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

Teaching and Communicating the Splendor of our Faith: A Marian and Maternal Mission
Sr. Sara Marie Kowal, sctjm


“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”[1] At the center of the mystery of salvation lies ‘the woman.’ At the moment of the first sin, man and woman ceased to say “yes” to God, his Word, and His Love. The communication of grace from God to the human person was, through the closing of the human heart, cut off. However, in this first proclamation of the Gospel in Genesis – the proto-evangelium – God promises that this communication will one day be restored, and it will be restored through she who first closed her heart to it – ‘the woman.’ She who closed will one day open. And many millenniums later, with the fiat of she who was “full of grace,” this ‘opening’ came to pass. That fiat opened up a torrent of grace so powerful that God “was made flesh,” and the union and communication between God and man was restored and made an eternal reality in the Person of Jesus Christ. The ‘communication’ of the Father – the Word – was made visible and accessible again to man through the fiat of Mary. In Mary, each person is able to see his call and destiny – through our own openness and availability to Love, we too become channels, teachers, and communicators of Love Incarnate, of grace and life – thereby bringing about the ‘enfleshment’ of Christ, God’s own ‘splendor,’ on earth. This leads to the enfleshment of Christ in the hearts of men and the salvation and unification of the whole human race – all the substance of the God’s ‘splendor’ among men. We, like Our Lady, our called to teach and communicate the ‘splendors’ of God – His very Word, His Truth, His Love, His Beauty – to the hearts of men. Within this communication, there exist an infinite number of little ‘splendors’ that will shine forth as we communicate the divine Splendor. As we shall see, in this act of communication, we will thus, with Our Lady, crush the head of the serpent and bring about the Reign of Love.

Trinitarian Foundations

The foundation of communication comes from the Heart of the Trinity whose very essence is that of communicative act. The Trinity who is Love[2] is a communication of divine Persons that eternally give and receive Love.[3] “Charity is love received and given.”[4] In this sense, we see that love is a mutually communicative dialogue. Within the Trinity, this ‘dialogue’ is eternally and infinitely perfect. In regard to man, the Trinity’s self revelation consists of self-donation and sending; Christ gave Himself to be sent. Based on this model, made Incarnate in the Life and Person of Christ, God calls each member of the Church to do the same.[5]  

Though God always desires to communicate with man, to engage in dialogue with him, man is free and has the capacity to reject this ‘communication’; and since the first sin of Adam and Eve, he has continually done so. But God, in His infinite mercy, sent His Son – His perfect and total ‘communication’ – to be made man so that man could receive again fully what he had previously rejected. “In our name, Mary said yes”[6] to God’s invitation to again participate in His communication of grace, and this fiat was total and forever.  We too are called to participate in the communication that is eternal in the Trinity and that happens unceasingly and perfectly in the person of our Blessed Mother.

The Marian Church

The human person, who is made in the “image and likeness”[7] of communicative Love, only participates in Love, only becomes who he is truly is, when he also both receives Love and gives it away. “This likeness reveals that man…cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”[8] And again, “The human heart accomplishes maturity by choosing to give itself in love.”[9]

However, the human person, as the common axiom reveals, “cannot give what he does not have.” Therefore, the human person must first be a receptor of this love in order to then give and communicate it to others. This order is expressed and clearly revealed in the concept of the Church as the Bride of Christ the Bridegroom. The spousal mystery of Christ and His Church reveals that Christ the Bridegroom has given Himself fully – unto death – to His Bride. The reception of the gift of the Bridegroom is what gives the Bride her essence and her Life. Servant of God John Paul II explains,

In this way ‘being the bride’, and thus the ‘feminine’ element, becomes a symbol of all that is ‘human’…In the Church every human being - male and female - is the ‘Bride’, in that he or she accepts the gift of the love of Christ the Redeemer, and seeks to respond to it with the gift of his or her own person.[10]

Therefore, “all are called to respond as a bride”[11] to the gift of Bridegroom – which is the fullness of His very Person.

“This is of fundamental importance for understanding the Church in her own essence,”[12] which is feminine, and more importantly, Marian[13]: the hierarchical structure of the Church is ordered toward the ultimate end of the Church, which is her holiness, and this holiness is “measured according to the ‘great mystery’ in which the Bride responds with the gift of love to the gift of the Bridegroom.”[14] Furthermore, John Paul II writes, “in the hierarchy of holiness it is precisely the ‘woman’, Mary of Nazareth, who is the ‘figure’ of the Church. She ‘precedes’ everyone on the path to holiness.”[15] This lays down the fundamentals of our discussion. The Church, in order to be who she truly is, the Body and Bride of Christ, must look to Mary. For Mary is “Personam Ecclesae gerit: she represents in her special role, the Church herself.”[16] It is Our Blessed Mother who embodies the perfection of what it means to be Church, to be Bride. It is precisely she – who uttered her ‘fiat’ at the Annunciation and continued to silently utter it each moment of her life unto the foot of the Cross – who shows us how to have a constant readiness to receive all that the Bridegroom desires to give (self-donation through reception) and how to then pass this gift on (sending through communication).  Von Balthasar writes, “Her Yes remains for the members of the Church the central and fully valid answer to the Lord’s demands…Mary always declares her faith-filled readiness…Nor is there any form of Christian perfection that does not consists in the Marian act of unrestricted readiness.”[17] To be holy, to be Marian, to be human, and to be Church, we must unceasingly give ourselves as a gift fully to God – first as receptors of His Word, then as active channels of this gift[18] – “so that the whole of people’s humanity can be impregnated by this Word.”[19] The life of a Christian is one of self-donating receptivity and communication.[20]

The twofold movement of Love – receiving and giving – is really one single movement of Love.  There is no Love if it does not constantly and simultaneously receive and give, for “Love has only one movement: outward. Love can only do one thing: give itself…only then can it really be called love.”[21] As well, John Paul II writes, “he who loves desires to give himself,”[22] and Von Balthasar says, “Natural man best acknowledges the gift of himself by passing the gift on in an unstinting service of his fellow man and of the whole human work of cultivation…they join the Church in actively communicating the graces received… everyone’s giving is nothing but an answer to, and effect of, this reception.”[23] Despite the inherent and inseparable nature of this two-fold movement of Love, we will choose to focus primarily on the outward movement of Love – the teaching and communicating.

Being Church

Communication is not simply part of the mission of the Bride, but the Bride herself is the very “communication” of the Pierced Heart of Christ, for she came forth from His Heart, just as Eve came forth from the side of Adam.  In other words, to be who she is as Church, she is, in essence, a “communication.”[24] The Church is the Body of the Word, and the Word is God’s very own communication, His “sending forth.”[25]  In her very being, the Church and each one of her members, is a “receptive communicator.”[26] Therefore, simply by being who she is, she fully communicates grace, Love, and Life Incarnate. In a particular way, the woman is the “face” of the Church, communicating the splendors and the treasures of the Church in her very person simply by being a woman.

As well, the role of communicator is distinctly Marian because Mary always precedes her Son. “For just as this star, together with the ‘dawn,’ precedes the rising of the sun, so Mary from the time of her Immaculate Conception preceded the coming of the Savior.”[27] She prepared the way for His entrance into the world. Therefore, in order for Christ to come into the world today, it must be Mary who precedes Him and Mary who brings Him in her womb, for God has willed that she be the “distributor of all gifts”[28] and that all we receive should “pass through the hands of Mary.”[29]

This is why the battle is always against the woman[30]; it is she who receives and transmits the life given to her. The battle cannot be against God Himself, for He cannot be prevented from giving. However, the “woman” can be prevented from receiving and communicating that which she has received. This is where Mary as perfect model becomes so important. She has already vanquished Satan in this battle; she has received and given in a perfect and unhindered manner. Though Satan tried to prevent reception and communication, he could not have his way with her. She reigns in heaven as unblemished Queen.

