Orientations and Proposals for the Celebration of the Marian Year 1987- 1988

Letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship
Rome, April 3, 1987

[The following document was translated and published by Salesiana Publishers, Inc., Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines. The introduction has been slightly modified to the past tense. The timeless value of this text lies in its many suggestions for pastoral application of Marian devotion in parishes. To skip the following outline and introductory letter, click MAIN TEXT]



Primary importance of the liturgical year (1-2)
The presence of the Virgin in the liturgical year (3)
Reevaluating some feasts (4)
Commemoration of Our Lady's Mass on Saturday (5)


Introduction (6)
The exemplary value of liturgical worship (7-8)
The Virgin, model of the Church in the practice of worship (9-11)
The image of the Virgin as presented in the liturgy (11)


Introduction (12)
The choice of texts (13-16)
The formulary (14)
The Bible readings (15)
Songs (16)
Homily (17)
The Universal Prayer (18)
The commemoration of the BVM in the Eucharistic Prayer (19-20)
Final invocation to the BVM (21)


Introduction (22)
The sacrament of baptism (23-26)
The sacrament of confirmation (27-28)
The sacrament of the eucharist (29-31)
The sacrament of reconciliation (32-34)
The sacrament of the anointing of the sick (35-38)
The sacrament of orders (39-41)
The sacrament of matrimony (42-45)
Preparation (42-43)
Celebration (44)
The follow-up (45)


Introduction (46-47)
Liturgy of the hours and Marian piety (48-49)
The singing of Vespers on Sundays and feasts of the BVM (50)


Introduction (51-56)
A. Pious devotions recommended by the magisterium (57-64)
Biblical inspiration of the pious exercises and celebrations of the Word (58-60)
The Angelus and the Regina Caeli (61)
The holy rosary (62)
The litanies of the BVM (63)
The Marian months (64-65)
B. Marian expression of popular religiosity (66-67)
Values of popular religiosity (66-67)
Evangelization of popular religiosity (68)
Orientation towards the liturgy (69-71)
Popular dimension of the liturgy (72)


Introduction (73)
The cathedral church (74)
Exemplary functions of the shrines (75-76)
Development of the liturgy (75)
The exercise of charity (76)
The pilgrimage (77-79)
Celebration of eucharist and penance (80-82)
The celebration of the eucharist (81)
The celebration of penance (82)

Blessings (83-85)
Consecrations, membership in confraternities, the giving of scapulars (86-87)
Consecrations (86)
Membership in confraternities (87)
The giving of scapulars (88)
Votive offerings (89-90)

Catechesis on the BVM (91)
Iconography (92-94)


Letter of Introduction

From the time of his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, Pope John Paul II called the attention of pastors and faithful alike to the bi-millennium of the birth of Christ with the year 2000, and the tri-millennium of the Christian era. He invited the Church to reflect on the tasks awaiting them in view of this historical event.(1)

To prepare the faithful in spirit to celebrate that jubilee year in a fitting way, John Paul II during a homily preached on January 1, 1987, proclaimed a Marian Year from Pentecost 1987 to Assumption 1988.(2) The meaning and value of this was developed in his encyclical letter Redemptoris Mater.(3)

In the above mentioned homily the Holy Father stated that the Marian Year should be prepared, celebrated, and lived in the communities of the local churches. (4) The Congregation for Divine Worship knew the effort and attention that many local churches dedicate to the life of worship in its various aspects, and, in particular, to the liturgy. Thus, in the spirit of brotherly collaboration, this congregation considered it good to send to the Presidents of the National Liturgical Commissions this letter containing some suggestions especially of a practical character. As a matter of fact, they are simple indications intended to help make the celebration of the Marian Year fruitful and harmonious from the liturgical point of view.

The Congregation of Divine Worship desires that this service offered to the local churches and to the faithful, could help towards living the Marian Year 1987-1988 fervently so as to have lasting fruits.

Rome, April 3, 1987

Paul Augustine Cardinal Mayer, Prefect
Virgilio No.
Titular Bishop of Voncaria,



Primary Importance of the Liturgical Year

1. The Holy Father has pointed to the liturgical year as the natural context in which to include the various initiatives to be programmed by the local churches to celebrate the year dedicated the Blessed Virgin.(5)

It is an important point upon which this Congregation wishes to insist: the cultic Marian initiatives must be harmonized with the themes and characteristics of every liturgical season. Therefore, during the Marian Year the object and specific nature of every liturgical feast must be faithfully kept. Nevertheless, in not a few cases, from the deepening of the nature and object proper to each feast there will emerge a note or a Marian aspect to be given adequate importance.(6)

2. The celebration of the Marian Year is a good occasion to develop or start again to instruct the faithful about the liturgical year. The whole mystery of Christ from the Incarnation and Christmas to the Ascension, Pentecost, and the waiting in hope for the return of the Lord, are celebrated harmoniously throughout the year.( 7)

For many of the faithful it will be a consoling discovery to know that every liturgical year is a "year of mercy" (cf. Is. 61:31), a truly "holy year" full of the mystical presence of Christ, the "Saint of God" (cf. Mt. 1:24; Lk 1:35; 4:34) and of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and, because throughout the ordered succession of the various liturgical seasons and by means of the celebration of the holy mysteries, there is "given to God perfect glory and men are sanctified."(8)

In the measure that the faithful acknowledge the beauty of the liturgical year and its sanctifying force, in the same way they will appreciate this "holy sign" that allows them to celebrate the whole history of salvation and to transform the time on earth into time of salvation.

Presence of the Blessed Virgin in the Liturgical Year

3. In a similar way, from a well-given instruction, the faithful will learn that every Liturgical Year is also, so to say, a Marian year. In fact because of her singular participation in the mystery of Christ, during the liturgical year the Blessed Virgin is constantly honored in an admirable variety of ways:

  • Advent, particularly rich in suggestive references to the Immaculate Mother of the Lord,(9) with whom culminates the awaiting of Israel "having reached the fullness of time and the commencement of the new economy."(10)

  • Christmas season celebrates the mysteries of the infancy of the Savior and brings incessantly to mind the figure of the Blessed Virgin; in particular, the Solemnity of January 1 is rightly considered to be the oldest commemoration of the Church of Rome, celebrating the divine, salvific, and virginal maternity of Mary. In the liturgy of the day no other celebration must be allowed to obscure or in any way diminish this commemoration.

  • Lent, when the way leading to Easter is filled by a more attentive listening to the Word,(11) is a more decided conversion of heart, and a conscious taking up of one s cross (cf. Mt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23). This way can be modeled on the way walked by the Virgin, the first disciple of Christ, diligent guardian of the Word (cf. Lk 2:19,51), and faithful woman at the foot of the cross (cf. Jn 19:25-27).

  • Eastertide, when the ecclesial joy of the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit is a kind of extension of the joy of Mary at Nazareth, the Mother of the Risen Lord. In fact, according to the thinking of the Church she was filled with "ineffable joy" (12) at the victory of her Son over death, and, according to the Acts of the Apostles, she was the center of the beginning Church awaiting the Paraclete (cf. Acts 1:14).

  • Throughout the year, in which are celebrated various feasts in honor of the Blessed Virgin. Among which the most important is the Assumption, the coronation of her itinerary of grace and feast of her vocation to full happiness.

Reevaluating Some Feasts

4. It is not difficult to see that during the Marian Year the local churches will dedicate particular attention to the celebration of the feast of the Blessed Virgin, underlining the aspects proper to each one and observing a due hierarchy of values and a convenient gradation in the style of celebration. Nevertheless, it will be opportune to reevaluate with the faithful the following feasts: The Annunciation of the Lord (March 25), the Presentation of the Lord (February 2), the Birthday of Mary (September 8), and the Assumption (August 15). For centuries these feasts have been the four cardinal feasts of the liturgical devotion to the Mother of God. For different reasons, their importance could be diminished in the minds of many Christians today.(13)

Commemoration of Our Lady's Mass on Saturday

5. It can be easily seen that during the Marian Year the "old and discrete"(14) commemoration of Mary Most Holy on Saturday will be given due importance. In order that this be done with richness of expression and in a fruitful manner, it would be fitting:

  • with due respect for liturgical norms, to use the ample collection of formularies of the "Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary" promulgated by the Congregation for Divine Worship;(15)
  • to instruct the faithful on the origin and meaning of this commemoration, pointing out especially the value that contemporary spirituality is more aware of;
  • to be a remembrance of the attitude as mother and disciple of the Blessed Virgin who on that great Saturday when Christ was in the tomb, strong as she was by faith and hope, alone among the disciples, awaited in readiness for the resurrection of the Lord;(16)
  • as prelude and introduction to the celebration of Sunday, the primordial feast, commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ;(17)
  • as the sign, at the closing of the week, of the Virgin's constant presence and always at work in the life of the Church.(18)


6. In the whole Church the Holy Mother of the Lord is venerated with a singular love,(19) especially in the celebration of the liturgy. This happens in many environments and in a great variety of expressions. In order for the faithful to get from it a norm and nourishment for a correct Marian devotion, it would be useful to teach them about

    the exemplary and normative value of liturgical worship before other expressions of worship;
  • the exemplary value of Mary of Nazareth for the Church in the exercise of worship;
  • the exemplary value of the Blessed Virgin emerging from the very liturgical celebration itself.
The Exemplary Value of Liturgical Worship

7. By means of adequate information about the origin, meaning, and value of the worship rendered to the Blessed Virgin, basing it on the liturgical texts and rites, the faithful can understand how Marian devotion

  • forms harmoniously a part of the ensemble of the only Christian worship with which the Church, through the Holy Spirit, glorifies the Father;(20)
  • deploying itself during the liturgical year, manifests and celebrates the relations that unite the Virgin Mary to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; to the Church in its beginning and on our way towards the eschatological fulfillment; to each of the faithful every day and in the most significant moments of their spiritual growth;
  • illuminates the relations that, in the community of the communion of saints, exist between the Blessed Virgin and the saints in heaven, and between the Blessed Virgin and the faithful still on pilgrimage towards their heavenly home;
  • it is incessantly nourished by the vivifying sap of divine thoughts of contemporary man;
  • it presents the whole typology of worship-related expressions pointed out by the magisterium: the profound veneration and confident invocation; the ardent love and pure praise; the service of love and diligent imitation;(21)
  • uses beautiful artistic expression in literature, music, and iconography;
  • so as to obtain greater coherence between the liturgical celebration and reality, determines a concrete task of responsibility for Christian life.

8. From the consideration of the values of liturgical worship of the Mother of the Redeemer its normative character becomes evident in relation to the other forms of marian devotion.

The faithful will learn from the liturgy how to express the trinitarian note that distinguishes and qualifies the worship of the God of New Testament revelation, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

They will learn the Christological component that brings to light the only necessary mediation of Christ.

