To celebrate the "Year of the Eucharist", the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate held their Sixth International Conference on Marian Theology with its theme "Marian Coredemption in the Eucharistic Mystery" at Worth School in Sussex, the site also of the historic Benedictine Worth Abbey.
Scholars from Italy, England, the United States, and Spain participated, delivering papers rich in theological lore and manifesting the sublime place Mary, the Mother of God, has in the Christian economy of salvation and in Catholic devotional life. Previous Conferences had dealt similarly with the doctrine of Mary's Coredemption of the human race especially cherished in the Franciscan theological tradition stemming from St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bonaventure and Blessed John Duns Scotus. Previous Conferences had elaborated on the statement of Pope John Paul II that:
"Mary conceived without stain of sin, has participated in an admirable way in the sufferings of Her Divine Son to be Coredemptrix of humanity."
Space does not permit an unfolding of the great wealth of doctrine contained in each of the scholarly papers delivered at the Symposium. Only the briefest mention will be made of the papers delivered by the Italian, English, and Spanish speakers, with greater attention focused on the contributions of the American contributors already known to "Wanderer" readers. All the addresses at the Conference will soon be published in the sixth volume of the invaluable series "Mary at the Foot of the Cross" and made available by the Academy of the Immaculate, P.O.Box 3003, New Bedford, MA 02741-3003. Information on the previous volumes may be found on the Website [marymediatrix.com].
England was well represented by three outstanding priest-speakers. Fr. Cuthbert Brogan, O.S.B., prior of St. Michael's Abbey, Farnsborough, spoke on "Mary and the Eucharist in the Syrian Fathers". Fr.Timothy Finigan, a lecturer in sacramental theology at St. John's Seminary, Wonersh, and a long time member of the Faith Movement, spoke on "Mary Coredemptrix, the Model of liturgical participation". Fr. Andrew Wadsworth, recently appointed professor of Biblical Greek and Ecclesiastical Latin at Allen Hall, spoke on "Marian Coredemption in the Divine Comedy of Dante".
Italy was represented by the contributions of three Mariologists. Fr. Archangelo Parrotta whose recent book on the famous Servite scholar Fr. Gabriele Maria Roschini has been well received, continued his study of that prominent theologian with his "The Eucharist and Marian Coredemption according to Gabriele Maria Roschini." Mother Maria Francesca Perillo, F.I., contributed a study on "Mary Coredemptrix and the Eucharist in the mystical experience of Saint Veronica Giuliani." The paper of Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, FI, the Founder and Minister of the Franciscans of the Immaculate and a spiritual son of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, dealt with "Mary Coredemptrix and the Eucharist in the writings of the servant of God Costanza Zauli (1886-1954)." His book "All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed – Biblical Mariology" recently issued in an expanded second edition by the Academy of the Immaculate was made available to those in attendance.
Spain was well represented by two outstanding Mariologists, Fr. Enrique Llamas and Fr. Joaquin Ferrer. Fr. Llamas is an eminent writer who has published more than 700 scientific studies on Marian subjects and about Marian Coredemption. He presented a paper "The Coredemptrix and the Eucharist in St. John of the Cross". Fr. Ferrer, a Doctor of Theology at the Lateran University in Rome and author of numerous studies in "Ephemerides Mariologicae" of Madrid, gave a treatment of "The Triple and inseparable Mediation of the Immaculate, the Eucharist and the Petrine Ministry in Building Up the Pilgrim Church to the Parousia".
Six of the 14 scholarly contributions at the Conference were by Americans. Msgr. Charles Mangan, an official of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, was not able to attend in person but his paper "Mary and the Eucharist in St. John Fisher" revealed that Saint's vigorous defense of Catholic doctrine against Luther and the Reformers. Confronting Henry VIII over the question of his divorce of Queen Catherine, he incurred the rage of the King who had him decapitated with the Saint's head displayed on London Bridge for 3 weeks and then thrown into the Thames. Noted for his sound doctrine, St. John Fisher clearly taught the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and Mary being the Mother of Mercy and Mediatrix of all graces.
Fr. Donald Calloway, M.I.C., a convert to Catholicism and House Superior of the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio, spoke on "Coredemption and Cosmology: the supra-temporal dimension of Marian Coredemption in the thought of Adrienne von Speyr". He noted the inevitable reductionism affecting all theology, and especially Mariology, when metaphysics is ignored. Consequently, flawed theological methodologies find incomprehensible the famous statement of a Doctor of the Church: "If Mary did not exist, we would not exist nor the world" (St. Lawrence of Brindisi). The writings of the Swiss convert-mystic Adrienne von Speyr have further disclosed how Christ's Redemption also involved Mary's role as Coredemptrix and given support to Blessed John Duns Scotus famous theological thesis of the Absolute Primacy of Jesus and Mary in both Creation and Redemption. For Scotus, Jesus and Mary were predestined by the Holy Trinity in one and the same decree of predestination. The Mother of God continues to participate actively in distributing the graces won by the Redemption to all mankind.
