All for the Heart of Jesus through the Heart of Mary!

The Identification with the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Unconditional Service to the Petrine Principle
Sr. Sara Marie Kowal, sctjm

To Manifest Love

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he makes it clear that the mysteries of God are present, visible, and intelligible within the created world. In fact, creation is the first form in which God chooses to reveal Himself. The creation of humanity in His image was a further and more profound revelation of His Being. He went another step in giving humanity the gifts of His commandments, laws, and spoken words. Finally, He chose to reveal Himself fully to mankind by coming Himself to live among us and establishing His Body the Church. Many lessons and truths are to be learned from His revelation to us, but all eventually come to find rest in one central Truth – God is Love. The very Being and Nature of the Trinity is this one, single Truth. All creation, all systems, all thoughts and all truths should lead and point us to this Center – the nature of the Trinity, the nature of Love.

Therefore, if we begin to speak about the ways in which the Marian principle is at the unconditional service of the Petrine, we can jump directly to the conclusion. The Marian principle serves the Petrine most sublimely and most completely when she reveals this central truth – The Trinity is Love – and she does this by her mere existence. When the Marian is lived, she not only reveals Love, but makes it possible. In this way the mystery of the Marian lies in the very heart of the Trinity, deep within the very depths of God, “thus [touching] directly the mystery of being, the living God, from whom…all life originates.”[i] 

The Nature of Love

Love always consists of three participants – the Giver, the Receiver, and the Gift. Each person that lives in love is called to be all three, a truth made evident in the Trinity. The Father gives to the Son who receives. The Son then becomes both giver and gift by offering Himself back to the Father. The gift itself, the Holy Spirit, runs as a living stream through all these exchanges.

Nature itself reveals this same cycle. In the food chain, one creature is at the same time predator of one and prey to another. The lowest member of the chain gives itself to feed the higher, but in the end, the lowest species is eventually fed by the death and decay of the animal that resides at the top. The death of the greatest allows the lowest to live and offer himself again to he who is supreme. The gift that passes along from one exchange to the next is energy, which allows each of its recipients to grow and mature. In the water cycle, the water that has reached the bottom is, with the light and heat of the sun, given enough energy to rise again and form another cloud. Energy again is the gift that flows in and out to keep the cycle in perpetual motion. In a similar fashion, we offer a love to the Father that is not ours, but it is received nonetheless by He that gave in the first place. The Holy Spirit is the gift that flows through us, bringing life, growth and maturity as He moves. All of this shows us that love is a circular motion, not linear. What is sowed will eventually come back as harvest. But first, it passes through the other members, enriching and it bringing life as it moves. What does this show us about the Marian and Petrine? They too demonstrate that every one of us is called to be to be both receiver and gift. The Marian’s greatest service to the Petrine is that she provides another that makes possible the existence of love in its fullness. She serves the Petrine by receiving and then by responding with the offering of her whole self in return.

This reality is first unveiled in the creation of Adam and Eve. In Genesis we read, “God created man in his image; male and female he created them.”[ii] This demonstrates that being created in the image of God is precisely being male and female. Only the two together make possible the circle of love, thus revealing the very life of the Trinity. It shows that God cannot be Love unless He is a Trinity. The Son cannot be Son without a Father. The Father cannot be Father without the Son. To be man, man must have woman. To be Peter, Peter must have Mary. The Marian serves the Petrine by showing that Love is not Love without an other. “It is not good for man to be alone.”[iii] Love is communion between persons that can never be with only an I.

After the fact that the Marian helps reveals the essence of Love, her second greatest service to show humanity how to live as humanity. For as we will see in the following pages, the Church and humanity are fundamentally Marian in their relationship with God. This also includes the Petrine, who in imitation of Christ, is first a receiver, for everything that was given to Christ was from the Father.[iv] What is His response? Total self donation of His Person to the Father. This demonstrates that Jesus Himself has a fundamental Marian character, also demonstrated by the fact that Christ is considered to be the incarnate Wisdom of the Old Testament - a wisdom that was always designated as feminine. Therefore, to be Petrine and to be the Church require a fundamental understanding of what it means to be Marian.

At the Annunciation the Blessed Virgin Mary became, in one moment, Mother, Wife, and Daughter of the Most Holy Trinity. The Petrine principle contains within itself the roles of Father, Son, and Husband. When discussing these roles and their mutual interplay, it is important to understand that, just like the Persons of the Trinity, the roles are distinct, but one. They are like a tightly woven tapestry; when you pull a string from one corner, it invariably upsets the order of the opposite. As well, the relationship between the Marian and the Petrine contains the same internal harmony. This is why to understand Christ and the Petrine, one must understand the Church, the Marian Bride. To err in one means necessarily to err in all. It is precisely the intermingling and overlapping of these fundamental realities that converge in one simple Truth – Love.

Just like the God’s progressive revelation to man, the understanding of the Marian and Petrine principles also begins with creation itself and then progresses upwards from there. Therefore, just as grace builds on nature, we can use nature as a foundation for understanding grace. It would be helpful to envision a hierarchy of creation, all which lead to the Trinity, Uncreated Love. The Marian and Petrine stand in the middle of the human and divine – the highest in the order of creation, but below the most supreme relationship to which they point. In this way, they serve as a meeting point between God and creation. They, by their example, raise up the analogous created relationships below it (God/creation, male/female, husband/wife) to a higher and more dignified level. However, they themselves serve to analogize the most sublime – that of Jesus and Mary, Jesus and the Church and finally to the most sublime – the Trinity itself.

Revelation of Personhood

One of the greatest services that the Marian provides comes through her personhood. Just as Christ allows God to be seen as a Person, Mary furthers and concretizes this reality because she allows the Church herself to be a person with a heart and affectivity, and “thus fixes faith solidly in the deepest roots of man’s being.”[v] She allows the Petrine to be a husband and father by giving him a person to love, live and die for. She makes it possible for St. Paul to say, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”[vi] She allows the Petrine to live his vocation, to lay down his life for a person rather than simply a concept or idea. As Cardinal Ratzinger states,

“God does not deal with abstractions. He is a person, and the Church is a person…the more we become one, the more we are the Church, and the more the Church is herself[vii]…[The] type remains true to its meaning only when the noninterchangable personal figure of Mary becomes transparent to the personal form of the Church herself…Only the Marian dimension secures the place of affectivity in faith and thus ensures a fully human correspondence to the reality of the incarnate Logos.”[viii]

The personhood of the Marian Church is means by which every human being is able to find his own personhood. It assures us that union with God is not union with some great unknown Being, but union to a Person that we can know and love.

“Blessed are the Poor…”

In the natural order, male is before female; man is the head of woman. This same truth applies to the Petrine and Marian, with the Petrine principle of Church serving as head over the Marian. However, that which is “lower” (Marian) allows the first (Petrine) to be. This is a precursor to the same truth in seen in Mary and Jesus. The eternally begotten Son is given existence as man by she who proceeded Him. Already from the beginning of time we see that the first shall be last, that the lesser will be given a place of preeminence. Furthermore, in the order of the Church, God continues to exult further she who is “last” by placing the Marian principle in front of the Petrine in the supernatural order. In the new creation that the coming of Jesus Christ ushers in “the Marian profile is anterior not only in design of God but also in time, as well being supreme and pre-eminent, richer in personal and communitarian implications…”[ix]  This particular reversal, in which the God exults the humble and raises up the lowly, is done also in an infinite number of other forms. The most sublime example is the Incarnation, death and glorification of his Son. But we must ask ourselves why God chooses this continual pattern throughout salvation history, and even into eternity. Why does He choose to exalt the lowly, to effect these divine “reversals”? On a simple level, they manifest His supreme wisdom and serve as a source of humility for us. However, there is more.

If we take a look at the “lowliness of his handmaid” we can gain a greater insight into what is means to be lowly. If one possesses a greater abundance of natural riches, even if they are God given, this person is rich. These riches can be in the form of intelligence, talents, authority, money, power, and are not necessarily negative. However, the more one has, the less needy he is. This is where we can see the connection. The more one lacks on the natural level, the more he is able to receive from God. And since the nature of love is to give a gift, God is able to be more Himself – Love – with someone to whom He can give more – the lowly and needy.

The pattern of physical barrenness in the Old Testament that God makes fruitful by His miraculous actions is a precursor of this truth that finds its climax in Mary. Physical barrenness prefigures the spiritual barrenness that God requires from all His children. Barrenness, rather than the curse that it once was, becomes the very “condition of fruitfulness…To bear the ‘Son’ includes the surrender of oneself into barrenness.”[x] Therefore, it is precisely in the lowly and needy that His love and glory can be made more manifest. “To magnify the Lord means, not to want to magnify ourselves and take up more space, our own name, our own ego…but to give him more room so that he may be more present in the world.”[xi] God is able to be Love more with the lowly than with those who have been given more from the beginning. This is why the Marian is raised supernaturally “above” the Petrine in the order of grace – to manifest Love and one of its fundamental truths: it thirsts to be given and received in abundance.

The Marian service, therefore, is to manifest this truth by living her life as a response to it. What is her response? It is offer herself in her totality as a receiver of the gift, putting no obstacles in the way. This requires that each member of the Marian Church rid oneself of egoism, self-love, self-will, pride, and sin so that nothing obstructs the entrance of Love inside of one’s being. Each person must empty himself of self, and allow Love to fully enter.

What does this mean for the Petrine? It means that the poorer one is the richer he will be. For the Petrine, this means that the effectiveness of his ministry increases as he become more Marian. The more he becomes poor and empties himself of that which is from the earth, the more the Lord can fill him with His own presence.

It also means that the Petrine ministry is not conferred based on natural talents. Their role is not functionary, but instead it is supernatural. The “power” of the Petrine is exulted most perfectly when the Lord raises up “poor” men and bestows on them what they cannot obtain on their own – the power and authority of Christ. Just like Mary, they are most in persona Christi when they lose themselves, and it is precisely in losing themselves that they find themselves.

Finally, the Gospel of poverty and Marian receptivity also allow us to understand the nature of sin and God’s mercy. How is this so? Evil is considered to be, not a physical substance, but a lack of good. Therefore, sin is the choosing of a lesser good over the Greatest. As sinners, we are not something other than perfect, but we are missing the good that makes us complete. It is through this misery, this lack, that God is able to manifest His love as mercy. His mercy is the filling of our misery. He can claim that His mercy is infinite, that our sins are a drop in the ocean of His mercy, because His love is infinite. Our lack is finite, and His love – a thing with actual being – is infinite and able to fill the deepest poverty of the human heart. To be healed and made whole again simply means to receive His love. In other words, one is healed and made whole by being Marian. As we just saw above, the Lord has greater solicitude for the poor and weak precisely because His love and mercy can be better revealed in them.

“Let it be Done Unto Me According to Your Will…”

In the Trinity, the principle of Being is the Father; therefore, we will first look at Mary as Daughter of the Father. The virtue that characterizes the role of daughter is obedience. The roots of the Latin word oboedire are ob which means towards, and oedire which means to hear or listen. The word obedience then means to hear or listen towards. The etymology of the word shows us that the fundamental disposition of obedience is a receptive attentiveness that responds. Obedience is not a slavish submission to a higher authority, nor a response to fear, nor a grudging obligation, but instead it manifests “a dependence which is not servile but filial.”[xii] It is a loving and free response to that which is heard. Obedience is a manifestation of an underlying desire to please. Through the example of Mary, we are able to see that to hear is to receive and respond in love. In fact, receptivity and response comprise the essence of the Marian principle and vocation. To be Marian means to receive the Son as a gift from the Father and offer oneself as a home for this gift.