They will learn the ecclesial character by which the baptized, constituting the holy people of God, pray together in the name of the Lord. (cf. Mt 18:20)

Besides, as what happens in the liturgy, in the manifestation of devotion to the Virgin Mary, the faithful 1. must have constant recourse to the divine scriptures, the indispensable source of every genuine expression of Christian worship; 2. while keeping intact the profession of faith of the Church, must not forget the needs of the ecumenical movement; 3. must consider the anthropological aspects of the expressions used in worshiping, so as to reflect a valid concept of man and woman and to correspond to their needs; 4. must put into evidence the eschatological tension, essential to the gospel message, and 5. manifest clearly the missionary task and the duty of witnessing proper to a disciple of the Lord.

The Virgin, Model of the Church in the Practice of Worship

9. To nourish in the faithful a genuine liturgical and ecclesial spirit that will contribute to increase a correct devotion to the Blessed Virgin, it will be opportune to show them how the humble servant of the Lord is "model of the attitude with which the Church celebrates divine mysteries";(22)

  • LISTENS to the Word and KEEPS it as the Blessed Virgin listened to it (cf. Lk 1:38) and kept it in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51),
  • PRAISES and THANKS God, remembering his salvific deeds in favor of men, as was done by Mary in the Magnificat (ca. Lk 1:46-55),
  • MANIFESTS Christ to men and brings him to them, as the Blessed among women brought the Savior to John the Baptist (cf. Lk 1:39-45) and showed him to the shepherds (Lk 2:15-16) and to the wise men (Mt 2:11),
  • PRAYS and INTERCEDES for the salvation of all men, as the mother of Jesus interceded for the newly-wed couple in Cana of Galilee (cf. Jn 2:1-11) and prayed in the upper room together with the apostles invoking the gift of the Paraclete (cf. Acts 1:14),
  • through the spirit working in the Sacraments, GENERATES and NOURISHES the life of grace in the faithful, as the Virgin of Nazareth generated the Son of God by the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:34-35) and nourished him with her milk (cf. Lk 11:27),
  • OFFERS Christ to the Father and with Christ OFFERS HERSELF to the very divine love, repeating the gestures of the humble and generous Mother who presented the child Jesus in the temple (cf. Lk 2:22-35), and on Calvary associated herself "with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her",(23)
  • IMPLORES the coming of the Lord (cf. Rev 22:10) and WATCHES, awaiting the Spouse (cf. Mt 25:1-13) as the Virgin who waited many times did:
    • as daughter of Zion, awaited the coming of the Messiah;
    • as mother, the birth of her son;
    • as disciple, the pentecostal effusion of the spirit;
    • as member of the Church, the definitive encounter with Christ that was effected for her in the assumption of her virginal body and soul into heaven.

10. When comprehending the exemplarity of the Blessed Virgin in ecclesial worship, the faithful will be attracted to participate in the liturgical celebrations with the attitudes shown to us in the Gospel, the attitudes of the Mother of the Lord, namely:

  • discrete presence and contemplative manner
  • silence and listening
  • constant reference to the kingdom
  • diligent solicitude for all mankind.

The Image of the Blessed Virgin Emerging from the Liturgy

11. As has been stated, the Church looks at Mary as her model in the practice of worship and, by celebrating the liturgy, she presents the Blessed Virgin to the faithful as the model of Christian life.

As declared in the Preface to the Collection of Masses in Honor of the Virgin Mary, "The liturgy with its force for making things vivid, frequently places before the eyes of the faithful the figure of Mary of Nazareth. Therefore, especially in the liturgical celebrations, the Mother of Christ, shines as model of virtue and of faithful cooperation in the work of salvation."(24) This exemplarity "that emerges from the very liturgical actions, induces the faithful to conform themselves to the Mother in order to conform themselves better to the Son, incites them to keep the Word of God with diligent care and to meditate on it lovingly; to praise God with gladness and to thank him with joy; to serve God and the brethren faithfully and even to offer their lives in generosity for them; to pray to the Lord with perseverence and implore him confidently; to be merciful and humble; to observe the law of the Lord and to fulfill his will; to love God in everything and above everything; and await with vigilance the coming of the Lord."(25)


12. The celebration of the Eucharist is the epitome of the worship of the Church. Among the initiatives of the Marian Year there will certainly be planned not a few eucharistic celebrations. Now, because of its character of culminating point, the celebration of the divine mysteries must not be the only, or almost only, worshiping expression in commemoration of the Mother of the Lord. A wise programming of the worshiping initiatives will foresee that other manifestations of devotion take place at the most appropriate times and occasions.

The Selection of Texts

13. The selection of the prayer texts, the Bible readings, and the songs must be made with care and pastoral sensitivity. It must be made especially

  • with fidelity to the liturgical norms,
  • with attention to the liturgical season and the characteristic situation of the life of the local church and of the groups of faithful,
  • with the participation of the ministers and of the animators of said liturgy.(26)

In every case there must be avoided a kind of liturgical break that takes place when the priest-celebrant knows the selected texts while the assembly has no information at all about them. It is convenient to inform the faithful beforehand about the selected formulation. In this way their participation will be more knowledgeable and more fruitful.

The Formulary

14. As regards the formulary, the celebrant has at hand a great possibility of choice:

  • the formularies of the common of the Blessed Virgin,
  • the masses in honor of the Virgin Mary either of the Roman Missal or of the Proper of the local churches, which can be celebrated as votive masses,(27)
  • the formularies of the Collection of Masses in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Bible Readings

15. The Roman liturgy can select from a vast number of Bible readings:

  • the reading proposed in the Common of the Blessed Virgin;
  • the readings indicated for the various feasts in honor of Mary Most Holy either in the Roman Missal or in the Proper of the local church,
  • the readings contained in the Lectionary for the Masses in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Nevertheless, the following should be borne in mind:

a) In the specific marian celebration it is normal to use the list of readings proposed for each mass, because "to express and define the peculiar message of a liturgical commemoration the prayer and the Bible texts concur."(28)

b) In some cases, in the light of the criteria for the use of the Ordo of the Readings of the Mass(29) and the Introduction to the Lectionary for the Masses in Honor of the Blessed Virgin,(30) a particular list of readings can be prepared.

c). At some periods of the liturgical year, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Paschal time, either out of respect for the liturgical regulations or for reasons of pastoral opportunity, it would be convenient to follow the proposals of the ferial lectionary regarding the day on which the Mass is celebrated.


16. More than in other celebrations, perhaps in the masses in honor of the Blessed Virgin the selection of songs carefully adheres to the norms of the Instruction on Sacred Music.(31)

In particular, the songs must be:

  • in accordance with the specific goal of the celebration,
  • adapted to the particular moment of the mass at which they will be sung,
  • valid from the musical point of view and such as to favor the participation of the faithful, especially in the parts of their actuation.


17. During the Marian Year, because their love for the Mother of the Lord, the faithful and priests will respectively desire to listen and pronounce some words about her. Such words must have the character proper to a homily in the style, structure, duration, and with the necessary references to the readings of the day or the liturgical text.(32)

As the whole liturgical celebration, of which it is a part, the homily must be oriented to arousing in the faithful the dedication to express "in the lives what they have received by means of the faith."(33)

Some words about the Blessed Virgin, lacking such a vital orientation, would be reduced to a simple, yet decorated praise, would help only to nourish that "sterile and transitory sentimentalism" deplored by Vatican II. (34)

The Universal Prayer

18. The universal prayer (in which "the assembly of the faithful, enlightened by the Word of God and, in some way, responding to it,"(35) prays for the Church and for the world, for the needs of the faithful and the needs of all those who find themselves in particular difficulty) finds a vast and natural application in the masses of the Blessed Virgin.

The Proper of Masses of many local churches and religious institutes contain formularies of prayers for the celebrations in honor of the Virgin Mary. But in many cases it is convenient to apply the liturgical regulations according to which "under the guidance of the celebrant himself, the deacon, a minister, or even some of the faithful, according to the circumstances, opportunely propose to the assembly short intentions freely and accurately prepared." "As they exercise their sacerdotal function, the people pray for all, so that having brought to maturity in themselves the fruits of the liturgy of the Word they can pass to a worthier celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy."(36)

In any case it is necessary that the universal prayer remain faithful to the prayerful and literary genre to which it belongs and retain its own structure.(37)

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin in the Eucharistic Prayer

19. Pastors can certainly see the opportunity that the Marian Year offers to teach the faithful about the meaning and the value of mentioning the Blessed Virgin in the Eucharistic Prayer. The theological and worship-wise importance of that mentioning, which is old and universal, varied in formulation and structure,(38) may escape the attention of the faithful. But if they are properly instructed they will discover the liturgical roots of their marian devotion and will also verify with joy that in the greatest expression, worship-wise, of the Church – the Eucharistic celebration – the Blessed Virgin is venerated with suppliant affection. They will also discover that this mentioning of the Mother of God is not due to historical or contingent factors but springs from an intimate necessity: the Eucharist, being a plenary celebration of the mysteries of salvation worked by God through Christ in the Holy Spirit, must necessarily recall the Holy Mother of the Savior united indissolubly to these mysteries.(39)

20. It can also be explained to the faithful how, connecting the mystery of the Incarnation to that of the Eucharist, the liturgies of the Church show that the Spirit invoked by the celebrant from the father in the epiclesis, asking to descend upon the bread and wine to transform them into the body and blood of the Lord, is the same that descended upon Mary of Nazareth to form the holy humanity of Christ in her virginal womb: "Lord, may the power of the Spirit, which sanctified Mary the mother of your Son, make holy these gifts we place upon your altar."(40)

Final Invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary

21. It is rather a diffused custom that after the ritual final greeting the Sunday assembly will remain for a while inside the church to sing a hymn. It would not be out of place that during the Marian Year that final greeting be addressed to the Mother of Jesus, making reference to the liturgical season. For example, there could be sung:

  • during Advent and Christmastide, the antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater or another song praising Mary as the Daughter of Sion, woman in waiting and full of hope (Advent) or exalting her divine and salvific motherhood (Christmas);
  • during Lent, the antiphon Ave, Regina Caelorum or a hymn commemorating the way of faith of the Virgin or her participation in the mystery of the Cross;
  • in Eastertide, the antiphon Regina Caeli or another hymn celebrating at the same time the resurrection of Christ and the glory of the Mother of the Risen Lord;
  • throughout the year, there could be selected one of the following: the antiphon Regina Caeli considering every Sunday has a paschal character; the antiphon Salve Regina which exalts the glorious condition and the merciful intercession of the Blessed Virgin; the antiphon Sub Tuum Praesidium, that precious testimony of the faith of the Christian people in the protection of the holy Mother of God; a song celebrating her multiple presence in the life of the Church.


