The Mariology of Cardinal Bergoglio Part I

            Pope Francis has made Marian devotees and Mariologists smile in the first few days of his papacy.  In his initial actions, homilies, and addresses, Pope Francis has made it a point to honor the Virgin Mary.  He made a personal pilgrimage to Santa Maria Maggiore, he has called upon the Holy Spirit through Mary’s intercession, and he has called Mary Mother of the Church and the Star of Evangelization.  Given his already expressed Marian piety, it will be interesting to see the continued development of it throughout his papacy.  Since we now know Pope Francis has a filial love for the Virgin Mary, it would be wise to look at his Mariological beliefs as Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  In Part One, I will look at Pope Francis’s Marian devotion from a wider perspective with material gathered from the Internet.  In Part Two, I will specifically look at a series of homilies that Cardinal Bergoglio delivered on an annual basis as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. 
Eucharistic Marian Devotion and Ecclesiology
            In 2005, Cardinal Bergoglio addressed the Synod of Bishops with a specific address on Mary and the Eucharist.[1]  In 2008 during the International Eucharistic Congress held in Quebec City in Canada, Cardinal Bergoglio shared similar insights into Mary and the Eucharist as he did in 2005.  Since nearly 5 years have passed since that Eucharistic Congress, I did not remember that Cardinal Bergoglio delivered a catechesis, even though I was an attendee at the Congress.  Whispers in the Loggia provided a link to his catechesis.  In it, we find a remarkable reflection on the connection between Mary and the Eucharist.
            Bergoglio begins by calling Mary the woman of the Eucharistic covenant.  He says that if we want to appreciate the richness of the Church and the Eucharistic, we must not forget Mary.  Bergoglio makes an interesting analogy; he compares Mary to Russian dolls known as nestling dolls or Matryoshkas.  These Russian dolls are unique as there are six dolls, ranging from smallest to largest, and each of the dolls fit into each other.  Bergoglio said that Mary was like the Russian dolls, and that Our Lady is the smallest of the dolls because in her we see the mystery of the bond that allows the gift of God to be shared with the world, the Universal Church and each single soul.  Mary is an instrument that gives way to something greater, namely Jesus, who gives us the Eucharist and the Church.  By making Mary the littlest of the dolls, we acknowledge her humility as it leads to things much greater.   
            Cardinal Bergoglio then reflected on three aspects of Mary and the Eucharist: accompaniment, trust, and hope.  Mary is a member of the Church.  Furthermore she was present at participated in the Eucharist of the early Church (Acts of the Apostles).  The second attribute of Mary, trust, is an attitude of abandonment which we see exemplified by Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation.  Thirdly, Bergoglio spoke of the Eucharistic covenant as hope, that there is something of anticipation.  He uses the analogy of transforming into new wineskins.  Cardinal Bergoglio reflected on how Mary and the Church are the first new wineskins of Jesus Christ.  He first points to Mary as being the first Eucharistic image with Jesus contained within her womb.  The Church is also being transformed into new wineskin because of the covenant the Lord made with her.  The Church is holy and pure; she is a faithful spouse; she is the Mother.  Furthermore Mary was sanctified because she was the source of God’s gift for the world.  Similarly God is sanctifying the Church just as he did his mother.
Just a last Eucharistic, Mariological, and Ecclesiological reflection, Bergoglio described a Marian and Eucharistic spirituality as part of the School of Mary.  He suggested the Magnificat was the very program of what Mary teaches us.  Mary anticipated God’s program of salvation; similarly the Eucharist is the anticipation of the creation of new history.  The Eucharist, he described, is celebrating poverty for the Church and for everyone.  It is a sharing of Our Lady’s spirituality.  It seems that Cardinal Bergoglio was right about the spirituality of Mary being expressed in the Magnificat.  Mary’s prayer is a perfect prayer of thanksgiving after communion.  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”   Mary received Christ into her own life by becoming the Mother of God.  Bergoglio said that we can ask God for same grace to receive Holy Communion in the same way Mary received Christ. [2]
It is clear from Cardinal Bergoglio’s reflections that his ecclesiological views are shaped by the Eucharist and Mary.  Bergoglio referenced Isaac of Stella in his catechesis, “what is said of the whole Church is said of Mary, and each individual faithful soul.”  Cardinal Bergoglio sought to reflect on this analogy by comparing Mary and the Church to the Russian dolls and new wineskins.  Bergoglio described Mary as the bond between Jesus and his bride the Church, between God and each person.   If that is Eucharistic, Mariological ecclesiology, then I do not know what is!
            During his initial comments after his papal announcement, Pope Francis invoked Mary’s protection for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and he stated he was going to visit Mary and ask her to protect Rome.  His first speech as Pope hailed Mary’s role as protectress.  This reference to Mary was not unique, but was one that was used on other occasions.  In a letter to the Carmelite nuns of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio closed with “Let us look towards Saint Joseph, to Mary, the Child, and let us ask with fervor that they will defend the Argentine family in this moment. … May Jesus bless you, and may the Blessed Virgin protect you.[3] Pope Francis even then used this image of Mary as a protectress.  It will be interesting to see how frequently Pope Francis will use this invocation of Mary’s intercession throughout his papacy.
A Model
            Mary is a unique person in the history of salvation.  Unlike Jesus who was a divine person with a human and divine nature, Mary is one of us.  She was a human person called into relationship with God.  This should make her relatable.  The Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus focused on the anthropological aspect of Mary’s relationship to humanity.  Paul VI spoke of the difficulty some have in connecting with Mary because of the modern world.  Nevertheless, Paul VI held Mary up as an individual to be imitated because of her abandonment to God’s will.[4]
In 2006, Cardinal Bergoglio addressed the issue of Church unity.  A key component to unity he argued was service.  To this end, he encouraged bishops to follow the example of service given by Mary in the gospels.  He called Mary “the first disciple, will give us the paternal ‘tenderness’ and the fraternal ‘compassion’ to exhort our people and to exhort ourselves to make our joy perfect ‘by remaining very united’.”[5]  In the first few days of his papacy, Pope Francis has painted the picture that he wants to unify the Church and calls the Church to servant leadership.  Also notice another theme that is emerging in Pope Francis’s papacy, that of fraternity, that is praying for one another as a community of believers, viewing each other as a brother and sister in Christ.  In his papacy, I expect Pope Francis to call upon this image of Mary again and again.
Concluding Remarks
From the research available through online searches, it seems that the themes already being embraced by Pope Francis in the first days of his papacy were themes that were present in his ministry as an archbishop.  This first part only looked at one facet of his Marian devotion.  In the second part, I will be looking at specific addresses given by Cardinal Bergoglio throughout his years as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, beginning with 1999-2013.  The second part of this series will take some time to research and write, but I would anticipate its publication next weekend (hopefully).  These same initial themes will be found in his other Mariological reflections; these reflections will however allow us to look at a consistent development and more specific topics.  So until then, let us continue to look at the current Marian thoughts of Pope Francis in the beginning days of his papacy.  

 [3] Rorate Coeli is a Catholic Traditionalist blog.  There blog should be read with great care.  I link to their site only because they have an English translation of the letter in question.
[4] C.f. Marialis Cultus, 29-37.

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