With Mary in the Church for a New World
Lines of Marian Spirituality
I no longer call you slaves, but friends,
because I have told you everything
that I have heard from my Father. (cf. Jn 15,15)
The Movement «A.M.» (“Amici Mariae” = Friends of Mary) with its precise objective condensed in the motto «With Mary in the Church for a new world», is blooming in a new climate and in a new historical and ecclesial context with respect to the past:
- the context which is constantly making the world one big family, interested in promoting human dignity and the future of the earth;
- the context which highlights the Church as “the universal sacrament of salvation and sign of unity for the whole human race” (Lumen Gentium, n. 1);
- the climate which demonstrates the responsibility of each person as a protagonist in history, and invites them to act with an incisive presence;
- the theological context, which rediscovers even in Mary a complete belonging to the human race, that “type of the Church”, its “most eminent member”, “model of virtue for the faithful”, “Mother of the Church”, until the Kingdom is complete;
- the cultural context, which places the human person at the center of every inquiry, as a mystery which unites the material and spiritual worlds, the mortal and immortal, and projects the present into the future…
The «Friends of Mary» Movement rose out of an inspiration on the morning of March 25, 1978, the day of the Annunciation of the Lord and – that year – Holy Saturday. It was the day of Mary’s two “yeses”: that of the Incarnation, full of ecstasy; and that of desolation – but with undoubted faith in the Resurrection – over the death of the Lord. Both of these were for us. In both, Mary acted as representative: at the Annunciation she represented Israel and the whole human family tree, fallen and corrupt, which in Her, the Immaculate One, opened itself to God who was coming to renew it; on Holy Saturday – marked by silence and imploring faith – she represented the Church which on that day was present in her and found itself uniquely concentrated in her faith.
The inspiration said: “Why not start a great movement of the faithful, who would commit themselves to working actively and intensely with Mary, Mother of the living and of the world, for her same cause, for that new world which God promised and created in Christ, for the history of today and for everyone in the eternal tomorrow? In fact, the Heavenly Father uniquely placed her at the center of his plan of salvation, and Christ as he was dying entrusted to her both his Church and redeemed humanity”.
On that same day I made a clear outline of some of the Movement’s theoretical and operative aspects.
The name expresses, in a certain way, a belonging to and collaboration in the Virgin’s cause, which is also the cause of God, and the Church, and humanity, in the unique, irreplaceable mystery of Christ, the only Savior and the world’s only salvation. It involves a style which profoundly engages whoever embraces it in a full time, constant attitude of availability and action for the purpose of living, organizing and propagating.
Many names come to mind or are inspired by religious institutions already existing in the Catholic Church, or by social, proletarian and political organizations. But none can fully express a relationship as singular and all-encompassing as with Mary in its “mystery of maternal love and service” toward the salvation of the world. Finally, a ray of light comes from reading the Gospel of John, especially the Last Supper, in Chapter 15, where the Lord says to the Apostles – after exhorting them in Chapter 13 to make themselves “servants” like Him to the point of washing the feet of their brothers and sisters: “No one has greater love than this: to give his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, because all that I have heard from my Father, I have shared with you. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you» (Jn 15,13-16). Being friends! Friends of Jesus, friends of Mary, knowing and sharing their service and love.
The name “Friends of Mary” comes from this: it denominates creatures faithful to her, “committed” along with her, desirous of becoming together with her protagonists of a new history, to change the present into a future that is divinely better, and is anticipated and prepared for by constant work and solid commitment. They are always “with Her”, at her side, in a mature way, fully sharing her maternal thoughts and projects. They do so with a profound humility of heart which knows itself to be nothing, but at the same time, with a boldness dictated by the Holy Spirit which knows it is indispensible to God, because he wills it. They are together with Mary on an active journey that has faith, not evidence, as its common denominator, and for this very reason demands more courage from whoever wants to be part of it.