In the Old Testament the natural path of revelation was by God’s Word, which was received by the human ear. Mary is a continuation of this, and it is manifested perfectly in her. “Mary’s divine maternity and her enduring attitude of openness to God’s word are seen as interpenetrating here: giving ear to the angel’s greeting, Mary welcomes the Holy Spirit into herself. Having become pure hearing, she receives the Word so totally that is becomes flesh in her.”[xiii]

Being a Marian Church necessitates the imitation of this same obedient and receptive disposition. Therefore, the Marian serves the Petrine by obeying it, by listening attentively and freely responding with love to that which she hears. This “complete docility”[xiv] allows the Petrine to be the head that he legitimately is, and it manifests the power of the order of Love, in which all life flows from the Father.

Supernatural reception is prefaced and prepared for by the natural. The very biology of a woman manifests her vocation to receive and respond. While the physical anatomy of the man is that which comes forth from his body to give his seed of life, the anatomy of the woman is the opposite. The physical sexual anatomy of the women is inside her of her, and by offering her whole self to her husband, she receives the life that the man desires to give her.

From the very beginning, to conceive was recognized as an act of reception from God. Eve herself, on the birth of Cain says, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”[xv] The name Cain is Hebrew for get.[xvi] The name itself recognizes that the acquisition of a child is precisely that – an acquisition. A child is not something created by woman or man. Instead, a child is a gift from God that comes through man. In this sense, the Marian serves the Petrine by manifesting an eternal truth – all we have is not our own. All life, all fruit, comes from above. The Marian allows the Petrine to also see that his very existence comes from something greater than and outside himself.

She also manifests the primary vocation of the Church and each individual Christian – to receive Christ the Incarnate Word and to offer our lives in love and service to Him. To recognize that the Church and each individual are first Marian places humanity in right standing before the Lord by giving us our proper identity – those that offer a response to a gift not our own.

Participation and Mediation

How the gift comes to Mary and the Church brings us another key concept – life and existence are transmitted from the giver to the receiver through the mediation of another. In the natural order, the gift of life comes to a woman through a man. In the case of Mary, the gift of the Word (life) from the Father comes through the Holy Spirit who “overshadows” her.[xvii] This is the role of the Spouse, and the same is true in the natural order, in which the husband “overshadows” his wife in order to transmit life. Even before this, creation itself is a type of Mary, for creation received existence (life) from God through the Holy Spirit who was present, “moving over” this act of gift and reception.[xviii] The supreme example of this is Love in the Trinity. The Father gives His whole Person to the Son through the Holy Spirit who is the Love that flows between the Giver and Receiver. We come to see through this that love does not require just two, but Three. All of this leads us to the beautiful concept of participation.

To be Marian means to be one who participates in bringing God into the world, which reveals that God wants to use humanity as mediators of His graces. To be clear, there is only one Mediator between God and man – Jesus – who makes all this possible; His mediation allows the divine and human to meet again. However, we see countless examples in the natural and supernatural order in which God uses creation in order to accomplish His designs. God could have chosen to simply appear on earth, using neither living nor nonliving material substances to do so. Instead, He desired to exalt His creation by allowing it to participate in His greatest act. Furthermore, through Mary, He shows us that He desires our freely willed participation. He could have accepted a robotic response; He could have given her no opportunity to say “no.” But this is not Love. Fiat is only love when one has the option of saying “no.” What does all this say to us? God wants our love. The infinite eternal Being that has no absolute need for us chooses to need us. Our participation is real and effective because He desires real and efficacious love in return.

The desire for our participation and love also manifests the great mercy of God. Eve was not given her name, “mother of the living, ” until after the Fall. This is significant because it demonstrates the “undestroyed dignity and majesty of woman”[xix] even after original sin. In her very being, woman still possesses the “key of life”, the “power opposed to death.”[xx] As well, God demonstrates his mercy by keeping open this channel of life to humanity even after humanity has rebelled against Him. “Mariology demonstrates that the doctrine of grace does not revoke creation; rather, it is the definitive Yes to creation.”[xxi] It shows that He has no desire to forsake us, but instead plans to redeem us, and He plans to do so through us. Therefore, we become “protagonists of our present; we are the actual builders of this history. God wants to write – through our hearts, through our lives and fiats – the history of salvation; a history of love, of grace, of life, of communion and of holiness.”[xxii] The Marian dimension reveals God’s unending and faithful desire for union with humanity. It reveals that He not only wants to save us, but that He desires that the salvation comes through creation and specifically woman, from whom came the first sin, thereby allowing humanity to effectively contribute to her own redemption.

The participation of Mary allows the Petrine ministry to be real and efficacious. The headship of the Peter and his Apostles is not merely titular. Instead, Christ really does work through them so accomplish His designs within His Church. He really does bestow on them His power. Their yes’s and no’s really do make a difference in the degree to which they bring Christ’s presence into the Church. Mary shows us that God really does use us, that our actions really do count.

Not only does the Marian reveal the real and efficacious power of the Petrine, but she makes it possible. For it is in her womb that the human and divine meet – God and man are brought into union. In fact, this is only possible through Mary because only the Immaculate is capable of containing infinite, Incarnate Love. Therefore, it is only through her and in her that we are able to do so as well.[xxiii] The Petrine principle is able to be more than just a human institution because of the Marian. Through Mary, God is able to unite with mere humanity and elevate it to something greater than itself – God. The Petrine ministry is able to claim infallibility and indestructibility only because it is united to and led by the Holy Spirit, which first came to pass in the womb of Mary.