22. The ritual action in the celebration of the sacraments must stress the merciful plan of the Father, the salvific presence of Christ, and the peculiar grace of the Holy Spirit at work in each sacrament. Therefore, nothing must distract the participants from the essential and constitutive elements of each sacrament. Nevertheless, this does not exclude that during the celebration there could be pointed out some Marian resonances coming from the very center of the sacrament whether directly or by way of analogy.

The Sacrament of Baptism

23. Baptism is birth to divine grace. Jesus himself defined it in this way: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (Jn 3:5)

The Marian Year will offer more than one occasion to instruct the faithful about some "Marian consequences" of baptismal birth, already described by the Fathers of the Church: "Through you (Mary) – wrote Cyril of Alexandria – believers have obtained the grace of holy baptism."(41)

24. For example, during the preparation for baptism it can be stressed

  • that on December 25, during the celebration of the Birth of the Lord of the Virgin Mary, there is a reading that proclaims explicitly our birth in Baptism: "God saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit; (Titus 3:5),(42)

  • the relation of exemplarity between the birth of Christ and the birth of Christians, pointed out, according to the Fathers of the Church, by the prayer for blessing a new baptismal font: (43) as Christ was born from the womb of the Virgin Mary, who, having acquiesced in faith to the project of God (cf. Lk 1:38), was overshadowed by the power of the divine spirit (Lk 1:34-35), in the same manner the Christian is born from the womb of the virgin Mother Church by faith and the grace of the Spirit";(44)

  • the analogy between the Immaculate Conception of Mary and baptismal regeneration. Yet , in the substantially different manner, both events depend on the paschal mystery. In provision of the merits of Christ's death, the Virgin was preserved from original sin and given the gifts of the Holy Spirit in full measure; immersed in the death-resurrection of Christ, by means of the baptismal rite (cf. Rom 6:3-7), the faithful are liberated from original sin and, in the spirit, become sons and daughters of God.(45)

25. The Rite of Blessing of Woman Before Childbirth can also be given adequate value. In it can be found numerous and delicate references to Mary of Nazareth who lived in faith and love as she waited to give birth (cf. Lk 2:6). Among the texts used on that occasion it is worth noting the reading of the Gospel narrating the visit of Mary to Elizabeth: It is an encounter of two as they wait for the birth of their sons (cf. Lk 1:39-45).(46)

26. In the celebration of baptism we can mention

  • the reference to the Blessed Virgin made in the profession of faith,(47) an old element of great doctrinal value;
  • the invocation "Holy Mary, Mother of God" made over the one to be baptized;(48)
  • the mention of the Virgin Mary in the formula for the blessing of the assembly before leaving;(49)
  • the invitation to sing the Magnificat (cf. Lk 1:46-55) at the end of the celebration, as a song of thanksgiving of the parents and community for the new son/daughter of the Church;(50)
  • the suggestion of bringing the newly baptized "to the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary," intending by this act to place the newly-baptized under the protection of the Mother of the Author of life.(51)

The Sacrament of Confirmation

27. Confirmation is the sacrament of the Spirit "given to us as gift."(52) The Blessed Virgin is "the glory of the Spirit"(53) which acts in her in the Immaculate Conception, in the virginal conceiving of Jesus, in the prayerful waiting in the Last Supper room. It is not difficult, then, to point out some Marian overtones in the sacrament of confirmation. The same Rite of Confirmation orients the community celebrant to perceive them:

  • in the profession of faith;(54)
  • in the proposal for some Bible readings, for example, Isaiah 11:1-4a;(55) following an interpretation of the fathers of the Church, the liturgy discovers that the stalk from the root of Jesse, from which sprouts a bud full of the Holy Spirit, alludes to the Blessed Virgin;(56)
  • in the specific quotation used in the rite: Acts 2:1-6, 14, 22-23, 32-33, "All were filled with the Holy Spirit;"(57) in fact in a unitary vision of the pentecostal event, the remembrance of the descent of the Spirit cannot be separated from the remembrance of the waiting for the same Spirit, during which time the Apostles were joined together in prayer with some women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus and his brothers. (Acts 1:14)

28. In preparation for the sacrament the parallel that Luke has seemingly instituted between the episodes of the Annunciation-Visitation can be explained, as well as the Pentecost-diffusion of the word. The power "of the Most High" descends upon the Blessed Virgin and moves her to proclaim that "great things" that the Almighty has done in her (cf. Lk 1:49); the power from on high (cf. Lk 24:49) comes down upon Peter and the other Apostles and moves them to announce with frankness the work of salvation fulfilled by God in the death-resurrection of Christ. (cf. Acts 2:14-39) Besides, this parallelism has been used in the liturgy.(58)

The Sacrament of the Eucharist

29. To the indications given above about the celebration of the Eucharist and the Marian Year (nos. 12-21) we can add here a word about a specific form of worship towards the Eucharist, namely, exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

It has been observed that many manifestations in honor of the Blessed Virgin end with the eucharistic adoration and the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. In this is to be seen a legitimate expression of Marian devotion and an orientation of the faithful towards worship of Christ the Redeemer.

30. Due to the multiple relations existing between the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin, it is equally normal that during the eucharistic adoration there are hymns or antiphons which have some point of reference to her from whom has been born for us the bread of life:

Ave, verum Corpus, natum ex Maria Virgine, vere passum, immolatum in cruce pro homine, cuius latus perforatum fluxit aqua et sanguine. Esto nobis praegustatum mortis in examine, O Jesu dulcis, O Jesu pie, O Jesu fili Mariae.(59)

31. It is also necessary that in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, benediction that follows be made according to both the spirit and letter of the instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium and of the liturgical book On Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery outside of Mass.(60) In particular, during the exposition it must be taken into account that

  • every worshiping element – songs, readings, formulae of prayers, silence – must be taken care of in a way that "the faithful who pray will be dedicated to Christ the Lord;"(61)
  • the attitude of adoration and listening be given primordial importance because Christ present in the sacrament is the incarnate word, the Lord of glory, teacher and Word of life;
  • if in the place of adoration there is a statue of the Blessed Virgin it must be placed and decorated in such a way as not to be for the worshiping faithful of equal attraction or superior to that constituted by the Blessed Sacrament.(62)

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

32. Christian reflection has progressively pointed out the role of the Blessed Virgin in the way of conversion of the disciples of Christ. And the celebration of the sacrament of penance is an essential part of this way. The most popular prayer to the Blessed Virgin, the Hail Mary, has a deep theological meaning. In the first part we proclaim her sanctity (full of grace), her unique condition (blessed are you among women), and her higher title of glory (Mother of God). In the second part, recognizing the condition of sinners of the ones praying (pray for us sinners) we entrust ourselves to the intercession of Mary Most Holy.(63)

Besides, the liturgy by interpreting the "Be it done" of Mary (Lk 1:38) as words of mercy in favor of sinners,(64) prays frequently to the Blessed Virgin to obtain through her intercession the grace of repentance or of pardon:

Tu princeps, mater Principis,
vitam deposce famulis,
et paenitendi spatia
nobis indulgens impetra.(65)

33. The Marian Year will offer more than one occasion to teach the faithful about the origin and meaning of some titles of the Blessed Virgin – Queen of mercy, Mother of mercy, Refuge of sinners, Mother of reconciliation, Mother of pardon – that are used in the liturgy. These titles show that the faithful, who recognize themselves to be sinners, have confidence in Mary, who is the reflection of God, "rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4), and the Mother of Christ, the incarnate mercy. The meaning and value of mentioning Mary, all-holy, in the celebration of the sacrament of penance in the traditional formula that precedes the telling of sins – the Confiteor(66) – and in one of the prayers of intercession that follow the actual formula of the sacramental absolution.(67)

34. During the Marian Year, in cases when a group of faithful has celebrated the sacrament of penance and it is followed by the celebration of the eucharist, if it is allowed by the discipline of the rubrics, it would not be out of place to celebrate the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Reconciliation.(68)

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

35. In his mercy, Jesus "has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" (Is 53:4) and has instituted the sacrament of the anointing of the sick so that the sick person, through the faith and rite of the Church, can meet with him, the Savior of the whole person. The faithful, then, acknowledge in the Blessed Virgin the "generous companion"(69) of the Redeemer and the "woman of sorrows" (cf. Lk 2:35-48) and knowing her maternal participation in human sufferings, have recourse to her invoking her as Health of the Sick.

36. The priests, based on solid experience, are accustomed to exhort the sick not only to pray to the Lord, but also to have recourse to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin asking for their health, the disposition to fulfill the will of God and to receive fruitfully the Sacraments that in a different way are also a part of the pastoral care of the sick, namely, Penance, Anointing, and the Eucharist.

37. In the renewed pastoral the Sacrament of anointing the sick is celebrated in parishes, hospitals, and during rest and convalescent hours also in a communitarian way. This is a practice that must be encouraged whenever there exist adequate conditions.

By the way, it is worth taking into account the fact that the Marian shrines have been seen to be particularly fitting places for the communitarian celebration of the sacrament of the sick. As a matter of fact, the sick or aged pilgrims, after being duly prepared, participate in it with excellent disposition of spirit in the communitarian celebration of the anointing of the sick.

For the communitarian celebration in the Marian shrines it would be useful to keep in mind that:

  • Easter time, liturgically, is the most meaningful period because it orients the faithful to understand the ultimate meaning of the sacrament, namely the full configuration of the Christian with the risen Christ.
  • when the anointing takes place during the eucharistic celebration, it seems the most appropriate formulary is the one of the Mass of Blessed Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick,(70) whose readings besides coincide with those of the Mass For the Sick.(71)

38. The invoking of the Blessed Virgin in favor of the sick becomes more pressing when the hour of passing away becomes more imminent. On the lips of the sick person, the prayer he has said so often during his life comes spontaneously: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death." The liturgical text itself proposes several Marian invocations,(72) as well as the singing of the Salve Regina, in which is asked of the Blessed Virgin to show us "after this our exile," Jesus, the fruit of her womb.

The Sacrament of Orders

39. During the time of preparation for the reception of the Sacrament of Orders in its various stages, as we know from various testimonies, the candidate in his personal prayer elevates his thoughts frequently to the Blessed Virgin, Seat of Wisdom, and mother of the Good Shepherd. He does so either because he recognizes an intervention of the Mother of the Lord in the grace of the vocation, or because he places it under her protection. Often, the ecclesial community is invited to pray to the Blessed Virgin asking her to take good care of the ones who, by the sacrament of Orders, have become "ministers of Christ and administrators of the mysteries of God." (1 Cor 4:1)

40. All of these take part, even in a remote manner, during the conferring of the Sacrament of Orders. But, in the conscience of some of those to be ordained or those already ordained, the relation to the Mother of Jesus takes more precise connotations:

  • in the deacon who discovers in Mary "the handmaid of the Lord (Lk 1:38), the model of fidelity and of the spirit of service with which he must fulfill his ministry." In fact, the way Mary offered herself totally as handmaid of the Lord to the person and the work of her Son, placing herself at the service of the mystery of the Redemption (74) "in the same way, the deacon, "in the service of the word, the altar and of charity" must become "servant of all" in such a manner that everybody can recognize him as a true disciple of Christ "who did not come to be served but to serve" (Matt 20:28).(75) Besides, taking upon himself his dedication to celibacy he looks to the Blessed Virgin and places his total self-donation at the service of the kingdom under her protection.