An ‘Enfleshing’ Witness

This brings us to the first and primary way of communicating and teaching – witness. One must be who he is; one must live the Life he claims to possess, for “the world is only impacted with a testimony of life. The words stop having value or power if they are not supported by an authentic lifestyle.”[31] It is only in him who “keeps his word” that “love for God is perfected.”[32] “Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.”[33] Mother writes,

It is necessary to understand the importance of the testimony of life which precedes the testimony of words.  Only witnesses are credible; only those who testify with their lives are able to touch hearts and minds that are confused and disorientated.  Paul VI told us:  ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’ (EN, 41).  This is why the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary illuminates the mission of Evangelization.  She is the evangelizer because She is a living Gospel, a true model whom the evangelizer is able to present to the person to whom he has proposed the saving message as the highest realization of the Christian message.[34]

To witness means to enflesh. Mary, more than any other, shows us that to be means to enflesh God. The word of her fiat was not merely an empty statement; instead it was so powerful that it brought about the Incarnation of God. As Jesus is the “sacrament” of the Father because He makes the Father visible, the Church is also like a Sacrament of Christ[35] – incarnating the face and presence of God on earth. “The very essence of sacrament is that the invisible is tangible in the visible and that the tangibly visible opens the door to God himself.”[36] Servant of God John Paul II explains this same reality in the Blessed Mother: “When, at the Visitation, she bore in her womb the Word made flesh, she became in some way a ‘tabernacle’…in which the Son of God, still invisible to our human gaze, allowed himself to be adored by Elizabeth, radiating his light as it were through the eyes and the voice of Mary.”[37]

Communicating and teaching means incarnating and enfleshing – first within ourselves and then in others. To enflesh means to act on what we have received. The act of enfleshment communicates something in a human way; it concretizes a spiritual reality; something merely spiritual becomes something human. Enfleshment is the concretization of love, for true love acts. The Church is the fullness of this “enfleshing communication” because it is the fullness of the incarnated Christ, and as we have seen, the same is true of Mary.

At first glance, the act of enfleshment makes something more human. However, fitting to the ways of God, the soul also becomes deified when it enfleshes. In some sense, as explained above, it is more properly the essence of God to be Giver and man to be receiver. However, when we choose to give we become like God. We become participants in the Act of Love. The ability to receive and give love shows that our nature is such that it has an inherent capacity for deification, while losing nothing of its humanity, and in the act of communication this potential is realized. In giving, we become like God.

Missionary Responsibility

The “outward” aspect of Love is why the Church can say that she is missionary by her very nature,[38] and why St. Paul can exclaim, “woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.”[39] It is also why the Church can claim that “mission is…an accurate indicator of our faith in Christ and his love for us”[40] – the love of Christ should “impel”[41] us to take Him to others.

In fact, taking Him to others is constitutes a responsibility. Love constitutes a responsibility: “Love and Responsibility can never be separated, for Love is enfleshed in the responsible choices of the human heart.”[42] As John Paul II wrote in his book Love and Responsibility, “Love is never…something merely ‘given’ to the human person, it is always at the same time a ‘task’…Love divorced from a feeling a responsibility for the other is a negation of itself, is always and necessarily egoism. The greater the feeling of responsibility…the more true love there is.”[43] Therefore, to teach and communicate all we have received is necessary: “Love…can never be separated from the task of forming hearts to enflesh, to live, to act and to be witnesses to love, by responsibly loving.”[44] “Rights presuppose duties,”[45] and gifts presuppose responsibilities. This is mandated by Jesus Himself in the parable of the talents.[46] The wicked servant is the one who hid what he had received. The servants that we were rewarded were those who took that which they had received – regardless of how much it was – bore fruit and gave it increase. We see this perfectly in Mary, for her first action after her reception in the Annunciation is her Visitation to Elizabeth. Even before this, we see her outward giving when Mary lays Christ in the manger immediately after His birth – He is for the world, not simply for her. The mission of the Mother is always to bring her Son to others and to prepare hearts to receive Him. John Paul II writes,

This is why the Church’s mission derives not only from the Lord’s mandate but also from the profound demands of God’s life within us. Those who are incorporated in the Catholic Church ought to sense their privilege and for that very reason their greater obligation of bearing witness to the faith and to the Christian life as a service to their brothers and sisters and as a fitting response to God.[47]

Moreover, in the parable of the talents, the servants who bear more fruit are actually given more responsibility. Responsibility is a reward. It is a reward that reveals our dignity, and our Blessed Mother reveals this dignity to the utmost extent: “Before God, the spiritual greatness of a person in this life is not in fact measured so much by what God gives, as by what God asks of the person…God asked a lot of Mary, more than any other person.”[48] The Lord knows that love and responsibility are inseparable. When He bestows responsibility upon us, He does so because we then are given the opportunity to earn real merit. He desires that we become real participants in His own redemptive, loving, and responsible work. The more for which we are responsible, the more we participate in Love. No one more fully participated in Love than Our Lady: “God himself, the Eternal Father…entrusted himself to the Virgin of Nazareth.”[49] The fact that the Lord lays upon the Church the mission of the salvation of the world reveals her great and magnificent dignity.  Animated with the very power and strength of Christ, she and her members really do carry out this infinitely weighty mission.[50]

Love is responsible when it places all the potentialities of the person at the service of the gift received. This inseparable relationship between love, gift, and responsibility should be the underlying theme of our whole lives. Responsibility comes from the word respond, which in Latin is respondere. Spondere means to pledge or promise oneself, and it is derived from words centered on solemn and ritual libations. In other words, the word respond means to re-promise, to re-pledge, to re-pour out ourselves in a libation as has already been done for us by Christ. It entails the obligation to fully give ourselves back in love to the One who has already loved us. Our response and responsibility is the same: to give ourselves – first to God and then to others.

Motherhood – “A Virgin has given life to all things.”[51]

The fundamental basis of our lives, our destinies, and our mission is, as has been already mentioned, distinctly feminine, maternal, and therefore, Marian. Therefore, we must look to Mary, “our mother in the order of grace,”[52] to understand the response and responsibility of the Bride to teach and communicate the gift she has received through her motherhood.  Just as in the natural order where the woman receives the gift of life and love from the man, keeps it, nourishes it, gives it life, and helps it to grow, the same thing happens in the supernatural order: each person receives life from the Father and keeps it, nourishes it, gives it life, and helps it to grow – the bride becomes a mother.[53]

Servant of God John Paul II speaks of this essential union between Mary, the Church and motherhood. He writes,

So too the Church becomes a mother when, accepting with fidelity the word of God, ‘by her preaching and by baptism she brings forth to a new and immortal life children who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God’…If the Church is the sign and instrument of intimate union with God, she is so by reason of her motherhood, because, receiving life from the Spirit, she ‘generates’ sons and daughters of the human race to a new life in Christ. For, just as Mary is at the service of the mystery of the Incarnation, so the Church is always at the service of the mystery of adoption to sonship through grace.[54]

St. Paul too understood this essential motherhood and referred often to his “little children” with whom he was in travail until Christ was formed within them.[55] From the beginning, the Church understood that apostolic activity is intricately linked to her motherhood, which is modeled upon and learned from Mary, the Mother of the Son and the Church.[56] “All who truly follow Christ become ‘mothers’ of Christ, for by their faith they bring Him to birth in others.”[57] But just like natural motherhood entails pain in the bringing forth of children, spiritual motherhood is “before all, a pain experienced in the heart.”[58] Motherhood on this earth is one of pain, and the spiritual fruit – the life – that comes forth will be “birthed” to the extent that we open our hearts to be pierced.[59] For this reason, the heart must be disposed, formed, and prepared to “give birth” – in other words, the heart must be pure, open and holy – to communicate and bring forth grace and life in souls: “Sanctity…is the source of being able to spiritually conceive Christ in and for the world.”[60] No one more perfectly demonstrates this better than our Blessed Mother: “The Blessed Virgin had a spiritual fruitfulness so intense that is made her the Mother of the Church and of the human race.”[61] This requires us to examine some foundational dispositions that underlie this sanctity.

Necessary Dispositions of Heart

The first necessary disposition of the receiver is a heart that knows the value of the gift. “The maturity of the human heart lies in the deep understanding of what has been entrusted to its care.”[62] One must recognize that the gift is splendid, beautiful, infinitely valuable, and infinitely lovable. Only when we know the magnitude of the gift do we discover our dignity and receive the graces to “live the gift.” Without this disposition, the Lord would be “giving pearls to swine.”[63] Without this disposition, the gift will be neither guarded nor carefully kept. Consequently, it will not be zealously given to another because we cannot give what we have not kept, and we will not give what we do not value.

