Conclusion: Theological and Pastoral Value of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin
56. Venerable Brothers, as we come to the end of this our Apostolic
Exhortation we wish to sum up and emphasize the theological value of devotion to
the Blessed Virgin and to recall briefly its pastoral effectiveness for renewing
the Christian way of life.
The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is an intrinsic element of
Christian worship. The honor which the Church has always and everywhere shown to
the Mother of the Lord, from the blessing with which Elizabeth greeted Mary (cf.
Lk. 1:42-45) right up to the expressions of praise and petition used today, is a
very strong witness to the Church's norm of prayer and an invitation to become
more deeply conscious of her norm of faith. And the converse is likewise true.
The Church's norm of faith requires that her norm of prayer should everywhere
blossom forth with regard to the Mother of Christ. Such devotion to the Blessed
Virgin is firmly rooted in the revealed word and has solid dogmatic foundations.
It is based on the singular dignity of Mary, "Mother of the Son of God, and
therefore beloved daughter of the Father and Temple of the Holy Spirit - Mary,
who, because of this extraordinary grace, is far greater than any other creature
on earth or in heaven."  This devotion takes into account the part she
played at decisive moments in the history of the salvation which her Son
accomplished, and her holiness, already full at her Immaculate Conception yet
increasing all the time as she obeyed the will of the Father and accepted the
path of suffering (cf Lk. 2:34?35, 41-52; Jn. 19:25-27), growing constantly in
faith, hope and charity. Devotion to Mary recalls too her mission and the
special position she holds within the People of God, of which she is the
preeminent member, a shining example and the loving Mother; it recalls her
unceasing and efficacious intercession which, although she is assumed into
heaven, draws her close to those who ask her help, including those who do not
realize that they are her children. It recalls Mary's glory which ennobles the
whole of mankind, as the outstanding phrase of Dante recalls: "You have so
ennobled human nature that its very Creator did not disdain to share in it."
 Mary, in fact, is one of our race, a true daughter of Eve - though free of
that mother's sin - and truly our sister, who as a poor and humble woman fully
shared our lot.
We would add further that devotion to the Blessed Virgin finds its ultimate
justification in the unfathomable and free will of God who, being eternal and
divine charity (cf. I Jn. 4:7-8, 16), accomplishes all things according to a
loving design. He loved her and did great things for her (cf. Lk. 1:49). He
loved her for His own sake, and He loved her for our sake, too; He gave her to
Himself and He gave her also to us.
57. Christ is the only way to the Father (cf. Jn. 14:4-11), and the ultimate
example to whom the disciple must conform his own conduct (cf. Jn. 13:15), to
the extent of sharing Christ's sentiments (cf. Phil. 2:5), living His life and
possessing His Spirit (cf. Gal. 2:20; Rom. 8:10-11). The Church has always
taught this and nothing in pastoral activity should obscure this doctrine. But
the Church, taught by the Holy Spirit and benefiting from centuries of
experience, recognizes that devotion to the Blessed Virgin, subordinated to
worship of the divine Savior and in connection with it, also has a great
pastoral effectiveness and constitutes a force for renewing Christian living. It
is easy to see the reason for this effectiveness. Mary's many-sided mission to
the People of God is a super natural reality which operates and bears fruit
within the body of the Church. One finds cause for joy in considering the
different aspects of this mission, and seeing how each of these aspects with its
individual effectiveness is directed towards the same end, namely, producing in
the children the spiritual characteristics of the first-born Son. The Virgin's
maternal intercession, her exemplary holiness and the divine grace which is in
her become for the human race a reason for divine hope.
The Blessed Virgin's role as Mother leads the People of God to turn with
filial confidence to her who is ever ready to listen with a mother's affection
and efficacious assistance.  Thus the People of God have learned to call on
her as the Consoler of the afflicted, the Health of the sick, and the Refuge of
sinners, that they may find comfort in tribulation, relief in sickness and
liberating strength in guilt. For she, who is free from sin, leads her children
to combat sin with energy and resoluteness.  This liberation from sin and
evil (cf. Mt. 6:13) - it must be repeated is the necessary premise for any
renewal of Christian living.