Living as Marian Mediators

The mediation of Mary is manifested in a powerful way and brought to greater heights in the wedding at Cana. At Cana, Mary is the first to acknowledge that “they have no wine” (Jn 2:3). This lack of wine represents the emptiness of humanity, its poverty and need for God. We see first of all that Jesus chooses to restore the wine and our humanity through the intercession and mediation of His Mother. In fact, He will not do it without her. He replies to her that his “hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4). This cannot be a lie. Yet He ends up performing the miracle. What took place in between this statement and the miracle that made his “hour” in fact arrive?

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (Jn 2:5). The hour of Jesus arrives only after Mary has prepared the way for His coming by preparing the world to receive Him. Her faith, just like at the Annunciation, is what brings forth His hour. As well, we see that the role of the Marian is always to point toward Jesus and the Petrine in which He resides. As Marian people, we must have faith in the Petrine and prepare the hearts of others by manifesting our faith to them. We allow Jesus to bring forth His authority through the Petrine when we prepare the soil of hearts, in order that they can produce fruit. What is the Marian message? “Do whatever he tells you.”

On a human and apostolic level, of what does this Marian preparation consist? As in Bethlehem, it requires that the members of the Church prepare the mangers of hearts to receive Christ in the Petrine. However, they must first recognize that Mary was rejected by many before she was able to find a place to give birth to her Son; therefore, we too must persistently seek for room at the inns of people’s hearts, always with the willingness to face rejection and to persevere beyond it. As well, just as in the stable, we must be able to austerely make use of little to make a place for the Child Jesus. This means that often the open hearts will not be clean, well groomed, the most pleasant or the most pleasing. But this where the Lord is asking the Church to bring Him, and we must go. The Church must use her feminine genius to take the little that she has, accept it for what it is, and choose to beautify from there. As members of this Church, we must never complain about the people or places to which He sends us. We must never desire that people or places be at a level greater than they are. They are not, this is the reality, and like Mary, we must meet them precisely where that reality is.

The mysteries of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and that of the Visitation to Elizabeth further illustrate and manifest the same role. In the Presentation, Mary brings Jesus to present Him to the world. In the Visitation, Mary carries Jesus to others, to manifest his saving power and sanctification. The Marian is called to serve Jesus in the Petrine by visiting those who need Him and by presenting Him in his entire splendor. In fact, we see through the Annunciation, the Birth of Jesus, the Visitation, the Presentation, the Wedding at Cana, and Pentecost, that Jesus does not come into the world unless it is through Mary. Only the presence of Mary can bring forth Christ to the world. In all of these mysteries, Jesus is given to others only when Mary brings Him through her faith, words, and deeds. The sacramental graces that flow from the hands of the Petrine will only find rest in hearts that have been opened first by the presence of Mary.

Returning to the wedding at Cana, also of note is the way in which Mary notices the lack of wine. Her attentiveness is not one of criticism, but one of genuine concern. She intercedes for the emptiness of humanity in order to heal and restore it. Furthermore, she notices the need even before it is recognized by the needy. As Marian people, we are called to this same form of attentiveness and care. Our attentiveness is not meant to end in criticism, but instead should be rooted in a pure desire to replenish what has been lost for the good of the other. It should be so intuitive that it “sees” often before the needy themselves “see.” The Marian vision and attentiveness ranges from material to spiritual needs and from the needs of individuals to those of the universal Church. When this is the case, the Lord really acts efficaciously through this intercession to do miracles in the hearts and lives of others. In fact this intercession is the greatest way in which Mary actively serves mankind. “So great is the compassion excited in Mary by our misery, and such is the love that she bears us, that she prays constantly, and relaxes not her efforts in our behalf.”[xxiv] In service to Christ, the Petrine and humanity, each of us is called to this same mediation.

What does this mean for the Marian Church and her members? What is our response? It means that to fulfill our Marian vocation, we must allow ourselves to be used. We must be willing to offer our whole lives, our whole being, as instruments of grace in the hands of God, giving no resistance to the ways and forms in which He wants to use us.  Our lives, like Mary, must be characterized by complete availability to the will of the Father.

All of these realities – receptivity, poverty of heart, participation and availability – come together in one single reality – holiness, which is the life of Christ in us. The Marian serves the Petrine first and foremost by her holiness, for this is the result of reception, response and participation. When we empty ourselves and become poor, we open ourselves to the actions of God. When His knocking is met with a “come in” – an open and receptive heart – His very presence comes to dwell in us. To be “full of grace” is to be poor of I and full of God. In fact, this is only way in which I can really have I, for “man…cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”[xxv] The more we receive, the more we become ‘God bearers.’ The more we receive, the more we are incorporated into the Mystical Body of the Church, for we are as much as part of the Body only as much as we live in union with it. In this sense, the more we are incorporated into the Body, the more we are able to serve the Head – which is Christ working through His Petrine ministers. The ministry of the Head is made easier and more effective when its Marian members are holy.

Marian Motherhood

All of this invariably leads to the next role of the Marian – that of Mother. For when she receives the Word, she becomes Mother of God. In other words, the response to reception is motherhood. Before we examine this role more closely, we must first see the next fundamental truth about love that it reveals. Love between two persons produces a third. In other words, love is fruitful. The Love between the Father and the Son has such fecundity that is begets a Third Person in the Trinity – the Holy Spirit, Who is precisely the Love that runs between them. The love between Mary and the Holy Spirit has perfect fecundity so as to produce perfect fruit – the Incarnate Word. What does this say about our own love? That if it is real, it will yield fruit – the living Christ in souls.

