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Mary sheds light on the role of woman

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

"1. As I have already explained in the preceding catecheses, the role entrusted to Mary by the divine plan of salvation sheds light on the vocation of woman in the life of the Church and society by defining its difference in relation to man. The model represented by Mary clearly shows what is specific to the feminine personality.

In recent times some trends in the feminist movement, in order to advance women's emancipation, have sought to make her like man in every way. However, the divine intention manifested in creation, though desiring woman to be man's equal in dignity and worth, at the same time clearly affirms her diversity and specific features. Woman's identity cannot consist in being a copy of man, since she is endowed with her own qualities and prerogatives, which give her a particular uniqueness that is always to be fostered and encouraged.

These prerogatives and particular features of the feminine personality attained their full development in Mary. The fullness of divine grace actually fostered in her all the natural abilities typical of woman.

Mary's role in the work of salvation is totally dependent on Christ's. It is a unique function, required by the fulfilment of the mystery of the Incarnation: Mary's motherhood was necessary to give the world its Saviour, the true Son of God, but also perfectly man.

The importance of woman's co-operation in the coming of Christ is emphasized by the initiative of God, who, through the angel, communicates his plan of salvation to the Virgin of Nazareth so that she can consciously and freely co-operate by giving her own generous consent.

Here the loftiest model of woman's collaboration in the Redemption of man—every man—is fulfilled; this model represents the transcendent reference point for every affirmation of woman's role and function in history.

2. In carrying out this sublime form of co-operation, Mary also shows the style in which woman must concretely express her mission.

With regard to the angel's message, the Virgin makes no proud demands nor does she seek to satisfy personal ambitions. Luke presents her to us as wanting only to offer her humble service with total and trusting acceptance of the divine plan of salvation. This is the meaning of her response: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1: 3 8).

It is not a question of a purely passive acceptance, since her consent is given only after she has expressed the difficulty that arose from her intent to remain a virgin, inspired by her will to belong more completely to the Lord.

Having received the angel's response, Mary immediately expresses her readiness, maintaining an attitude of humble service.

It is the humble, valuable service that so many women, following Mary's example, have offered and continue to offer in the Church for the growth of Christ's kingdom.

3. The figure of Mary reminds women today of the value of motherhood. In the contemporary world the appropriate and balanced importance is not always given to this value. In some cases, the need for women to work in order to provide for the needs of their family and an erroneous concept of freedom, which sees child-care as a hindrance to woman's autonomy and opportunities, have obscured the significance of motherhood for the development of the feminine personality. On the contrary, in other cases the biological aspect of childbirth becomes so important as to overshadow the other significant opportunities woman has for expressing her innate vocation to being a mother.

In Mary we have been given to understand the true meaning of motherhood, which attains its loftiest dimension in the divine plan of salvation. For her, being a mother not only endows her feminine personality, directed towards the gift of life, with its full development, but also represents an answer of faith to woman's own vocation which assumes its truest value only in the light of God's covenant (cf. Mulieris dignitatem, n. 19).

4. In looking attentively at Mary, we also discover in her the model of virginity lived for the kingdom.

The Virgin par excellence, in her heart she grew in her desire to live in this state in order to achieve an ever deeper intimacy with God.

For women called to virginal chastity, Mary reveals the lofty meaning of so special a vocation and thus draws attention to the spiritual fruitfulness which it produces in the divine plan: a higher order of motherhood, a motherhood according to the Spirit (cf. Mulieris dignitatem, n. 21).

Mary's maternal heart, open to all human miseries, also reminds women that the development of the feminine personality calls for a commitment to charity. More sensitive to the values of the heart, woman shows a high capacity for personal self-gift.

To all in our age who offer selfish models for affirming the feminine personality, the luminous and holy figure of the Lord's Mother shows how only by self-giving and self-forgetfulness towards others is it possible to attain authentic fulfilment of the divine plan for one's own life.

Mary's presence therefore encourages sentiments of mercy and solidarity in women for situations of human distress and arouses a desire to alleviate the pain of those who suffer: the poor, the sick and all in need of help.

In virtue of her special bond with Mary, woman has often in the course of history represented God's closeness to the expectations of goodness and tenderness of a humanity wounded by hatred and sin, by sowing in the world seeds of a civilization that can respond to violence with love."

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

Ai fedeli francofoni

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’accueille avec plaisir les francophones présents à cette audience. Je souhaite la bienvenue aux journalistes invités par le Patriarche maronite au Synode pour le Liban, en les remerciant d’être attentifs à cet événement important pour l’Église dans leur pays. Et je salue cordialement le groupe d’opérateurs économiques du Burkina–Faso. Aux uns et aux autres, je souhaite un bon succès professionnel et, en ces jours, un pèlerinage fructueux à Rome.

