Sacred Heart, then, results in an image of the Mother of Mercy guarding one’s rear.

It is part of the official teaching of the Church that Mary is indeed a channel of God’s grace to us, a mediatrix of grace. The image of Mary as a channel of God’s grace is not new. When she appeared in 1830 to St Catherine Labouré to reveal the ‘Miraculous Medal’ there were similar rays of grace flowing from her hands – and a sad acknowledgment that more graces would flow if only we remembered to ask for them. For this reason, we are invited to pray the prayer inscribed on the medal – O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

The Belgian mystic, Berthe Petit, taught us to invoke the Heart of Mary as the Sorrowful and Immaculate HeartO Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Mary’s Heart is Immaculate because of God’s gift, but also sorrowful because of Mary’s free choice to unite herself to the suffering work of her Son.

Our Lady said to Estelle Faguette that the Heart of Jesus “has so much love for mine, that He cannot refuse my requests. Through me He will move the most obdurate. I am come in particular for the conversion of sinners.” The same message of converting sinners was Mary’s revelation to Sr Justine Bisqueyburu in 1840, through the promotion of a Green Scapular with the prayer: Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Through her messengers, the Mother of God has offered many gifts to her children. A promise of great graces to those who wear a ‘Miraculous Medal’ around their necks; a gift of conversion of sinners through the Green Scapular. The Scapular of the Sacred Heart revealed at Pellevoisin is attached to no special promise, other than the assurance those who wear it in the right spirit are performing an act of devotion which cannot be surpassed. Indeed, there is no shortage of spiritual weapons on offer from the treasury of the Mother of God.

A soldier going into combat knows that he must choose his supplies carefully, for he can only use what he can carry. Our Lady told Estelle Faguette, on showing her the image of the Sacred Heart, that “The treasures of my Son are open; let them pray.” We might hear an echo of the message to St Catherine Labouré that we should pray for the graces we need; but we might also pray for wisdom in making a choice of which devotions to pursue.

I have devoted these pages to sharing the message of Pellevoisin not because it teaches a devotion which everyone must embrace, but because it is another gift on offer from the Mother of God, which some in the Church will feel called to take up. Others will fight with other spiritual weapons, and this too is a blessing; for together, we make up the One Body of Christ.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.