We see the mystery of motherhood again prefaced in the natural, beginning with creation. St. Paul attributes maternity to creation when he says it “groans in labor pains” (Rom 8:22). Creation is a mother in that it receives life from the sun and uses this life to produce fruit. Without the sun, all life on earth would cease. The sun represents the Father as being the principle of life, and creation receives it and uses her inborn nature to order the light received to produce fruit. As well, just like a mother, she continues to nurture the creation, by providing the nutrients and material needs it requires to grow and mature.

The Parable of the Sower[xxvi] receives new meaning in a Marian light. We see that Mary herself is the soil in which the Word is sown. To be Marian is to be fertile soil in which the Word can come and bear fruit. If one is Marian, the Word “shall not return to [the Lord] empty”[xxvii] because she is soil in which the Word can grow, bloom and bring forth new life.

Motherhood also manifests another fundamental truth – being precedes action. Who a person is interiorly gives rise to how she acts – never visa versa. Woman cannot give Christ to others as mother until she first receives him interiorly. This demonstrates that the primary vocation woman, humanity and the Church is an interior one. This means that a life of prayer and contemplation, in which one first receives the Lord, is the only means through which one can be a mother to the world.

This demonstrates to the Petrine ministers that the effectiveness of their ministry to souls is a direct fruit of the fecundity of their interior prayer lives and union with the Lord. Since they receive all from the Father, they are only able to give if they have in fact first received. To be Petrine, they must first be Marian. This requires hearts that are pure and transparent, that offer no resistance, no obstacles, to divine activity inside them. “As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shines with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the spirit dwells…become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.”[xxviii] Only through prayer and conversion are obstacles removed from the heart. Only through prayer and conversion can hearts then become clear, transparent channels of God’s grace. These facts lead Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity to say,

“Who then is the most holy? The one who is most loving, who gazes longest on God and who most fully satisfies the desires of his gaze. How do we satisfy the desires of God’s gaze but by remaining simply and lovingly turned towards him so that he may reflect his own image as the sun is reflected through a pure crystal…When God sees that we are prepared to receive his graces, his generous goodness is ready to give us the gift that will give us his likeness. Our appetite for receiving his grace depends on the inner integrity with which we move towards him. And then God, bringing us his gifts, can give himself, imprint on us his likeness…”[xxix]

Living Marian Maternity

A look at the female person increases the depth of understanding on the essence of mother. After woman receives the new life in her, it is her task to nurture and provide for the life in order that it may grow and mature. Therefore, the Marian serves the Petrine by being a nutritive, warm, and fertile womb in which the Petrine is able to grow and mature. Each member of the Church is called to be a Marian womb. What does this mean on a practical level? It means that each one of us is to give from one’s own body – time, talents, treasures, prayers, sacrifices, love – to support the Petrine in his ministry. The womb is warm, soft, gentle and delicate, a place in which the child feels comfortable and at home. Our dispositions, words, and actions should possess these same qualities. The womb is a place in which the life is protected from the harmful influences of the outside world. This means all members of the Church should constantly serve to protect the Petrine from all that tries to harm him, attack him, and destroy him. On a practical, daily level, this forbids criticism, both internal and external, and calls all to defend – prudently and gently – her Petrine ministers. As well, the members of the Church are required to build up her Petrine ministers with words of encouragement, praise and gratitude. One thing that is essential to realize is that the needs of child in the womb are precisely that – needs. That we must nourish and protect the Petrine is not simply a beautiful option, but necessary for his survival. If the mother cannot provide for the life inside of her, the life dies or is severely deformed. The Petrine cannot have life without the Marian acting as Mary. This leads us again to participation through another angle. As a Marian Church, we have real and efficacious responsibility, and there are real consequences – both bad and good – when this responsibility is either maturely accepted or carelessly refused.

Incredibly enough the harm can come even from within the body of the Church and the mother herself, as is the case when the mother is sick, addicted or diseased. In all these instances – infirmity, addiction, cancer, or other diseases – the mother must risk her own health and comfort to save the child. A heroic example of this is St. Gianna Molla, who chose to lose her life for the sake of her child. We, as Marian members of the Church, must be willing to do the same for the Petrine and for all of our spiritual children, even if, as in the case of sickness, we are not directly culpable for the problem. We must realize that we, because of our sins, have participated in some way to all sickness and suffering on earth even if we cannot see clearly how. We must be willing to repair for our sins by accepting all sufferings as possible forms of reparation.

As well, we must constantly keep our own bodies and spirits healthy so as not to be the source of harm for the life we carry in us. If we are not bringing into our body good things – as is the case with addition and some diseases – we will harm the life, and potentially kill it. Very simply, if one’s interior life of prayer and holiness is not healthy, the life one supports will not be healthy. Again we see that the holiness of the Church will directly affect the health and life of her Petrine ministers.

On the natural level, as the child grows and matures within the womb, the womb of the mother must stretch and expand to accommodate the child, and she must increase her intake of food and nutrients in order to support this growth. The same is true in the spiritual life. In order for the Petrine child to grow, the Marian needs to increase the amount of prayer and sacrifices (food) and the richness and quality of them (caloric and nutritive value of the food). This is the only way she can increase the fecundity of her motherhood. As well, the womb must expand and stretch. The body should show “that it is being transformed for the sake of fruitfulness and made to serve that purpose more and more fully.”[xxx] This is often a painful process, and it is the same spiritually, but conversion and growth in holiness are the only means by which the child can thrive. “God should see that [the soul] is bearing fruit for him and is adapting itself to this task as the fruit requires.”[xxxi] The more the members of the Church sacrifice, the more they open hearts to conversion, the more theirs womb will expand, and the more fruit they will produce. Generosity in pregnancy will allow maternity to come to complete fruition.

