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Mary shows us God’s respect for woman

Pope John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 29 November 1995 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. The theological and spiritual aspects of the Church's teaching on Mary, which have been amply developed in our century, have recently acquired a new importance from the sociological and pastoral standpoint, due also to a clearer understanding of woman's role in the Christian community and in society, as we see in many significant interventions of the Magisterium.

The message to women addressed by the Fathers at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council on 8 December 1965 are well known: "But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved" (Enchiridion Vat., 1, 307).

I confirmed these affirmations a few years later in the Encyclical Mulieris dignitatem: "The dignity and the vocation of women—a subject of constant human and Christian reflection—have gained exceptional prominence in recent years" (n. 1)

The role and dignity of woman have been particularly championed in this century by the feminist movement, which has sought to react, sometimes in forceful ways, against everything in the past and present that has hindered the full appreciation and development of the feminine personality as well as her participation in the many expressions of social and political life.

These demands were in large part legitimate and contributed to building up a more balanced view of the feminine question in the contemporary world. The Church, especially in recent times, has paid special attention to these demands, encouraged by the fact that the figure of Mary, if seen in the light of her Gospel life, is a valid response to woman's desire for emancipation: Mary is the only human person who eminently fulfils God's plan of love for humanity

2. This plan is already manifest in the Old Testament, with the creation narrative that introduces the first couple created in the image of God himself: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gn 1:27). Thus woman, no less than man, bears God's image in herself. This means that, since her appearance on the earth as a result of the divine action, she too is appreciated: "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gn 1:31). According to this view, the difference between man and woman does not imply the inferiority of the latter nor her inequality, but is a new element which enriches God's plan, and is "very good".

However, God's intention goes well beyond what is revealed in the Book of Genesis. In fact, in Mary God created a feminine personality which greatly surpasses the ordinary condition of woman as it appears in the creation of Eve. Mary's unique excellence in the world of grace and her perfection are fruits of the particular divine benevolence which seeks to raise everyone, men and women, to the moral perfection and holiness which are proper to the adopted children of God. Mary is "blessed among women"; however, every woman shares in some way in her sublime dignity in the divine plan.

3. The remarkable gift to the Mother of the Lord not only testifies to what we could call God's respect for woman, but also emphasizes the profound regard in God's plans for her irreplaceable role in human history.

Women need to discover this divine esteem in order to be ever more aware of their lofty dignity. The historical and social situations which caused the reaction of feminism were marked by a lack of appreciation of woman's worth; frequently she was relegated to a second-rate or even marginal role. This did not allow her to express fully the wealth of intelligence and wisdom contained in her femininity. Indeed, throughout history women have not infrequently suffered from scant esteem for their abilities, and sometimes even scorn and unjust prejudice. This is a state of affairs that, despite important changes, unfortunately continues even today in many nations and in many parts of the world.

4. The figure of Mary shows that God has such esteem for woman that any form of discrimination lacks a theoretical basis.

The marvellous work which the Creator achieved in Mary gives men and women the possibility to discover dimensions of their condition which before were not sufficiently perceived. In beholding the Mother of the Lord, women will be able to understand better their dignity and the greatness of their mission. But men too, in the light of the Virgin Mother, will be able to acquire a fuller and more balanced view of their identity, of the family and of society.

Attentive consideration of the figure of Mary, as she is presented to us in Sacred Scripture as read in faith by the Church, is still more necessary in view of the disparagement she sometimes receives from certain feminist currents. The Virgin of Nazareth has, in some cases, been presented as the symbol of the female personality imprisoned in a narrow, confining domesticity.

Mary, on the contrary, is the model of the full development of woman's vocation, since, despite the objective limits imposed by her social condition, she exercised a vast influence on the destiny of humanity and the transformation of society.

5. Moreover Marian doctrine can shed light on the multiple ways in which the life of grace promotes woman's spiritual beauty.

In view of the shameful exploitation that sometimes makes woman an object without dignity, destined for the satisfaction of base passions, Mary reaffirms the sublime meaning of feminine beauty, a gift and reflection of God's beauty.

It is true that feminine perfection, as it was fully realized in Mary, can at first sight seem to be an exceptional case and impossible to imitate, a model too lofty for imitation. In fact, the unique holiness of her who from the very first moment received the privilege of the Immaculate Conception is sometimes considered unreachably distant.

However, far from being a restraint on the way of following the Lord, Mary's exalted holiness is, on the contrary, destined in God's plan to encourage all Christians to open themselves to the sanctifying power of the grace of God, for whom nothing is impossible. Therefore in Mary all are called to put total trust in the divine omnipotence, which transforms hearts, guiding them towards full receptivity to his providential plan of love."

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

Chers frères et sœurs,

Je souhaite la bienvenue aux pèlerins de langue française, parmi lesquels un groupe du diocèse de Monaco. Je salue tout spécialement les responsables internationaux du Mouvement mondial des Travailleurs chrétiens, réunis à Rome pour leur Comité exécutif. Je les encourage à poursuivre leur mission et j’invite tous les membres du mouvement à annoncer sans cesse l’Evangile dans leur milieu de travail, par le témoignage et par la parole.

