Joint Pastoral Letter of the Philippine
Hierarchy on the Marian Year
The Archbishops, Bishops, and other prelates of the Philippines to all the venerable clergy, both secular and religious, and to all the faithful of our republic, health and spiritual renewal in Mary.
The proclamation of the Marian Year by Our Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, affords us a magnificent opportunity to address ourselves to you, our beloved children, and to exhort you to celebrate it worthily, and in this manner reap the abundant spiritual fruits which the Holy Father expects of such a happy occasion.
Basis and aims of the Marian Year
As you already know, this year of grace 1954 marks the first centenary of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin, which the Supreme Pontiff, Pius IX, of happy memory solemnly proclaimed on December 8, 1854.
And since the solemn definition greatly contributed then to revive the devotion of the faithful toward the Blessed Virgin, and Christian virtues flourished in the highest degree, the Supreme Pontiff, Pius XII, in proclaiming the Marian Year, wishes and expects that the same spiritual fruits obtain for the faithful with the celebration of its centenary. “This centenary celebration,” says the Pontiff in the Encyclical Fulgens Corona, should not only serve to revive Catholic Faith and earnest devotion to the Mother of God in the souls of all, but Christians should also, in as far as possible, conform their lives to the image of the same Virgin.” And we ardently desire that our people, so profoundly in love with Mary since the divine light of the Gospel dawned upon them, should partake in a special degree, of the graces, which such dearly beloved Mother will shower in this year consecrated to her.
Excellencies of Mary
With a view to enkindling and reviving in the souls of the faithful the devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin, it is fitting that you recognize and understand well her fundamental excellencies and privileges, for otherwise your piety would be superficial and would degenerate easily into pure sentimentality. God Himself girdled the most pure brow of Mary with a radiant crown of singular graces and privileges, because she was destined to be the worthy Mother of God, Mother of men, and Queen of the universe.
Mary, Mother of God
Giving her free consent so that in her virginal womb and, by the Holy Ghost, the Son of God might take human form, the humble maiden of Nazareth became the natural and true Mother of God. The Divine Maternity, which in the expression of the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas, entails an honor that is almost infinite, (I, q.25, a.6 ad 4) is, next to the hypostatic union, the most excellent gift which God can bestow upon a creature, and for this reason it elevates Mary and places her not only above men but even above the very angelic choirs. Thus is taught by the Supreme Pontiff, Pius IX, in his Encyclical Ineffabilis Deus : “The plenitude of grace and sanctity in Mary surpasses the grasp of all created intelligence in such a way that no one, outside of God, can so much as skim its loftiness and gradeur.”
Mary, Mother of men
Mary is the natural and true Mother of God, and for this reason she becomes the true, if spiritual, Mother of all men. And this is because in the plan of God the Father, Jesus Christ is not merely an individual man; He is and we are; that is to say, the Father wishes that Jesus Christ should be the Leader and Head of all men redeemed with His blood. Jesus Christ, therefore, is the Head, and we are His members. Now a mother is not merely the mother of the Head, but also of all the members. And therefore, by giving birth to Jesus, in a certain sense, she gave birth to us. Let us listen to the testimony of the great Pontiff, Pius X, whose cannonization we await this year: “Because we are united with Christ, as the Apostle says, ‘we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones’ (Ephes. V, 30); we have come out of the womb of Mary, in the same way that the body comes united with the head. “Spiritual mother, but truly the Mother of the members of Christ that we are.” (S. Augustinus, lib, De Virginitate, c. VI. Enc. Ad diem illium Feb. 1904).
We will set forth one more reason. A mother is a woman from whom and by whom one receives existence and life. But, next to God, it is Mary from whom and by whom we have received the life of Children of God. Without Mary, Jesus, our Redeemer, would not have been born, and we would have remained in death; and without Mary, we would not have obtained the sanctifying grace, wich gives us the nature and the life of children of God. “Giving birth to the Author of Grace”, says the Angelic Doctor, “she has transmitted it, in a certain manner, to all men.” (III, q. 27, a. 5 ad 1).
But it was on Calvary where definitely and in an official manner the Blessed Virgin became consecrated and constituted as our Mother, when Jeus told her: “Woman, behold thy Son.” (John XIX, 26). It was as if He had said, from this moment I give you a new son, which is all humanity, so that you may administer to it the offices of a real mother. This doctrine was taught by the immortal Leo XIII in his encyclical Quamquam Pluries, 1899: “From the very fact that the Most Holy Virgin is the Mother of Jesus Christ, she is the Mother of all Christians, whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption.”
Let us expound a little further on this sweet Christian truth. We must not lose sight of the fact that the economy of the redemption is an economy of regeneration. God has predestined us to be made heirs of His glory through our likeness to the image of Christ, sharing through grace His eternal and natural filiation. (Rom. VIII, 17, 29). Now, if Mary is our Mother, as is believed and professed by the living Christian perception, she has to be so by begetting us in some way to the supernatural life, communicating to us the sanctifying grace, which transmits to us the divine filiation and makes of us true children of God. This communication of the divine life comes from God as the first efficient cause; from Christ as the principal meritorious cause, and from Mary as associated with Christ. That is why our life is divine, for it proceeds from God; Christian, for it proceeds from Christ; and Marian, for it proceeds from Mary.