They are “Friends” and servants - as Jesus made himself a “servant”, and as Mary declared herself “servant” (Lk 1:38): not dramatically needing others to see their activity and presence, but desiring to be present and making themselves present, in the midst of all that is happening today and in the whole history of the human family (past, present, future), as God wanted Mary to be in Christ: to be actively present in the plan of God, using the methods and values of God: in interior silences, praying, working, suffering…, and becoming his instruments, ever more available and suited – like Mary and with Mary – for the completion of the plan of Divine Love: a new history for mankind and for the world.
As “Friends” and servants: neither time nor space will be able to circumscribe their activity, because they are inspired and sustained by the Spirit of God, which is omnipresent and omnipotent, not tied to the times and rhythms of creatures.
And here is found their field of activity: the whole world, all history and every person. In God, who in fact is the God of the living, there is no buried past: all who live, live in Him, in his eternal present; a future does not even really exist, because in Him everything is already complete, even that which for us still lies in the future according to the succession of time and generations. In the history of God one can therefore gather everything into One, and live the present-past-future together, right up to the final completion of the history of the world.
Accordingly, the ray of projected activity “for a new world” does not have temporal and spatial limits, because it is inserted into the action of God, is in tune with Him in Christ, is aligned with Mary, God’s first collaborator, ever attentive and active as true Mother of each and all of the children of Eve who have become her children in the Son, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Hence, the quality of their activity. This has, by nature, a double dimension in the children of God: the human dimension and the divine dimension. We are asked then to make our individual activity fully human and fully divine.
- Fully human, above all: giving intentionality and human force to every action, making our intentions right, qualifying our motives, rendering every act – as far as possible- conscious and willed.
- Fully divine then, in a continuous synergy and collaboration with the action of the Holy Spirit who lives in us and is the principle of our supernatural life and the divine “cause” of every meritorious action.
We are attuned to the action of the Holy Spirit especially through our fervor of faith and response of love. Faith in fact keeps us effectively rooted in Christ, so long as in all that we do, it is He who accomplishes it within us. And love opens us unconditionally to the whole salvific project of God in Christ, each according to the capacities which the Spirit generously gives.
In this way, all human actions, even the most humble, can become divinely effective according to the measure of faith and supernatural love that informs them.
Such was the life of Mary, in the humble, hidden acts which characterized her: a fabric of faith and love, which drew God’s pleasure and became the means of grace and mercy for every person, in Christ the Redeemer. In everyday ordinariness, she lived the immeasurable greatness of giving herself for all.
Thus, every “friend of Mary”, by purifying their intentions and corresponding with faith and love to the Spirit, can make every action an historical presence in the plan of God.
In this light, the meaning of the expression “with Mary for” becomes clear: it indicates the way one acts and the constant orientation of one’s life and actions.
One puts him/herself “with Mary” not only in terms of imitation, but also in terms of extension or prolongation, with two connotations: the connotation of becoming like her, modeling one’s feelings and very life on hers, which is the gospel mirror of faith, hope, love and union with Christ and all Christian virtues; and the connotation of working with her, in the same course of action, which is the plan of God who is loved above all things, and to whom she once responded and continues to respond: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord!” (Lk. 1,38).
It is a question then of assuming the style of her interiority: her attitude of praise and thanksgiving; her prayerful attitude, charged with all the hopes of the world; her attitude of continuously offering the Son and every good thing in the world to the Father, and of hopeful desire for the glory of God and the salvation of man, with which her heart burns.
It is also a question of assuming the style of her external action: her capacity to see the needs of others and to provide for them with immediate assistance, with virginal gentleness, with careful attention to the balance between temporal needs and those of the Spirit. One need only contemplate her in the Visitation, at Bethlehem, at Cana, in the Cenacle…
This aspect of extension or prolongation, not only places us in Mary, it also places her in us. For this reason, her every true “friend” and servant insistently asks to have “her heart for loving” and that “her desire to save” might live in him.