  • in the priest, who in one of the essential aspects of his ministry – offering the sacrifice of Christ and with him the offering of himself to God – discovers worthwhile points of reference in the episodes of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:22-35), in which the Blessed Virgin offers the Son to the Father,(76) and of the crucifixion (cf. Jn 19:25-27), in which she offers herself with the Son so that the salvific plan of the Father is fulfilled;(77)

  • in the bishop, who recognizes in the Blessed Virgin, Mother of Jesus, Supreme and Eternal Priest (cf. Heb 6:20, 7:24-25) the "mother of pastors"(78) and the "help of bishops."(79)

Besides, in his deep knowledge of being a sign of the presence of Christ, Supreme Pastor among the people of God, he understands well that "the Church that has been entrusted to him,"(80) with its condition of virgin, spouse and mother, must be more and more like its origin and model, the Blessed Virgin Mary.(81)

41. Following a patristic vein,(82) the bond between the sacrament of Orders and the Blessed Virgin can be related to the bond existing between Christ and his Mother in the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus was not anointed by means of a visible ritual unction, but directly by the Holy Spirit, in the womb of his Mother. (cf. Acts 4:27; Heb 1-9; Lk 4:18; Is 61:1-2) That is to say as king, priest, and prophet.

The Sacrament of Marriage


42. An accurate preparation for the sacrament of matrimony can bring to light the many relations between the mystery of Christian marriage and the Blessed Virgin Mary. These relations can be seen by examining some readings proposed for the wedding Mass:

a) Jn 2:1-11,(83) a pericope of high symbolic value which seems to shed some light on the presence of the Mother of Jesus in the celebration of Christian marriage;

b) Ephesians 5:2a, 21-23,(84) a classical reading during the marriage rite. It offers pastors a good theme for explanation to the faithful how in two intensely nuptial moments of the mystery of Christ Mary of Nazareth is actively present:

  • in the Incarnation, in which the Word, after the fiat of Mary (cf. Lk 1:38), united indissolubly in the Spirit, eternal love, his divine nature to our human nature;
  • in the Passion, in which Christ gave his life for the Church (cf. Eph 5:25) "that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph 5:27). In that event Mary appears at the same time as the first expression of the Church, Immaculate spouse and fruitful Mother of the Church,(85) joyous with a multitude of children.(86)

43. Where the custom of celebrating the promise prior to marriage is maintained it would not be difficult to introduce during the rite (87) a word about her who was the promised wife of a man of the house of David, Joseph. (Lk 1:27) In any case, the desire of many young Christians of placing their future conjugal life under the protection of the Mother of pure love must be encouraged and sustained.(88)

During the delicate period of courtship, the consideration of the figure of the Blessed Virgin will give them strength in their efforts to be faithful and will help them emulate a project of life in which the law of the Lord will always be respected (cf. Lk 2:23-24, 27, 39)

During the Ceremony

44. The way of celebrating matrimony differs according to regions and cultures. Nevertheless, here are some indications that can be applied in many places:

The pastoral dispositions of the local church, as well as canonical legislation, prescribe or at least suppose that the celebration of matrimony is done in the parish. In the light of the typological relation Mary-Church, the faithful can progressively feel that their parish is like a natural Marian shrine.(89)

Nevertheless, within the pastoral ensemble, the request of the spouses to celebrate matrimony in an especially Marian shrine must be given prudent attention, especially when that request is dictated by genuine reasons of faith and devotion.

Without altering or minimizing the doctrinal orientation – christological and ecclesiological – of the rite of matrimony, the Blessed Virgin can be mentioned during the celebration, namely, in the readings, songs, homily and in the intentions of the universal prayer.

By deepening the motivations of faith in every case some nice customs can be given new value as the offering of the nuptial bouquet to the Blessed Virgin by the wife; the first visit made by the newly-married couple after the celebration to the Marian shrine of the city.

The Days Following

45. As a part of the pastoral aspect of matrimony, a normal thing for pastors is to suggest to the newly-married couple to have blessed, in the spirit and according to the Book of Blessings:

  • their new home;(90)
  • the statue of the Blessed Virgin that they place in their home;(91)
  • the family itself every year on the anniversary of their marriage, or in another circumstance.(92)

In these celebration, which are above all petitions of the blessing of God upon the family and dedication to live according to his commandments, it can be observed that they contain also meaningful expressions of veneration to the Virgin Mary.


46. The Liturgy of the Hours is a form of prayer proper of the whole people of God.(93) In the latter years, different ecclesial communities, and not a few laymen have started again to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours, either in common or in private. Nevertheless, more numerous are the faithful who, for one reason or another, have not understood that the Liturgy of the Hours is a prayer proper to them. For lack of an adequate preparation, such a form of prayer becomes difficult for them or seems unsuited to express one's own feelings. These situations are well-known to the pastoral workers of the bishop, and to this very Congregation.

47. The celebration of the Marian Year offers a good occasion to work towards two objectives:

  • to make the people of God understand that the Liturgy of the Hours has valuable ritual forms for celebrating the commemoration of the Blessed Virgin;
  • through the manifestations of marian devotion to spread among the faithful something proper to the Liturgy of the Hours.

Liturgy of The Hours And Marian Devotion

48. Certainly, it will be useful to show to the faithful that every day, through the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church venerates the Blessed Virgin:

  • at Vespers, by singing the Magnificat, the canticle of the Blessed Virgin (cf. Lk 1:46- 55) that has become a typical expression of thanksgiving and praise of the whole ecclesial community;
  • after Compline, singing a Marian antiphon, with which the praying assembly addresses to the Mother of the Lord the last greeting of the day.

It will also be useful to point out the presence of other marian elements in the Liturgy of the Hours, and how, in the feast of the Blessed Virgin and in the commemoration of Mary Most Holy on Saturday, the collection of prayers, due to the variety and value of the texts, is one of the highest expressions of the liturgical worship in honor of the Mother of the Lord.

49. During the Marian Year it could happen that on occasions of tridua, septenaries, or novenas in honor of the Blessed Virgin, some religious communities or assemblies of faithful would be inclined to eliminate or shorten the celebration of the Divine Office so as to give place to other pious practices. Evidently, it would not be an acceptable solution, because it does not consider that the liturgy has a primary value over pious exercises.

Regarding this, it would be convenient to remember that, according to rubrics:

  • in many circumstances one of the offices in honor of the Blessed Virgin proposed in the Liturgy of the Hours, or that of the common, can be celebrated as votive office, or one that, because of its characteristics, can be celebrated as votive;(94)
  • in the office of ordinary days, Lauds and Vespers can acquire an adequate Marian color regarding the structure of the Hours and of the kind of prayers and readings of every part. For example:
    • by selecting an appropriate hymn;
    • by having a short introductory instruction to point out eventual Christological-Marian or ecclesiological-Marian elements brought out in the ready of the Psalms;
    • by using the psalmic prayer;
    • by the proclamation of a pertinent Bible reading followed by a homily emphasizing the Marian aspects;
    • by including in the prayers some invocation referring to Mary.

The Singing of Vespers on Sundays and the Feasts of the Blessed Virgin

50. A positive and desirable fruit of the Marian Year could be the beginning, or returning, to the custom of singing Vespers on Sundays and on the feasts of the Blessed Virgin, because of the eminent liturgical value of this act of worship.

That could be possible if the National Liturgical Commissions gave precise instructions, if there were an efficacious coordination among the institutions that spread out the liturgical-pastoral leaders were convinced of its importance.

As is known, the same psalmic scheme can always be used to facilitate the singing of Sunday Vespers by the people.(95) In reality, Vespers in honor of the Blessed Virgin is composed of easy and beautiful elements, and the majority of them – psalm, canticle, Magnificat, prayer of the Lord, prayers – are the same in all the feasts of Mary Most Holy, and therefore, easier for use by the faithful as a part of their patrimony of liturgical knowledge.


51. Certainly, there will be frequent dedication during the Marian Year to practices of devotion that express love of the Mother of God. Therefore, it would be useful to recall some principles and give some practical indications so that it will have an effective pastoral advantage by the correct use of Marian devotion.

52. On several occasions, the Church has declared that those practices of devotion are both legitimate and useful. With regards to this, the Constitutions on the Sacred Liturgy is of great importance today:

a) "the pious devotions of the Christian people, if they are done according to the law as and regulations of the Church, are recommended very much, especially if they are carried out by order of the Apostolic See."

b) "The sacred practice of the local churches which are made by disposition of the bishop, and according to customs and the legitimately approved books, enjoy also a special dignity."

c) "But it is required that such practices, taking into account the liturgical season, be done in such a way as to be in harmony with the sacred liturgy, that from it they will get some inspiration and lead it to the Christian people, being the liturgy vastly superior to those practices."(96)

53. For all that refers, in particular devotion to the Mother of the Lord, Lumen Gentium "admonishes all sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin be generously fostered, and that the practices and exercises of devotion to her, recommended by the teaching authority of the Church in the course of centuries be highly esteemed, and that those decrees, which were given in the early days regarding the cult of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed."(97)

54. An authentic consideration of principles will induce pastors

  • in the pastoral situations to give to the liturgy the preeminent place it deserves before practices of devotion;
  • consequently, to avoid any kind of confusion or mixture of liturgy with pious devotions;
  • not to put the liturgy in opposition to the pious devotions, or, contrary to the feeling of the Church, eliminate the latter, thus creating a void that many times remains unfilled.

55. On its part the Apostolic See has indicated by which theological, pastoral, historical, and literary criteria these pious devotions should be restored,(98) when it is deemed so; how the biblical spirit and the liturgical inspirations must be accentuated in them and the ecumenicalissue be given expression; how their essential character as known by historical investigation must be manifested; to make sure that they reflect some aspects peculiar to contemporary spirituality.

56. Not a few local churches and religious institutions have revised their own pious devotions following a method analogous to that used by the Apostolic See in the work of renewal of the Roman liturgy, and they have obtained excellent results.

But such a work of revision has not been done everywhere. As a result, in the specific field of the Marian devotion

  • the differences both in style and content between liturgy and pious devotions have been accentuated;
  • it is still being used as a language and the cultural manifestations are conducted in a way not in harmony with Vatican II regarding the figure and mission of the Blessed Virgin and the cult that must be rendered to her.(99)

Pious Devotions Recommended by the Magisterium

57. Without any desire to give a fixed list of all the pious devotions recommended in different ways by the magisterium, some of them are recalled to stress their esteem, to offer some practical indications, and to suggest some eventual corrections to be made in them.

