On July 22, 1879 the Spiritual Honor Guard of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners was officially founded at the Congregation of the Felician Sisters in Cracow.
Mother Mary Magdalen Borowska, then the Superior General, in her circular letter to all the Sisters of the Congregation reportin important events of the year 1878 – 1879 writes about the event thus:
What a grace for us, dear Sisters, that the Blessed Lady has charged us with Her sweetest responsibility to honor Her Heart of Mercy continually and to spread this devotion among others! Over a thousand persons, through these few months, enrolled as members and their number is increasing daily. Every Saturday, there is Mass in this intention and also prayers in common. Many Sisters enjoyed effects of this devotion in personal conversion as well as that of some known sinners.
The Felician Sisters, daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, consecrated to Her Heart for the first time on August 28, 1864 in Warsaw have received the message with a great joy.
Mother Mary Aniela Jezioranska described the history of this purely Felician organization in the History of the Congregation:
It is necessary for us to add a word about the initiation of the practice in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary under the title “The Spiritual Honor Guard”. The Sisters of our novitiate, having been aware of that practice in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and our dedication to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, felt that, without neglecting our duties and responsibilities, we could hold designated hours to honor Her Heart. They presented their desire to the Director of Novitiate [most probably Mother Mary Aniela herself]. She permitted them assigning their hours and giving directives. Mother Mary Elizabeth [Stummer], having found out about the wishes of the novices, requested Fr. Honorat, who composed the by-laws, prepared cards for the 12 hours of the day and the “Clock” for guards, upon which names of the sisters would be inscribed as they joined the Honor Guard. This practice was approved by His Excellency Cardinal Dunajewski for the Diocese of Cracow in 1879. Many people from various parts of Poland enrolled; most probably about 20000. Perhaps, in time, the Holy See will approve the Guard and then all members will be able to gain indulgences. At present, only residents of the Diocese of Cracow have the privilege of indulgences granted by their Cardinal.
In the Archives of the Metropolitan Curia, there is preserved a letter by Mother Mary Elizabeth Stummer of July 9, 1879, in which she requests Bishop Albin Dunajewski to approve the by-laws of the Spiritual Guard of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and also its canonical installation at the Congragation of the Felician Sisters. She also asks for the appointment of Reverend Polkowski as Promoter, an approval for publishing certificates and granting indulgences to the members of the Honor Guard. Further, she petitions that the month of August be dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the Congregation and that the Congregation celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Heart on the first Sunday after the octave of the Feast of Assumption of our Lady. The Most Reverend Albin Dunajewski granted the requests of the Congregation to every detail expressed in the letter by Mother Mary Elizabeth who wanted this favour to be presented to Mother Mary Magdalen Borowska, Superior General, on her Feastday. From her letters to Father Honorat, we find out that she was mainly responsible for the organization of the Honor Guard.
I must inform you, Father, about the results of the Honor Guard of the Heart of Mary. Mother General was extremely pleased, thanked me warmly for all my efforts, and the “Clock” appealed to everybody. Only Mother Mary Aniela objected why not a single circle for all members because there will be only a few religious and considerably more lay people. However, the Bishop, priests and everybody complimented it as beautiful. … I am sending a few certificates at present. Hopefully, the rest will be ready in August. Then, the hours and mysteries will have to be printed in, since that seems more practical, more legible and requiring less work. Herewith, I am enclosing the correction made in a smaller engraving as I just received it. Which will be the more suitable one and how should it be done? If we add the indulgences and the paragraph that all members simultaneously belong to the Archfraternity of the Heart of Mary, it will require ten additional verses. Where should we put them? Should we enlarge the format? This one appears most appropriate. … On the feastday of Mother General, I signed the membership certificates for all the sisters at the Motherhouse and I placed them with the documents carrying the Bishop’s seals. And I addressed the package thus: “From the Blessed Mother Mary and Lady to the Most Reverend Mother General of the Felician Sisters, Mother Mary Magdalen”. Then I placed this huge envelope on the beautiful register-book on the kneeler prepared for Mother and above it the framed clock [that is the “Clock” of the Spiritual Honor Guard of the Immaculate Heart of Mary]. Next to it, on a little table, I set a basket containing 850 medals, which were blessed and granted indulgences; beside the basket, the Immaculate Heart of Mary engraved stamp and spare certificates. When Mother entered, she opened the envelope and announced to the sisters the grace. She told the sisters this made her very happy. Every sister who approached Mother to extend her greetings received her certificate and medal. Your “Clock” picture, Father, is hanging in our Choir and the new one in the guest reception room. Many people, seeing the membership clock, sign up to belong to the Honor Guard. On that day, the Bishop also received a certificate and a medal for himself and another for Father Sotkiewicz. He kissed both a the medals and told us he would send the certificate to Father Sotkiewicz but that he would keep both medals. The medals are not too well embossed, yet everyone admires them. Father, I will send you, at the earliest convenience, one hundred medals and certificates if you volunteer to be promoter …
The following names had been entered into the register on the name’s day of Mother Mary Magdalen Borowska in1879: Most Reverend Dunajewski, Father Honorat Kozminski, Father Ignatius Polkowski – Promoter of the Honor Guard of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother Mary Magdalen Borowska, Mother Mary Angela Truszkowska, and all the sisters. To July 16, 1879 there were 19605 persons registered.
