V.  Renewal In Our Marian Devotion

Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we trust that the Marian Year will mark an authentic renewal in our people’s ages-long devotion to the Mother of the Savior.

In Ang Mahal Na Birhen , we spoke of the need for reform in practices and attitudes in our Marian devotion, of the need of updating and adapting many of our devotional customs, of the urgency of including in our popular Marian piety a new understanding of woman’s role in society and an overcoming of a merely devout individualism unrelated to the demands for justice in our society.13 These remain valid demands today in practice of the devotion to the Blessed Virgin.  We need to note this, because these are the tasks of renewal which we must continue to work at.  We must also bring special attention to the imperative the Holy Father and the entire Church call us to, in our time:  the preferential love for the poor which is an authentic sign of Christian commitment.

Renewal means above all a renewal of conviction, a renewal in faith and hope of our Filipino people’s love for our Blessed Mother–a love which has been so strongly and so unwaveringly present in our hearts from the beginnings of Christianity in this country.  The words in our eucharistic hymn, pueblo amante de Maria, are at once a proud statement of fact, a cry of joy from hearts, a promise and hope for the future.

We turn to Our Lady because in the Mystery of Mary we once again meet and recognize the Father who is truly with us, concerned with us, accompanying us every step of the way that is our pilgrimage toward His Kingdom.  A distinguished contemporary theologian has said that the mystery of Our Lord’s birth from the Virgin Mary’s womb is not merely an idyllic nook of  devotion, a tiny private chapel…  an optional extra.  The  question  of  God  is  at stake:  Is  God a depth of being somewhere which, as it were, nourishes the deep roots of all things in a way beyond our imagining,–or  he  the  one who acts with power, he who knows and loves  his  creation, is present to it, and effectively works  in  it  from  first  to last, even today?

The affirmation of Jesus’ birth from the Virgin Mary intends to state these two truths:  first, God  really  acts,  and second, “the earth produces its fruit” precisely because God acts.  Natus ex Maria Virgine, born of the Virgin Mary, is in its very core a strictly theological affirmation that bears witnesses to the God who has not let creation slip out  of  his  hands.  On  this  are based  the  hope, the freedom, the assurance and the responsibility.14

In the Mystery of Mary we thus find a new foundation of “the hope, the freedom, the assurance and the responsibility” of our lives as Christians in our country.

Our devotion to the Mother of the Lord derives from, and returns to, our belief and unshakable trust in a loving Father, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is an affirmation of our hope that if, relying on God, we shall try to do “the things that are to our peace, “… if rooted in faith, we make, here on earth, God’s work as truly our own,–then God will be with us and beside us, no matter what comes to our people and our nation:  that God will never abandon us, but that he will deliver us from evil.  For God  is our Father , the Father above all of the poor and the powerless among us.  The Mystery of Mary leads us to a deeper understanding of the Fatherhood of God and the mercy and compassion of the Savior.

We thus turn to Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, sure of her unwearying love and concern for us and our lives.  We turn to her who is Mother of the Poor, of the “poor of Yahweh,” and the poor and suffering in our midst.15 In a time of crisis we go to her, imploring her help, seeking her intercession, trusting in the compassion of her Immaculate Heart.  We know she will not leave us unaided, that she will second all our strivings.  She will not despise our petitions, but in her mercy, hear and answer them.

VI.  Conclusion

Dearly beloved brothers and sisters:  It is with this sense of confidence in the intercession of the Mother of the Lord that we invite all of you to make this Marian Year a truly extraordinary year of a conversion, offering and reparation in our lives as a Christian people.  If 1985 began as a time of crisis and foreboding, let us — trusting in Our Lady’s “omnipotent supplication” before her Son — through our prayer and penance, through persevering deeds of justice and faith, through our responsibility and courage, try to make it a time of renewed hope.  Let us journey together on “A PILGRIMAGE OF HOPE WITH OUR BLESSED MOTHER,” she who is mater misericordiae, vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.


For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:



Archbishop of Davao

President, CBCP


2 February 1985

Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord




1  This pastoral exhortation is addressed in a special way to Priests and religious teachers. Constraints of time and space do not allow us to develop in any detail the points touched on in this text, to give concrete examples, etc.  It is our hope that they will take time in homilies and instructions to explain more fully what can only be indicated here.  This year can provide us with special opportunities to give the Marian catechesis in line with Vatican II teaching which Ang Mahal na Birhen urges so insistently–an insistence which we renew at this time.

2  Cf.  Boletin Eclesiastico , January-February 1985, page 87, “Proclamation of a Marian Year for the Philippines,” signed by Archbishop Antonio Mabutas, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, 8 September 1984.
The Reference to Pope John Paul II is to his homily at the Mass celebrated at the grotto of Lourdes, 15 August 1983, “Marie, premiére figure de la Rédemption,” Documentation Catholique, September 4-18, 1983, at page 829 (section 6 of the homily).

3  Ang Mahal na Birhen:  Mary in Philippine Life Today, a Pastoral Letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, 2 February 1975.

4  Paul VI, Marialis cultus, on the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 11 February 1974, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. 46, 113-169.   English translation, London, Catholic Truth Society, 1974.
The Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, Chapter VIII, Our Lady (21 November 1964).  In Austin Flannery, OP, Vatican II.  The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, Dublin, Dominican Publications, 1975, 413-423.