How do we value, guard and keep the gift? We look to Our Lady who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart,”[64] who never let any grace fall upon her in vain. We look to Our Lady who became an exile in Egypt in order to protect the Gift.  We look to Our Lady who, with perfect and lifelong constancy, understood in prayer that the Gift was Love Incarnate, the very Word-made flesh. Like Mary, “we must responsibly work, dedicate, and invest ourselves to make [the gifts] be solidly planted, to make them grow, multiply and be fruitful. The gifts are to be received, treasured and lived responsibly. These are the dispositions of a mature heart that is shaped by responsible love.”[65]

We learn also from her that “to guard is to pray.”[66] It is in prayer that one learns from the Lord the true value and meaning of things. In prayer, the Lord plants the Seed of the Word in fertile soil – fertile if it receives, guards, keeps, and gives fruit to all that the Lord speaks. Only a praying heart can be a giving heart. “Unless the missionary is a contemplative he cannot proclaim Christ in a credible way.”[67] Therefore, the first duty of every Christian is prayer. To become a communicator of Truth and Love, one must first receive Truth and Love, perceive the value and beauty of Truth and Love, and develop a selfless disposition that zealously desires to pass on this singularly valuable Good – all this is done in prayer. Adrienne von Speyr summarizes these ideas in a beautiful manner:

The time of pregnancy is for Mary a time of perfect contemplation, of exhaustive listening to the Son. But at the same time it is a time of action, for she goes to Elizabeth to bring her the Son, to pass on the gift she has received from God…This one Lord has only one thought: to give himself away, to share his very substance, in an infinite manner. The Mother understood this from the beginning and never bore anything in mind except giving the Son to the world.[68]

A prerequisite to this receptive and prayerful disposition is the ability to receive. This ability and capacity requires the healing of our personal “I”; it requires that we are whole and healed and free. It requires that we are aware of our divinely given identity as beloved children, because “renewed enthusiasm for…mission will always depend on the certainty of…personal identity, which is not artificially constructed, but rather given and received freely and divinely.”[69] A container cannot carry water to another if it is full of holes that allow the water to leak out or if it is full of other things that do not allow room for the water. Either one of these problems leave the human person incomplete, in need, and unable to communicate Love. To receive the child, the womb must be whole, sound, and empty. This means that one must go to the Father to heal the wounds of the heart, to heal one’s conception of his or her identity. It also means that the heart must empty itself of all that is not from God. As our Mother Foundress says, one must become poor –

from ourselves, our ‘attachments,’ ‘interests,’ and ‘projects’ – all that has become a ‘treasure’ for us. All these things that we guard, protect, defend and fight to keep are the riches that do not permit Christ to be born fully in our hearts. We must empty our hearts to be able to make room for the Child…To be poor in spirit means to empty ourselves of worldly treasures in order to be filled with spiritual treasures.[70]

Only then can one accept the “gift of communicating life, the gift of maternity…so one can be a mother, can embrace souls, so one can forget about oneself and become invested in the life that has been conceived.”[71] Again, we look to the Blessed Mother who was perfectly healed and whole in her personal “I.”[72] She was the Immaculate Conception, and there was no grace that was given to her that was lost or that fell to the ground in vain. Though no person begins in this state, each one must see Our Lady who “proceeds us”[73] and walk towards what has already been attained and perfected in her.

However, one must also avoid the opposite error – that which erringly claims one cannot begin to give until he is fully healed. In fact, it is precisely the opposite: “The deepest wounds of the human heart are healed by loving and serving.”[74] As soon as we have received – and we have all received – we must begin to give. Only when we give, will we receive more. Love is meant to be in motion. If it is not in motion then it is not love. If grace does not flow through us, it becomes stopped up and stagnant, like the Dead Sea which has no outflow. On the contrary, “[love] regenerates itself in giving itself, it receives itself in giving itself, it does not run out and is not used up.”[75] Reception is for the sake of mission.

Another prerequisite disposition is that of internal freedom. Each person must freely choose to respond with their personal “I” to the call of the Divine Love. It cannot be a choice made from constraint, fear, or force.[76] Only a heart that is free can freely receive and freely pass on. If a heart is not free, out of fear, it will look to grasp and hold on to what it has been given. “Mary…at the side of her Son…is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe.”[77] At the Annunciation, with open hands and heart, she received fully; nothing was rejected, for she received the entirety of the very Person of God when she responded, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”[78] And standing at the foot of the Cross, with open hands and heart, she handed back to the Father the entirety of the Gift.  “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”[79]

Humble Instruments – “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord”

The next attitude or disposition required to be an effective communicator of Truth, Love, and Life is the base on which all the others must be built. It is the recognition that we are simply humble instruments, “manifold distributors of God’s various graces,”[80] and that everything should be done for His glory, understanding that “it was not [we] who chose to follow Jesus; it was Jesus who chose [us].”[81] All who teach must understand that “it is Christ alone who teaches - anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips.”[82] St. Paul, arguably one of the greatest communicators of the faith, understood that “we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word; but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God.”[83] He knew he was only an “ambassador for Christ,”[84] a “servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God,”[85] and one “entrusted with a commission.”[86] We are simply instruments of grace; it is actually the Holy Spirit who teaches and effects this grace in the heart of man. Therefore, as those called to be communicators of God’s grace and love, we are called to be Temples of the Holy Spirit so that He can work through us in the hearts of others. Mary, as the Bride of the Holy Spirit, carried the Spirit with her in an unsurpassable way. This union made her truly “effective.” The presence of the Spirit – not the eloquence of our words, not the amount of our preparation, not our natural gifts – is what “sets [a person’s] heart aflame with greater desire…[and] makes him love what he already knows and desire what he has yet to know.”[87] Even the words of Jesus, the living Word, did not fully penetrate the hearts of the Apostles until the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Importantly, it was the presence of the Blessed Mother among them that served as the silent channel through which the Spirit was able to pass and descend upon the nascent Church.[88] The Word is the seed planted in the soil of our hearts, but the Spirit is the sun and rain that brings about its growth, the flame that ignites the hearts of the faithful to follow Christ.

This deep and humble recognition of our identity is fundamental to mission, and Our Lady possessed this recognition in its perfection. In her response at the Annunciation she was fully aware of her identity: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” Our Mother Foundress explains, “She said, ‘Behold, I am’… ‘I am’ who? ‘I am the servant of the Lord.’ She gave her personal fiat with the totality of the personal ‘I’… She understood herself being daughter so she could be a servant at the service of God.”[89] Furthermore, the Magnificat of the Visitation shows us that she knew her purpose: “My soul magnifies the Lord.”[90] Our whole ‘instrumentality’ – thoughts, desires, words, gestures, actions – should have as its end the glory of God. If it does not, we will fail to yield fruit to the extent that we lack this intention. 

“For he is God’s servant for your good”[91]

St. Therese of Lisieux understood this truth well. One day she was praised by her novices for her wisdom, and they extolled the many graces and favors she had received from the Lord. She replied to them that she was simply a cat dish that was filled to overflowing with milk so that many kittens could drink from it; they should understand that the dish was full for the sake and love of the kittens, not for the sake of the dish.[92] “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”[93] We must have this same profoundly humble understanding of our own identity and purpose, for “what have [we] that [we] did not receive?”[94] Therefore, since we have received without cost, we also must give without cost.[95] Von Balthasar writes on Our Lady,

[T]his preeminent member of the Church does not possess these special qualities privately for herself alone. She does so in a new fruitfulness for the community as a whole and for each of its members, a fruitfulness whose origin is the grace of the Cross. Sin alone gives man the mentality of the private individual, because it deprives him of the spirit of communion and of the will to selfless communication. In contrast, the more purely man receives God’s grace, the more obvious is his readiness not to keep it for himself, his readiness to let everyone participate in it.[96]

In fact, we can see clearly throughout salvation history, and most clearly in the nation of Israel, that the Lord bestows an excess on one for the sake of the many. Pope Benedict XVI writes, “The intention of this particular choice is to reach, through a few, many people and through them to reach all. In other words the intention of God’s specific choice is universality.”[97] We are instruments, and the nature of an instrument is to be put at the service of many. Beautifully, this also reveals the mystery of His fecundity that is able to make something great out of something very little. Often this “littleness” plagues many with the opposite sentiment of despair – in the face of the mission, they realize they are incapable. However, this is a manifestation of a pride that desires to be self-reliant. In reality, God has given the mission, and therefore, He will provide the strength and the means. “He gave the apostles a final command - to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to observe all that He had commanded.”[98] But he also “gave them the Spirit to fulfill this mission.”[99]

Pure and Transparent Love

We also must understand that Love seeks to give and waste itself for the sake of the other. Loving God is measured and expressed in the way we love others for their own sake. “Authentic love (Agape) does not say, ‘I long for you as a good,’ but ‘I long for your good; I long for that which is good for you.’”[100] In the transmission and communication of truth, we cannot seek ourselves, our own pleasures, or our own preferences. Our eyes must always be focused on the other, and we must put the good of the other above our own.

