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Mary is a pattern of the Church’s holiness

Pope St John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday 6th September 1995 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. After having dwelt/focused in (the) preceding/previous catecheses to deepen the identity and mission of the Church, I now feel the need to turn our gaze towards the Blessed Virgin, she who has perfectly realized (the) holiness and constitutes the model.

This is just what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council did: after having exposed the doctrine on the historial-salvific reality of the People of God, they wanted to complete it with the illustration of Mary's role in the work of salvation. Chapter VIII of the conciliar Constitution Lumen Gentium in face has the purpose not only of underlining the ecclesiological valence/significance of Marian doctrine, but also of highlighting the contribution that the figure of the Blessed Virgin offers to our understanding of the mystery of the Church.

2. Before setting out the Council's Marian itinerary, I desire/would like to turn/take a contemplative gaze/look at Mary, just as she is described at the origin of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke, at the beginning of this New Testament script/writing which presents the life of the first Christian community, after having individually recorded the names of the Apostles (Acts 1, 13), affirms: "All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Acts 1, 14).

In this picture the person of Mary stands out, the only one who is remembered with her (own) name, in addition to the Apostles: she represents a face of the Church, different and complementary with respect to the ministerial or hierarchical one.

3. In fact, Luke's statement mentions the presence in the Upper Room of some women, thus showing the importance of the feminine contribution to the Church's life from the very beginning. This presence is closely linked to the perseverance of the community in prayer and harmony. These traits perfectly express two basic aspects of women's specific contribution to ecclesial life. Better suited to outward activity, men need women's help to be brought back into personal relationships in order to progress towards the union of hearts.

"Blessed among women" (Lk 1, 42), Mary eminently fulfils this feminine mission. Who better than Mary can encourage all believers to persevere in prayer? Who better than she can promote harmony and love?

Recognizing the pastoral mission entrusted by Jesus to the Eleven, the women in the Upper Room, with Mary in their midst, joined in their prayer and at the same time witnessed to the presence in the Church of people who, although they have not received that mission, are likewise fully-fledged members of the community gathered in faith in Christ.

4. Mary's presence in the community, which was waiting in prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit (cf Acts 1, 14), calls to mind her part in the Incarnation of the Son of God by the work of the Holy Spirit (cf Lk 1, 35). The Virgin's role in that initial stage and the role she plays now, in the manifestation of the Church at Pentecost, are closely linked.

Mary's presence at the first moments of the Church's life is remarkably highlighted by comparison with her previous, very discreet participation during Jesus' public ministry. When the Son began his mission, Mary remained in Nazareth, even though this separation did not exclude significant contacts such as the one at Cana. Above all, it did not prevent her from taking part in the sacrifice of Calvary.

In the first community, however, Mary's role assumes notable importance. After the Ascension and in expectation of Pentecost, Jesus' Mother is personally present at the first stages of the work begun by her Son.

5. The Acts of the Apostles stress that Mary was in the Upper Room "with his [Jesus'] brethren" (Acts 1:14), that is, with his relatives, as has always been the Church's interpretation. It was not so much a family gathering as the fact that under Mary's guidance, Jesus' natural family came to be part of Christ's spiritual family: "Whoever does the will of God", Jesus had said, "is my brother and sister, and mother" (Mk 3:35).

On the same occasion, Luke explicitly described Mary as "the mother of Jesus" (Acts 1:14), almost as if he wished to suggest that something of the presence of the Son ascended into heaven has remained in the presence of the mother. She reminded his disciples of Jesus' face and, with her presence in the community, is the symbol of the Church's fidelity to Christ the Lord.

The title of "Mother", in this context, proclaims the attitude of thoughtful closeness with which Our Lady followed the Church's life. Mary was to open her heart to the Church to show the marvels done in her by the almighty and merciful God.

From the very beginning, Mary carried out her role as "Mother of the Church": her action encouraged understanding between the Apostles, whom Luke describes as being of "one accord", far from the disputes that had occasionally arisen among them.

Lastly, Mary expressed her motherhood towards the community of believers not only by praying to obtain for the Church the gifts of the Holy Spirit necessary for her formation and her future, but also by teaching the Lord's disciples about constant communion with God.

She thus became the Christian people's teacher of prayer, of encounter with God, a central and indispensable element, so that the work of the Pastors and the faithful would always have its beginning and its inner motivation in the Lord.

6. From these brief remarks it can clearly be seen how the relationship between Mary and the Church is a fascinating comparison between two mothers. It clearly reveals Mary's maternal mission and the Church's commitment ever to seek her true identity in contemplation of the face of the Theotokos."

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

"Chers frères et sœurs, C’est avec plaisir que j’accueille les pèlerins et les visiteurs de langue française. J’offre mes encouragements et mes vœux fervents aux Filles de la Sagesse venues ce matin. Et je salut très cordialement les groupes venus du Liban. A tous, je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction Apostolique.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am pleased to greet the English–speaking visitors, including the pilgrims from England, Ireland, Korea and the United States of America. A special welcome goes to the pilgrimage group from Hwalien, Taiwan, accompanied by their Bishop.

