I hope this photo of me with the Pope doesn´t strike you as too much "in your face", but I do want to share a great moment with friends. Ever since Pope Benedict was elected I've wanted to meet him. Besides, the picture and this blog post are not about me. I want to talk about what occasioned this meeting.
I was in Rome for the 23rd International Mariological Congress, September 4-9, sponsored by PAMI, the Pontifical International Mariological Association. Toward the end of the meeting the 300 or so participants of the congress got into buses for a papal audience at Castel Gandolfo. I was the U.S. delegate to greet the Pope.
His address to the Congress was right on target! The topic for the Congress was "Mariology since the Second Vatican Council". A direct co-relation with the Synod on New Evangelization and with the Year of Faith was clearly intended in the choice of the topic.
You may be aware that the Synod and the Year of Faith are both coordinated with the 50th anniversary of the opening of Second Vatican Council. The Pope wants us to return to the texts of Vatican II as an important source for the renewal of faith and deepening of the encounter with Christ that are at the heart of New Evangelization and the Year of Faith.
You may not be so aware that promotion of Marian devotion is one of the top priority guidelines for the celebration of the Year of Faith! Why is that?
The Servant of God, Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., founder of the Family Rosary mission (known today as Holy Cross Family Ministries) had a simple yet penetrating insight when he understood the importance of family prayer of the Rosary for evangelization. He dedicated his whole life and priesthood to something that is in fact practical, profound and grounded in the heart of transmission of Catholic faith. It happens in the home. It happens under the care of Mary, Model and Mother of our faith.
Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict, throughout all their promotion of the New Evangelization, have been acutely aware of this. It was not simply because of his great personal love of the Rosary that John Paul II continually encouraged us to pray it, especially in the home.
In his audience with the Mariological Congress, Pope Benedict again stressed the importance of Mary for the Year of Faith and for the New Evangelization. He highlighted the very important writings on Mary of Vatican II. Lumen Gentium, the foundational document of the Second Vatican Council, concludes with a great summary and reaffirmation of the place of Mary in the Mystery of Christ and in the Church. The Council Fathers hoped for a renewal and flowering of Marian devotion for today.
Yet perhaps this is one of the best kept secrets of the Council!
After Vatican II Marian devotion seemed to collapse in most of Europe and North America! The reasons for this were complex. While there has been a noticeable "upswing" in recent years, we still have far to go in our "re-embrace" of Mary for today. I am not talking about Marian fanaticism, rather continuing the mainstream of what has been Catholic and Orthodox faith for two millennia!
Frankly, this is much more important than most realize. The needed renewal of the faith that the "New Evangelization" is trying awaken needs Mary. The Church texts call her the "Star of Evangelization". Let us let her be that for us!
What I am talking about is the mission to which Holy Cross Family Ministries has tried to be faithful, following in the footsteps of our Founder, Father Peyton. He said, "The family that prays together stays together." It is a message that is as important as ever. Pray for us – and join us – during this Year of Faith that we might help Mary guide the New Evangelization.
Fr. Jim Phalan, C.S.C., is the Director of Family Rosary International, which is a part Holy Cross Family Ministries. HCFM was founded by Servant of God Patrick Peyton, a Holy Cross priest who had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and preached that the "family that prays together, stays together." Fr. Phalan will be writing for the Spes Unica Blog each month to share with us the great work of Family Rosary International, yet Family Ministries is one of the creative ways that Holy Cross continues to reach across borders of every sort to spread hope. Learn more about the missionary work of Holy Cross.