This preposition condenses the highest plan of life. In fact, the truest way of prolonging Mary is to make her maternity real, and to live it within the mystery of Christ and the Church. This is an ancient idea, already found in Ambrose and Augustine and taken up again by Vatican II. Now, Mary’s maternity towards Christ the Head involves her physically, morally and spiritually in His mystery: her maternity of grace toward the members of Christ, that is towards the faithful and also towards all people, involves her totally in their history, with all the capacities of nature and grace which are hers and make her the universal mother.
In her heart, which the Spirit made large for the purpose of boundless maternity, the children of Adam really are present, as in the mysterious womb of the New Eve, mother of all the living. Accordingly, her attitude of service to the Father and consecration to the mystery of the Son is substantially a full and faithful service to the cause of man in view of the integral realization of his salvation: today on earth and, above all, tomorrow in eternity.
Prolonging Mary, committing oneself along with her, means therefore assuming the aspect of her maternity as a fundamental aspect of one’s own life and activity: seeing all as children, with the attentive and careful eyes of a Mother. In this way, no one is unknown to us, even if they who travel alongside us are too many to count.
There is a need then to habituate oneself to seeing more and more in this universal dimension, with the merciful and attentive heart of Mary: to see others’ needs and bodily necessities, to see even more their spiritual necessities, and allow oneself to become involved, providing for all and excluding no one (to the extent this is possible) in the Virgin’s attentive and delicate style.
The primary tool of this active and merciful presence towards all is the manner of our life. Committing ourselves then to becoming more truly human, more authentically Christian, everywhere and truly for our brothers and sisters, is the salvific means of greatest value available to us: because example attracts and merit saves. Living the Gospel thus in an integral way, we will become prophets and witnesses, “with Mary” and like her.
The strength to “act for” flows from a life intensely lived with Mary. Sustained by faith and knowing that nothing which is done in God and with love is lost, the friend and servant of Mary aims to always: “give praise for”, “give thanks for”, “intercede for”, “offer for”, “suffer for”, “expiate for”, “sacrifice oneself for”…
To whom does this “for” refer? The Friends of Mary Movement , while appreciating the passive stance of one who places “everything in the hands of Mary, because she who knows and sees provides”, desires and wants to identify itself with Mary’s knowing and seeing, just as every true friend loves to know and share everything about their friend.
Out of this grows the broad expansion of each one’s existence and the capacity to make the whole world and all history present, with the strength of the Holy Spirit: it begins with those who are closest – those who through blood ties, or friendship, or work or interests live alongside us, and it expands to all those whom we encounter everyday in our streets, regardless of the place.
Using our capacity to remember, we can even add those who become part of our daily lives through the media, or books and newspapers, or the objects we use, or the traces of existence others have left on this earth. In this way like a photograph or the objects of those we love, even they become present to us in an affective way. The same is true for everything that might speak of man or carry his imprint: it all makes him present to us in spirit, placing us in communion with each person in the infinite mystery of God.
And here we can also include those whom we will never know, not even indirectly, but who await from us an act of love: for them, for all of them (just like we pray using the plural in the Our Father and in our liturgical prayers) even individually, we will continue to pray, to intercede, to offer, bless, praise, hope, rejoice, and make reparation along with Mary.
Furthermore, in this opening of ourselves to all in communion with Mary, each is able to exercise a role of representation, a priestly service, just as she did and does in a fundamental way. As Christ and with Christ, as Mary and “with Mary”, even we, expressing the Church, make and consecrate as our own all the hopes and expectations, the acts of justice and holiness, the sufferings and crosses, the burdens and labors of every person. We are able to unite them and consecrate them “with Mary” in the unique sacrifice of Christ, to make up that which is still lacking in his passion in favor of the Church (cf. Col. 1:24) and all humanity. We are also – in the mystery of Christ, Priest and Victim, and “with Mary” who is the Mother of all – able to expiate offenses against God and man, which daily increase the sin of the world.