I extend a special greeting to the South African media representatives who are present. Next week I will begin a journey to Cameroon, South Africa and Kenya for the purpose of presenting the results of the Special Session for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. While this visit will be essentially a celebration of the Church’s commitment to the whole of Africa and not a Pastoral Visit to the countries involved, I greatly look forward to coming to South Africa at this important time of transformation and change. I hope you will bring back my message of esteem and affection for all South Africans. May God bless your country and guide you along the path of peace and progress!

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder! Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung richte ich meinen herzlichen Willkommensgru an Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder deutscher Sprache. Besonders heie ich den Polizeichor aus Duisburg, die Pfarrwallfahrt aus St. Laurentius in Altheim sowie die zahlreichen Schüler– und Jugendgruppen willkommen. Mit dem Wunsch, Euer Besuch an den Gräbern der Apostel Petrus und Paulus möge Euch in Eurem Glauben stärken, erteile ich Euch und Euren Lieben zu Hause von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Queridos hermanos y hermanas, Saludo con afecto a los visitantes de lengua española, de modo especial al Señor Cardenal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, Arzobispo de Santo Domingo, al frente de numerosos peregrinos, entre ellos muchos jóvenes. Saludo igualmente a los miembros del movimiento “Regnum Christi”, a los diferentes grupos parroquiales de España y Argentina, así como al grupo de paraplégicos cerebrales de Navarra. Asimismo, doy mi cordial bienvenida a los numerosos jóvenes latinoamericanos de las Comunidades Neocatecumenales, en camino hacia Loreto. Al pedir al Señor que reavive en cada uno la propia fe, os imparto de corazón mi Bendición Apostólica.

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs, Saúdo, com votos de felicidades, paz e graça no Senhor, quantos me escutam de língua portuguesa. Em particular os Portugueses das paróquias de Marinhas e de Santa Zita da Diocese de Braga, um grupo de peregrinos do Roteiro Antoniano, os visitantes de Vila Saloia, e outro da Paróquia da Sé de Bragança; saúdo, enfim, os numerosos Brasileiros vindos de São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Mato Grosso, Distrito Federal, Espírito Santo e Ceará. A todos desejo boa estada em Roma e que Deus vos abençoe!

I wreszcie witam pielgrzymów z Polski. Witam w szczególności grupy: z Krakowa – z parafii św. Szczepana, Błogosławionej Jadwigi, Narodzenia Matki Bożej; prócz tego z archidiecezji – parafie z Nowej Góry, Krzeszowic, Frydrychowic i Wilamowic; z Krynicy – grupę pracowników Przedsiębiorstwa Uzdrowiskowego; z Warszawy – parafię św. Stefana i grupę pieszych pielgrzymów; z Zamościa – parafię Św. Krzyża. Witam serdecznie grupy młodzieżowe w drodze do Loreto: z archidiecezji częstochowskiej, łódzkiej, poznańskiej, z diecezji gorzowskiej, pelplińskiej, siedleckiej oraz Chór Młodzieżowy z Łukowa. Ponadto witam wszystkich pielgrzymów (lista grupzostała już odczytana): z Katowic, Iławy, Szczecina, Świecia, Białegostoku, Bydgoszczy, Włocławka, Kraśnika, Tarnowa, Zabrza, Tych, Bielska–Białej i Nowej Soli.

Rendiamo grazie a Dio! Cari pellegrini del Giappone, benvenuti a Roma! Auspico che il Signore, Dio nostro, benedica con grazie abbondanti voi che siete impegnati, come buddisti, nel dialogo interreligioso; e voi che siete impegnati, come studenti della Seibo-Highschool, nella ricerca della verità nella cultura cristiana. Che il vostro impegno e la vostra buona volontà portino frutti in abbondanza. Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Rivolgo un caloroso benvenuto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare ai vari gruppi parrocchiali. Tra questi saluto con affetto i chierichetti di Bernareggio, diocesi di Milano, accompagnati dal Parroco, e volentieri benedico la statua del Sacro Cuore destinata alla loro chiesa. Sono lieto di accogliere inoltre i fedeli della Rettoria di Maria Santissima della Potenza in Portici, e di benedire lo scettro che adorna la venerata effigie della Madre di Dio. Desidero poi salutare le Religiose presenti, come pure il gruppo di Novizie e Postulanti dell’Ordine di santa Brigida, alle quali auguro di corrispondere con generosità alla chiamata del Signore.

La Festa liturgica di dopodomani, Natività della Beata Vergine Maria, e l’imminente pellegrinaggio dei giovani d’Europa a Loreto suggeriscono un pensiero da rivolgere ai giovani, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli.

A voi, giovani, che siete i protagonisti di tale iniziativa, auguro di camminare sempre, come Maria, sulle strade del Signore. Invito voi, malati, ad offrire le vostre sofferenze per la buona riuscita dell’incontro di Loreto. Ed esorto voi, sposi novelli, ad affidare la vostra nuova famiglia alla protezione di Maria Bambina."