Pope John Paul II on Consecrated Life and 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.

Mary and Members of the Consecrated Life

– Johannes Nebel, F.S.O.1

John Paul II valued highly the consecrated life in the church which he expressed in a number of magisterial documents and audiences as well as by instituting the World Day for the Consecrated Life. This paper highlights the Marian imprint the Pope left to the members of the consecrated life. The author examines this question in two steps. First he analyses three magisterial documents and then he compares them with Redemptoris Mater. The three papal writings are:

1. Letter to all Consecrated Persons belonging to religious Communities and Secular Institutes on the Occasion of the Marian Year of May 22, 1988 (Letter)

2. Apostolic Exhortation Redemptionis Donum – to Men and Women Religious on their Consecration in the Light of the Mystery of the Redemption. March 25, 1984 (RD).

3. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata – on the Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and World. March 25, 1996 (VC).

The Letter to all Consecrated Persons of 1988 taking up the Marian teaching of Lumen gentium begins with the following core statement: “Since the Mother of God is constantly present in the life of the Church by reason of the part that she has in the mystery of Christ, your vocation and service are like a reflection of her presence.” Based on this truth, the Pope discussed the vocation, consecration and apostolate of members of the consecrated life in the light of Mary. Next he examined the three foundational dimensions of the consecrated life in terms of their Marian ramifications: the contemplative and active life as well as the life of members of the Secular Institutes.

RD presents consecrated life in the context of Easter. With the exception to her fiat and obedience RD makes very little reference to Mary. The exhortation closes with the invitation "to renew your religious consecration according to the model of the consecration of the very Mother of God." (RD 17)

VC highlights Mary’s person and mission in various places which can be summarized in three points: 1. the significance of Mary’s presence in the life of consecrated persons (VC 17; 95); 2. the steriologically motivated relationship of all consecrated persons according to the example of St. John (VC 28); 3. Mary as role model for all people of the consecrated life. (VC 34; 97)

The main Mariological pronouncement of John Paul II's RM does not directly address the members of the consecrated life. However, certain connections can be established. RM speaks of Mary’s pilgrimage of faith which means for members of the consecrated life a particular way of following Christ. While the documents of the consecrated life speak of a vocation, RM highlights Mary’s election. Mary’s fiat in RM is seen as an answer grounded in faith while the other three documents just speak of Mary’s "yes" to the question of the angel (RM 13). RM interprets Mary’s Immaculate Conception in view of Ephesians 1:3f which indicates Mary’s consecration to God from the very beginning (RM 10f). In the letters to the consecrated persons John Paul II describes Mary’s role at Pentecost in view of her bridal and motherly character, whereas in RM Mary is portrayed as pioneer witness for the Mystery of Christ (RM 27f).

Nebel presents the following parallels of Marian statements in RM to John Paul II’s pronouncements to the consecrated life:

- Mary’s presence in the Church should be mirrored by members of the consecrated life (cf. RM 19, 24, 28, 48. Four references in Letter).

- The reference in RM to Colosians 3:3 also appears in RD 15 and the Letter.

- Mary’s poverty is mentioned in RM 11 in contrast to her fullness of grace, yet this connection is not made in the pronouncements to the consecrated life.

- References to Mary’s obedience in RM (11, 13, 14, 22) expressed in her heroism beneath the cross are repeated in the Letter and in MD 19.

- The notion of Mary as Bride of the Church developed in RM 39 and 43 which becomes effective in spiritual maternity is also highlighted in VC 43 and MD 17, 20 and 21.

- Mary’s spiritual maternity described in RM 24 and 44f is also emphasized in VC 28 and 97.

Mary’s freedom portrayed in RM 37 is seen in the context of her Magnificat and not her fiat to which RD 13 connects freedom.


[1] Mariologische Studien. Volume XVIII: Totus Tuus – Maria in Leben und Lehre Johannes Pauls II. Edited by Anton Ziegenaus. Regensburg 2004,

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