5  Cf. B.H. Merkelbach, OP, Mariologia , Paris, Desclee de Brouwer, 1939, #191, “Hinc Beata Virgo vocata fuit omnipotentia supplex.”  References to patristic writers (John Damascene, Anselm, Bernard, etc.), Merkelbach speaks of an “omnipotentia quaedam relativa, ministerialis et moralis in impetrando…”  Cf. also Gregorio Alastruey, The Blessed Virgin Mary , II, St. Louis, Herder, 1964, “…  Mary’s power of intercession…  is rightly called an omnipotent supplication”  (pp. 165-168).  An interesting citation, from Edward Schillebeeckx, OP, Mary, Mother of the Redemption , trans. N.D. Smith, Sheed and Ward, New York, 1964:  “Mary’s superabundance of grace, …  is grace overflowing from her state of being both objectively and subjectively redeemed.  It represents the peak of her participation in Christ’s divine life…  Her superabundance of grace, then, is the high tide of her state of being redeemed.  Viewed in this light, the title Suppliant Omnipotence which Pope Pius XII bestowed on Mary, in that she was, still is, both suppliant and omnipotent.” (Op. cit., pp. 98-99.)

6  Pope John Paul II at Pompei, Homily of 21.X.1979.  Cf. Kevin McNamara (now Archbishop of Dublin), Mary the Mother of God , the Marian Doctrine of Pope John Paul II, London, Catholic Truth Society, 1982, “Mother of the Church,” 10-11.  For earlier papal texts, cf. Our Lady:  Papal Teachings, selected and arranged by the Monks of Solemnes, St. Paul Editions, Boston, 1961 (from Benedict XIV to John XXIII).

7  Banquet of Mary , an orientation document prepared by the Marian Year Committee and endorsed by Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, Archbishop of Manila, 8 pp., Marian Year Committee (Msgr. Josefino Ramirez, chairman; Mr. Howard Q. Dee, vice-chairman), Manila, 1985.

8  Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia , John Paul II to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful on Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church Today, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 2 December 1984.  Henceforth referred to as R/P, with sections numbered as in the official text.

9  Pope John Paul II devotes an entire chapter to “The Mystery of Sin” in R/P.  Within this chapter, he develops the various meanings of “social sin” (#16).  We recommend an attentive reading of this section.  The notion of “social sin”, as explained in the chapter referred to, can be fruitfully made the theme for catechesis in our classrooms and in parish assemblies of various kinds.  It is a valuable theological lesson on a matter of great interest and importance.

10  We might be allowed to cite this text on Our Lady’s Magnificat :  The Magnificat mirrors the soul of Mary.  …It is the opening proclamation of Christ’s new Gospel, the prelude to the Sermon on the Mount.  There Mary reveals herself to us as one utterly empty of self, who has placed all her confidence in the Father’s mercifulness.
In the Magnificat she presents herself as the model for all those described by Pope John Paul II:  “Those who do not passively accept the adverse circumstances of personal and social life, and who are not victims of alienation, as the expression goes today, but who instead join with her in proclaiming that God is the ‘avenger of the lowly’ and will, if need be, depose ‘the mighty from their thrones’…”  (Homily at Zapopan, Mexico, 30 January 1979, Pope John Paul II), par. 297 of the Third General Conference of Latin American Bishops, CELAM III, Puebla, Mexico, Conclusions, NCCB Washington, D.C., 1979, at p. 77.

11  Cf., for instance, the celebrations surrounding the Philippine visit of the Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima, 9-10 April 1984, and the consecration of our people and nation by the Bishops of the Philippines to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as requested by Pope John Paul II, on 25 March 1984.
11/bis  Vid. Joaquim Maria Alonso and Abilio Pina Ribeiro, Claretians, Fatima:  Message and Consecration, Published in Manila by Claretian Publications, Quezon City, 1984 (UP P.O. Box 3004, Quezon City) and Francis Johnston, Fatima:  the Great Sign , TAN Books and Publishers, Rockford, Illinois 61105 (1980), published in the Philippines by Marian Foundation, 470 San Andres, Malate, Manila (Philippine edition, 1984)

12  Vid. Ang Mahal na Birhen (cf. footnote 3 above), in Section III Patoral Reflections.

13  Cf. John Paul II, “Message of Mary’s Maternal Love,”  homily at the Eucharistic Celebration, Shrine of Our Lady at Fatima, 13 May 1982.  L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 17 May 1983, page 1, on the special present of the Blessed Mother in the Marian sanctuaries.

14  Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, Meditations on the Church’s Marian Belief , trans. John M. McDermott, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1983 (original German Text, 1977).  Citations from pp. 60-61 of English translation.

15  Cf. Barnabas Mary Ahern, CP, Mary, Queen of the Poor, St. Louis, Mo., Pio Decimo Press (no date given).  Also, Puebla , Third General Conference of Latin American Bishops, on “Evangelization, Present and Future, in Latin America,”  NCCB Washington, DC, 1979.  Cf. especially paragraphs 282-303, pp. 75-78.



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