A good part of the inspiration for doing so is Pope Francis, a man of deep Marian piety. Let me count the ways he is a friend of Mary …
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the future Pope, always made it a point to pray before the basilica’s Byzantine icon of Mary and the infant Jesus, the Protectress of the Roman People. The day after he became Pope, he knew right where to go for help (in an unann0unced visit).
He has returned several times since. He stopped there on the way to Rio for World Youth Day, and then stopped there again as soon as he came back.
2. His emulation of Pope John Paul II’s Marian piety.
In 2005, he began to pray 15 decades of the rosary after watching Pope John Paul II, as he describes here:
“I began to imagine the young priest, the seminarian, the poet, the worker, the child from Wadowice… in the same position in which I knelt at that moment, reciting Ave Maria after Ave Maria. His witness struck me. … I became aware of the density of the words of the Mother of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego: “Don’t be afraid, am I not your mother?” I understood the presence of Mary in the life of the Pope. … From that time on I have recited the 15 mysteries of the Rosary every day.”
In Lumen Fidei’s final passage, he also emulates Pope John Paul II’s custom of ending encyclicals with a prayer to Mary.
3. His affectionate Marian words at World Youth Day.
The Pope’s visit to Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil produced some of the most endearing moments of World Youth Day in Rio.
He explained to the pilgrims:
“The day after my election as Bishop of Rome, I visited the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, in order to entrust my ministry to Our Lady. Today I have come here to ask Mary our Mother for the success of World Youth Day and to place at her feet the life of the people of Latin America.”
He delighted in telling the story about the discovery of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, and gave an impromptu address from the balcony of the basilica, where he joked about his decision to speak to them in Spanish:
“Well now, I’ll soon find out whether you understand me. I’m going to ask you a question: does a mother forget her children?” “No!” the pilgrims answered. “She does not forget us, either! She loves us and takes care of us!”
4. A signature theme of his, “the joy of faith,” is Marian in its origin.
A constant theme of Pope Francis’ is that we should have joy in our faith. He hates defeatist attitudes and the “sad Christian” syndrome.
In a letter last summer, he held out Mary as a model of evangelization to catechists in Argentina, he explained:
“As in that joyous encounter of Mary and Elizabeth, the catechist must imbue his or her entire person and ministry with the joy of the Faith.”
Joy “opens the way to receive the love of God who is Father of all. We note in the Annunciation of the angel to the Virgin Mary that, before telling her what was going to happen to her, he invites her to be filled with joy.”
He elucidated the same theme in his discourse on Mary and the Eucharist.
5. He plans to consecrate the world to Mary.
On Oct. 13, with his pontificate barely half a year old, Pope Francis plans to consecrate the entire world to Mary, using the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima — the one whose crown now incorporates the bullet that was removed from Pope John Paul II’s body.
This is yet another point of emulation of Pope John Paul II, the Fatima fan. And maybe that emulation is the point. Benedictine College is likewise consecrating the college to Mary on Sept. 8 (all the U.S. bishops are invited). Maybe more and more Catholics will follow the Pope’s example, and devote more time and offer more initiatives to Mary.
And then maybe we will emulate and imitate Mary, the woman of faith who put God first and herself last and changed the course of history.