As in the Wedding at Cana, Mary saw the needs of her “children” before they themselves saw them. After the miracle, no where in the Gospel do we read that the couple gave thanks to Mary or Jesus for what they had done. We do read, however, that God’s glory was made manifest and that many came to believe.[101] A mother does not seek thanks, praise, or honor; instead she seeks the glory of God and the increase of faith in souls. Von Balthasar writes,

The more perfectly a Christian develops this selfless love in himself, the more all others can live on his goods as if they were their own. Not only are individuals transparent to one another, they also radiate what is theirs into the others – although we can speak only in a loose sense of ‘theirs,’ because perfect selflessness and transparency are nothing other than the life of God and Christ in creatures. Mary, as the purest of all creatures, irradiates what is her own least of all.[102]

The essential virtues for this disposition are purity, poverty of heart, and sacrifice. To be pure and poor of heart means that one only desires the will of God; everything is motivated by love of God and the other. Von Balthasar writes, “If this readiness [to receive and carry out the ecclesial mission] is lacking, if the one sent is negligent or is not selfless or mixes other personal motives and aspirations with his mission, then even important missions can miscarry, and the injury to the Church is so much the greater.”[103] All disorder in the communication of love comes when we are looking at ourselves – we communicate what we have and what we love, and if we love ourselves, we will communicate ourselves.[104] “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”[105] This is why Our Lady, “embracing God’s salvific will with a full heart and impeded by no sin,” was able to devote herself “totally as a handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son.”[106]

Related to purity of heart is our responsibility in communicating the truth in a way that respects and elevates the dignity and worth of the other individual. Christ did this in an infinitely great way by “humbling himself as a slave” so that we could be raised to union with Him. In general, it can be said that there are three great “abuses” of the human person: when they are desired as a possession; when they are desired for the sake of power; when they are desired for the sake of pleasure. These three sinful root inclinations of the human heart must be continually recognized and fought against in the communication of the truth. Communication is not pure if it is stained with these desires.

We must communicate and teach in a way that helps each person we encounter know that they are loved, that they are necessary and useful simply by the fact of their very existence – to God, to the Church, to the world, and to us. Pope Benedict XVI writes that the root of man’s wretchedness is the feeling of being worthless, unloved and unnecessary.[107] The answer of God to our loneliness is communion and union with Him through His Son. But this union is realized in our communion with His Body, with one another. Therefore, when we communicate and teach we must do so in a way that says to the other, “Yes, you are loved for who you are. You are necessary, you are useful as a person, not simply for what you have and what you can do for me.” This requires the setting aside of ourselves and our own expectations and placing the other first. For example, when we express impatience or unkindness with another for a task done slowly, poorly, or not to our expectation, we are implicitly treating them as a tool for use. In other words, they make us unhappy because they have not complied with our expectations – therefore, they are not “useful” to us. I cannot want people to conform to my standard of expectations according to what is good for me. The desire to use people is a desire to possess them, to “box them in,” in a box of our size and liking. However, precisely the opposite mentality is necessary. Communication and teaching is oriented to the service of the other, for their growth, at their pace, according to God’s will. Those who communicate are at the service of the receiver. The growth of the other is not at the service of our own desire for worth, our own desire for success, or our own need to see the fruit of our labor – these are all unnecessary “pleasures” or consolations to which we must be unattached.

St. Therese gives an excellent example of this in her selfless direction of the novices. Commenting on this ministry, she once shared with her sister Celine,

My only desire has been to please Him; consequently I have not worried over what others might be thinking or saying…I have not sought to be loved for myself…When there is a question of doing good to our neighbor, we must let nothing deter us nor pass over anything to make things easier for ourselves. As for reprimands, our intention in giving them must be directed first to the glory of God and must not spring from a desire to succeed in enlightening the novices. Moreover, in order that a correction bear fruit, it must cost in the giving, and the heart must be free from the least shadow of passion.[108]

Celine comments, “It was evident that she was never influenced by external appearances but always maintained a universal reverence and respect for the soul for its own sake.” Here we see the virtues of purity, poverty, and sacrifice magnificently displayed.

Sacrificial Love and the Necessity of the Cross

A true mother and teacher loves, but this love is demanding, and its demands are the Cross. In fact, teaching and communication is authentic and intelligible only if it points to the Cross.[109] John Paul II writes,

[Mary] understands sinful man and loves him with a mother’s love…[She does not] permit sinful man to be deceived by those who claim to love him by justifying his sin, for she knows that the sacrifice of Christ her son would thus be emptied of its power. No absolution offered by beguiling doctrines…can make man truly happy: Only the cross and the glory of the risen Christ can grant peace to his conscience and salvation to his life.[110]

In our Blessed Mother, we see a true imitation of Christ, whose communication of love and life to souls cost Him everything. The virtue of sacrifice requires a willingness to suffer and die for the sake of Love. This is lived out perfectly in Mary, and particularly in her maternity, for her soul was pierced at the foot of the Cross, the moment she “conceived” the Church within her womb. In the natural order, to give life to the child in the womb, it costs the mother her very being and life. From the moment of the child’s conception, the mother sacrifices her body, time, energy, love, attention, and physical good for the sake of the child. She holds nothing back from the growing child in her womb – nature even does this without her willful consent; this is the extent to which the call to sacrifice is stamped in our very being. To communicate and teach requires the laying down of one’s life; one must be willing to suffer and be pierced. This is why in “contemplating the pierced side of Christ…the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move”[111]: to love means to suffer, and in this suffering, life is given and “poured forth” like the blood and water from the side of Christ. Our Mother Foundress explains: “Love to the extreme is capable of the most grand sacrifices and sufferings, and a love capable of freely giving itself to that extreme is capable of an immense fecundity. There is no life without love and the disposition to sacrifice; there is no love without sacrifice; there is no sacrifice that, embraced with love, does not give life.”[112] To separate love, suffering, and the giving of life is to destroy the fundamental essence of Christ and the Gospel.

Therefore, we must only teach and preach “Christ crucified”[113] and the “scandal of the Cross.” There is no other road to salvation except through the Cross. The Queen of Martyrs knows this above all others. We must never water down the Gospel message and allow others to believe that following Christ does not require the Cross. In fact the opposite is true: just like the Teacher and His Mother, we shall always be pierced. We must be willing to “remain in spirit at the foot of the Cross, to receive [his blood], and pour it out upon souls.”[114] Our Mother Foundress summarizes: “Our life is not about suffering, it is about love. We choose love and we freely choose to love. If love will cause us suffering we embrace it as a consequence of love. And when suffering appears in our path, we make it fruitful by embracing it with love.”[115] Being an open channel of grace entails the Cross, but we have hope in the midst of its inevitable presence, for it opens up streams of life-giving water for many. In fact, suffering is a gift – for us and others – for it expands our hearts, and thereby they become wider channels through which more grace is able to flow.

Channel of Grace: “The gifts of the Messiah flowed through her...”[116]

The goal of teaching and communicating Love is so that persons can be fully realized[117] because “the glory of God is man fully alive.”[118] Sin has caused deep wounds in the human heart; it has left holes and an emptiness that can only be filled with Love. Love fills in the holes, closes the bleeding wounds. Love converts and changes the human heart. Love allows to the human person to grow and mature and reach full stature. To teach and communicate this love means to cooperate in the work of elevating the human heart to its fullness. The full potentiality of the human person is met when the heart opens itself to be filled, healed, restored and elevated to the heights God has destined it to reach – in other words conversion.  If this glorification of God and renewal of the human heart is not the end to which all is directed, we act in vain. And is this not the goal of every mother? To help her child grow and mature and reach the perfection for which he was created? Did not even Jesus “advance (in) wisdom and age and favor”[119] under the guidance of His Mother, in the home and school of Nazareth? Moreover, we are able to see in the Wedding at Cana that Mary, in her solicitous maternity, not only brings about the “filling” of the couple’s humanity, but the changing of “natural” water into “supernatural” wine; she, through her maternal intercession, brings about, in a sense, divinization. Again we see that this mediation is “intimately linked with her motherhood.”[120] Through her communication of all grace, she cooperates in “generating people to a new and immortal life: this is her motherhood.”[121]

In Mary, we come to understand that this maternal mediation of grace, this “being a channel,” is not simply a passive role. In fact, the truth is precisely the opposite: “In this active receptivity Mary, and the Church, become the productive womb of all redemptive grace.”[122] The Lord desires – and mandates – our active participation. And this applies to all – to teach and communicate is a “work for which the whole Church must feel responsible and must wish to be responsible.”[123] The love we have received ‘impels us’ to go forth and to actively speak this Word to others. “I believed, and so I spoke.”[124] Paul VI writes,

[T]he presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation… It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life…Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace.[125]

“Do whatever he tells you…”

We have seen so far that Mary, the Church, and each one of us communicates and teaches, first, by being who we are. “Teachers that do not live what they teach are not teachers.”[126] This entails receiving God and His Word, His Love, and allowing Him to do His will in us. However, to announce the message, we must know the message. Only a real and personal knowledge and relationship with Christ will enable us to communicate the truth about Him, for as we know Him, we possess Him. 