Je vous confie tous à l’intercession de la Mère du Christ et je vous bénis de grand cœur.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a cordial welcome to the Missionaries of Charity who have made their Perpetual Profession, present here with members of their families. Upon all the English–speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those from Australia and the United States, I invoke the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit diesen Überlegungen grüe ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen zu Hause sowie allen mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen wünsche ich eine besinnliche Adventszeit und erteile von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora con afecto a los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española. En particular, al grupo de Sacerdotes misioneros de Latinoamérica, a la Coral de Collado Mediano, a la Asociación “Skal Club” de Costa Blanca, así como a los peregrinos de Valencia, Mallorca, México y a los Cadetes de la Escuela Federal de Policía de Buenos Aires. A todos deseo que la estancia en la Ciudad Eterna sea un momento de gracia.

Al agradeceros vuestra visita, os imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs de língua portuguesa,

Saúdo cordialmente quantos participam desta Audiência. A todos desejo felicidades, com os favores e graças celestes. Em particular, aos peregrinos e visitantes portugueses da Diocese–Patriarcado de Lisboa: que a intercessão de S. António, a quem amais e venerais, vos sirva de estímulo para uma vida de fé actuante, na pobreza e no espírito de serviço aos mais necessitados.

Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

I jeszcze pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus! Są grupy z Limanowa i Witowa, kolejarze z Częstochowy oraz inni uczestnicy audiencji nie objęci tymi grupami.

Dzisiejsza katecheza – dalszy ciąg katechez poświęconych Bogurodzicy, Matce Chrystusa – dotyczy bardzo ważnej sprawy: mianowicie Maryi jako wzoru dla kobiety – sprawy odwiecznej, sprawy także bardzo współczesnej. Nieraz ten wzór jest wykoślawiany. Nieraz jest ten model, któremu się hołduje, który się propaguje dlakobiety współczesnej, bardzo niemaryjny, żeby nie powiedzieć antymaryjny.

Maryja jest Matką i jest Dziewicą. Tak Ją chwalimy w litanii: “Matko, Matko” – to wezwanie powtarzamy wielokrotnie, a potem “Panno”, a wreszcie na końcu “Królowo”. Jest Matką i jest Dziewicą, i jest Królową: jest Królową przez to, że jest Matką i Dziewicą. Jej królewskość, królewska kobiecość Maryi, wyraża się właśnie w tym przedziwnym, od Boga danym powiązaniu dziewictwa i macierzyństwa. I to rzuca światło na powołanie kobiety we wszystkich czasach, również w naszej epoce.

Jest to ważne wszędzie, jest to ważne także oczywiście w Polsce, w naszej Ojczyźnie, gdzie stale przypominamy, że Maryja jest Królową Polski. Chodzi o to Jej królowanie wielorakie, w szczególny sposób to Jej królowanie w odniesieniu do godności kobiety, do jej powołania. Tego życzę wszystkim rodakom, tutaj obecnym, i wszystkim w Ojczyznie i na całym świecie.

Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Ai gruppi italiani

Porgo un saluto cordiale ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare ai vari gruppi parrocchiali, ai membri del Movimento Internazionale Schönstatt, ai lavoratori pugliesi e calabresi ed ai cori di Treviso e di Foggia.

Un pensiero speciale rivolgo ai fedeli di Santa Maria di Montesanto in Napoli, che hanno da poco celebrato il bicentenario della Parrocchia. Carissimi, invoco su di voi e sull’intera Comunità, per intercessione della Madre di Dio, una rinnovata effusione dello Spirito Santo.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Ed ora un saluto ai giovani, agli sposi novelli ed ai malati, tra i quali sono lieto di accogliere il gruppo dell’UNITALSI da Jesi, Fabriano e Senigallia. Carissimi, siamo ormai prossimi alla solennità dell’Immacolata Concezione. Maria “ha creduto” alla verità dell’amore di Dio ed ha risposto prontamente col suo “sia fatto di me secondo la tua parola”.

Cari giovani, accogliete senza esitare il progetto che la Provvidenza divina ha preparato per voi. Siate generosi, cari malati, riconoscendo che anche nella sofferenza Iddio vi affida una missione di bene. Nella vostra famiglia, cari sposi novelli, sappiate educare i figli alla piena fiducia verso il Signore.


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