Biblical Inspiration of the Pious Devotion and Celebrations of the Word

58. The word of God is an essential point of reference for any genuine expression of Christian worship. In fact, divine scripture, being full of the mystery of Christ, the Savior, is in itself a message of salvation and an inexhaustible source of inspiration for prayer, for which it gives insuperable models. As has been observed, it contains also, from Genesis to Revelation, no doubtful references to her who was mother and cooperator of the Savior."(100) Therefore, it is necessary that the pious devotions in honor of the Blessed Virgin be in close and constant relation with the revealed word.

59. In particular, the conciliar indication for promoting the "sacred celebration of the word of God" in some meaningful moments of the liturgical year (101) can find valid application also in the manifestations of worship in honor the mother of the Word incarnate. This corresponds perfectly with the general direction of contemporary devotion and reflects the conviction that "it is an excellent way of honoring the Blessed Virgin: to proclaim correctly the word of God in the liturgical celebrations and to venerate it in love; to listen to it with faith and keep it in the heart; to mediate on it in the spirit and propagate by one's lips; and to put it faithfully into practice and to conform one's whole life to it."(102)

60. The celebrations of the word, through the thematic and structural possibilities they contain,(103) by offering multiple elements for worshiping encounters, that will be, at the same time, expressions of genuine devotion and an adequate occasion to develop a systematic catechesis on the Blessed Virgin. But experience tells us that the celebration of the Word must not have above all an intellectual or exclusively teaching character. Instead, they must give place in songs, in prayer texts, in ways of participation of the faithful to expressive, simple, and familiar expressions of popular devotion that talk straightaway to the hearts of people.

The Angelus and the Regina Caeli

61. To pray the Angelus, and during Eastertide, the Regina Caeli, is a  practice deeply rooted in the devotion of the Christian people and encouraged by the example of the Roman Pontiffs. In some places the changed conditions in which we live do not favor the recitation of the Angelus, but in many other places the inconveniences are small, and because of this all efforts must be made to keep alive that pious custom and to continue to spread it. The Angelus prayer, "given its simple structure, biblical character, its quasi-liturgical rhythm, because it sanctifies different moments of the day, due also to its openness to the Paschal mystery, at a distance of many centuries, remains unchanged, with its value and freshness untouched."(104)

More than that, it is desirable that on some occasions, especially in religious communities, in shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and during certain conventions, the praying of the Angelus or the Regina Caeli be solemnized, for example, by singing the Hail Mary, by proclaiming the gospel of the annunciation or, during Eastertide, one of the Gospels of the resurrection of the Lord.

The Holy Rosary

62. The Supreme Pontiffs have repeatedly exhorted the faithful to pray the Holy Rosary frequently, a prayer based on the Bible, and centered on the contemplation of the salvific events of the life of Christ, with whom the Virgin Mary was strongly associated. The testimonies of pastors and of men of holy life about the value and efficacy of this prayer are very numerous. With this in mind here are three suggestions:

a) On certain occasions, especially when the rosary is prayed in common, give to the prayer a celebration character: by means of proclaiming the biblical passages related to each mystery, by singing some of its parts, by an accurate distribution of the different roles, and by solemnizing the moments at the beginning and ending of the prayer.(105)

b) Rather than apply rigidly the indications that assign to specific days of the week the different joyful, [luminous], sorrowful, and glorious mysteries,(106) let it be deepened in its liturgical substratum. In a practical way, in selecting the mysteries to be meditated upon, it is good that the liturgical character of a certain day be given preference over the order followed throughout the week.(107) It should also be taken into consideration, according to the nature of the rosary, on particular days of the liturgical year, that appropriate substitutions of the mysteries be made when they can help harmonize the praying of the rosary with the liturgy of the day.(108)

c) When explaining to the faithful the value and beauty of the rosary, expressions that would make other excellent forms of prayer seem inferior are to be avoided, or would not take into account in a due manner the existence of other Marian rosaries [chaplets] approved by the Church.(109)

The Litanies of the Blessed Virgin

Among the forms of prayer to the Blessed Virgin recommended by the Church are the litanies. In particular the Apostolic See has shown it esteem for the Litany of Loreto, including it in the Roman ritual.(110)

During the Marian Year pastors can:

a) Reconsider the nature and function of the litanies: by themselves they are a form of prayer,(111) characterized by a rhythmic repetition of expressions of praise-supplication to the Mother of God. They can constitute the central role in a Marian prayer encounter or be used as a song during a procession.

b) Where it is not yet being done, provide a theologically correct and literally good translation of the Loreto formula, and add convenient melodies, because singing is a co-natural element of this type of prayer.

c) Make known to the faithful the litanies of the Rite for the Coronation of the Images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They can be, on some occasions, an efficacious alternative to the Loreto formula.

d) Be acquainted with some old or new formularies used in local churches or by religious institutes. They are noteworthy because of their structural exactness and the beauty of their invocations.(112)

The Marian Months

64. The practice of celebrating a "month of Mary" is extended in various churches, both in the East and in the West. But while in the East the month of the Blessed Virgin is firmly connected with the Liturgy,(113) in the West the months dedicated to Mary have been developed independently of the liturgical cycle, because they were started in a period of time when liturgy was not taken much into account as a normative form of Christian worship.(114) This has created, and still creates today, some problems of a liturgical-pastoral character that cannot be ignored.

65. In reference especially to the western custom of celebrating a "Marian month" in May (November, in some countries of the southern hemisphere), October, and secondarily, in September, it would be good to bear the following in mind:

a) Taking into account the prescriptions of the liturgy, the hopes of the people, their maturity in the faith, the problems related to the "Marian months" must be studied in the situation of the pastoral togetherness of the local church. In this way contrasting pastoral situations will be avoided which mislead the faithful,(115) as happens, for example, if they were made to abolish the month of May.

b) In many cases, the best solution would be to harmonize the contents of the Marian month with the concomitant period of the liturgical year. For example, during the month of Mary, the practices of devotion must illustrate especially the participation of Mary in the Paschal mystery, and in the pentecostal event that is the birth of the Church.

c) In every case, the directions of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy must be diligently followed with regard to the need "that the spirit of the faithful will be above all directed towards the feasts of the Lord, in which the mysteries of salvation are celebrated throughout the year."(116)

d) A well-conducted catechesis will convince the faithful that Sunday, the weekly commemoration of Easter, is "the primordial feastday,"(117) and because of that the Sunday celebration is free from any activity related to the Marian month. Besides, none of the celebration elements of the Lord's Day can be subordinated to the devotional requirements of the months dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.(118)

e) The faithful must be told that the Roman liturgy has already a month of the Blessed Virgin of its own, harmoniously included in the development of the liturgical year, namely, Advent.(119) This information, however, must not be limited to creating theoretical knowledge, but ought to be translated into liturgical celebrations which, by taking into account the sensibilities of the faithful, will give real value to the numerous references to Mary Most Holy during the season of Advent.

B. Marian Expressions of "Popular Religiosity"

66. For some years now "popular religiosity" has been the object of particular attention by the Apostolic See, some bishops' conferences, scientists studying cultural anthropology and the history of religious. Since, in this Marian Year many manifestations of devotion to the Blessed Virgin will have as their origin "popular religiosity," we will stress here some generally accepted principles, without intending here to tackle the whole problem.

Values of Popular Religiosity

As is known, popular religiosity "shows a hunger for God that only the simple and the poor can posses; it makes people capable of being generous and of making sacrifices to the point of heroism, when it is a question of manifesting one's faith; it brings with it a deep sense of the profound attributes of God: paternity, providence, loving and constant presence; it generates interior attitudes rarely observed in other places to the same degree: patience, sense of the cross in daily life, detachment, openness to others, and devotion."(120) This acknowledgment refers to the background attitudes of popular religiosity; but not to each one of its expressions. "It is frequently exposed to infiltrations of many perversions of religiosity, rather, superstitions. Many times it remains at the level of mere worshiping manifestations without implicating an authentic adherence in faith."(121)

67. In what refers to popular religiosity, the faithful easily understand the vital connection between Son and Mother. They know that the Son is God, and that is, the Mother, is also their mother. By intuition they know the Immaculate sanctity of the Blessed Virgin, and even though they venerate her as glorious queen in heaven, they are still sure that she, full of mercy, intercedes for them, and therefore implore her patronage confidently.

The poorest especially feel that she is close to them. They know that, like them, she was poor, that she suffered much, that she was patient and humble. They feel compassion for her in her sufferings during the crucifixion and death of her Son, and rejoice with her at the resurrection of Jesus.

With joy they celebrate her feasts, participate willingly in processions, go on pilgrimage to her shrines, like to sing in her honor and offer her votive offerings. They do not tolerate someone offending her, and, instinctively, mistrust those who do not honor her.

Evangelization of Popular Religiosity

68. From its contents and manifestations, the need, above all, of evangelizing popular religiosity can be seen. That is to say, there is a need to place it in fruitful contact with the light and strength of the Gospel. Popular religiosity, considered with love and purified of the dregs, and made better in its manifestations wherever they are imperfect or deficient, as well as being oriented towards an authentically Christian manner, will become a genuine expression of worshiping God in spirit and in truth. (Jn 4:24)

In the specific case of Marian devotion it is necessary that the image of Mary correspond to the essential data of the Gospel and to the faith of the Church, before being translated into the expressive models of each culture. In fact, a mistaken doctrinal background, by defect or by excess, cannot constitute a good basis for a correct devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

Orientation towards the Liturgy

69. In a similar way there is a felt need to decisively, though gradually, orient the expressions of popular religiosity with regard to the liturgy, for that is "the apex towards which the action of the Church tends, and is, at the same time, the source from which its virtue flows."(122)

The ultimate aim of the evangelization of popular religiosity is to insert the faithful into the spirit of the worship that the Church offers to the Father through Christ in the Spirit. It is to being them to a full participation in the table of the Word and of the Eucharist,(123) and to induce them to witness by their lives the evangelical values expressed in the worshiping actions.

70. This present the problems of a fruitful integration between liturgy and popular religiosity. The history of the liturgy both in the East and in the West tells of numerous cases of a correct integration of worshiping expressions coming from popular religiosity in the spirit of liturgical worship.(124)

When such an integration is seen to be really useful, for it to be successful it should be carried out under the guidance of the bishops and experts of popular religiosity in a certain territory. Such an integration requires, on the one side, a great discernment in safeguarding the data of faith, the structure and essential elements of liturgical worship, and, on the other side, a profound knowledge of the cultural background of popular religiosity, its contents, symbols, and language.