What is the message? “To evangelize is to announce Christ, the Savior of mankind.”[127] The Message is a Person. Therefore, “at the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth… Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ.”[128] And Mary has an irreplaceable role in this announcement because she knows the message more than any other and she carries the incarnated Message in her very womb: therefore, “Every encounter with her can only result in an encounter with Christ himself.”[129] We must enter first into the school of her Heart to be taught, and we must bring others into this same school. For in this Heart, this school, Jesus reigns, dwells, and teaches. Only the Heart of the Mother can reveal the Truth, the Person of the Son, the Heart of God that beats with love for us and calls us to change. In the school of the Blessed Mother, we are able to learn how to abandon ourselves in full trust to the truth and faithfulness of His word; since He is Truth, He cannot deceive and all His promises to man will come true.

“Among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than his Mother. The first of the ‘signs’ worked by Jesus – the changing of water into wine at the marriage in Cana – clearly presents Mary in the guise of a teacher, as she urges the servants to do what Jesus commands.”[130]

She directs us always to Christ and is the “spokeswoman”[131] of His will, always directing us to “do whatever He tells you.”[132] This is Our Lady’s “great commandment” to us. We must adhere to it and repeat her message to others – “do whatever He tells you.” 

The Message is Truth, Love and Beauty

To know the Message – Christ – we must be aware of three essential characteristics. The first characteristic of the Message is that it is the Truth – Jesus is the Incarnate Truth.[133] The message cannot be anything but the Truth. It cannot be watered down according to one’s own preferences, beliefs or opinions. It can only be that which the Church and her Magesterium – the Body of Christ Himself – teaches and proclaims. Anything else is not Christ. In fact, each person has the right to receive this Truth in its entirety.[134]

The second characteristic is that the message is Love – God is Love.[135] Therefore, anything that does not love the person, anything that does not respect his dignity, anything that does not help him reach his eternal home, cannot be the message. A mother only gives her children good food, good milk. She will never feed them with something that will bring harm. Our celestial Mother clearly demonstrates this, for she feeds us with the Living Bread from Heaven, the Bread of Life.[136]

Most importantly, the Splendor of the Church is precisely Love. Love is the Soul of the Church. Love is the origin and end of the Church. Love is the only true Splendor that we should proclaim – for all other ‘splendors’ are born from the Splendor of Love. In the home, family and school of the Church, we must proclaim, communicate, and witness to the splendor and greatness and power of Love. And to be formed in the School of Love we must enter into the Heart of the Church: the Heart of Mary. In her Heart, we are able to receive and be taught by the one who most perfectly knew Love.

Finally, the Message is beautiful. God is Beauty Incarnate. Our message should inspire in the heart a feeling of wonder and awe at its greatness and beauty. If the one transmitting the message does not see the Message as beautiful, but instead simply a burdensome duty or task, this attitude will be communicated to the receiver. “Teachers content with communicating mere facts, and who themselves never thrill at what they teach…are hardly going to stimulate their student.”[137] The human heart was created for the beautiful, and just as it naturally moves toward the good and the true, it naturally moves toward the beautiful. Beautiful things, according to St. Thomas’ well known definition, are those which, when seen, please. The human heart is not moved to something that repulses it. This is why St. Francis de Sales counseled many of those he directed to have a gentle, attractive and peaceful devotion, for devotion and piety should be attractive to others so that they will also desire it themselves. This is why our Mother Foundress says, “Let us transmit the truth in a way that touches the hearts of modern men. This is done by being true witnesses: faithfully loving what we believe and joyfully living what we love.”[138] This means that everything about the way we are and live somehow either transmits beauty or ugliness. The entirety of the message must be beautiful to be fully effective – this includes gestures, tone, expressions, orderliness, harmony, authenticity, visible presentation, and the truth of the message. A lack of beauty is any area takes away from the power and efficacy of the message.

This is why holiness transmits beauty in an unparalleled way. Holiness transmits and communicates goodness simply because it is beautiful. Sin, due to its absence of the good, true, and beautiful, is ugly. Creation communicates some of the beauty of its Creator – how much more then do the Saints, who carry in them to a supreme degree Beauty Himself, radiate and communicate this beauty simply by their presence? How much more does our Blessed Mother – who has no sin to take away her beauty and who has the fullness of God in her very being – radiate and communicate celestial and heavenly beauty? Added to Mary’s sinless-ness is her particularly feminine heart. Though all creation is beautiful, God bestowed His beauty upon the feminine heart is a more supreme manner.[139] The feminine heart has been given a particular grace of communicating beauty in a special way, a way that draws men toward it.

Furthermore, blindness to beauty is a result of sin, of choosing less beautiful things in an attempt to satisfy the human heart with what can only be satisfied by Beauty.[140] Therefore, true teachers work to root out sin in the hearts of their students so as to allow them to “see.”

Finally, one does not communicate the truth simply because one knows something. Only when one sees the beauty of it, and then begins to love it – only then does one truly know the thing; and only then does one truly communicate it (here we are able to see the inseparability of truth, love, and beauty). To love and know God comes only from the fire of the Holy Spirit, “by whom there is formed in his mind a delight in, and a love of, that supreme and unchangeable good which is God.”[141]  This is given only in prayer. This is why the Church has chosen as her greatest theologians and teachers “not only men and women of keen intelligence and learning,” but those “whose love and sanctity illumine their professional studies.”[142]

Wordless Witness

“Spread love everywhere you go…Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness.”[143]As has already been briefly mentioned, the way in which we communicate is as important at the words we actually say. In communicating and teaching, we must always be kind, respectful, sweet, polite, and courteous. Our words should always be precise, clear and un-repetitive. They should display maturity, formation and education – however, never in a way that is condescending, but instead, one that elevates the mind and the heart. All that we say should and do should edify: “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.”[144] We should always avoid judgmental, critical, dry, sharp, exaggerated, or harsh words and responses. It also must never be forgotten that to communicate is truly to share; it involves reciprocity; therefore, we also must be willing to be silent and listen. The tone, the expression, the gestures, and the eyes communicate and teach. If any part of the “message” lacks love, the message itself will be lacking. One may be able to lie with words, but the heart communicates itself in many unspoken ways. If one is not loving in the heart, one will not communicate love in its fullness. These unspoken “lackings” can often be the most harmful, even if the one receiving them is not able to tangibly express what seems to be lacking; however, there is a certain imperceptible understanding within people that tells them “something is missing.” This is why the holiness of many saints is often simply “felt” or “perceived” without any particular external manifestation on their parts. Love radiates from the inside, from the heart, and expresses itself in countless imperceptible exterior forms. 

Communicative Wisdom

Love is wise, and a mother knows how to teach and communicate according to the capacities and capabilities of her children. She always transmits the Truth according to the mode of the receiver. In other words, she is aware of the capacity of her child and gives him only what he is able and ready to take in. She understands the need for a patient balance between the desire for progress and a humble acceptance of human realities.  She knows when to urge and challenge her child to move forward and when to quietly wait for his own initiative. She is aware that speaking at an inopportune moment can cause harm and that inopportune silence can leave children in error who may have been instructed. She understands that Truth is often difficult to hear – it pierces the heart like a two-edged sword – and she knows that the communication of it requires maternal love, wisdom, prudence, and gentleness: “We must be very tactful about how we get hearts to expand their vision and to love and esteem virtuous living.”[145] Truly wise and prudential communication is always orderly, harmonious, and rightly timed.[146]

We see this wisdom in St. Paul who, though he wished to feed his “children” with solid food instead of milk, could not because they “were not ready.”[147] The Lord yearns and desires from the depth of His Heart to give us the greatest and richest of spiritual gifts. Without limit He wants to pour forth His love and the “riches of his grace.”[148] However, He cannot “throw his pearls to swine.”[149] This is not for the sake of the pearls, but the swine who will be held accountable for the wasted pearls. The “swine” must first be changed and elevated so that they can receive the pearls.

Therefore, those that communicate and teach must have a profound understanding of the human person – both his natural and supernatural capacities. This comes to one certainly through study, but more from personal experience and self-knowledge. When people have personally experienced and understood the effects of sin and grace in their own lives, they are able to see and recognize them in others. In other words, we must first allow ourselves to be converted and purified in order to convert and purify others; to show the way, one must know the way. 

Each man and woman is a unique and unrepeatable individual with his or her own mixture of dispositions, situations, maturity, and realities. “One and the same exhortation is not suited to all, because they are not all compassed by the same quality of character. Often, for instance, what is profitable to some, harms others…herbs which nourish some animals kill others…the discourse of a teacher should be adapted to the character of the hearers, so as to be suited to the individual in his respective needs.”[150] A harp sounds beautiful precisely because each string is played in a different manner and style – but never in a manner that will cause them to snap or break.[151] We know must know the level of each soul and lead them, from that spot, one step higher.[152]  Jesus demonstrated this in the Bread of Life discourse in which he first fed the people physically so as to draw them to desire Heavenly Food that eternally satisfies.[153] As a teacher of souls, one must be able to carefully see the middle of opposing extremes, assess the soul’s individual realities, and guide them along a unique, yet common, path. One must see both the present situation in all its reality and the potentialities of the human person – always giving each person as much as possible, but all the while respecting the important element of natural human progress.

Cultural Wisdom

This concept of giving according to the mode of the receiver not only concerns the person himself, but also the context in which the person lives. In other words, the message communicated “must touch life.”[154] It must be put forward in a way “that is as understandable and persuasive as possible”[155] so that one can receive it, understand it, and live it.

Therefore, it must adapt itself to the temporal and cultural situations of those being addressed. Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Each people should make the revealed message penetrate into their own culture, and express the salvific truth with their own language. This implies a very exacting work of ‘translation,’ as it requires finding adequate terms to propose anew the richness of the revealed Word, without betraying it.”[156] If we speak the truth in such a way that our hearers cannot understand how to apply it to their lives, the Seed of the Word falls on a hard path and never takes root.

Our Lady displays this delicacy in a magnificent way. Looking back through the Marian apparitions throughout the centuries, it can be seen that Our Lady always presents herself according the culture in which she appears. Each image is distinctive – the same person, but presented according to the culture of the time. One of the most distinctive examples of this is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Through this image, she “spoke” to both the native Indian culture and the Spanish colonists: she appeared as a “mestiza,” one who was a mix of both Indian and Spanish descent; as well, her hands were united in prayer, but they were of different shades, one darker and one lighter. The image is clearly Christian, but it also uses signs and images that spoke to the native Aztecs so that they could understand.[157] Here we see evidence of a “cultural prudence” that knows how to speak to all people, in all situations, and in a “language” they can understand.

However, Our Lady neither makes the opposing error of being “pulled down” by a given culture, adapting the message to the culture. This is the other opposing extreme that should be avoided. In general those who communicate truth must take on the culture of their place, but they are also called to be as leaven, purifying and elevating it. Paul VI summarizes this well:

Evangelization loses much of its force and effectiveness if it does not take into consideration the actual people to whom it is addressed, if it does not use their language, their signs and symbols, if it does not answer the questions they ask, and if it does not have an impact on their concrete life. But on the other hand, evangelization risks losing its power and disappearing altogether if one empties or adulterates its content under the pretext of translating it; if, in other words, one sacrifices this reality and destroys the unity without which there is no universality, out of a wish to adapt a universal reality to a local situation. Now, only a Church which preserves the awareness of her universality and shows that she is in fact universal is capable of having a message which can be heard by all, regardless of regional frontiers.[158]

As well, communication and the teaching of the truth must also utilize all means possible. Mother’s do not limit themselves in the ways and means they use to teach their children. Therefore, we must employ the “modern means which this civilization has produced,” first and foremost among these the technology, mass media, and means of social communication.[159]      

The Family: “Called upon to Communicate Christ’s Love”[160]

The family, in the communication of the ‘splendors’ of the Church, is the place in which the most primordial action of this sort takes place – through the parents’ free openness to grace and love, a new immortal ‘splendor’ (a person) comes into being. The unique and irreplaceable grace of new human life – the greatest ‘splendor’ of the Church, second only to Christ – is brought forth within the context of the family. In the same way, new supernatural and eternal life is communicated and brought forth within the context of the Church – the Family of Jesus.

This Family of the Church, “is to be a home where hearts are received, nurtured, formed, educated and helped to grow in grace, wisdom and stature before God and men.”[161] This is why it has been consistently taught that the primary place of education is within the family and that the first and greatest duty of parents is the education of their children.[162]  This is so true that “everything depends, generally speaking, on how the parents and the family carry out their first and fundamental duties, on the way and to the extent to which they teach this creature…to ‘be a man.’ The family cannot be replaced in this.”[163]

Furthermore, the Church is called both Mother and Teacher,[164] which indicates that the “teacher” aspect is deeply feminine. While the father certainly has a role in this and the “active presence of the father is highly beneficial,”[165] it is clear that traditionally, he often “leaves” in order to provide; therefore, the primary task of education falls to the mother.

John Paul II affirmed this truth about the family and the primary place of the Mother:

Cana in Galilee tells us about the family and evangelization. Jesus went there with his Mother…[S]he says to the waiters: ‘Do whatever he tells you’…What is indeed striking about this passage is the very fact that the Lord started his messianic activity from the family. Cana in Galilee tells us that the family is the first place of evangelization. It tells us that while both parents are responsible in all things for the family, it is the mother who is generally the first evangelizer. It was Mary who declared: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (Ibid. 2: 5). Experience shows that it is often Christian mothers who are the first to teach the truth about God, the first to join their children’s hands in prayer and to pray with them. Mothers teach their children to distinguish good from evil. They teach them the commandments of GodThe magnificent vocation and responsibility of parents, and in the first place of mothers, consists not only in bringing children into the world, but also in leading them to spiritual maturity. The family is the natural environment in which this task can be fulfilled. The educational role of the family is never easy, but it is always a sublime and noble human enterprise. In transmitting the Gospel spirit, Christian families have a perfect model in the Holy Family of Nazareth.[166]

The Church then, being a Family[167], is a Home and School of love and responsibility, “of deeper humanity.”[168]  The maternal and Marian duty of the Church is formation; for love always requires formation: love never simply just is, but it is always becoming.[169] Jesus Himself grew in wisdom and stature before God and men[170] – and He did this within the Family of Nazareth.

Since the Holy Family of Nazareth serves as model exemplar for each family on earth, “the Church is called to be a living icon of the life of the Holy Family, of the life of the House of Nazareth.”[171] God Incarnate was taught and formed by the maternal and feminine heart of Our Lady and the protective and custodial heart of St. Joseph. But primarily, the Child Jesus allowed Himself to be formed by His Blessed Mother, being taught in her School of Nazareth. “As He sat on her lap and later as He listened to her throughout the hidden life at Nazareth, this Son, who was ‘the only Son from the Father,’ ‘full of grace and truth,’ was formed by her in human knowledge of the Scriptures and of the history of God’s plan for His people, and in adoration of the Father.”[172] Furthermore, “The Son of God who became Son of the Virgin learned to pray in his human heart. He learns to pray from his mother, who kept all the great things the Almighty had done and treasured them in her heart.”[173]

Therefore, we too must enter into the school of Nazareth so we can, under the guidance of Mary, “begin to understand the life of Jesus,” for the School of Nazareth is the “School of the Gospel.”[174] We must enter into this school to encounter, contemplate, meditate upon, penetrate, and freely receive the hidden mysteries of God because “the Heart of Mary is the greatest school to learn about the mysteries of Christ.”[175] We too must enter into the womb of Our Lady so we can live in union and communion with the Heart of Jesus. When we have been formed by the maternal heart of Mary to live according to our dignity and vocation of love, we must then “go out” to perpetuate this mission and communication of love. Our mission, however, is to “go out” in order to bring others back “in” – into the Home and School of Nazareth. Communication begets communion.[176] We go out to draw back in. The Son “left” His home in Heaven and in Nazareth so that we could “come in.” We are called on earth into the Home of Nazareth, the Home of the Church, in which the Blessed Mother is the teacher and guide, so that we can form our hearts for the eternal Home of Heaven. Both the source and fulfillment of the communication and communion of Love is the family.[177]

“Mother of Our Unity”[178]

To further understand the importance of family, it becomes necessary to understand that at the root of the family is the concept of communion. The words communicate and communion come from the same root that is derived from the word for unity or oneness or sharing. To communicate means to “make something common.” As we have seen in Mary, she communicates the very Person of Christ – as do we when we place ourselves at His service, when we become, like her, a humble “handmaid.” In doing so, we become united in the very Gift we have communicated. As we have just shown, communication begets communion, and this communion is both the source of the communication (because only in communion with Christ and His Church are we able to receive), and it is also the most splendid fruit of the mission of communication.[179] To communicate the Lord means that not only do I give Him to another who lacks it, but that I also receive Him and we now participate together in Love. We share Love, and we also gain the gift of one another. In the act of communication we become more united with Christ and with one another. This means that Our Lady, who perfectly and totally communicates the fullness of grace, is united with each one of us in a way beyond what we can understand. As well, it also means that she, in and through her person, with the power of Christ, brings about the full union of the Church. Our teaching and communication, if it is real, will participate in this “uniting” and will bring about the union of the Body. Our relationships – with God and one another – should bring about communion, greater bonds of love and fraternity. If our teaching and communication are not doing so, we must question whether they are authentic.

