Grounds for a Marian Eco-Spirituality

By James R. Koelsch, Doctoral Student

Following the example of Pope Francis, the Mariologists at the International Marian Research Institute (IMRI) have been contemplating how the Blessed Virgin Mary might be able to contribute to worldwide dialogue on the environment. Are there perhaps grounds for an authentically Marian ecological spirituality?

Interest in the answer to this question prompted 71 people to register for the fourth session of IMRI’s Marian Forum. When the forum convened on April 7 at the University of Dayton, 29 of the registrants sat in the audience. Because the event was broadcast over the Internet, the rest were able to participate online. Most registrants were from Ohio and 14 other states in the U.S., but some participated from abroad—Costa Rica, England, Italy, Trinidad, and Vietnam.

This global host of participants watched and listened as two speakers offered their remarks about the grounds for a Marian eco-spirituality. The first speaker was Dr. Deyanira Flores, a professor at Costa Rica’s National Seminary Our Lady of the Angels and a visiting professor at IMRI. Speaking from Costa Rica, Dr. Flores summarized what tradition has to say about Mary’s relationship with Creation.

This relationship is rooted in Mary’s sinlessness. Because Mary was without sin, tradition sees her, after Jesus, as both “the masterpiece of God’s Creation” and “the summit of Creation’s loving response to God.” Upon becoming the mother of the Creator and King of Creation, Mary also became Creation’s queen and mother. Because she is both masterpiece and summit, the way in which Mary reigns as queen and loves as a mother should serve as a perfect model for an authentically Christian ecology.

After Dr. Flores finished her remarks, the Forum’s participants then heard from Fr. Johann Roten, S.M., IMRI’s director of research and special projects. He argued that, to be Christian, an authentic Marian eco-spirituality must be rooted in both the Incarnation and the Redemption. It also has to rely on a symbolism that reflects Mary’s existence as a real historical and theological person.

Hence, Fr. Roten warned against adopting reductionist and relativistic symbols, such as simply painting Mary as a “Green Madonna.” He instead proposed using the mother-child image because it is a universal symbol of life given, received, cherished, and protected. He also suggested the three Marian titles of New Eve, Daughter of Zion, and Servant of the Lord because they are symbols of important dimensions of human life: a new life of obedience of faith, a pilgrimage in history, and a right relation between God and human beings.

Visit our website for the full video and watch these two speakers develop their points and respond to questions from the worldwide audience. Meanwhile, mark October 20, 2017 on your calendars. That’s the date for the next session, when the topic will be Mary in Asia and Africa.

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