The Role of the Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary, Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his 1995 Letter to Women, is “the highest expression of the ‘feminine genius’… and a source of constant inspiration.” He also preached often that women are “vital” and “essential” for the Church and the world.
In Mary, we discover how to form ourselves to recognize, cultivate and educate our own unique feminine genius. A gift every single woman has to share in her own way! The variety of titles found in the Litany of Loreto demonstrates both the unity of our feminine vocations, but also the diverse aspects of this genius.
There are many aspects to the feminine genius—St. Edith Stein, philosopher, Jewish convert, Carmelite nun, martyr and saint, described it as the capacity for women to be “healers and crafters of souls.” In his encyclical on the Dignity and Vocation of Women, John Paul II wrote that “women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person, and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more.”
Therefore, this innate capacity for biological motherhood is an even greater sign of the reality to which all women are called, which is spiritual motherhood. The capacity to generate newness and life in another person by witnessing to them the true, the good, and the beautiful. Women accomplish this for the world in a special way. For this reason, Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote:
To a great extent, the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her.
We look to imitate Mary in our noble callings as women. She can help us not only by taking inspiration from her perfect life but by her perfect intercession as we ask her for help.
But Mary isn’t just a model for women but to all disciples of Jesus Christ. Mary is considered an “icon” of the entire Church because in her we understand what it means to be a Christian.
Theologian Hans Urs Von Balthazar taught that of all the images of the Church—the “Petrine” (after St. Peter, representing the hierarchy, clergy and institutional), the “Pauline” (after St. Paul, representing the evangelical and missionary), the “Johannine” (after St. John, representing the prayerful or contemplative) it is the “Marian” which is the ultimate “image” of the Church because no creature was more receptive and open to God’s will as Mary is and was. “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) All true discipleship is found in making our own personal “yes” or surrendering to the will of God and to working very hard to conform all our thoughts, words, and deeds to His glory for our own perfection and joy!
Mary is a model for all Christians.
This year is a special year in the life of the Church. Not only is it the first year of St. Joseph, but it is also the extended jubilee of Our Lady of Loreto. This double celebration really emphasizes that in a healthy Church and therefore a healthy world, we need the complementarity of both the feminine and masculine geniuses, enjoying and helping each other.
Please click here to generate a Marian Title from The Litany of Loreto to be your special patron during this extended jubilee year!
Please check out The Endow Podcast on 5/25 to hear Simone interview Fr. John Henry Hanson on the high calling of the feminine genius and the spiritual reasons why the ordained priesthood is limited to men.
This article was originally published for the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg.