Is the Catholic Church being faithful to Mary?
Is the Catholic Church being faithful to Mary?
How would the face of the Church look if it were to wear a more humble and participative face – more in accord with the way Mary was in her time? In this time of transition within the Church, how might the Church take up these possibilities and reflect Mary’s face and attitudes
A Midwife Generation
The new Superior General of the Marist Brothers, Emili Turu, is a much respected figure in the Union of Major Superior Generals. I was privileged to hear him on the topic of Mary in the Church. It began with him asking me to read the following extract:
I believe that a new Church is coming. It will be browner and poorer, more sensuous and feminine, less clerical and more collegial, less concerned about charity and more conscious of justice and more multilingual and polycentric than the one we know now. That Church will better reflect the diversity of God’s Trinitarian life. It will be a new Church… yet it can only come with the passing of this one. I dare to suggest that it is our task to facilitate the present Church’s passing in order to assist in the birthing of the new. Paradoxically, hospice workers are also the midwives of new life.
The prophetic vocation is to help the community to accept a loss they cannot admit and to embrace a hope they cannot dare to believe. Prophets do this by attending to the present groans of the people and positing an alternative future vision. This, I believe, is the essence of being a spiritual leader in the Church during the time of transition.
(Fr. Bryan Massingale, Archdiocese of Milwaukee).
A New Pentecost! A New Church
There is so much in this passage that is Marist and in accord with the vision of the early Marists on building a new Church. Do we believe a new Church is coming? Not only is it coming; it has to come! One with a Marial face? Pope John Paul II spoke clearly on this issue when he reminded the Curia that the Church was Marial before it was Petrine. Certainly we have to wonder what happened to Mary in the post-Vatican II church. It was not because of the loss of sound writing in Mariology, an enriched area with papal documents such as Marialis Cultus and Redemptoris Mater and the balanced writing of a host of scholars, but it has not been getting through to the people in the pews, let alone some religious who carry her name. I am not referring to Marian devotions, which are perhaps the main area of visible crisis. Paul VI wisely stated that we are to be completely free in the area of devotion to Mary.
Only when we face the truth contained in the above statement can we accept the truth that God is doing something new in history, either with us, without us, or against us, can we become part of the solution – or remain part of the problem. Rahner was quite right in his statement that the Christian of the future will either be a mystic… or will cease to be. The other dimension is the risk to be a prophet, or better to accept prophetic mysticism, the call to live prophetically.
Let Go! Let Live!
When Pope Benedict recently spoke to the gathered group of new Cardinals he reminded them that their position was one of service and not of power. This is an important reminder that a Marial Church wears the face of the three ‘Nos!’ – no to power, no to prestige, and no to position. The humble role of service, the face of the Mary of the Visitation, fits well into such a call. Back in 1970 a German theologian named Josef Ratzinger spoke the following words:
Today the Church has become for many the main obstacle to faith; in it can be seen only the struggle for human power, the poor theatre of those who, by their observations, want to absolutise official Christianity and paralyse the true spirit of Christianity. We may well ask if the situation is any different today from then?
Any mother faces the challenge of letting go of her children. Mary had this experience in her life. In Luke’s gospel, Simeon speaks of a sword of sorrow piercing Mary’s heart. Luke does not place her at the foot of the Cross but quickly brings her into Pentecost. It is John’s gospel alone that places Mary at the Cross with the Beloved Disciple. The sword of sorrow in Luke contains a different focus. It is the pain of separation for the mission of her Son and the consequent rejection that he suffers in it.
A number of years ago, Pope John Paul II in speaking to the Marist major superiors put to them the challenge of building a Marial church. Br. Emili has picked up this challenge and has placed it within his letter to the International Marist Youth Meeting to take place in Madrid this year. To go with Mary in haste to a new land must also include a new way of being church, ‘together, with enthusiasm, hand in hand with Mary.’ The hope in the letter is the concrete task of going towards a Marial Church, discovering its Marial face and making it obvious through their lives. Bro Emili says:
There are many young people who perceive the Church as authoritarian, clerical, masculine, negative and remote. John Paul II invited us as Marists some years ago to work towards building a ‘Marial’ Church, or it may be, a Church which reflected Mary’s face and attitudes, and therefore manifested itself in a communion which is fraternal, participative and close to us. It seems to me a beautiful thing to offer ourselves to this challenge: to work together to offer our world and our Church the attractive face of Mary, woman and mother; it would be a great contribution, with a great prophetic dimension.