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Women in Light of Mary

Women in Light of Mary

The Blessed Virgin Mary and Women

- Sister M. Danielle Peters



In our time, the foundation for the consolidation of the position of women within the family as well as within her social and cultural life needs to be redefined.1 The Marian ideal and the attachment to the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary when absorbed in its fullness, become a powerful and creative inspiration in this quest.2

As the masterpiece of the new creation, Mary is a model for women of all states of life and time.3 In other words, the ens Marianum is the criterion for authentic Christian femininity.

Marian doctrine can shed light on the multiple ways in which the life of grace promotes woman's spiritual beauty.4

Mary’s person represents a disquieting challenge to those, advocating the abolishment of all differences between women and men, as well as to those seeking to perpetuate women's subordination to men.5 Mariology and femininity can best shed light on each other when the image of woman is respected in its value. To be a woman is not a role that can be exchanged arbitrarily. Rather it is a basic anthropological disposition permeating one’s entire existence based on the understanding that body and soul are interrelated (anima forma corporis).

Woman's identity cannot consist in being a copy of man, since she is endowed with her own qualities and prerogatives, which give her a particular uniqueness that is always to be fostered and encouraged…In virtue of her special bond with Mary, woman has often in the course of history represented God's closeness to the expectations of goodness and tenderness of a humanity wounded by hatred and sin, by sowing in the world seeds of a civilization that can respond to violence with love.6

As far as the person of Mary is concerned, there is very little we know about her exterior appearance, her taste, knowledge, education etc. Yet, she becomes a universal person and in that especially a model for women in view of her religious vocation through the spiritual intervention of God in her life. Her process of individuation is initiated by her reflection on who she is and her mission as handmaid of the Lord.

The dialogue of Mary with the Angel at the Annunciation reveals to us in an archetypal manner her receptive co-operative surrender towards God. This attitude of receptivity is woman’s preeminent gift to society and ultimately decisive for man’s encounter with God as well.7

Mary’s virginity relates closely to her feminine receptivity and to her total surrender initiated by her personal core. The spiritual component of virginity, i.e. of undivided surrender to God, is innate in both sexes, married or single, and needs to be nourished in order to faithfully abide by one’s covenant relationship with God.

Motherhood modeled after the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary,8 signals the co-operation in the birth of the divine Logos in the human heart where he can grow and be nurtured in the concrete circumstances of family life.9

Mary entrusted herself to God completely, with the full submission of her intellect and will. ... Her "yes" had become the Good News for the whole of humanity. Through her "yes" it is now possible for all to meet Jesus Christ and see all of one’s deepest aspirations completely fulfilled. Now what has been accomplished in Mary can also be accomplished in any other woman. If given the occasion every woman can say her "yes" and have the fountain of life conceived within them.10

Thus women are encouraged to expose themselves to Mary’s education and to accept the responsibility for the personal care in a time apt to succumb to a culture of death. As a personal individual being Mary shows us how to relate to God and to others. From the Annunciation to Pentecost every pericope about Mary is relational. In virtue of the donum integritatis (Immaculate Conception) her relationality is ordered and just. We observe a development in her dialoguing with her You: through creative interaction, passive transformation (pondering) active transformation (Cana); receiving and giving. She reaches her self-fulfillment in self-giving on Golgotha and at Pentecost. Mary’s self-determination is realized in dependence/-inter-dependence of a creature to her creator. Through the progressive emptying – assimilation of her mission, she reaches her ultimate vocation.11 Through grace and receptivity, a woman can pattern her relationships in likewise manner.12

In this way, Mary of Nazareth can be our sister in the faith, (Paul VI) imploring for all women the vigor needed to fulfill their mission in the postmodern era.

It should be considered quite normal for succeeding generations of Christians in differing socio-cultural contexts to have expressed their sentiments about the Mother of Jesus in a way and manner which reflected their own age. In contemplating Mary and her mission these different generations of Christians, looking on her as the New Woman and perfect Christian, found in her as a virgin, wife and mother the outstanding type of womanhood and pre-eminent exemplar of life lived in accordance with the Gospels and summing up the most characteristic situations in the life of a woman.13

“Mary, in fact, is one of our race, a true daughter of Eve, though free. . .of sin, and truly our sister, who as a poor and humble woman fully shared our lot.”14

1. See: Alvaré, Helen. A new Feminism. Ligourian Magazine 1997.

2. See: Aldrich. The Blessed Virgin Mary and the woman.

3. Thurian, Max. "Marian Profile of Ministry is Basis of Woman’s Ecclesial Role." L’Osservatore Romano, March 24, 1993.

4. John Paul II. "Mary shows us God’s respect for women." General Audience of November 29, 1995.

5. See: "Masculinization of woman in the name of 'liberation." and Offenses against women's dignity.

6. John Paul II. "Mary sheds light on the role of women." General Audience of December 6, 1995.

7. See: "Mary, preeminent exemplar of the New Woman."

8. See; Skruzny, Eric. Mary, Model of Women and Mothers.

9. See: Moss, Rodney. Mary and the Evangelization of the Family.

10. Skruzny, Eric. Mary, Model of Women and Mothers.

11. Roten, Johann S.M. "Mary in Theological Anthropology." IMRI course, class notes.

12. For further study see: John Paul II. "Mary sheds light on role of women." General audience December 6, 1995. Ibid. "Mary shows God’s respect for women." General Audience November 29, 1995. Campbell, Dwight. Mary reveals true femininity.

13. Paul VI. Marialis Cultus, 34-37.

14. Paul VI. Marialis Cultus, 56.

All About Mary includes a variety of content, much of which reflects the expertise, interpretations and opinions of the individual authors and not necessarily of the Marian Library or the University of Dayton. Please share feedback or suggestions with


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