James Likoudis, president emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) and a well-known author on the Byzantine Greek Schism, spoke on "The Mariology of Gregory Palamas", one of the most famous dissident Byzantine Greek theologians of the 14th century. Palamas' 62 "Homilies" reveal a sublime understanding of the Marian character of theology. With great power and depth and eloquence, Palamas affirmed the Divine Maternity and Absolute Holiness of the Mother of God from the first moment of Her existence (coming close to the Catholic formulation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception), the "ineffable" Virgin Birth, Mary's active cooperation in the work of Redemption and Salvation, Her Dormition-Assumption into heaven, Her Queenship of angels and men, and Her continuing intercession for sinful mankind as universal Mediatrix. Likoudis observed that the positive elements in Gregory Palamas' theological system serve as a valuable corrective to the serious errors of contemporary Eastern Orthodox writers on Original Sin, grace, and concupiscence.
Dr. Robert Fastiggi, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, Michigan, addressed the Conference on "Mary and the Eucharist in St. Louis-Marie de Montfort". True to the influence of the French school of spirituality, the famous author of "True Devotion" developed a spirituality that was "simultaneously Christocentric, Marian and Eucharistic". This saint of the "School of Mary" who had such a seminal influence on Pope John Paul II, highlighted the importance of Mary as "the Mother of the Eucharist Who nourishes Her children with the Flesh and Blood of Her Divine Son". De Montfort's greatest contribution, moreover, was his:
"Marian approach to a more fruitful communion with Christ in the Eucharist. Since Jesus took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, how fitting it is that He should take flesh in us through the mediation of His Most Holy Mother in the Eucharist".
Msgr. Arthur Burton Calkins, an official of the Vatican's Ecclesia Dei Commission and noted author of the classic book "Totus Tuus" dealing with Pope John Paul II's pastoral program of total consecration to Mary, spoke on "Mary's Presence in the Mass according to Pope John Paul II". He noted that there was a distinct presence of Our Lady, "Woman of the Eucharist", at every Sacrifice of the Mass. An oral tradition from the Apostles would guarantee that the Mother of God would be commemorated and honored in every liturgical celebration in the Church's various rites. The Liturgy reveals Her being united by an inseparable bond with Her Son and especially so during the Lord's Sacrifice. The verdict of ancient tradition "Flesh of Christ, Flesh of Mary" discloses that in the Sacrifice of the Mass there are two distinct offerings, one by Christ whose merits are all sufficient, and the other by Mary Who united Her sufferings to those of Her Divine Son on Calvary. At Calvary the Church notes the Mystery of Mary's Coredemptive suffering. Jesus and Mary's offerings are not on the same level, but they are united. At the side of Christ made really, truly, and substantially present in the Eucharist is the spiritual presence of His Mother. The rich theological insights of Pope John Paul II on Mary's presence has broken new ground as he applied Marian Coredemption to the Sacrifice of the Mass.
At the end of the Conference, the Chairman of the Symposium, American dogmatic theologian Fr. Peter Mary Damien Fehlner, FI, summarized the main theological points that could be concluded from the wealth of material provided by the presenters. Fr. Fehlner who is a member of the General Council of the Franciscans of the Immaculate and a professor of theology in their Institute of Ecclesiastical Studies (the Immaculatum) in Frigento, Italy, noted that the Eucharist, Our Lady, and the Church cannot be separated. The late Supreme Pontiff, Pope John Paul II, had only confirmed what was already in the deposit of faith regarding Our Lady's predestination as Coredemptrix of the human race and universal Mediatrix as well as Her role in the Eucharistic Mystery – all themes treated with profundity in the various papers delivered at the Sixth International Marian Conference. The Mystery of Mary's Mediation, he further observed, is rooted in Her Immaculate Conception. In God's plan of creation, redemption, and salvation, the Blessed Virgin Mary assists us to have love of God and neighbor. It is She Who brought God the Son to earth as our Saviour. As She nourished Christ in Bethlehem, so She nourishes us with the Eucharistic Christ to help form Christ in our hearts and to help in the salvation of our souls.
A devotional climax to the scholarly Proceedings of the Conference was provided by "A Day with Mary" (one with Mass celebrated by the Friars of the Immaculate, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, recitations of the Rosary, a Procession with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, and conferences by Fr. George Mary Roth, FI). It was held at the Church/Shrine of Our Lady and St. Francis in West Grimstead where the pre-Reformation presbytery still has the room in the loft that was used by Catholic priests to celebrate Mass secretly during the Elizabethan and succeeding persecutions. This beautiful Church which possesses an especially impressive large Byzantine-style painting of Our Lady of Consolation, was filled to capacity by worshipers, many of them coming from London. Devotees of Our Lady sang hymns in Latin and in English in honor of the Mother of God. The lay organizers of the International Symposium and "A Day with Mary", Claudio Lo Sterzo and Trevor Downs, have made possible "A Day with Mary" for other churches and shrines throughout England to emphasize worship of the Blessed Sacrament and devotion to Our Lady in a truly heroic effort to restore England as the "Dowry of Mary".