THE MARIAN YEAR 1985:
A PILGRIMAGE OF HOPE WITH OUR BLESSED MOTHER
Pastoral Exhortation on the Marian Year, 1985
To all the faithful People of God in the Philippines, and in a special way to our Priests, their associates in diocesan and parish ministry, to Religious Men and Women, and to members of all Marian organizations, on the Marian Year in the Philippines, 8 December 1984 to 8 December 1985.1
Responding to the call of our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, that we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Lord, in a special way during the year 1985, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has declared this year a nationwide Marian Year for Catholics in our country.2 In the year 2000 all Christians will mark the second millenium of the birth of the Saviour. The present year we fittingly set aside to honor the second millenium of Our Blessed Mother’s birth. We do not of course know the exact year Mary of Nazareth was born, but 1985 provides a convenient peg for the commemoration of that gracious event in the history of mankind’s salvation.
With this letter, which is more of a pastoral exhortation than a doctrinal statement, we wish to encourage all our Catholic faithful to make this Marian Year a time of authentic renewal in our Christian faith and commitment, life and action. We also wish to invite our other Christian brothers and sisters to honor Mary in ways which are in keeping with their own understanding of her role in the history of salvation. And our fellow-Filipinos of other faiths, especially our Moslem brothers and sisters, in whose sacred writings and traditions Our Lady has a special place, we invite too, to pray with us this year for true reconciliation and peace.
As our Pastoral Letter of 2 February 1975, Ang Mahal na Birhen: Mary in Philippine Life Today,3 a text firmly rooted in the Marian doctrine of the Second Vatican Council and in Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus,4 retains its validity and relevance to this day, we will not enter in any length or detail into the doctrinal and theological bases of Marian devotion, nor repeat the useful and still very timely pastoral reflections to be found in its pages. We recommend Ang Mahal na Birhen be read or re-read by all who can do so, and we urge this especially on our priests and their associates in ministry, teachers and catechists, and all who devote themselves to instructing others in Catholic faith and practice.
Here we simply wish to urge our Catholic people to observe the new Marian Year with an earnestness and devotion called for by the seriousness of the present crisis which our nation is undergoing.
II. 1985: Marian Year in the Philippines
Perhaps not since the period of the Second World War have our people faced a year of such bleak prospects as they faced with the ending of 1984. For those socially and economically disadvantaged–that is, the majority of our people–1985 seems to promise perhaps even more privation, more widespread unemployment, increased inflation, greater hardships, with no end of the tunnel in sight. For so many who are suffering from difficulties and uncertainties, burdened by injustice and crushed by violations of human rights, the foreseeable future seems to bring little prospect of relief. In sum, the present year is hardly a year for facile optimism or bright hope.
It is in this context of hardship and uncertainty, of conflict and near-loss of hope that, we believe providentially, the Marian Year opens for us. Our Filipino people has always turned to our Blessed Mother in times of difficulty, of crisis, even of seeming hopelessness. Always we have asked her, groaning and weeping in this valley of tears, to turn her eyes of mercy upon us. And always she has been, as the countless shrines and altars dedicated to her throughout our land attest, for us our life, our sweetness and our hope. And so we turn to her again with a trust which we know will not be confounded.
Our present Holy Father has not infrequently used, in our Blessed Mother’s regard, the title given to her by the great Marian doctors of the Church, omnipotentia supplex . Mary’s intercession is “all powerful”.5 Pope John Paul II, echoing his predecessor Pope Pius XII and other Roman Pontiffs, has said that “Mary is always at the center of our prayer. She is the first among those who ask. She is omnipotentia supplex, the omnipotence of intercession.”6 Daring to make this expression our own, since it corresponds to a deep instinct of our devotion, we ask her to lead us in our prayer and petition to the Lord, toward conversion, toward renewal in private and public life, towards justice and reconciliation, brotherhood and peace in our troubled land.
III. Objectives of the Marian Year: Conversion, Life-Offering, Reparation (C-O-R)
Of course we know that “just praying,” no matter how indispensable and urgent it is, is not all that the Lord expects of us. Our age, more strongly than other ages, rejects disincarnate spirituality as alienation and aberration. “Sa Dios ang awa, sa tao ang gawa ,” is patient of a truly Christian interpretation of the necessary complementary of prayer and action in our lives. We must pray, we must never cease praying, but we must also never forget that “here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”
Thus the theme endorsed for us for the Marian Year is summed up in the acronym C-O-R: conversion, life-offering, reparation .7 The three imperatives, rightly understood, make up an appropriate program for our “journey with the Blessed Mother.” These three demands are not only present in the message of Our Lady of Fatima; they also constitute a fitting response which our national situation at this moment of history calls forth from us as Filipino Christians.
C-O-R: conversion, life-offering and reparation, both personal and societal, in conviction and responsibility, within our Christian community and beyond its boundaries (ad intra and ad extra)–this is the program we urge for the Marian Year in our country, this year of the Lord 1985.