71. However, it will not always be necessary to change the manifestations of popular religiosity into liturgical expressions. Frequently, if they are dutifully evangelized and made the object of renewed catechesis, they can enter into the class of practices of devotion, and as such, have a legitimate place in Christian worship and can start a peaceful co-existence with the liturgy, regulated by the principles of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy.(125) The process either of fruitful integration or of peaceful co-existence between the liturgy and worshiping expressions of popular religiosity cannot be brought about in a short span of time. It matures slowly through study and a patient and loving pastoral action.

The Marian Year will have opportunities, according to the situations, to promote the commencement of such a process or to get it moving in that direction. What has been said until now is an expression of encouragement for bishops, liturgical commissions, and people of study, who for a long time are working in the field of popular religiosity. It is also an expression of fraternal collaboration with those who cannot yet work systematically at this urgent problem.

Popular Dimensions of the Liturgy

72. Finally, there is need to remove an equivocation that arose recently in some places. It is said that the liturgy is a worshiping expression accessible only to people particularly prepared, but unable to be an efficacious channel through which the people express their religiosity.

This is a far cry from the Church's mentality. She ardently desires that all the faithful should have that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy, and to which the Christian people, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (Pet 2:9; cf. 2:4-5) have a right and obligation by reason of their baptism."(126) Therefore, in the perspective of the one Christian worship to the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit it is necessary to insist that the popular dimension of the liturgy is proper to the whole people of God and valid in all its components.


73. In the new Code of Canon Law, shrines have received a particular juridical acknowledgment that shows their importance in the pastoral life of a territory.(127)

In his teachings John Paul II has spoken frequently about the shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and has qualified them as places that give a testimony of the presence of the Blessed Virgin in the life of the Church, thus forming part of the spiritual and cultural patrimony of a people. They are privileged places where the faithful, desiring to consolidate their faith, look for an encounter with God and with the Mother of the Lord.(128)

In the encyclical letter, Redemptoris Mater, the Holy father pointed out the existence of "a specific geography of the faith and of the Marian devotion, consisting of all the places of particular pilgrimage of the people of God"(130) and said that they are subjects destined to play an important role in the pastoral events of the Marian Year.

The Cathedral Church

74. Certainly, the competent committees will point out, or have already done so, the Marian shrines – diocesan, regional, national, or international – that for historical or pastoral reasons will become primary centers of apostolic animation, catechesis, and worship to the Mother of the Lord.

It seems opportune that the Cathedral Church should be indicated as a qualified place for the celebration of the Marian Year. In it the spiritual life of the diocese has its center and point of propagation. On the symbolic level, no church can express as well the theological relation existing between the Church and Mary as the Cathedral with the community of the disciples of the Lord gathered around a successor of the Apostles.

We can add to these reasons the consideration that, especially since the Middle Ages, many cathedrals have been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Such a custom corresponds to a movement of devotion towards the glorious mother of Christ, but reflects also a theological idea: the Church acknowledges in Mary, Virgin, spouse and mother, the image of her virginal, spousal and maternal condition. In her she sees her own model of love and fidelity to the Lord. Finally, in her she finds a sure refuge in danger and in times of trial.(131)

Exemplary Functions of the Shrines

Development of the Liturgy

75. One of the functions proper to shrines, according to the Code of Canon Law,(132) is the development of the liturgy. This does not refer to a numerical increase of the celebrations, but it means the betterment of their quality. The rectors of shrines know very well their responsibility to achieve that aim. They understand that the faithful who come to the shrine from very different places should go home strengthened, comforted, and edified by the liturgical celebrations performed there. This is because of their capacity to communicate the message of salvation through the noble simplicity of the ritual expressions and by the faithful observance of liturgical norms.

They know too that the effects of an exemplary liturgical action are not limited to the celebration performed in the shrine. The priests and the faithful pilgrims will have the desire to transfer to their places of origin the exemplary worshiping experiences at which they participated in the shrine.

The celebration of the Marian Year, with a greater number of faithful at the shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, will see the rectors particularly dedicated to work on such a line of exemplarity in the liturgical-pastoral activity.

The Exercise of Charity

76. The exemplary function of the shrine must be put into action also in the exercise of charity. In reality, there are many shrines in which, due to the zeal of those in charge and of their collaborators, the charity of Christ is flourishing and seems to prolong the maternal solicitude of the Virgin:

  • in the reception and hospitality towards pilgrims, especially the poorest, to whom, as far as possible, space and facilities for a period of rest are offered;
  • in the solicitude and care towards the aged, the sick, and the handicapped, to whom is reserved the most delicate attention and the best places in the shrine. Convenient schedules for them are organized, taking into consideration their particular conditions, but not isolating them from the rest of the faithful. There is also set up for them an executive collaboration with the associations that generously take care of their transportation;
  • in the availability and in the service rendered to all who visit the shrine, whether cultured or simple people, rich or poor, nationals or foreigners.

The Pilgrimage

77. The pilgrimage is a manifestation of worship intimately connected with the life of the shrine.(133) In its most authentic forms it constitutes a high expression of devotion: in the motivations of its origin; in the spirituality that animates it;(134) in the prayer that mark its fundamental moments, namely, the setting out, the journey itself, the arrival and the return trip.

78. Considering the life and mission of the Blessed Virgin, it is not difficult to give a Marian tone to the spirituality of the pilgrimage. Faithful to the tradition of her people, Mary of Nazareth was a devout pilgrim. The parents of Jesus "went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom" (Lk 2:41-42). Mary went again as pilgrim to Jerusalem with her Son, when he, true Lamb of God (Jn 1:36), offered the sacrifice of his own life, instituted the new and definitive Passover, memorial of our liberation from sin and of his going from this world to the Father (Jn 13:1). The interior life of Mary was a "pilgrimage of the faith."(135)

Often, the teachings of the Church and the liturgy consider life on earth a pilgrimage, "and talk about the intercession of the Blessed Virgin in favor of her son as an assistance given to pilgrims on the way to the heavenly shrine." (136)

Therefore, the Marian note of a pilgrimage is given not only by the fact that it is directed to a shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, but also, and especially, by the attitudes with which it is fulfilled, namely, with fidelity to the tradition, motivation of faith, and spirit of Easter.

79. The success of a pilgrimage as a manifestation of worshiping devotion and the spiritual fruits expected to accrue from it, is sure if the celebrations are carried out according to plan, and if its different phases are emphasized in the manner indicated by tradition. Thus, for example:

  • the departure will be opportunely characterized by a communitarian prayer in the parish church or, if required, in another church;(137)
  • the final portion will be animated by more intense prayer, preferably in song;
  • the reception of the pilgrims can give place to a kind of "liturgy of entrance" that will mark the encounter between the pilgrims and the custodians of the shrine a communication in faith. Where possible, the latter should go out to meet the pilgrims and accompany them on the last portion of the journey;
  • the conclusion of the pilgrimage will take place in the church from where it started with a prayer of thanksgiving and praise to God and with the resolution of expressing in life the values of faith proclaimed during the pilgrimage.

Celebration of the Eucharist and Penance

80. What has been said above about the celebration of the Eucharist (12-21) and of the other sacraments (22-45) can in large be applied to the pastoral action of the shrines. Nevertheless, it seems proper to insert some considerations here about the religiosity of the Eucharist and Penance because of the pastoral importance they have in the life of the shrines.(138)

The Celebration of the Eucharist

81. "The celebration of the Eucharist is the apex and fulcrum of the whole pastoral action of the shrines."(139) It was already noted above (75) that the shrines have an exemplary function with regard to the liturgical celebrations and it must be guaranteed by the priests in charge. One more word is added here for the pilgrim priests or those who guide the pilgrimage.

It frequently happens that several groups would like to celebrate the Eucharist at the same time at the altar of the Blessed Virgin, but group by group. This creates various easily understandable inconveniences. As a result, the celebration of the Eucharist, instead of being a moment of unity and fraternity, becomes an occasion of division and misunderstanding.

A simple reflection on the nature of the celebration of the Eucharist, "sacrament of love, sign of unity, bond of charity,"(140) would suffice to persuade priests who guide pilgrimages to favor the gathering together of several groups for one concelebration. If well-prepared, such a celebration would present a genuine image of the nature of the Church and of the Eucharist. For the pilgrims too it would be an occasion of mutual acceptance and reciprocal enrichment.

The Celebration of Penance

82. In many shrines some successful initiatives have been put into practice in order to celebrate better the sacrament of penance. They are praiseworthy attempts that should be experimented everywhere according to the special situation of each shrine. Some aspects call for particular attention:

a) the place of celebration – In several shrines places for the celebration of the sacrament have been reserved. Separated from the church, these places are good for independent celebrations, communitarian preparations, and offer the penitent the facility of easy dialogue with the priest confessor, taking into account the due canonical requirements and the reserve required by confession.

b) The preparation for the sacrament – For many of the faithful the visit to the shrine is a very good occasion to make a good confession, often deliberately sought. But in not a few cases they need to be helped to fulfill the acts that are part of the sacrament, especially to orient the heart to God with a sincere conversion, because on it depends the truth of Penance. 141)Because of this it is not sufficient just to have the priests of the shrine available to hear confessions. It is necessary that they:

  • are prepared to have encounters of preparation, as proposed in the Rite of Penance (142) in which, by listening and meditating on the word of God, the faithful are helped to celebrate the sacrament fruitfully;
  • at least place at the disposal of the penitents convenient means to guide them not only to prepare for the confession of sins, but especially to have a sincere sorrow for them;

c) the cultivation of the awareness of the faithful towards the ecclesial nature of Penance – In the shrines a well-prepared and organized celebration of the Rite for Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution, must not be an exception, but a normal fact, especially at certain times or festivities of the liturgical year In fact, "the celebration in common shows in a clearer way the ecclesial nature of the penance. The faithful...listen together to the Word of God which proclaims his mercy and call to conversion. Confronting their lives with this very Word they help each other with prayer. After each one has confessed his sins and received absolution, together they praise God for the marvels he has worked in favor of this people, that he has gained for himself with the blood of his Son."(143)

d) fidelity to the doctrinal, pastoral, and celebration guidelines of the renewed Ordo Paenitentiae – This fidelity will help the priests give importance to the aspects of the celebration of the sacrament and overcome the insidiousness of routine in the practice of the sacrament.