Though it is possible to examine in depth all the stages of growth and what they require of the mother, we will choose to focus on and draw lessons from only one – that of breastfeeding. On the natural level, the milk of the mother changes and adjusts for the needs of her child as he grows. As Marian mothers, we too must appropriately and prudently adjust the food we provide to our spiritual children according to their level of spiritual maturity. Like St. Paul, we must know when to give milk and solid food.[xxxii] For example, even within a given feeding, the milk of the mother changes in composition. At first, the milk is thinner and more watery so as to satiate thirst.[xxxiii] This applies to beginners for whom we often need to satiate thirst for love on a more natural and human level. However, as the feeding progresses, the milk becomes more fatty and rich in nutritive value. As we raise a spiritual child, after we have met their initial thirst, they need substantive teaching in truth about themselves and God in order to truly grow and mature. Last, research is unanimous in reporting that there is no substitute for breast milk. No matter how much research goes into a formula, it can never mimic the quality and positive effects of a mother’s milk. This demonstrates that only real Truth – not watered down or falsified – will allow our spiritual children to grow and mature as they should.

Furthermore, just as Mary “kept all things in her heart,”[xxxiv] the Marian womb must keep and treasure the Word that it receives. This means that nothing that Jesus proclaims through the Petrine should go unnoticed or unheeded. Nothing should be forgotten. Mary does not lose any of her children due to neglect or inattentiveness. Each Word received should find room in the womb, implant there, and grow to full life.

Natural motherhood also allows us to see that Marian service to the Petrine is a lifelong commitment of love and sacrifice. Motherhood begins at birth, but its success can only be measured when the child has grown to maturity, and this success will be a direct result of the constant, consistent and enduring love of the mother. Mary’s motherhood is only complete by her presence at the foot of the cross. Furthermore, as Mary demonstrates, the piercing that she receives as Mother is a result of her love for her Son, not for herself. The pains one experiences from motherhood are true mother pains only when they are due to “other” love and not self love.

Finally, among of the three roles of Mary, we as Church are most called to live the motherhood of Mary during our pilgrimage here on earth. First, we were children of the Father at the moment of creation. With the coming of Christ, we as Church became mother. In the end, we will live as Bride of the Holy Spirit in heaven. From experience, one can see that natural motherhood, before the role of daughter and spouse, is the most painful role. It is Mary as mother who is pierced with her Son. This is fitting, as our life on earth is destined to one of travail and suffering.

With this knowledge, we are able to recognize another example of divine paradox. At the piecing of her Son, the Church is conceived in Mary’s womb. While conception on the natural level is a pleasurable experience, conception on the spiritual involves suffering and death. Just like the grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die, motherhood must be redeemed in suffering.[xxxv] Returning to the parable of the sower, we see that for a plant to grow the soil must be emptied of its life and used up. To be pierced as mother means to be used up as soil in order to be transformed into fruit.[xxxvi] Our response to the gift of the Word must be the freely-willed holocaust of self at the service of the Life we carry inside of us. Our response is the acceptance of motherhood and all it entails.

Last, it is also necessary to note when the conception of life occurs – after the death of the Son. This shows us that life in its fullness can only be brought forth when death of self is total and complete. This is love to extreme. When Christ had seemingly nothing left to give, he gave the last drop. Motherhood requires the same love to the extreme. The extent of self-donation and death will be the measure of maternal fecundity, and motherhood only comes to “definitive maturity” at the foot of the cross.[xxxvii]

“Blessed is She Who Believed…”

Because Christ as Man never ceased being God, we cannot attribute to Him the virtue of faith, for faith believes in something not yet seen or possessed. Therefore, our primary example of faith is that of Mary. This model of perfect faith is her next great service to the Petrine. The Marian demonstrates that faith is constant, unwavering and strong, for it is one thing to have faith at the moment of the Annunciation, but quite another to maintain it at the foot of the Cross. She enables the Petrine to remain faithful to the Father and His promises concerning the Church, even during its darkest moments. She reveals a faith that is willing to suffer in the midst of silence and darkness. The losing of Jesus in the Temple reveals a faith that does not have all the answers, that chooses to submit to a Person rather than knowledge. She demonstrates that the proper response to temporary uncertainty is to “keep these things in her heart” and ponder them,[xxxviii] knowing that a “correction” of Christ is not always a correction, but instead an invitation to deepen one’s understanding of the mystery present before one’s eyes.[xxxix] The “blessed is she who believed” of Elizabeth, and the “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” of Jesus allow one to understand that faith is the principle from which actions come. “As the Fathers of the Church teach--she conceived this Son in her mind before she conceived him in her womb: precisely in faith!”[xl] Faith yields fruit, and in Mary the faith is so powerful that “a body is prepared for the Son through Mary, in that she gives herself over wholly to the Father’s will.”[xli] It is because of Mary that St. Paul is able to say, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes...?”[xlii] The faith of Mary is the open door through which Christ flows to the human heart, allowing it to have victory over sin, selfishness, pride and death.