The Blessed Virgin's exemplary holiness encourages the faithful to "raise
their eyes to Mary who shines forth before the whole community of the elect as a
model of the virtues."  It is a question of solid, evangelical virtues:
faith and the docile acceptance of the Word of God (cf. Lk. 1:26-38, 1:45,
11:27-28; Jn. 2:5); generous obedience (cf. Lk. 1:38); genuine humility (cf. Lk.
1:48); solicitous charity (cf. Lk. 1:39-56); profound wisdom (cf. Lk. 1:29, 34;
2:19, 33:51); worship of God manifested in alacrity in the fulfillment of
religious duties (cf. Lk. 2:21-41), in gratitude for gifts received (cf. Lk.
1:46-49), in her offering in the Temple (cf. Lk. 2:22-24) and in her prayer in
the midst of the apostolic community (cf Acts 1:12-14); her fortitude in exile
(cf. Mt. 2:13-23) and in suffering (cf. Lk. 2:34-35, 49; Jn. 19:25); her poverty
reflecting dignity and trust in God (cf. Lk. 1:48, 2:24); her attentive care for
her Son, from His humble birth to the ignominy of the cross (cf. Lk. 2:1-7; Jn.
19:25-27); her delicate forethought (cf Jn. 2:1-11); her virginal purity (cf.
Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:26-38); her strong and chaste married love. These virtues of
the Mother will also adorn her children who steadfastly study her example in
order to reflect it in their own lives. And this progress in virtue will appear
as the consequence and the already mature fruit of that pastoral zeal which
springs from devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Devotion to the Mother of the Lord becomes for the faithful an opportunity
for growing in divine grace, and this is the ultimate aim of all pastoral
activity. For it is impossible to honor her who is "full of grace" (Lk. 1:28)
without thereby honoring in oneself the state of grace, which is friendship with
God, communion with Him and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is this divine
grace which takes possession of the whole man and conforms him to the image of
the Son of God (cf. Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18). The Catholic Church, endowed with
centuries of experience, recognizes in devotion to the Blessed Virgin a powerful
aid for man as he strives for fulfillment. Mary, the New Woman, stands at the
side of Christ, the New Man, within whose mystery the mystery of man  alone
finds true light; she is given to us as a pledge and guarantee that God's plan
in Christ for the salvation of the whole man has already achieved realization in
a creature: in her. Contemplated in the episodes of the Gospels and in the
reality which she already possesses in the City of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary
offers a calm vision and a reassuring word to modern man, torn as he often is
between anguish and hope, defeated by the sense of his own limitations and
assailed by limitless aspirations, troubled in his mind and divided in his
heart, uncertain before the riddle of death, oppressed by loneliness while
yearning for fellowship, a prey to boredom and disgust. She shows forth the
victory of hope over anguish, of fellowship over solitude, of peace over
anxiety, of joy and beauty over boredom and disgust, of eternal visions over
earthly ones, of life over death.
Let the very words that she spoke to the servants at the marriage feast of
Cana, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn. 2:5), be a seal on our Exhortation and a
further reason in favor of the pastoral value of devotion to the Blessed Virgin
as a means of leading men to Christ. Those words, which at first sight were
limited to the desire to remedy an embarrassment at the feast, are seen in the
context of Saint John's Gospel to re-echo the words used by the people of Israel
to give approval to the Covenant at Sinai (cf. Ex. 19:8, 24:3, 7; Dt. 5:27) and
to renew their commitments (cf. Jos. 24:24; Ezr. 10:12; Neh. 5:12). And they are
words which harmonize wonderfully with those spoken by the Father at the
theophany on Mount Tabor: "Listen to him" (Mt. 17:5).