Everything which we have expounded on the maternity of Mary with respect to men is condensed in Catholic liturgy, — which is lex Orandi based on the Lex Credendi — in the following formula: Maria, Mater Gratiae , that is to say, Mary is the Mother of Supernatural life, of the grace that makes men the children of God. Therefore we are her children. From the foregoing it can well be seen that the motherhood of Mary toward men is not a metaphor, nor an expression devoid of theological contents, but a fundamental truth of our faith, contained and explained in the ordinary teachings of the Church.
The Queenship of Mary
The Blessed Virgin has still another title which Christians take delight in recognizing, and it is that of Queen of all men, of the angels, and of the entire universe. Let us expound on this beautiful title of our Mother.
It is customary in all nations and at all times to call queen the mother of a king. Well then, Mary is the true Mother of the Messiah-King, as attested to by Holy Scripture of the old and new testaments. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary: “Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end” Luke 1,31-33). Whence it can be inferred that Mary, being the Mother of the Messiah-King, is also Queen and not only in a metaphoric sense in so far as by her gifts and excellences she is elevated over all creatures, but rather in a proper sense and in the language of all nations, because she is the true and natural Mother of the Son of God, who is true King with regard to His two natures, divine and human.
The voice of tradition acclaims her since the first ages, saluting her as Ave, Regina Coelorum, Ave, domina Angelorum, Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae . And in consonance with tradition, Leo XIII writes: “It is thus that she will reach a height of glory granted to no other creature, whether human or angelic, because no one will receive a reward for virtues to be compared with hers; it is thus that the crown of the kingdoms of heaven and of earth will await her….” (Encyclical Magnae Dei Matris, Sept. 1892).
Reason for Expounding on these fundamental Truths
If we have expounded with some profundity and theological technicality on these fundamental truths of Christianity it is for a two-fold motive: firstly, because we desire that your piety be sane, solid and well-grounded, and not based on pure sentiments, so that when it should grow and expand, as we expect, on this Marian Year, it may not swerve to paths that lead to error; and secondly, because in our Pastoral Ministry we do not lose sight of those children who, blinded by error, do not know the sublime grandeur of the divine maternity and the privileges that are derived therefrom, and thus rebel, at times even with anger, against us for the special honor or hyperdulia which we render to Mary, as if that would lessen in the slightest the homage due to Christ, or tarnish in any manner His divine perfections.
Our Office toward Mary: Veneration
“It is good and useful to invoke the saints and to honor their images,” teaches the holy Council of Trent (Ses. XXV). And it is so because veneration, no one fails to know, is rendered to a person for his supernatural excellence. But, because of her dignity and singular perfections, Mary deserves to be venerated and honored more than any other saint or creature. She, in truth, is the natural and real Mother of God and Queen of the universe, as has been said, and by the plenitude of her graces (Luke I, 28) she was associated by Christ to the work of the redemption of mankind. No one, therefore, who thinks rightly and serenely would fail to admit that to the Most Blessed Virgin is owed a homage, and a special one, on account of these three supernatural excellences which pertain solely to her.
Jesus and Mary, the second Adam and the second Eve, for having been intimately united by God in the plan of man’s redemption, are also inseparably united in the liturgy, to such an extent that he who would strive to separate the veneration of Mary from that of Jesus as irreconcilable, will be striving against the plan which God himself conceived from Eternity and revealed in Paradise when he announced man’s reparation after the Fall. Mary, by the will of God, is bound to the vital mystery of Christianity; the Incarnation and the Redemption, and for this reason, occupies in Christian worship a special place, much superior to that of the saints and the angels, but at the same time infinitely inferior to the that of God. If this were understood rightly by the enemies of our faith, they would not find it strange nor would they censure us for the homage which we render to the Blessed Virgin, swayed by our deep filial love to her who bears the singular titles of Mother of God-Redeemer; Mother of all men, and Queen of heaven and earth.
Offices of Mary Toward us
If it is good, useful and just to honor her who is the Mother of Christ-Redeemer, our Mother and Queen of the universe, it is by virtue of these same titles that the Blessed Virgin is obliged in the most proper sense to concern herself with the sanctification and salvation of her children, all men. How sweet and consoling it is to think and ponder upon the reaches of this obligation of Mary!
We know well that the duties of motherhood do not end with the bringing forth of the child, but that they increase after the birth, for it is then when the mother is more watchful in the upbringing of her child, providing it with sane, sufficient and proper nourishment, and later imparts to it moral and intellectual education until the child reaches maturity.
In the same manner, the office of Mary, our Mother, cannot end with the spiritual birth she gives us through sanctifying grace. As with Jesus who, as Head of the human race, keeps pouring Life into His members, Mary as Mother has to care for and nourish this supernatural and divine life of her children while they be in need of her care, which lasts all through life in as much as that divine life, the seed of eternal life, is exposed to being lost at any moment, threatened to death by the three concupiscences. And could the Blessed Virgin look on with indifference at the loss of divine life in souls and their eternal damnation? By no means. Mary’s love for mankind, her maternal tenderness, has to be measured by the love she professes for God, by the immensity of the sorrows she suffered in our redemption, and by the number and depth of our own miseries.