The Constitutions approved by the Holy See in 1874 bade the sisters to regard the Immaculate Heart of Mary their sanctuary and refuge and that every candidate on her admission to the Congregation would be entered into the Heart and registered in the Archfraternity of the Heart.
Likewise, in the Novices’ Handbook for 1910, we read:
The Congregation owes its entire existence to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and, for this reason, every candidate upon admission is registered in the Archfraternity and the Honor Guard of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The by-laws of the Honor Guard of the Immaculate Heart of Mary consist of a numer of points:
- The organization holds as its aim to acquire a compilation of prayers for continuous honoring of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in its profound mysteries of Her merciful Heart; for consoling that Heart in its sorrow; for atoning the coldness and apathy of human hearts; and, finally, for incessant pleading for conversion of sinners, for progress in virtue for oneself and for others, but especially for conversion of sinners who never pray.
- All Catholics without exception may join the society. A person may enrol even the unwilling, provided that the former takes the responsibility of performing obligations for them.
- The promoter for the organization is a priest who directs it from the headquarters at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of the Felician Sisters in Cracow. All the sisters of the Congregation are recruiters and assistants.
- Every member binds herself to participate in the Honor Guard of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She selects for herself a convenient hour during the day, when without leaving her usual work, in spirit she draws herself to the feet of Mary and unites herself with the Heart of Mary through Spiritual Communion or with the Choirs of Angels and Saints to honor Mary in one of the mysteries of her Heart and for the intentions mentioned before. She offers all her thoughts, words, deeds, sufferings and all her desires of gladdening the Heart of Mary and satisfying for human ungratefulness by acts of love. For this purpose, she will pray the following act: ay the Purest Heart of Mary be known, be praised, be blessed, be loved, be honoured and be glorified always and everywhere!” During that hour, she should try to lead her thoughts to the Immaculate Heart and offer at least one act of love like the following: O Heart pierced with sorrow! Inflame my heart with love.” And she ought to make some self-denial in speech, in sight or in the other senses according to the dictates of her own heart. The Honor Guard Hour should be ended with the following ejaculation: “Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation!”
- If one happens to forget her Honor Guard Hour, she should fulfil it as soon as she reminds herself of it.
- The memebers should love the BLessed Mother sincerely and they are to encourage others to love and trust Mary’s Heart. Every morning they offer themselves for Her service in thought, word and deed throughout the day in union with the merits of Her Heart, Its praises of the Blessed Trinity and its love for Jesus. They are encouraged to pray frequently to this merciful Heart for the conversion of sinners.
- To perform these obligations faithfully, they are required to pray one Hail Mary for the general intentions of the Archfraternity of the Heart of Mary.
- Other prayers recommended include:
- Remember …
- We fly to Your Patronage
- Refuge of Sinners, pray for us
- O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee.
- Since purity of heart is regarded as the best means of receiving graces through the Heart of Mary, the members are encouraged to receive the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist as frequently as possible but especially on the principal feast days of the organization: the first Sunday after the octave of Assumption; immaculate Conception, the Nativity of the BVM, Presentation of BVM, Espousals, Annunciation, Visitation and Assumption; and also the Nativity and Presentation of Jesus; additional feasts of Mary – the Seven Dolors, Mother of Mercy, Help of Christians, Ransom of Slaes, – and feasts of St. John the Evangelist, Conversion of St. Paul and St. Mary Magdalen; finally, patrons of the Congregation – St. Francis of Assisi, St. Felix of Cantalice, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Clare, St. Veronica Capuchin and St. Margaret of Cortona.
- All these regulations do not bind by sin, but willful disregard prevents one from gaining indulgences granted to members of the Archfraternity.
- Every last Sunday of the moth in all the churches and chapels of the Congregation of the Felician Sisters, there will be Vespers with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Also, every Saturday, there will be celebrated the Sacrifice of Mass in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the conversion of sinners.
- The medal of the Archfraternity will have embossed on one side the Immaculate Heart with the ejaculation: Sweet Heart of Mary be my salvation!”; and, on the other side, St. Felix of Cantalice with the ejaculation: “St. Felix, Patron of the sick and children, pray for us!”
Cracoviae, die 16 Juli 1879
Offering of the Hour of Honor Guard – by Father Honorat, Cap.
O Mary! My dearest Mother, I offer You this hour during which, uniting myself with … (here mention name or names with whom you wish to unite spiritually) I desire to love and praise You with the same sentiments because I wish to atone to Your Immaculate Heart and to seek Its help for the world. Deign to accept, O Lady, for his intention my thoughts, words, actions and suffering and, above all, my whole heart which I give You that it may belong to You totally, love You and Your Son, and suffer only for Your. Amen.
Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners – by Father Honorat, Cap.
O Most Holy Heart of Mary the Mother of God, in which this Congregation is enclosed, we desire to live and die in that Heart. O Heart most pure! which unceasingly atones Almighty God for everything with which sins of the people wound His Sacred Heart, help us that, with our warmest love, we satisfy God for sins committed during these days. Especially now, when in worldly amusements, so dangerous to souls, so many sins are committed, we come to You, O Refuge of Sinners, and we unite our prayers for the conversion of sinners with all the prayers of the Archfraternity, organized under the patronage of Your Immaculate Heart. We pray, be merciful to all sinners and obtain for them the grace of sincere conversion. Grant us that we could throughout our lives serve Your heart and make amends for all the grief with which sinners fill Your Heart. Amen.