In this way, every place one might find oneself, even in solitude, is immediately populated with presences, and the heart is opened up to the world of today, and to the future, right up to the end of human history, that day of Christ’s return, when we all will appear before him to be judged and introduced into eternity.
And further, it is towards that day precisely that the friends of Mary turn their thoughts, in order to stay near Her with hands raised, imploring the final mercy for all. For this reason, keeping before their eyes the innumerable children of Adam, redeemed by Christ, who have not had the good fortune to know and love him, they accumulate in the hands of the Mother treasures of grace and merit for all, with a precise intention that God respects: so that no one, at least on the last day, will be deprived of the infinite merits of the total Christ, Head and Church.
«A New World»
The friends of Mary commit themselves with Her for a new world, today on earth in humble industriousness, until tomorrow, in the blessed eternity, when the All High seated on his throne will say: “See, I make all things new” (Rev.21:5).
Such a program of life and action could seem frightening. But the “Friends of Mary” Movement is not based on external obligations, but rather on the free gift of each participant, aware of the salvific value of even the smallest actions. That person may be blessed who places a single good work in the hands of Mary, even on behalf of one single person! But holy is the person who is able to make their whole life a gift for all.
The “Friends of Mary” Movement, - up until now- does not have its own particular works: it is an informative idea that moves one to choose and live in an intense way those things which have greater value before God for the sake of others: the Holy Mass, the Sacraments, the Liturgy, the Divine Word, personal and communal prayer, the daily demand to be faithful in one’s duties, the humble and attentive service of others – especially the needy, accepting the will of God, offering up one’s sufferings, the fervor of the apostolate…
It calls for gathering and living all the redemptive values, and offering them to the Virgin for the cause of humanity and a new world: naturally, in her light and at her side.
Therefore, knowing Mary is a need of the soul: because through Her one penetrates the mystery of Christ, comes to know the plan of God, understands the meaning of Baptism and the Christian life, and assumes the dimensions of the Church.
Equally essential aspects of the Movement and of every friend of Mary are also celebrating Mary (her Feasts, Saturdays, the days dedicated to Her; the Holy Rosary, pious exercises in her honor…) and breathing Mary, thinking of her at every moment, and finding inspiration in her life and actions.
Therefore, belonging to the “Friends of Mary” Movement stimulates personal growth in grace and enhances to the fullest degree the value of one’s life in realizing the plan of God for each and every person, namely, to bring about a “new world” in Christ and in the Church, “with Mary”.
The Act of Commitment
Every friend of Mary, once a day or more, renews their personal commitment with Mary using the “Act of Commitment”, which places them in the heart of the Movement and solidifies them with all others in pursuing the same ideal.
Act of Commitment
«A.M.» - With Mary in the Church for a new World
In the name and to the glory of the Blessed Trinity, who has chosen you to be the Mother of Christ the Saviour, and the Mother of a humanity in need of salvation. Aware of my unworthiness, but confident of your motherly help I, who through my Baptism have already been immersed in the mystery of Christ and of the Church, place myself (today) entirely in your hands, oh Mary:
To walk with you, to cooperate with you in the Church in the history of salvation, to bring to completion with you, day after day, my commitment of love and service to my brothers and sisters. With your shining example of faith, with your life of witness to the gospel, with that love with which you reach out to all as your children, may I too embrace them all in your heart, transforming for their sake, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, my life and my every deed into an unceasing act of love and of offering. And thus would I prolong in myself your maternity in the order of grace, to the benefit of all humanity in this present life and in eternity to come.
Grant me, oh Mother, a deep knowledge of you. Immerse me in your moments of silence, which are moments of intense action. Give me your humble availability to the Lord, and your delicate care for the brethren. Lend me your heart with which to love; live through me your desire to save.
If after reading and meditating on these lines of Marian spirituality you feel like sharing this ideal and would like to study it further or desire to belong to the “Friends of Mary” Movement, write to:
Centro di Cultura Mariana "Madre della Chiesa",
Via del Corso, 306 - 00186 Roma