The recent Apostolic Exhortation of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, on Reconciliation and Penance (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, R/P), links together the three themes on our agenda.8
The Holy Father, speaking of conversion (metanoia ) as a component dimension of penance, says, “Penance is a conversion that passes from heart to deeds, and then to the Christian’s whole life.” These are thus the elements included in the spirit and practice of authentic penance: (Cf. R/P, #4, 26)
• The inmost change of heart, under the power of the word, in the perspective of the Kingdom;
• changing one’s life in harmony with the change of heart, so that doing penance is completed by bringing forth fruits worthy of penance, a continual striving for what is better;
• translating conversion and penance into deeds and acts of penitence, that is, the concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s grace, to lose his life for Christ, as the only means of gaining it. “In each of these senses,” Reconciliatio et Paenitentia goes on to add, “penance is closely connected with reconciliation, for reconciliation with God, with oneself and with others, implies overcoming that radical break which is sin. And that is achieved through the interior transformation which bears fruit in a person’s life through acts of penance.” (R/P, #4)
Conversion. We can link up these thoughts from R/P with our threefold theme for the Marian Year renewal. In each one’s life and in the life of every community, we are urged to beg from the Lord, and with his help work for, the inmost change of heart which is conversion , a turning away from sin and the idolatries sin sets up in our lives. We examine our conscience by the light the Holy Spirit gives us, to discover our personal sins and see our own sinfulness, our “exclusion of God rupture with God, disobedience to God,” which is sin in its fundamental and most proper sense. (R/P, #14-16)
Our examination of conscience needs also to train its light on what contemporary theological writings call “social sin “: sin in as much as it harms our brothers and sisters, or attacks their rights and legitimate freedoms, injures their honor and dignity as children of God; sin in as much as it militates against justice in interpersonal relationships, or in relationships between human groups; sin in as much as, by accumulation or concentration, it creates situations of evil in society, builds up collective attitudes and behavior which project egoism and injustice into social structures and institutions. ( We might think of what corruption does to our climate of social morality, or the sexual exploitation of women and children, or the escalating violence in our midst.) We must thus examine “social sin” in our society and our own participation in it, always keeping in mind that social situations will be changed in vain, if there is no accompanying inner conversion, by God’s grace, of those who foster these evils, as well as of those who today struggle against them. (R/P, #16, 22)9
Offering. Next, conversion must be translated into deeds worthy of penance. Repentance must turn us toward a life offered to God in Christ . Such a life, if it can be offered, must be patterned after the principles, demands and values of the Gospel. It must be a life which seeks to incarnate the Gospel Beatitudes–a life for God in Christ, a life increasingly spent in the service of others, especially those in greater need. We cannot bring as offerings to the altar lives of self-seeking and indifference to the needs and sufferings of others.
Reparation. This daily dedication of one’s life to Christ, this consecration of our deeds by him, this “daily dying to self that others may live,” is effectively the effort of true reparation. Reparation means to repair, to mend, to heal: to undo the wrong done; to reform what was deformed; to bring justice where there was or is injustice; to renew broken relationships; to overcome conflicts and divisions, and thus to bring about reconciliation and peace. (Cf. R/P, #4, 26) Reconciliation and reparation are closely bound together; the spirit of reparation is a key to authentic reconciliation, for deeds of amendment and atonement must follow an inner contrition and repentance.
IV. …With the Blessed Mother
If C-O-R sums up the objectives of the Marian Year, yet the understanding and interiorization, the realization and practice of the program it lays down for us must be linked with the Blessed Mother in an explicit way . Her prayer and intercession must accompany our efforts. Her profound influence and the power of her example must constantly guide us, as we try to implement this agenda for renewal. Her spirit of truly profound faith, her readiness to give herself in obedience to the Lord’s will–cost what it might–must become our own inner spirit. Her Magnificat must, in prayer and in deeds, shape our attitudes and our own way of living.10
For those who are moved by the Lord’s grace to do this, the Marian Year agenda can be linked also, explicitly and appropriately, with the message of Fatima which, for so many Catholics in our country today, speaks with renewed power and relevance.11 The message of Our Lady in the revelations to the children of Fatima expressly asks for all the elements which are included in our objectives:
• conversion and amendment of life;
• prayer and reparation, especially Eucharistic reparation;
• the offering and sanctification of our daily lives in a spirit of penitence and self-denial.
More specifically, the message of Fatima asks for:
• the daily recitation of the Rosary;
• the practice of “the five First Saturdays of the month”;
• and consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.11/bis
19. At this point we must add a practical note . This enumeration of objectives for the Marian Year necessarily remains rather generic. In all probability each of our dioceses will determine how these purposes can be pursued in actual practice, for each parish and community. Under the guidance of our pastors, let each community spell out the concrete ways this agenda can be realized, discern what must be done by every person and every group. What conversion is required of us? How may we effectively offer our daily lives in a spirit of consecration to the Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that we bring forth fruits of repentance? In what concrete ways can we make reparation for our sins and the sins of others? There is a challenge here, which the Marian Year objectives pose to us, as individuals and communities.
20. In sum, then, we ask our Catholic faithful to bend every effort to make this year “a pilgrimage of hope with our Blessed Mother” –a pilgrimage of prayer and penance, as well as of commitment to those deeds which shall promote justice, reconciliation and peace among our people. This pilgrimage in heart and spirit will also be accompanied, we trust, by pilgrimages to and gatherings at the places in our dioceses of provinces where Our Lady is especially honored. The “journey of heart and spirit” with the Mother of the Lord through the days and months of 1985, will be the most important one, for sure, but our assemblies in our churches and shrines can be valuable outward expressions too, of our praying together as a community of faith, of our sharing as one in our common hope and commitment to service.12 It will be, even in the midst of our present sea of troubles, a rejoicing together, because our confidence in our Blessed Mother’s intercession is as sure as it is strong.
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THE MARIAN YEAR 1985: A PILGRIMAGE OF HOPE WITH OUR BLESSED MOTHER (part 1)