83. Since ancient times the custom of blessing persons, food, and objects has existed in the Church.(144) But in our day the practice of blessings present some delicate aspects due to the very old customs and concepts deeply rooted in some categories of the faithful. In no place, however, does the practice create so marked a pastoral problem as in the shrines where the faithful who go to invoke the intercession of the Mother of mercy frequently ask priests for the most varied of blessings. For a correct use of the pastoral celebrations of blessings, the rectors of the shrines ought to:

a) act with patience, but at the same time, with firmness in order to apply the formulated principles in the recent book On Blessings,(145) which fundamentally have the purpose that the blessing be a genuine expression of faith in God, the giver of all good things;

b) underline the two moments that constitute the typical structure of every blessing, namely, the proclamation of the word of God that gives meaning to the sacred sign, and the prayer with which the Church praises God for his goodness and implores his benefits on the faithful;(146)

c) prefer the communitarian celebration to the individual or private one, and exhort the faithful to an active and conscious participation.(147)

84. Therefore, it is desirable that, during periods of more numerous pilgrims, the rectors of the shrines would schedule during the day special moments for the celebration of blessings.(148) In this way, and through a ritual action characterized by truthfulness and dignity, the faithful will understand the genuine sense of the blessing and the obligation of observing the commandments of God, that is included in the request for a blessing.(149)

85. In the context of the Marian Year, and in the light of tradition and the various meanings of blessing in the history of salvation, it will be possible to teach the faithful about some Marian relations implied in the blessings:

  • Jesus "the supreme blessing of the Father"(150) is the blessed fruit of the virginal womb of Mary, the "blessed among women"; (cf. Lk 1:42)
  • when receiving the gift (blessing) of God, the Blessed Virgin took on an attitude of acceptance, praise, and thanksgiving (cf. Lk 1:46-55) that has become an exemplar for every rite of blessing;
  • according to the liturgical tradition every heavenly blessing is a grace of the Spirit, and also an echo and extension of the pentecostal gift of Christ, who after ascending into heaven, poured down his blessing on the Cenacle where the apostles were gathered together with some women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus and his brothers (Acts 1:14) awaiting the descent of the Paraclete.

Consecrations, Membership in Confraternities, the Giving of Scapulars

86 On the occasions of visiting Marian shrines, the devotion towards the Mother of God moves the faithful to fulfill some acts of worship which in themselves are good, but must be selected with deliberation and preceded by adequate preparation.


The word consecration, when it refers to persons, has the idea of totality and perpetuity of the gift of self to God, as can be seen by its deep roots in the field of worship. But in the pastoral situation of shrines it is used in a wide sense and incorrectly: for example, people talk of "consecrating children to the Blessed Virgin," when, in reality, what is intended is only to place the children under the protection of the Blessed Virgin and to ask her motherly blessing for them.

The consecrations to the Blessed Virgin – of families, ecclesiastic groups, or parishes just on the spot, on the occasion of visiting a shrine – must not be the fruit of a passing emotion, as sincere as it may be. Such consecration requires personal decision, made freely and maturely after reflection. This must start from a correct evaluation of the primary and fundamental consecration at Baptism, and must reach an exact understanding of the theological meaning of "consecration to Mary."

Membership in Confraternities

87. Many shrines are the center of confraternities or other associations that have as their purpose the honoring of the Blessed Virgin and promoting the Christian life among its members. The giving of the name to such confraternities is of itself an act of devotion. What must be avoided is that membership becomes nothing more than a formality. That could happen when membership starts with a short visit to a shrine, without any previous knowledge of the nature and statutes of the associations, their aims and obligations. Besides, some faithful think that membership is a sure guarantee of some spiritual advantage, without making any promise, or with the conviction that it is a condition or means to obtain graces from the Blessed Virgin.

The Giving of Scapulars

88. In the history of devotions the devotion to different scapulars can be found. Moved by their love for the Blessed Virgin, the faithful were attracted by the spirituality of religious families with a marian inspiration. Because of that they joined associations or confraternities founded under their spirit, put on the habit in the form of the scapular, and followed their way of life. In the scapular, the faithful saw a remembrance of baptism in which they had put on Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27)

The giving of a scapular must be done in line with the seriousness of its origins. It must not be an act more or less improvised, but the concluding moment of an accurate preparation, during which the faithful has been well instructed about the nature and aims of the association to which he gives his name, and the duties that he takes upon himself for life.(151)

Votive Offerings

89. Following an old and universal tradition, the pilgrim who visits a shrine makes an offering, leaves an ex-voto offering, offers an amount of money, or lights a candle or lamp. The worshiping value and meaning of these votive offerings are not under discussion. The shrines are visited by many anonymous pilgrims who, for the love of God, the Blessed Virgin, and mankind, offer not what is superfluous, but even what they have need of. (cf. Mk 12:41-44; Lk 21:1-4)

That worshiping gift imposes on those responsible for the shrines the task of using such offerings according to the mind of the donor, with respect and sincerity. It is in reality needed to thank the Lord for the works of faith and mercy that flourish in the shrines and are made possible by the offerings of the faithful. The offerings are used as follows:

  • in works to promote humanity, especially the poor near or far away: schools, health centers, training and rehabilitation centers;
  • to support the work of evangelization and missionaries;
  • to help pay for young seminarians;
  • to increase divine worship by renewing or repairing the architectural structures of the shrines, the preservation of art patrimony, the renewal of liturgical vestments, utensils, etc.

90. The ex-voto offering is a worshiping expression of gratitude, and a testimony of faith and culture. The Church shows her interest in the ex-voto offerings when she establishes that "the votive testimonies of art and popular devotion must be kept in a visible place and protected by security in the shrines or annex buildings."(152)

Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that the place where the statue or picture of the Blessed Virgin is venerated, and the church or chapel should not be overcrowded with ex-voto offerings. Respecting the sensibilities and possibilities of the offerers, the faithful have to be educated to have good taste when selecting ex-voto offerings.(153)

Catechesis on the Blessed Virgin

91. Shrines are places where the Word should be announced,(154) and catechetical instruction is one aspect of this. Ideally, at least, a Marian shrine is a fitting place for a permanent catechesis on the principal truths of the faith related to the Blessed Virgin.

Such a catechetical activity must be particularly cared for and intensified during the Marian Year. The Holy Father in his encyclical letter, Redemptoris Mater, has recalled that the extraordinary synod of 1985 "has exhorted all to follow faithfully the teachings and indications of Vatican II,"(155) and has added that the Marian Year should promote a new and profound reading of what the Vatican Council had to say on the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and the Church.(156)

In these words one is given to see an invitation to shrines to be promoters of a systematic catechesis of the mariological doctrine of the council and of its development in the teachings of the popes. The shrines can render this immense service to the people of God, by putting into action according to their pontificates two channels of traditional information in their pastoral activity:

  • the publication in the newspaper of articles about the Blessed Virgin with catechetical characteristics; by using the publications of the shrine (guides, calendars, leaflets, booklets) to instruct the faithful on essential points of the mystery of the Blessed Virgin;
  • the organization of weeks and days of study about the Mother of the Redeemer.

For several years now, in some shrines, centers of Mariological documentation have been established. It would be fitting if the Marian Year could see an increase in such centers, because the study of the figure of Mary and the divulging of the results obtained are by themselves great cultic acts in honor of the Holy Mother of the Savior.


92. John Paul II has pointed out the coincidence in the celebration of the Marian Year (1987-88) and the twelfth centenary of Ecumenical Council Nicea II (787) in which "as conclusion of the famous controversy about the veneration of sacred images it was defined that, according to the teachings of the fathers of the Church and the universal tradition of the Church, there could be proposed for the faithful's veneration, together with the Cross, also the images of the Mother of God, the angels and saints in the churches, homes, and along the wayside."(157)

93. By mentioning the doctrine of the Nicene Council II the Holy Father invites, during the Marian Year, a deepening in the study of the theology and pastoral aspects of sacred images as well as reflection on:

  • the relationship between the shrine and the image of the Blessed Virgin venerated there because every shrine has its own image and frequently, the shrine was erected to preserve and safeguard it;
  • the need of presenting to the faithful the history of the shrine and of the image venerated there, avoiding legends and falsifications;
  • the ultimate meaning of the veneration of the images and the value of the icon of the Blessed Virgin as a sign of her presence among the people of God;
  • the most convenient gestures to express veneration to an image while respecting the theological truth, tradition, and the diversity of cultures;
  • the opportunity of helping the faithful to elevate their minds from the sacred image to the biblical image of Mary of Nazareth, poor and simple, and to the living reality of the Blessed Virgin, glorious and merciful, who was assumed into heaven where she remains close to her Son;
  • the convenience of applying, in our time characterized by the culture of images, the catechetical principle of illustrating the truths of the faith through images. In this field, the use of the technical means of audio-visual transmission can substitute the old method of using pictures that were expressed in various forms, from the rough and ingenuous mural paintings to the marvelous stained-glass illustrations of some truths of the faith.

The Virgin without stain (total pulchra) has been for centuries the inspiration in all art forms. Many shrines dedicated to her are admirable expressions of the faith and the art of an era. Even today shrines are called to contribute to the desired connection between faith and art by promoting genuine expressions of sacred art.

Nothing of vulgar or cheap art must have a place in the shrine. Art that is admitted must be of a kind inspired and nourished by vital contact with the Word and tradition, open to the enlightenment of the Spirit.

The manufacturing industry, developed around the shrine under the form of souvenirs that pilgrims like to buy, must have a certain dignity, as if it were art in miniature.


The celebration of the Marian Year brings with it the plenary celebration made by all the ecclesial communities of the mystery of Christ. This mystery must be lived and celebrated in union with the Blessed Virgin Mary, always present in the life of the Church, and with her attitude of faith, hope, and love.

In the encyclical letter Redemptoris Mater, John Paul II talks repeatedly about the Marian dimension of Christian life,(158) by which every disciple of the Lord receives the Blessed Virgin among the great values of the faith, and introduces her into the "space of his own interior life."(159) In an analogous way, because of the singular place occupied by the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of Christ and of the Church, there exists "a Marian dimension in Christian worship" made visible in liturgical celebrations, pious devotions, and expressions of popular religiosity.

The indications and proposals presented in this circular of the Congregation for Divine Worship will help to enhance this Marian dimension. It will be the task of the national liturgical commissions to make them known to the dioceses, to integrate them with suggestions, the fruit of their reflections, and to provide principles for their application in the various local situations.

In this way, Marian piety, being both intense and heartfelt, will be lived in the spirit of the unique Christian worship, in constant rapport with the Word and Tradition, with coherence of life, with attention to humanity, with theological and praise-like attitudes, so that all honor and glory will go to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in the Church and by the Church, pilgrim in time on the way to the heavenly Jerusalem.

The above document was translated and published by: Salesiana Publishers, Inc., Makati, Metro Manila.


