Pope John Paul II and Consecration to Mary

Abstract from the original German talks given at the German Mariological Consortium on Influece of Mary on Pope John Paul II, provided by Sister M. Danielle Peters.

The Systematic Aspect of Marian Consecration in Life and Teaching of John Paul II

– Leo Cardinal Scheffczyk

The theme of Marian Consecration in the ministry of John Paul II has been addressed foremost by Italian, Spanish and Polish theologians. One of the most comprehensive studies was undertaken by A. B. Calkins.

Scheffczyk’s reflection is divided into three parts. The first places John Paul II’s acts of entrustment in context to the Marian pronouncements of the recent popes. The second discusses the rank of Marian consecration in the pontificate of John Paul II, and the third interprets the meaning and theological significance of the act of consecration.

(1) When speaking of the Blessed Virgin Mary, John Paul II repeatedly cites his predecessors Pius XII and Paul VI as well as Lumen Gentium chapter 8 (52-69). Moreover, John Paul II continued in the tradition flowing from the solemn proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 as for example the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Devotion to the Heart of Mary focused on the loving surrender and the intimacy of personal devotion to each Christian of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pius XII, whose Episcopal consecration coincided with the apparition at Fatima in 1944, instituted the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He expressed his fondness of the Marian Congregations in the apostolic constitution, Bis Saeculari (1949), and of the True Devotion by Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, whom he canonized in 1947. The most significant act regarding Marian devotion of Pius XII was the world’s consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 31, 1942. In his encyclical letter, Haurietis Aquas, of 1948 the Pope accentuated a strong connection of consecration to the Heart of Jesus and that of Mary. The encyclical, Ad caeli reginam, published during the Marian Year 1954 established the relationship between Mary’s Immaculate Heart and her queenship. Paul VI did not continue the ascending line of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but he indirectly confirmed it when on November 21, 1964 he sent the papal Golden Rose to Fatima. At this occasion Paul VI called to mind that the church and in particular the Council continued to enjoy a special bond with her through the Marian consecration. This short summary of recent development in Marian devotion shows that it is not only based on John Paul II’s personal piety or Polish heritage. It can be said that from Pius XII to John Paul II Marian devotion belonged to the “integral logic of the faith.” (Wojtyla, Karol. Sign of Contradiction. New York 1979, 202)

(2) After this introduction Scheffczyk continues with an examination of the position of Marian Consecration during the pontificate of John Paul II. He places it between the two dates of John Paul II’s first words after his election on October 16, 1978 and his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae of October 16, 2003. John Paul II’s opening message in which he expressed his obedience and total confidence in the most holy Madonna where confirmed by the choice of his papal coat of arms and motto totus tuus. His Marian encyclical letter, Redemptoris Mater (1987), and the apostolic letter on the dignity of women, Mulieris Dignitatis (1988), are the fruit of his intimate relationship to the Mother of God. Already in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis (1979), John Paul II referred to Our Lady and of the church’s trust in her (RM 22). He clearly paints her role in a christo-typical and soteriological dimension.

While Redemptor Hominis does not yet address Marian consecration albeit the church’s being “with Mary the Mother of Jesus,” Redemptoris Mater speaks of the “filial relationship, this self-entrusting of a child to its mother.” (RM 46) This relationship is based on Mary’s mediation. (RM 22. 38) In article 39 the pope refers to Mary’s perfect surrender to Christ which is called consecration. Consecration to Mary therefore is an imitation of Mary’s consecration to Christ. John Paul II supports his train of thought with a reference to Grignion de Montfort “who proposes consecration to Christ through the hands of Mary, as an effective means for Christians to live faithfully their baptismal commitments."(RH 48) The same thought is reflected in Redemptoris Missio 92. Otherwise the pope’s encyclicals, although they always include a reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary, do not address Marian consecration. John Paul II unfolded his program of Marian consecration in his pastoral and general discourses. Scheffczyk mentions the Pope’s homilies during his pastoral voyage in Germany in 1983 and 1987 and highlights especially the act of consecration in Fatima on May 13, 1982. At that occasion the Pope used as a consecration prayer the ancient Sub Tuum Praesiduum and followed thereby the tradition of Pius XII who did the same in 1942 and 1952. The consecration act during the Year of Redemption 1984 on the Feast of the Annunciation had a strong ecclesial dimension. John Paul II had previously, on December 8, 1983, invited the world’s episcopate to unite their diocese with his entrustment of the Church to Our Lady. In his last apostolic letter, Rosarium Mariae Virginis, the Pope cited a statement he had made in 1990 in which Scheffzcyk sees a summary of the Pope’s Marian thought: “Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more it will be consecrated to Jesus Christ. Never as in the Rosary do the life of Jesus and that of Mary appear so deeply joined. Mary lives only in Christ and for Christ!”

(3) Scheffzcyk’s third and last reflection is devoted to the meaning and theological significance of consecration. As can be seen from the above cited quotation from John Paul II’s Letter on the Rosary, Marian consecration for him is in the spirit of de Montfort a consecration to Christ “through the hands of Mary.” In this context Scheffzcyk calls to mind the theological dispute whether or not an act of consecration can be made to a creature. The pope avoids any trespassing of theological terminology by preferring affidare to consacrare and also by using the word constellation affidare – consacrare. (cf. Calkins 143-152) John Paul II’s notion of Mary’s spiritual maternity includes a “Marian dimension in the life of Christ’s disciples.”(RM 45) In comparison to the consecration to Christ at baptism, Marian consecration is a freely willed expression of a special spirituality which however is indispensable to the Church.

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