Therefore, the presence of communion, the presence of family becomes the “sign par excellence[180] of the effectiveness of mission and evangelization. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”[181] The living out of family, of fraternity, is a sign of “greatest importance because it is the sign that points to the divine origin of the Christian message and has the power to open hearts to faith.”[182] More so, we can say that “fraternal communion is already an apostolate…The more intense [the] fraternal love, the greater the credibility of the message she proclaims.”[183]

In conclusion, the mission of teaching and communication is a mission of communion and unity, in answer to the prayer of Jesus – “that they all may be one.”[184] As model par excellence, Our Lady brings about communion and union: first, between God and humanity just as it happened for the first time in her immaculate womb; second, between one another, through her divine and universal motherhood. This union and communion were able to be realized and fulfilled in her because of a perfect openness of heart – she received and gave without reserve, without ever looking to herself. This is what each one of us is called to do as well. Through our perfect openness and availability to Love, we are called to communicate Love to all, thereby leading all men to their yearned-for and eternal destiny – marriage with God; perfect communion and union with God and, in Him, one another; eternal beatitude. Through the Heart of Our Lady, within which the Church is united, we will be led to the eternal communion that is found, sustained and accomplished in the Heart of Christ. Thus, the head of the serpent will be crushed and Love will triumph.



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[1] Genesis 3:15

[2] 1 John 4:8

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church (hereafter CCC), no. 221

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas en Veritatis, 5

[5] Mugride and Gannon, JPII: Development of a Theology of Communication. They write, “The communicative self-revelation of the Trinity involves self-donation and sending in order to communicate the salvific plan; the very pattern of communication to which the Church exhorts her members” (p. 53).

[6] Benedict XVI, Angelus Message, July 20, 2008

[7] Cf. Gen 1:26

[8] Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes (hereafter GS), 24

[9] Mother Adela Galindo, Love is the Essence and Vocation of the Human Heart

[10] John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatum (hereafter MD), 25

[11] Ibid., 27

[12] Ibid.

[13] Hans Urs von Balthasar writes, “In reality, she shows herself and defines herself as the archetypal Church, whose form we have to take as our pattern. We. That means every single Christian, and yet it may mean even more: our image of what the Church is” (Mary: the Church at its Source, p.123).

[14] John Paul II, MD, 27

[15] Ibid.

[16] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Explorations in Theology II: Spouse of the Word, p.36

[17] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mary: the Church at its Source, p.120

[18] Hans Urs von Balthasar writes, “The Church is primarily feminine because her primary, all-encompassing truth is her ontological gratitude, which both receives the gift and passes it on” (Mary: the Church at its Source, p.140).

[19] Cf. John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae (hereafter CT), 20

[20] Even the priestly functions – the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments – is considered a maternal role, for in these the Church gives what she has received. John Paul II writes, “The Church becomes a mother in preaching God’s word and administering the sacraments, particularly Baptism, in celebrating the Eucharist and forgiving sins” (General Audience, August 13, 1997).

[21] Mother Adela, Love is the Essence and Vocation of the Human Heart

[22] John Paul II, Dives en Misericordia, 74

[23] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mary: the Church at its Source, p.134-136

[24] Mother Adela Galindo, Retreat to Woman, December 14, 2008

[25] Cf. Isaiah 55:11

[26] Mother Adela Galindo, Retreat to Woman, December 14, 2008

[27] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater (hereafter RM), 3

[28] Cf. Pope Pius X, Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, 12

[29] St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Hom. III: in vig. nativity., n. 10; PL, 183, 100

[30] Cf. Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12

[31] Mother Adela Galindo, Mother’s Sayings, section on Apostolic Life.

[32] 1 John 1:5

[33] 1 John 3:18

[34] Mother Adela Galindo, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of Evangelization

[35] Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (hereafter LG), 1

[36] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Diocesan Pastoral Convention, May 26, 2009.

[37] John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 55

[38] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 5

[39] 1 Corinthians 9:16

[40] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 11

[41] 2 Corinthians 5:14

[42] Mother Adela Galindo, Quotes from

[43] Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, p. 139, 131

[44] Mother Adela Galindo, Letter on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, June 19, 2009

[45] Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas en Veritatis, 43

[46] Matthew 25:14-30

[47] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 11

[48] Fr. Cantalamessa, Mary: Mirror of the Church, p.82

[49] RM, 39, italics added

[50] This is why the Second Vatican Council, when speaking of the mediation of Mary, says, “The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure” (Lumen Gentium, 60).  God does not need the mediation of Our Lady or us; however, He desires it for our sake. The Constitution continues, “Just as…the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source” (no. 62).

[51] St. Ambrose, Ep. 63,33; PL 16, 1198. As quoted by John Paul II in his General Audience on September 17, 1997.

[52] LG, 61

[53] The Council states, “Hence the Church, in her apostolic work also, justly looks to her, who…brought forth Christ, who was born of the Virgin that through the Church He may be born and may increase in the hearts of the faithful also. The Virgin in her own life lived an example of that maternal love, by which it behooves that all should be animated who cooperate in the apostolic mission of the Church for the regeneration of men” (LG, 65).

[54] RM, 43

[55] Galatians 4:19

[56] RM, 43: “It can be said that from Mary the Church also learns her own motherhood.”

[57] National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pastoral Letter: Behold your Mother, no. 71

[58] Mother Adela Galindo, Letter 22

[59] John Paul II confirms this by saying , “Precisely there, precisely though ‘the sword which pierced her soul,’ through an incomparable ‘kenosis of faith,’ did not Mary perceive completely the full truth about her motherhood?” (Letter to All Consecrated Persons Belongs to Religious Communities and Secular Institutes on the Occasion of the Marian Year, May 22, 1988).

[60] Sr. Paula Jean Miller, F.S.E., “The Spousal Bond.” Essay as published in The Foundations of Religious Life by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, p. 61.

[61] John Paul II, Letter to All Consecrated Persons Belongs to Religious Communities and Secular Institutes on the Occasion of the Marian Year, May 22, 1988.

[62] Mother Adela Galindo, Letter to Two Sisters, January 29, 2009.

[63] Matthew 7:6

[64] Luke 2:19

[65] Mother Adela Galindo, Letter on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, June 19, 2009

[66] Cf. Mother Adela Galindo, Letter 49

[67] John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 91

[68] Adrienne von Speyr, Handmaid of the Lord, p.52-53 (as quoted in The Beauty of Mary). Italics added.

[69] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, July 1, 2009

[70] Mother Adela Galindo, Christmas Letter 2005

[71] Cf. Mother Adela Galindo, Words to on the Entrance of Three Sisters into the Novitiate, May 13, 2008.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Cf. RM, 2

[74] Mother Adela Galindo, Book of Sayings, Section on Love

[75] Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Message, June 14, 2009

[76] “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint” (Gaudium et Spes, 17).

[77] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation, 97.

[78] Luke 1:38

[79] Job 1:21

[80] Cf. 1 Peter 4:10

[81] CT 10

[82] Ibid., 9

[83] 2 Corinthians 2:17

[84] 2 Corinthians 5:20

[85] 1 Corinthians 4:1

[86] 1 Corinthians 9:17

[87] St. Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium Tractatus, 97, 1: PL 35, 1877

[88] John Paul II in Redemptoris Mater says, “And so, in the redemptive economy of grace, brought about through the action of the Holy Spirit, there is a unique correspondence between the moment of the Incarnation of the Word and the moment of the birth of the Church. The person who links these two moments is Mary: Mary at Nazareth and Mary in the Upper Room at Jerusalem. In both cases her discreet yet essential presence indicates the path of ‘birth from the Holy Spirit’” (no.24).

[89] Cf. Mother Adela, Words to on the Entrance of Three Sisters into the Novitiate, May 13, 2008

[90] Luke 1:46

[91] Cf. Romans 13:4

[92] She explains, “According to your needs God pours out the milk into His little bowl” (My Sister St. Therese, p.203).

[93] 1 Corinthians 12:7

[94] 1 Corinthians 4:7

[95] Matthew 10:8

[96] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mary: the Church at its Source, p.110

[97] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Diocesan Pastoral Convention (italics added)

[98] CT, 1

[99] Ibid.

[100] Christopher West, The Love that Satisfies, p.63

[101] John 2:11

[102] Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mary: The Church at its Source, p.122

[103] Ibid, p.122, 137

[104] Cf. Mother Adela Galindo, Virtues for SCTJM and How to Repair 

[105] Luke 6:45

[106] LG, 56

[107] “In what does man’s wretchedness actually consist? Above all in his insecurity…[that] his existence that offers satisfaction neither to himself nor to anyone else for whom it might have been necessary, irreplaceable, consequential. We can say, then, that the root of a man’s wretchedness is loneliness, is the absence of love – is the fact that my existence is not embraced by a love that makes it necessary” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, p.52).

[108] Sr. Genevieve of the Holy Face (Celine Martin), My Sister Saint Therese, p.5-6

[109] Hans Urs Von Balthasar writes, “[T]he radiant absoluteness of the teaching, which shines forth in what it says, promises and demands, becomes intelligible only in terms of the fact that his life points as a whole toward the Cross” (Love Alone is Credible, p. 84).

[110] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 120

[111] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 12

[112] Mother Adela Galindo, Letter 36

[113] 1 Corinthians 1:23

[114] Cf. St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, p. 99

[115] Mother Adela Galindo, Foundress SCTJM

[116] The Congregation for Catholic Education, Letter: The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, no. 8

[117] Cf. Mother Adela Galindo, Address given for the Renewal of Vows, June 18, 2009

[118] St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book IV, chap. 20

[119] Luke 2:52

[120] RM, 38

[121] Ibid., 44

[122] McBride, The Marian Theology of Von Balthasar and the Proposed Definition of Mary Co-redemptrix (As found in Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today, p.181)

[123] CT, 16

[124] 2 Corinthians 4:13

[125] Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi (hereafter EN), no. 5, 14

[126] Cf. Mother Adela Galindo, Book of Sayings, Section on Apostolic Life

[127] Mother Adela Galindo, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of Evangelization

[128] CT, 5

[129] Pope Paul VI, Mense Maio, 5

[130] John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 14 

[131] RM, 21

[132] John 2:5

[133] Cf. John 14:6

[134] “In order that the sacrificial offering of his or her faith should be perfect, the person who becomes a disciple of Christ has the right to receive ‘the word of faith’ not in mutilated, falsified or diminished form but whole and entire, in all its rigor and vigor… The method and language used must truly be means for communicating the whole and not just a part of ‘the words of eternal life’ and the ‘ways of life’” (John Paul II, CT 30, 31).

[135] Cf. 1 John 4:16

[136] Cf. John 6:32-35

[137] Fr. Thomas Dubay, The Evidential Power of Beauty, p. 74

[138] Mother Adela, Book of Sayings, English Section

[139] “In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women” (John Paul II, Letter to Women, no. 12).

[140] “One fails to see the form of Jesus because of the guilt of a ‘darkness’ which does not see, recognize or receive the Light…Guilt intentionally looks away from its mirror, for there is nothing gratifying or edifying to behold, but only something contemptible” (Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord, as quoted in The Evidential Power of Beauty, p.76.).

[141] St. Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, ch. 5

[142] Dubay, The Evidential Power of Beauty, p. 68

[143] Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

[144] Ephesians 4:29

[145] St. Jane de Chantel, Letters of Spiritual Direction, p.236. St. Jane is a beautiful example of a truly wise and prudent maternal heart. Some other examples of her gentle direction from this work are worth noting: “When you need to correct someone, it is better to put it off a little and make the correction in private and with kindness” (p. 236). “Bring about her healing by gradually showing her her weaknesses, without upsetting her…Give her plenty of time” (p. 237). “Win them over through kindness, patience and instruction…for love wins all…True charity requires us to forget the faults of others in order not to wish them ill, but not to forget them when this would mean jeopardizing the well-being of a community…” (p241). “Win her by gentleness, but without giving in to her whims” (p243).

[146] Consistent teaching of Mother Adela Galindo.

[147] 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

[148] Ephesians 1:7

[149] Matthew 7:6

[150] St. Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, p. 89

[151] Isaiah 42:3 –  “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench.”

[152] In Pastoral Care, St. Gregory demonstrates by truth by explaining that to help those who sow discord, one must first make them love earthly peace before they progress to love of heavenly peace, “passing, as it were, from a point nearby to the best position, they may rise to the peace which as yet is far from them.” Moreover, he counsels that the prideful are too be given praise in order to make the bitterness of correction go down more smoothly (p. 185); and again, “when fledglings attempt to fly upwards before their wings are fully developed, they fall down from where they tried to soar” (p. 180).

[153] John 6

[154] EN, 47

[155] Ibid, 3

[156] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, June 17, 2009

[157] Our Mother Foundress, Mother Adela Galindo, explains, “She had a sash at Her waste indicating that She was pregnant.  On Her womb, a flower with four leaves was depicted – the Aztec sign of divinity.  In this manner the image indicated that the Lady was with child and that Her child was God…Furthermore, the brooch on Her neck had a cross on it like those the Indian people had seen on the Spanish ships…The stars on Her mantel were the constellations of the sky that night.  These indicate that She is the star that shines in the darkness.  For the Indians, the stars, moon and sun were gods, and Our Lady came with the stars as a mantel, covered by the sun, and with the moon under Her feet.  They were at Her service, as She is the Queen of heaven and earth…It is thought that Our Lady used the Aztec words nahuatl de coatlaxopeuh, which is pronounced “quatlasupe” and thus sounds very much like the Spanish word GuadalupeCoa means serpent, tla is the article ‘the,’ and xopeuh means to crush. Therefore, Our Lady referred to Herself as the one who ‘crushes the serpent.’  Actually, the Tepeyac was the temple of the ‘divine mother, serpent’” (Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of Evangelization).

[158] EN, 63

[159] Ibid., 42, 45

[160] John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 49

[161] Mother, Letter on the occasion of the Naming of the Retreat Center in Peoria, September 8, 2009

[162] Guadium et Spes: “By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown… Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children… Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted” (no. 48, 50). Furthermore, Catechesi tradendae: “The family's catechetical activity has a special character, which is in a sense irreplaceable… Family catechesis therefore precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis” (no. 68).

[163] John Paul II, General Audience, January 3, 1979, no.3

[164] CT, 12

[165] GS, 52

[166] John Paul II, Homily, September 19, 1995, no.5-6

[167] This essential nature of the Church as a family extends to all levels of “Church.” Each parish, being a small representation of the universal Church is called to be a “fraternal and welcoming family home” (CT, 67).

[168] GS, 52

[169] Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, p. 139

[170] Luke 2:52

[171] Mother, Letter on the occasion of the Naming of the Retreat Center in Peoria, September 8, 2009

[172] CT, 73

[173] CCC 2599

[174] Pope Paul VI, Address, January 5th, 1964.

[175] Mother Adela Galindo, Living the Year of the Eucharist in the Heart of Mary.

[176] John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 32

[177] This is why one of the final steps of catechesis and evangelization is the entry of the believer into a community of believers.  First, the message must be received, witnessed to, proclaimed, and adhered to on an individual and personal  basis – in other words, each person must accept Christ as His own and make a personal decision to live according to love. However, this adherence “cannot remain abstract or un-incarnated,” but it must reveal itself “concretely by a visible entry into a community of believers” (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 24). As well, John Paul II writes in Catechesi tradendae, “the ecclesial community at all levels…has the responsibility of welcoming them into an environment where they can live as fully as possible what they have learned” (no. 24).

[178] Cf. John Paul II, Speech in Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 31, 1985.

[179] Cf. John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 32

[180] Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor: Fraternal Life in Community, 54.

[181] John 13:35

[182] Fraternal Life in Community, 54.

[183] Ibid., 54 and 55.

[184] John 17:11

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