And it is not the heart that is evident, that characterizes mothers? A mother without a heart, without love, does not deserve the name of mother, and the maternal heart is one of the most admirable works that God has created in the natural order. For what heart would He not have placed in the breast of Mary, who was destined to be His worthy Mother and the Mother of all men?
Intervention of Mary
The constant intervention of Mary in the world and her visible apparitions in almost all the Christian nations and in almost all periods should no longer surprise any one. They are only in keeping with her mission as Mother of men and Queen of the universe. God willed in His wisdom that the Redeemer should come to the world through Mary, and therefore, the spiritual renewal of men which we expect cannot come except through Mary.
The Voice of the Pope
The state of the present world is one of the most serious in history, and that is why the Roman Pontiff wishes that in these anguished moments we cast ourselves into the arms of our Immaculate Mother, confident of finding in her most loving and maternal Heart “the satisfaction of our fervent aspirations, and the safe harbor in the midst of the tempests which beset us on every side”.
Our Final Exhortation
Seconding the desires of our Holy Father, the Pope, we exhort all of you that in this Year consecrated to Mary, guided by such a good Mother, you adjust your lives to the precepts of the Christian law, striving for an innocence and integrity of life which would make you flee from and abhor the slightest stain of sin, even as we commemorate the mystery of Mary Immaculate. In the devout recitation of the Most Holy Rosary — compendium of Christian dogma and morals within the reach of all — Jesus and Mary will serve you as the model and incentive for the acquisition and practice of all the Christian virtues.
With a view to this same end, by these presents
We summon a National Congress which will take place in Manila from 1 to 5 of December of the current year.
Since prayers and the help of the Most High is necessary, we ordain that the beautiful prayer for the Marian Year composed by His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, be recited always during the Major Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
The priests of the secular and religious clergies who have charge of souls, will endeavor to enhance the devotion of the faithful toward the Mother of God by means of sermons, conferences, novenas, pilgrimages, and other means that their zeal might counsel them.
The lay faithful will attend assiduously and devoutly in the acts and practices of Marian piety which may be organized by their priest.
And to all we earnestly recommend, particularly to the Religious Communities, that they raise up prayers and sacrifices so that the Congress may produce in souls the spiritual fruits that we so desire.
A Committee, which we have already constituted, shall take charge of disposing whatsoever may be necessary for the preparations and celebrations of the National Congress.
Given this 9th day of April in the year of Our Lord 1954.
Archbishop of Cebu
Bishop of Bacolod
(Sgd.)+SANTIAGO C. SANCHO
Archbishop of Nueva Segovia
(Sgd.)+GERARD MONGEAU, OMI
Prelate Nullius of Cotabato
and Apostolic Administrator of Sulu
(Sgd.)+JAMES T.G. HAYES, SJ
Archbishop of Cagayan
(Sgd.)+PEDRO P. SANTOS
Archbishop of Nueva Caceres
(Sgd.)+PEREGRIN DE LA FUENTE, OP
Prelate Nullius of Batanes-Babuyan
(Sgd.)+JOSE MA. CUENCO
Archbishop of Jaro
(Sgd.)+RUFINO J. SANTOS
Archbishop of Manila
(Sgd.)+WILLIAM DUSCHAK, SVD
Apostolic Vicar of of Calapan
(Sgd.)+CESAR MA. GUERRERO
Bishop of San Fernando
(Sgd.)+LUIS DEL ROSARIO, SJ
Bishop of Zamboanga
Bishop of Palo
(Sgd.)+MANUEL M. MASCARINAS
Bishop of Tagbilaran
Bishop of Lipa
(Sgd.)+VICENTE P. REYES
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila
(Sgd.)+ANTONIO F. FRONDOSA
Bishop of Capiz
(Sgd.)+MIGUEL F. ACEBEDO
Bishop of Calbayog
(Sgd.)+FLAVIANO B. ARIOLA
Bishop of Legaspi
(Sgd.)+MARIANO A. MADRIAGA
Bishop of Lingayen
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO
Bishop of Sorsogon
(Sgd.)+ALFREDO MA. OBVIAR
Apostolic Administrator of Lucena
(Sgd.)+PATRICK SHANLEY, CDC
Prelate Nullius of Infanta
Auxiliary Bishop of Nueva Segovia
(Sgd.)+JUAN C. SISON
Apostolic Administrator of Tuguegarao
(Sgd.)CLOVIS THIBAULT, SSC
Apostolic Administrator of Davao
(Sgd.)+WILLIAM BRASSEUR, CICM
Vicar Apostolic of Mt. Province
(Sgd.)PATRICK CRONIN, SSC
Apostolic Administrator of Ozamiz
(Sgd.)GREGORIO ESPIGA, OASA
Apostolic Prefect of Palawan
(Sgd.)VERY REV. CHARLES VAN DEN OUWELANT, MSC
Apostolic Administrator of Surigao
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Joint Pastoral Letter of the Philippine Hierarchy on the Marian Year