A very dear priest friend and I were discussing the place given to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Holy Father’s recent Apostolic Journey to the United States. I decided to review the Holy Father’s discourses to discover when and where he spoke of Our Blessed Lady, as well as what he said on those occasions. Here is what I found, together with my own comments in italics.
1. Video-Message to Catholics and People of the United States of America on the Occasion of the Upcoming Apostolic Journey, April 8, 2000
“I reach out to every one of you with affection, and I invoke upon you the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Que la Virgen María les acompañe y proteja. Que Dios les bendiga.”
2. Celebration of Vespers and Meeting with the Bishops of the United States of America, Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
“We began by celebrating Evening Prayer in this Basilica dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a shrine of special significance to American Catholics, right in the heart of your capital city. Gathered in prayer with Mary, Mother of Jesus, we lovingly commend to our heavenly Father the people of God in every part of the United States.”
The phrase “with Mary, the Mother of Jesus” is taken from Acts 1:14. The circumstances of such an allusion — the successors of the Apostles united in prayer in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception — could not have been more fitting.
“Contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15).”
While treating of the prayer of bishops and priests the Holy Father alluded to the Rosary. Together with Eucharistic Adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary is integral to the daily prayer discipline of the clergy.
“As I conclude my words to you this evening, I commend the Church in your country most particularly to the maternal care and intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. May she who carried within her womb the hope of all the nations intercede for the people of this country, so that all may be made new in Jesus Christ her Son.”
This is as close as the Holy Father came to making an explicit “affidamento” or act of consecration of the Church in the United States to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The second line seems to evoke the Virgin of Guadalupe, heavenly patroness of the Church’s works in favour of life.
“Dear Brother Bishops, with these few observations, I once more encourage all of you in your ministry to the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, and I commend you to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church.”
Again, the Holy Father commends the Bishops to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, calling her “Mother of the Church. The above texts seem rather meagre in terms of their explicit Marian content. I regret that there was no mention of Our Lady in the Holy Father’s homily to priests and religious in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and in his address to young people at Dunwoodie. I had hoped that the visit to Ground Zero might be marked by a recognition of the compassion of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows. I want, nonetheless, to deepen the words concerning Our Lady that Our Holy Father did speak, by receiving them obediently, that is, with a quality of listening that changes life.