John Paul II’s devotion to Mary
Recalling Pope John Paul II's devotion to Mary on the occasion of his beatification
The multifaceted man of the millennium was a great appreciator of consecrated life in the Church and took many landmark steps to bring out its creativity and dynamism like a great founder.
His discourses with the religious were theological and futuristic.
As the religious of India join the rest of the world in acclaiming his sanctify and missionary audacity, let us recall some of his landmark contribution to promote consecrated life.
Even as a seminarian, he continued to be attracted to monastic contemplation. Twice during these years he applied to join the Discalced Carmelites but was said to have been turned away with their advice.
Born in 1920, Karol Wojtyla faced hardships that tested his trust in God. His mother died when he was 9, and three years later he lost his only brother to scarlet fever. His father died when he was 20.
Through the turmoil of life he joined the seminary in 1942 and was ordained in 1946. He became the youngest Bishop in Poland when he was made an Auxiliary Bishop at the age of 38. He became archbishop of Krakow in 1964 and played a key role in the Second Vatican Council, helping to draft texts on religious liberty and the Church in the modern world.
WORLD DAY FOR CONSECRATED LIFE
In 1987, he proclaimed an annual World Day of Consecrated Life on February 2. It was to have a three-fold effect.
1) It answers the intimate need to praise the Lord more solemnly and to thank him for the great gift of consecrated life, which enriches and gladdens the Christian community by the multiplicity of its charisms and by the edifying fruits of so many lives given to the cause of the Kingdom.
2) This day is intended to promote knowledge of and esteem for consecrated life by the People of God.
3) The third reason regards consecrated persons directly. They are invited to celebrate together solemnly the marvels which the Lord has accomplished in them, to discover by a more illumined faith the rays of divine beauty spread by the Spirit in their way of life and lastly to acquire a more vivid consciousness of their irreplaceable mission in the Church and in the world.
THE SYNOD ON CONSECRATED LIFE – VITA CONSECRATA
The Synod of Bishops on Consecrated Life was an intense process of study and discernment in the universal Church. It becomes a point of departure for the future of consecrated life.
The post-synodal apostolic exhortation of John Paul II <Vita Consecrata> will continue to be the point of reference for years to come.
MARIAN SPIRITUALITY OF JOHN PAUL II
(An abstract from the work of Bro. T.A.Joseph SG)
The principal source of the Christocentric and Marian spirituality of Blessed Pope John Paul II is the Treatise of the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin of St. Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716).
This is the spiritual masterpiece of this saint and is a synthesis of his spiritual doctrine. In fact, the motto Totus Tuus (totally yours) reassumes the spiritual doctrine of Montfort. It has been the thread running through the entire life of Karol Wojtyla,
“The Marian Thread,” as he himself called it during his long and continual march to sanctity. John Paul II has acknowledged this fact in several books and testified in his homilies on innumerable occasions as a bishop and later during his long reign as Pope.
He writes: “Naturally, in speaking of my priestly vocation, I cannot overlook its Marian thread. I learned the traditional devotions to the Mother of God in my family and in my parish at Wadowice. I remember, in the parish church, a side chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. In the mornings, the secondary school students would make a visit to it before classes began. After classes, in the afternoon, many students would go there to pray to the Blessed Virgin. Also, on a hilltop in Wadowice, there was a Carmelite monastery which dated back to the time of Saint Raphael Kalinowski. People from Wadowice would go there in great numbers, and this was reflected in the widespread use of the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I too received the scapular, I think at the age of ten, and I still wear it. And so, both in the parish church and in the Carmelite monastery church, my devotion to Mary took shape from my early childhood and adolescence up through secondary school. When I was in Cracow, in Debniki, I joined the ‘Living Rosary’ group in the Salesian parish. There was a special devotion there to Mary, Help of Christians. In Debniki, at the time when my priestly vocation was developing, under the influence, as I mentioned, of Jan Tyranowski, a change took place in my understanding of devotion to the Mother of God. I was already convinced that Mary leads us to Christ, but at that time I began to realize that Christ leads us to his Mother. At one point, I began to question my devotion to Mary, believing that, if it became too great, it might end up compromising the supremacy of the worship owed to Christ. At that time, I was greatly helped by a book of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort entitled ‘Treatise of True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin’. There I found the answers to my questions. Yes, Mary does bring us closer to Christ; she does lead us to him, provided that we live her mystery in Christ. This treatise by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort can be a bit disconcerting, given its rather florid and baroque style, but the essential theological truths which it contains are undeniable. The author was an outstanding theologian. His Mariological thought is rooted in the mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God.
“This is the origin of my motto Totus Tuus [totally yours]. The phrase comes from Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. It is an abbreviation of a more complete form of consecration to the Mother of God which runs like this: Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio Te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor Tuum, Maria [I am totally yours and all that is mine is yours. I accept You as my all. Give me your heart, O Mary. And so, thanks to Saint Louis, I began to discover the immense riches of Marian devotion from new perspectives. … “
John Paul II also testified to this in Andre Frossard’s Dialogue with John Paul II: “Totus Tuus. This phrase is not only an expression of devotion. During the Second World War, while I was employed as a factory worker, I came to be attracted to Marian devotion. At first, it had seemed to me that I should distance myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my childhood, in order to focus more on Christ. Thanks to Saint Louis of Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed it is very profoundly rooted in the Blessed Trinity and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.”
“And so, I rediscovered Marian piety, this time with a deeper understanding. This mature form of devotion to the Mother of God has stayed with me over the years, bearing fruit in the encyclicals Redemptoris Mater and Mulieris Dignitatem.”
On September 19, 1996, the Pope made a personal visit to the tomb of St. Louis Mary de Montfort in the Basilica named after the Saint at St. Laurent sur Sevre, France.
After quite a prolonged prayer at the tomb, he addressed the religious of Western France gathered in the basilica. While he was reading the prepared text, when he came to the reference to the Consecration to Jesus through Mary as taught by St. Louis Mary de Montfort, he stopped and looked up at the audience and said spontaneously, “You know I renew the Consecration every day,”
In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae he says, “It would be impossible to name all the many Saints who discovered in the Rosary a genuine path to holiness. We need but mention Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, the author of an excellent work on the Rosary called “The Secret of the Rosary”. He writes, “This is the luminous principle expressed by the Second Vatican Council which I have so powerfully expressed in my own life and have made the basis of my episcopal motto: Totus Tuus. This motto is of course inspired by the teaching of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, who explained in the following words Mary’s role in the process of our configuration to Christ: ‘Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Christ.
Hence, the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ.”
However, his most authoritative teaching on St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort’s teaching is found in the Encyclical Letter REDEMPTORIS MATER on the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Pilgrim Church. This is the last and latest official teaching of the Catholic Church on the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In this section he writes, “In this regard, I would like to recall, among the many witnesses and teachers of this spirituality, the figure of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, who proposes consecration to Christ through the hands of Mary, as an effective means for Christians to live faithfully their baptismal commitments. I am pleased to note that in our own time too new manifestations of this spirituality and devotion are not lacking”.
It is noteworthy that while practically all the saints are witnesses and teachers of this spirituality, the Pope recalls the memory of Saint Louis Mary de Montfort alone, giving the reason why he does so.
It is because this Saint proposes consecration to Christ through the hands of Mary, as an effective means for Christians to live faithfully their baptismal commitments, which are fundamental to Christian living.
The above spiritual path taken by the late Pope is often referred to as Montfortian Spirituality. In fact he wanted St. Montfort to be declared a Doctor of the Church along with St. Theresa of Lissieu but deferred it for his successors.