(1)cf. 1
(2)cf. 6, L'Osservatore Romano (L'OR), 2-3 Jan., 1987, p. 5.
(3)cf. 3, 18-59.
(4)cf. 6, L'OR, 2-3 Jan., 1987, p. 5.
(5)cf. ibid.
(6)For example, in the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6), according to a suggestion of contemporary exegesis, points of contact with the testimony of the Father could be stressed ("This is my beloved Son with who I am well pleased; listen to him." (Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35) and the annunciation of Gabriel to Mary ("And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son... He will be great, and will be called the son of the Most High... The child to be born will be called Holy, Son of God." (Lk 1:31-33, 35), and the words of the Blessed Virgin to the servants at the wedding at Cana ("The mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."(Jn 2:5)
(7)Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), 102.
(8)ibid., 7.
(9)Marialis Cultus (MC), 4.
(10)Lumen Gentium (LG), 55; Redemptoris Mater (RM)), 1.
(11)The fact that the celebration of February 2 and March 25 are counted among the feasts of the Lord does not lessen their Marian character, as the Christian people have understood well. In reality they are feast of Christ and the Blessed Virgin celebrated together and, therefore, to understand fully the totality of their content, must be celebrated as joint commemorations of the Son and Mother (cf. Marialis Cultus, 6-7).
(12)Collectio (Missarum de B. Marie Vergine), form. 15.
(13)The fact that the celebration of February 2 and March 25 are counted among the "feasts of the Lord" does not lessen their Marian character, as the Christian people have understood well. In reality they are feasts of Christ and the Blessed Virgin celebrated together and, therefore, to understand fully the totality of their content, must be celebrated as joint commemorations of the Son and Mother (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, 6-7).
(14)Ibid., 9.
(15)Collectio, Praeunotanda, 34-36.
(16)Ibid., 36.
(17)SC, 106.
(18)Praeunotanda, 36.
(19)SC, 103.
(20)MC, Introduction.
(21)LG, 66-67; M, 22.
(22)Ibid., 16.
(23)LG, 58.
(24)Collectio, Praeunotanda, 14.
(25)Ibid., 17.
(26)Institutis generalis Missalis Romani, (IGMR), 313.
(27)Ordo lectionum missae, 78-91.
(28)Collectio, Praenotanda, 38.
(29)Ordo lectionum missae, 78-91.
(30)Lectionary for Masses of the BVM, 2-5.
(31)Sacred Music 5-12, 27-36.
(32)Ordo lectionum missae, prenotanda, 24.
(33)SC 10.
(34)LG 67.
(35)Ordo lectionum missae, 30.
(37)The faithful, distracted and lacking liturgical formation, pray the universal prayer directly to the Virgin. This should be avoided.
(38)In the four Eucharistic prayers in the Roman Missal the Blessed Virgin is mentioned under the historico-salvific, worship or eschatological aspects;

  • EP II and IV commemorate the role of the BVM in the Incarnation of the Word.
  • EP I underlines the communion and veneration of the Church towards the glorious Mother of God.
  • EP III expresses the request of ours, who have become an acceptable sacrifice to God, when asking to be able to obtain the inheritance, first of all of BVM, Mother of God.
    (39)SC,103; LG, 53, 57.
    (40)Fourth Sunday of Advent, Prayer of the Gifts.
    (41)Homily at Council of Ephesus, PG, 77, 992.
    (42)December 25, Mass at Dawn, second reading.
    (43)De Benedictionibus (DB), 853.
    (44)Allocution at the Angelus, 12 Feb 1984. Notitiae 20.
    (45)Ineffabilis Deus, Pius IC.
    (47)Rite of Baptism of Children, 58.
    (49)Ibid., 70.
    (50)Ibid., 71.
    (52)Rite of Confirmation, 27.
    (53)Rite of Crowning an Image of BVM, 41.
    (54)Rite of Confirmation, 23.
    (55)Ibid., 61/1.
    (56)In the actual Roman liturgy there are many texts that apply the term virga to the Blessed Virgin. For example, Liturgy of the Hours, Jan. 1, Office of Readings, hymn; Lauds, hymn, Sep. 8.
    (57)Rite of Confirmation, 62/2.
    (58)Collectio, Preface, Queen of Apostles.
    (59)On Communion and the Worship of the Mystery of the Eucharist Outside of Mass, 202, 192.
    (60)Eucharisticum mysterium, (EM) 60-66; On Communion and the Worship of the Mystery of the Eucharist Outside of Mass, 82-92.
    (61)EM, 62.
    (62)On Communion and the Worship of the Mystery of the Eucharist Outside of Mass, 82.
    (63)Collectio, Preface, Mother of Reconciliation, 14.
    (64)Alma Redemptoris Mater
    (65)Liturgy of the Hours, Aug. 22, hymn at vespers.
    (66)Rite of Penance (RP) 54; Rite of Mass with People, 3.
    (67)RP, 93.
    (68)Collectio, form. 14.
    (69)LG, 61.
    (70)Collectio, form. 44.
    (71)Ordo lectionum missae, 933/2.
    (72)Rite of the Anointing of the Sick, 143, 146, 147.
    (73)Ibid., 150.
    (74)LG, 56.
    (75)On the Ordination of Deacons, 14.
    (76)MC, 20; Vespers, Feb 2, hymn.
    (77)LG, 58.
    (78)Paul VI, Nov. 21, 1964.
    (80)On the Ordination of a Bishop 18.
    (81)LG, 63-64.
    (82)L. Lecuyer, The Priesthood of Christ and of the Church.
    (83)Ordo lectionum missae, pro sponsis, 805/7.
    (84)Ibid., 805/5.
    (85)cf. Preface of Dec 8.
    (86)Collection, form. 11.
    (87)DB, 195-214.
    (88)John Paul II, Parati Estote, 10.
    (89)Because of the presence of the Blessed Virgin in the sacramental life of Church – praying presence at the baptismal font where the Church brings to life the members of Christ, near the altar where she prepares the bread of life and the wine of the eucharistic banquet, presence of communion in the assembly that celebrates its feast with joy..., – the parochial church, place of reunion of the church- community, can be considered a naturally marian shrine.
    (90)DB, 474-491.
    (91)Ibid., 1004-1017.
    (92)Ibid., 68-89.
    (93)cf. SC, 26; General Instruction of Liturgy of the Hours, 1-2, 20, 21-22, 27.
    (94)General Instruction, 245.
    (95)Ibid., 247.
    (96)SC, 13.
    (97)LG, 67.
    (98)Directory of the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 91.
    (99)For example, this happens when the devotion to Mary is presented as an easy means or a more lovable way to God or Christ; or when the expressions used make one think that mercy is Mary's and justice is Christ's. This is not church teaching.
    (100)MC, 30.
    (101)SC, 35, 4.
    (102)Collectio, Praenotanda ad lectionarium, 10.
    (103)From the structural point of view there does not exist one model for the celebrations of the Word. From the thematic point of view there are many possibilities for selection, because the aspects under which the facts of salvation and the truths of the faith can be remembered during worship are numerous.
    (104)MC, 41.
    (105)As noted there are many ways of solemnizing the beginning and end of the holy Rosary.
    (106)Certainly there is a liturgical motivation for praying the glorious mysteries. From the time of the apostles, Sunday is the day of commemoration of the resurrection. On Friday the sorrowful mysteries are prayed. From the time of the apostles, too, Friday has been associated with the Passion of the Lord.
    (107)For example, the faithful, who on May 31, feast of the Visitation, pray the joyful mysteries are praying correctly, whatever the day of the week. During the fifty days from Easter to Pentecost the glorious mysteries can be prayed.
    (108)On January 6, feast of the Epiphany, the faithful can substitute the fifth mystery by the contemplation of the Magi. Because of the presence of Mary many other salvific episodes can be recalled like the escape into Egypt, the hidden life at Nazareth, or the revelation of Jesus' power at Cana.
    (109)For example, one can recall the crown of the seven joys of the Virgin Mary proper to the Franciscan family or the crown of the seven sorrows of Mary used by the order of the Servants of Mary (Servites).
    (110)The litany of Loreto was inserted in the appendix of the ritual for the first time in 1874.
    (111)Following Leo XIII's call to conclude in the month of October the recitation of the Rosary with the singing of the Litany of Loreto many people wrongly thought that the litany was just an appendix of the Rosary.
    (112)For example, it is good to know the litanies used by the Dominican order or the litanies of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Hope sung at Loreto, Italy on Sep 13, 1985.
    (113)In the Byzantine rite, since the twelfth century, the month of August with its liturgy centered on the Dormitio of Mary, Aug. 15, constitutes a true Marian month, structured liturgically around Christmas.
    (114)In the East the first testimony of the month of May dedicated to Mary was towards the end of the sixteenth century.
    (115)This happens when, without any previous analysis of the local situation, in the name of pure liturgy, the practice of the month of May has been suppressed.
    (116)SC, 108.
    (117)Ibid., 106.
    (118)It would be completely unliturgical to suppress the celebration of Vespers on a Sunday during Eastertide in the month of May in order to give pride of place to the devotion of the month of Mary, and just to consider that Sunday as one of the 31 days of the month popularly dedicated to Mary, and then to carry out the devotional practices proposed by a pious booklet.
    (119)MC, 4.
    (120)Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN), 48.
    (122)SC, 10.
    (123)cf. SC, 48.
    (124)Some rites have been accepted in the Roman liturgy even though they had pre-christian roots (rogation processions) or because they were simply popular (Psalm Sunday).
    (125)SC, 13.
    (126)Ibid., 14.
    (127)cf. Can. 1230.
    (128)cf. Homily in the shrine of Our Lady of Zapopan (Mexico), Jan. 30, 1979; allocution to the rectors of Franciscan shrines, Rome, Jan. 22, 1982; address to Spanish Bishops of Valencia, Rome, June 26, 1982.
    (129)RM, 28.
    (130)cf. LG, 63-65.
    (131)Sub tuum Praesidium
    (132)cf. Can. 1234.
    (133)cf. Can. 1230.
    (134)The pilgrimage reminds us that we do not have a permanent abode here on earth, but we are on the way to the heavenly city; it expresses the desire of visiting a place where an event of the history of salvation took place, or where a holy prson has given the purpose of being detached from temporal things, even though this is only material and for a short time; through the inevitable discomforts and renunciations accompanying it, it shows a need of penance and expiation; it gives an opportunity to the witness of availability to render humble and hidden service to the needy or sick; it affirms that all pilgrims are members of the one family of God.
    (135)LG, 58.
    (136)cf. LG, 68; Preface of Assumption.
    (137)cf. DB, 404-419.
    (138)cf. Can. 1234.
    (139)Collectio, Praenotanda, 30.
    (140)SC, 47.
    (141)RO 6a.
    (142)Ibid., appendix II, 1- 73.
    (143)Ibid., Prenotanda, 22.
    (144)Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, 5-6, 25, 26, 31, 32.
    (145)DB, Praenotanda, 1-34.
    (146)Ibid., 22-24.
    (147)Ibid., 24; SC, 27.
    (148)DB, Praenotanda, 30.
    (149)Ibid., 15.
    (150)Ibid., 3.
    (151)Ibid., 1208- 1210.
    (152)Can. 1234.
    (153)cf. Teachings of John Paul II, IV/2, p. 139. The education of the people of God to good taste, the Holy Father emphasizes, ought to be done especially in the matter of ex-voto offerings. The principle of decorum and good taste ought always to inspire the reproduction of images venerated in the shrine.
    (154)Can. 1230.
    (155)RM, 48.
    (157)Ibid., 33.
    (158)RM, 45.

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