As we’ve seen in the past few issues, three major figures in Catholic history represent a Mariology that draws the faithful through Mary to Jesus: Saint Louis de Montfort, Blessed James Alberione, and Saint Pope John Paul II. These three figures are the influences on Guiseppe Forlai’s new book, Mary Mother of Apostles, and we looked at both de Montfort and Alberione in previous articles:
Pope John Paul II was extremely clear in a number of encyclicals, conferences, and publications about Mary’s place in the life of the Church and in leading Christians to her Son. “Of course,” the pope said in 1995, “the Blessed Virgin is totally related to Christ, the foundation of faith and ecclesial experience, and she leads to him. That is why, in obedience to Jesus, who reserved a very special role for his Mother in the economy of salvation, Christians have venerated, loved and prayed to Mary in a most particular and fervent way.”
John Paul II had a beautiful devotion to Our Lady as mother from a very early age. Along with his father, the future pope made pilgrimages to the nearby shrine of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. “From my earliest years,” he wrote, “my own devotion to Mary was deeply joined to my faith in Christ. The shrine of Kalwaria helped me greatly.” He received a scapular from the shrine that he began wearing when he was 10 years old; by the time he was 20 he had read St. Louis de Monfort’s Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. “I was already convinced the Mary leads us to Christ, but at that time I began to realize also that Christ leads us to His Mother.” Once he was elected pope, John Paul commissioned the beautiful mosaic Mary, Mother of the Church at St. Peter's, and said, “Now all who come to St. Peter’s Square may raise their eyes to Mary to greet her with filial trust and prayer.”
That mosaic was emblematic of the pope’s love for and trust in the Mother of the Apostles. Mary, the pope believed, shared in her son’s redeeming mission. “Mary experiences childbirth in a condition of extreme poverty: she cannot give the Son of God even what mothers usually offer a newborn baby; instead, she has to lay him ‘in a manger,’ an improvised cradle which contrasts with the dignity of the ‘Son of the Most High,’” he wrote in L'Osservatore Romano. “Indeed, as it was for Mary at the time of the Annunciation, so too for them the news of Jesus' birth represents the great sign of God's goodwill towards men. In the divine Redeemer, contemplated in the poverty of a Bethlehem cave, we can see an invitation to approach with confidence the One who is the hope of humanity. Mary intensely and mysteriously unites her life with Christ's sorrowful mission: she was to become her Son's faithful coworker for the salvation of the human race.”
And there is the crux of the pope’s thought: Mary as coworker for the salvation of the human race. Mary does not just bring Jesus into the world; she is how the world can access Christ. Mary’s divine motherhood culminated in her presence at the foot of the cross, and serves as the basis for her cooperation in the work of salvation.
St. Augustine in De Sancta Virginitate was the first to refer to Mary’s co-operation in redemption: it is a joint and yet always subordinate role. “Applied to Mary,” writes John Paul II, “the term ‘co-operator’ acquires a specific meaning. The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary, instead, co-operated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ's saving work.”
And as the new Eve, Mary “thus becomes a perfect icon of the Church,” writes the pope. “In the divine plan, at the foot of the Cross, she represents redeemed humanity which, in need of salvation, is enabled to make a contribution to the unfolding of the saving work.”
Honor Mary; go to Jesus. It’s the conclusion reached not only by Pope John Paul II, but also by Louis de Montfort and by James Alberione, all of whom represent the foundational thought and theology behind our newest book, Mary Mother of Apostles: How to Live Marian Devotion to Proclaim Christ by Guiseppe Forlai, available in August from Pauline Books and Media.
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