CNS PHOTO GREG TARCZYNSK
Devotion to Mary "collapsed" in many regions after the Second Vatican Council even though the council fathers had upheld her critical place within the Catholic faith, said an expert in Marian studies.
The council's decision to integrate a draft text on Mary into a larger dogmatic text – Lumen Gentium – rather than publish it as a separate document - sent an unintended message to the rest of the Church, said Holy Cross Father James Phalan.
Bishops felt Mariology, like the Church as a whole, needed to be renewed in light of tradition, liturgy and the Bible, said Phalan, president of the Mariological Society of America.
However, later an "overly rationalist" historical approach reduced the role of the Holy Spirit and marginalized most forms of devotion, Phalan said in a presentation at an academic conference in Rome.
Worsening the problem, he said, was the timing: post-Vatican II coincided with the upheaval of the 1970's when religious traditions and beliefs were being intensely questioned or completely dismissed by society.
Marian devotion "was caught up in this confusion" and there was a drop-off in practice and study, he said.
"The apparent change in emphasis on the Blessed Virgin contributed to a full-scale collapse of Mariology that has had very notable effects on the life of the Church," he said in his talk on Mary and the Second Vatican Council.
Mary models mature Christian faith, pope tells Marian scholars
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
CASTEL GANDOLFO, ITALY – Mary, the Mother of God, represents a “full and mature” Christian faith, one that all believers should imitate, Pope Benedict told a conference of Marian experts.People can look to Mary as an example of living according to God’s will with confidence and joy, he said Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of Mary.
The pope said he put the upcoming Year of Faith under Mary’s protection because she is “an exemplary model of the faith” and is “blessed because she believed.”He voiced hope that the year, which begins Oct. 11, would be “a true moment of grace in which Mary’s faith precedes us and accompanies us as a bright beacon and as a model of fullness and Christian maturity.”trust in mary
The pope asked that people continue to trust in Mary as they draw from her “enthusiasm and joy to live our vocation as children of God with ever greater commitment and consistency.”The pope made his remarks to about 350 participants in the Sept. 4-9 Mariological Marian International Congress, sponsored by the Pontifical Marian International Academy.
In his address to congress participants, the pope talked about his own presence at the council as a young theologian, and recalled the debate there over whether to dedicate a separate document to Mary — so as to “adequately highlight the dignity, privilege and unique role of Mary” in Christ’s redemptive action — or to integrate the text in a larger document on the Church.
In a close vote, the pope recalled, the council fathers decided to place the text on Mary within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), giving her a fresh reading in light of Scripture.
That would present Mary “in all her beauty and uniqueness” while still being “closely inserted in the fundamental mysteries of the Christian faith,” he said.The document “clearly affirms and gives the right emphasis” to Mary’s role in cooperating with God’s plan of salvation, which comes through Christ alone.
Phalan, who is also director of Family Rosary International, was one of the scholars, experts and theologians speaking at the 23rd Mariological Marian International Congress held in Rome Sept. 4-9.
In light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the talks focused on Mariology since the Second Vatican Council. More than 300 people from 37 countries attended the meeting.
The council fathers had drawn up what Phalan called "the most complete and conclusive doctrinal statement about the Blessed Virgin Mary ever written" and made it the final chapter of the 1964 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium).
Its placement within a document about the Church as the body of Christ underlines the council fathers' vision of Mary "in relation to Christ and the Church," not as someone separate or independent of Christ and the Church.
"The council fathers wanted us to see Mary as identified with the Church," a notion Pope Benedict has often repeated, saying that Mary, as a personification of the Church, should be appreciated and imitated in her contemplative and personal relationship with Christ, Phalan said.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, president of the congress and prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, said Vatican II was a "momentous watershed moment for Marian discourse."
The council steered the theology of Mary away from "every undeserved doctrinal and devotional exaggeration," which would put Mary on equal ground with the Lord.
"Rather, it upheld her unique, yet human role in God's plan of salvation; she is "the living vessel who, in receiving, transmits the salvation of Christ," he said.
The Church teaches that salvation only comes from God in Jesus Christ, he said, but the human being must still be open and receptive to that grace.
Any sense of Mary being "co-redeemer" must be understood as cooperating "with," not being "equal to" Jesus, because God the Father generates salvation and Mary, the mother, is the recipient of that gift.
"This is the theological reason to affirm the reality of Mary and the 'Marian principle' in the Church," the Italian cardinal said.
While popular piety may have suffered in some parts of the West, Amato said Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict did much to enrich and invigorate Marian reflection and tradition.
Pope Benedict has promoted attachment to Mary as a way for the faithful to draw closer to Christ.
While Catholics must not exaggerate or over-sentimentalize her role, he told pilgrims at the Mariazell shrine in Austria in 2007, Mary "is a creature of courage and of obedience . . . an example to which every Christian - man and woman - can and should look.
In light of the upcoming Year of Faith and the call for new evangelization, Mary can again play a critical role, Phalan said.
"She was the first evangelist," showing Jesus to the world, starting with the shepherds and wise men. She is also a model for all Christians in understanding what faith is and how to accept and participate in salvation, Phalan said.
Given the troubled world of today, he said, "the love and mercy of God that flow through Mary" must be "even more present as part of evangelization today."
(A CNS video interview with Father Phalan can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6txRzhvvPg.)