To summarize, recapitulate and lead us to our finale, we will allow the words of our Holy Petrine Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to resonate in our hearts:

“’Full of grace’ therefore means, once again, that Mary is a wholly open human being, one who has opened herself entirely, one who has placed herself in God’s hands boldly, limitlessly, and without fear for her own fate. It means that she lives wholly by and in relation to God. She is a listener and a prayer, whose mind and soul are alive to the manifold ways in which the living God quietly calls to her. She is one who prays and stretches forth wholly to meet God; she is therefore a lover, who has the breadth and magnanimity of true love, but who has also its unerring powers of discernment and its readiness to suffer.”[xliii]

“The Spirit and the Bride Say Come…”

Finally, we reach the most sublime vocation and service of the Marian principle – that of Spouse, Bride, and Lover. It is no accident that the eighth chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church[xliv] is about Mary. For just as Christ rose on the eighth day to usher in the New Creation, Mary too is the fulfillment and sign of the New Creation of the Church, and her role of Beloved Bride propels us into the eschatological realm. This role of the Marian serves as a sign post, pointing toward the destiny of the Petrine and all mankind. The Marian serves the Petrine by revealing the purpose and destiny of the Church. She shows the Church why she is. The Petrine cannot teach, lead and guide the faithful if they have nothing to point them toward. Mary defines the Church and who she is, giving Peter a direction to point, to say, “Here, this is what we are called to be. This is the reason for our existence: to be loved, to be the Beloved. ” She is Bride and Beloved, called to union with the Trinity. The Marian reveals the Church’s final end – Love.

Since the Petrine is the representation of Christ on earth, the Marian Church serves as his Bride. Again, we see that her mere existence allows the Petrine principle to be his most sublime role – that of husband. The Church is his bride. In imitation of Christ, she is the Beloved for whom the Petrine allows himself to be pierced, so that his Church may have life. The blood and water from the heart of Christ flow from the hands of his Petrine ministers in the Sacraments. This blood and water sanctify the Church, making her blameless and holy. The crown and merit of each priest and bishop on the day of judgment will be the presentation of his bride “without spot or wrinkle…holy and without blemish.”[xlv]

The existence of the Marian allows us to “see” God as Lover. It opens us a whole new understanding of God, without which “leads to a picture of God’s omnipotence that reduces the creature to a mere masquerade.”[xlvi] It is only through the Marian that we can see the cross as a marriage in which the Husband takes upon himself the pain of His faithless lover, only to draw her toward himself to live in eternal love.[xlvii] The “it is not good that man should be alone”[xlviii] from Genesis takes on a whole new meaning when we see this mystery manifested in Jesus and His Church. Jesus is not “complete” without His Bride. Just as woman came from side of Adam, the Bride of Christ flows from His pierced side.

The prayer of Christ ‘that they may all be one’[xlix] is brought to fulfillment in the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church. The image of the Church as Bride allows the Eucharist to become an intimate mystical marriage, in which Christ and his Church become “one flesh.” Without the Marian principle, the Eucharist, which is brought to us through the hands of the Petrine, loses its meaning. “The Church is the body…wherein the spousal mystery of Adam and Eve is consummated.”[l]

As a Marian Church, we serve our Petrine head, when we draw our Spouse, the Holy Spirit, into our very being. The more we, as individuals, become like Mary, like “tabernacles of the Holy Spirit,”[li] the more the Holy Spirit will fly to us in search of His spouse. Our hearts should have a Marian quality that attracts the love of the Holy Spirit.[lii] It is precisely for this reason that Mary’s presence at Pentecost was necessary, and not merely coincidence. The body of her Son – the Church – was born that day by the coming of the Holy Spirit. As mother, she must be the channel through which the head and body are born. As spouse, her presence is required for the Holy Spirit to come. Therefore, then and now, Mary must be everywhere in the Church, present in all acts in which the Spirit comes into His Bride. It is only through Mary that the Church can present herself as spotless Bride. Again, we have come full circle to reception as the fundamental role and greatest gift of the Marian heart.

What is the response to being loved as Bride? It is to love as Bride. We see that this is the culmination of love; it is love to the extreme. Again, we see a divine progression from Father, Son to Holy Spirit. To love as daughter is the love of filial obedience. To love as mother is the love of solicitude. But to love as wife is a love that is beyond each of these. It is a love that does not just look to meet requirements, to meet needs, but it is a love that looks to the heights to find that which will please, seduce and attract her lover. It is the love that looks for the perfect, beyond the good and even the pleasing.[liii]  This is the kind of love that is the alpha and the omega. It is first, for without spousal love, neither the love of mother nor daughter can come to be. But it is also final because it is the love with which we are called to love with in heaven. This is the love of the saints, the love of the Holy Doctor St. Therese that led her to exclaim, “It’s not going to be said that a woman will do more for her husband…than I will do for my beloved Jesus.”[liv] This is the love that the Apostles experience on Pentecost that make them act as if they are drunk. This is the love that allows one to love to the extreme.

It is spousal love from which all other love flows. Without great spousal love, one cannot have great mother love or daughter love. Spousal love enables obedience to be filial and motherhood to be sacrificial. The seed from the Father cannot grow in the soil of a mother’s womb unless the sun and water of the Holy Spirit fill the soil with its presence. For a married couple this means that the love between one another must be primary so that the love for their children and parents can be fruitful and healthy. For a religious, this means spousal love for Christ is primary. Without it, no religious will be able to love others in their apostolic life. There are no healthy children without healthy marriages.

As members of the Church, this means our love for Christ and His Petrine ministers must be spousal – and if it is not, the Church will not be healthy and will not produce fruit. As members of the Church we must love our priests, bishops and Holy Father with the love of a wife toward her husband. This love looks to go beyond every measure, past what is just and necessary, to what will please them the most. It is a love that seeks to know the desires and needs that lie deep in the hearts of our Petrine ministers so that it can meet them. It is a love that supports, encourages, and loves in the midst of health and sickness, that remains faithful, standing by in the darkness moments. It is a love that, when Peter’s men look down, crucified, from the cross, they see their Church, like Mary, faithfully watching and offering their silent, supportive and enduring love. This is the love of the Marian for the Petrine. This is her proper response to the love she has been shown by her Bridegroom. With the power of Christ living fully inside of her, she is called and able to offer the same love with which she was first loved.

What is the destiny of the Church as Bride? We need only to look to Mary to see, for the destiny of Mary is the destiny of the Church. She is crowned Queen of Heaven, and will so remain forever. She wears a crown of twelve stars around her head. The lowly has been raised to the greatest height.

This brings the circle of Marian service to the Petrine to a close. For it is in Mary that we see the destiny of each human being. Mary leads us to see our final end, the reason for which we were created. The Petrine ministers are ministers of Christ himself, and the “Church likewise receives her full sanctity from the hierarchy.”[lv] However, the “grandeurs of the hierarchy are at the service of the grandeurs of sanctity.”[lvi] In other words, as “other Christs,” they are the first principles for all graces that flow into the Church. However, this service is an instrumental means, but not sanctity itself. For the sanctity comes to rest and reside in the Marian. As John Paul II stated, “their triple function has no other purpose except to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary.”[lvii] The hierarchy will cease to be in heaven because it has brought about the realization of its goal – a Marian existence. In heaven, the Church is Marian – she is sanctity itself, the very dwelling place and union with God. This why St. Paul can say that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known.”[lviii] What is this wisdom of God? Love. The Church as Bride allows God to Love. To be Marian means to have a heart in which God can fulfill the greatest desires of His Heart.[lix] Each human heart is called to be resting place of Love, a place where Love is free to move, live, and be Love. We are called to be filled with “all the fullness of God.”[lx]  Then, because “he loved us,”[lxi] we are able to love back, to offer our response, thus completing the circle that is love. We abide in God and He abides in us, and “in this is love perfected with us.”[lxii]


[i] Ratzinger. Daughter Zion, 17
[ii] Genesis 1:27
[iii] Genesis 2:18
[iv] John 17:7
[v] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 34.
[vi] Ephesians 5:25
[vii] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 66.
[viii] Ibid, 27.
[ix] John Paul II. The Marian and the Petrine Principles, 3.
[x] Ratzinger. Daughter Zion, 52.
[xi] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 75.
[xii] Vita Consecrata, 21

[xiii] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 72.

[xiv] John Paul II. The Marian and the Petrine Principles, 3.

[xv] Genesis 4:1

[xvi] The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version. Footnote on Genesis 4:1

[xvii] Luke 1:35

[xviii] Genesis 1:2

[xix] Ratzinger. Daughter Zion, 17

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 31.

[xxii] Mother Adela

[xxiii] Mother Adela. I Want to Make You an Heir to My Heart.

[xxiv] St. Alphonsus Liguori

[xxv] Gaudium et spes, 24

[xxvi] Luke 8:5-15

[xxvii] Isaiah 55:11

[xxviii] St. Basil the Great. On the Holy Spirit.

[xxix] Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity. I Have Found God.

[xxx] Von Speyr. The World of Prayer.

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] 1 Corinthians 3:2

[xxxiii] Gunsch. The Composition of Breast Milk.

[xxxiv] Luke 2:51

[xxxv] Genesis 3:16

[xxxvi] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 14-15.

[xxxvii] Redemptoris Mater, 23.

[xxxviii] Luke 2:51

[xxxix] Mother Adela. The Joy of Corrections.

[xl] Redemptoris Mater, 13

[xli] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 84

[xlii] 1 John 5:4-5

[xliii] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 68

[xliv] Lumen Gentium

[xlv] Ephesians 5:27                                                                                                                                       

[xlvi] Ratzinger. Daughter Zion, 28.

[xlvii] Ibid.

[xlviii] Genesis 2:18

[xlix] John 17:22

[l] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 26.

[li] Ratzinger. Mary, the Church at its Source, 84.

[lii] Mother Adela

[liii] Romans 12:2

[liv] St. Therese of Lisieux. Story of a Soul, 99.

[lv] Journet. Theology of the Church, 168.

[lvi] Ibid, 218.

[lvii] John Paul II. The Marian and the Petrine Principles, 3.

[lviii] Ephesians 3:10

[lix] Mother Adela. Talk given in Helena, Montana.

[lx] Ephesians 3:19

[lxi] 1 John 4:10

[lxii] 1 John 4:16-17


Works Cited

St. Basil the Great. On the Holy Spirit. Taken from the Liturgy of the Hours: Tuesday, Seventh Week of Easter. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co, 1976.

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity. I Have Found God, Complete Works, Volume 1. Washington DC: ICS Publications, 1984.

Gunsch, Jessica. The Composition of Breast Milk. BellaOnline (, 2008.

The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1966.

John Paul II. Encyclical Letter: Redemptoris Mater. March 25, 1987.

John Paul II. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation: Vita Consecrata. March 25, 1996.

John Paul II. General Audience. The Marian and the Petrine Principles. December 22, 1997.

Journet, Charles Cardinal. Theology of the Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004.

Liguori, St. Alphonsus. Quotation in the Magnificat: Tuesday May 6, 2008.

Mother Adela. Talk given at Charismatic Renewal Conference: Helena, Montana. May 2, 2008.

Mother Adela. “I Want to Make You an Heir to My Heart.” Talk given in Paray la’Monial:
March 29, 2008. 

Mother Adela. “The Joy of Corrections.” Talk given April 23, 2008.

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Daughter Zion. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983.

Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Mary, the Church at its Source. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.

Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution of the Church: Lumen Gentium.
November 21, 1964.

Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in the Modern World:
Guadium et spes. December 7, 1965.

St. Therese of Lisieux. The Story of a Soul. Random House, Inc, 1957.

Von Speyr, Adrienne. The World of Prayer. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985.


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