Ai pellegrini libanesi

Je suis heureux d’accueillir un groupe de pèlerins libanais et je les encourage à prier pour leurs évêques réunis en assemblée synodale. A tous, j’accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I gladly greet all the English–speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially the visitors from Australia, Japan and the United States. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit diesen kurzen Gedanken über die Muttergottes grüe ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Euch allen und Euren lieben Angehörigen zu Hause erteile ich von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de Latinoamérica y España, en particular a los Misioneros Claretianos, al Coro de la Capilla Musical Teatina de Felanix (Mallorca), así como a la Escuela Italiana de Mendoza (Argentina) y a los fieles de México y Guatemala. Que María, Reina del amor, vele sobre las mujeres y sobre su misión al servicio de la humanidad, de la paz y de la extensión del Reino de Dios.

Con afecto os imparto mi Bendición.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica portoghese

Queridos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, aceitai a minha cordial saudação para todos vós e para os vossos familiares, enquanto vos animo a tomar por modelo e estímulo da vossa vida pessoal e social a Virgem Maria. O segredo da Sua paz e coragem estava nesta certeza: “A Deus, nada é impossível”! Como Ela, possam os vossos corações encontrar conforto na graça de Deus, sendo propiciadora da mesma também a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Witam pielgrzymów z Polski, w szczególności młodzież i wychowawców Liceum im. Stanisława Wyspiańskiego w Krakowie oraz Technikum Chemicznego, grupę młodzieży i opiekunów Liceum Ogólnokształcącego nr 30 oraz Niepublicznej Zasadniczej Szkoły Fryzjerskiej Zakładu Doskonalenia Zawodowego z Warszawy, a także wszystkich innych uczestników audiencji nie objętych tymi grupami.

Równocześnie bardzo serdecznie pozdrawiam księdza biskupa z Bańskiej Bystrzycy ze Słowacji – ks. bpa Baláža, oraz ks. bpa Jana Lengę z Kazachstanu.

Dalszy ciąg katechez poświęconych tematyce maryjnej. Jest nam to bardzo bliska tematyka, bliska ponieważ żyjemy w kraju, w którym kult maryjny ma swoje długie tradycje i bardzo głęboko zakorzeniony jest w dziejach, można powiedzieć, w doświadczeniu dziejowym całego narodu.

Wiemy z doświadczenia, jak wielki wpływ wywiera Maryja na człowieka, na człowieczeństwo, na formowanie się ludzkich obyczajów nie tylko kobiet, ale i mężczyzn.

Dzisiaj właśnie od strony kobiet, od strony tzw. ruchu feministycznego podnoszone są pewne zastrzeżenia w stosunku do Matki Chrystusa, że nie reprezentuje Ona, można powiedzieć, kobiety postepowej, zaangażowanej w życie polityczne. Na to możemy spokojnie odpowiedzieć, że nie ma żadnej innej kobiety ani żadnego innego człowieka tak bardzo zaangażowanego w dzieje ludzkości i w dzieje świata, w przemianę świata, doskonalenie świata, jak właśnie Maryja.

Życzyć trzeba wszystkim niewiastom na świecie i w Polsce, ażeby patrząc na ten przykład, jakim jest Matka Boża, Matka Chrystusa, kształtowały także i swoje powołanie i posłannictwo życiowe, kobiece, na Jej wzór.

Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Ai fedeli italiani

Porgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare agli aderenti all’Unione Provinciale Artigiani di Pordenone e al gruppo “Famiglia aperta all’accoglienza” di Cerreto Sannita; ai militari del Comando Trasmissioni Regione Nord-Est, della Scuola di Cavalleria e della Scuola di Artiglieria Controaerei; come pure ai fedeli di Cannalonga ed ai bambini di Prima Comunione di Santa Maria a Monte (Pisa), che ringrazio per l’offerta, frutto dei loro risparmi.

Rivolgo poi un caloroso saluto al folto gruppo della Forania di Giugliano-Qualiano-Lago Patria in Diocesi di Aversa. Carissimi, sono lieto di benedire la statua della Madonna della Pace e vi ringrazio per la copia che avete voluto donarmi. La Vergine ottenga pace e serenità alle vostre famiglie, all’Italia e al mondo intero.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Un pensiero va ora, come di consueto, ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli.

Stiamo vivendo gli ultimi giorni dell’Anno liturgico, che ci invitano a considerare con sguardo di fede il tempo che passa. Cari giovani, sintonizzate il vostro cammino personale con quello della Chiesa, scandito dalla Liturgia; cari malati, invocate da Dio il dono della speranza, offrendo per questo anche le vostre sofferenze; e voi, cari sposi novelli, abbiate sempre fiducia nella divina Provvidenza, che guida e accompagna le famiglie cristiane.


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