Part I explores the relationship between Peter and Mary on a biblical and theological level, and the insights it gives us into the relationship between ordained ministers and the laity. Part II picks up the conversation with the practical implications of the complementary relationship between both in the life of the Church.

Mary nurtures and raises Christ. Of the infinite number of ways in which God could have saved us, God became human in the person of a baby who needed to be cared for and formed by his mother. The majority of his life is spent with his family, and this time prepares him for his public ministry. After Jesus’ Ascension, Peter and the Apostles “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:13-14). Life and prayer are shared between Mary and Jesus, and Mary and the Apostles. Translating this into our understanding of priests and the laity: the family, or domestic church, is the first place where vocations to the priesthood are fostered. The Marian Church precedes the Petrine-Apostolic.

This conclusion applies not only to the nurturing and education that comes through family life, but also to the intentional formation that men preparing to be priests receive in the seminary. Just as Mary forms Christ – and by extension, his successors – there is immense value in the joint formation of seminarians and lay ministers. Sharing classes, discussions, and homilies with one another allows for a deeper understanding of the other’s need. At times, this shared formation can be painful. But like two sharp and jagged rocks that are rubbed together and made into smooth and polished stones, the priests and lay ministers I was formed with will all say that we are better ministers because we learned and prayed together.

Mary recognizes human needs and intercedes on others’ behalf. In the all-too-practical encounter with Jesus at the wedding at Cana, Mary makes known to Jesus that the wine has run out and trusts him to provide for the people in their need (John 2:3). Likewise, the laity bring the needs of the people of God to their pastors, who offer those intercessions in and through the liturgy. At times, faithful critique is necessary. The Code of Canon Law states:

"[the laity] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons." (212.3)

Mary is sensitive to God’s work and the movements of the Holy Spirit. As the story of the Annunciation makes clear, Mary encounters the angel Gabriel with a radical openness to his message and receptivity to God’s presence and plan for her life (Lk 1:26-38). In the Gospel of John, Mary plays a central role in Jesus’ first sign at the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-12). In Rosarium Virginis Mariae, John Paul II writes:

“the role she assumed at Cana in some way accompanies Christ throughout his ministry. The revelation made directly by the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan and echoed by John the Baptist is placed upon Mary's lips at Cana, and it becomes the great maternal counsel which Mary addresses to the Church of every age: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (Jn 2:5). This counsel is a fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ's public ministry.” (21)

Recognizing the divinity and authority of Jesus, Mary continuously points us towards Christ and to his mission.

Recognizing the divinity and authority of Jesus, Mary continuously points us towards Christ and to his mission.

An integral part of the Rite of Ordination is the election by the bishop and consent of the people. Recognizing the importance of the discernment of the Church, the bishop says, “We rely on the help of the Lord God and our Savior Jesus Christ, and we choose this man, our brother, for priesthood in the presbyteral order.” The people’s assent follows according to local custom. In Ordination liturgies for the Congregation of Holy Cross, it is at this point that the bishop welcomes several lay men and women to share testimonies of the ways in which the ordinandi have ministered well and embraced a life of priestly service. Families, residents, students, parishioners, and lay ministers come forward and affirm God’s hand in calling these men to serve the faithful as priests.

Mary is faithful in suffering. Mourning the loss of her Son, Mary remains with Jesus at the foot of the Cross. Her fiat that began in bearing Christ remains complete through his suffering and death, and her own grief and sorrow. She exercises compassion, “suffering with,” and trusts in God’s salvific plan, knowing that death does not have the final word. She is accompanied by other women, those to whom the risen Christ first appears.

At the present moment, the Church has experienced the immense suffering and injustice of abuse and its cover-up. In the midst of such pain, a Marian Church remains faithful to Christ, knowing that he will bring resurrection and new life. Mary’s posture at the foot of Cross encourages us to remain with Christ, to extend compassion to those who hurt, and to wait for the resurrection that God promises.

Together with Peter, Mary helps us to envision the Church as communion: women and men, lay and ordained, co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord. In Models of the Church, Avery Dulles observes that our images of the Church “suggest attitudes and courses of action; they intensify confidence and devotion. To some extent they are self-fulfilling; they make the Church become what they suggest the Church is” (20-21). Living the Church as communion begins with embracing what John Paul II calls a “spirituality of communion.” In Novo Millennio Ineunte, he writes:

Together with Peter, Mary helps us to envision the Church as communion

“To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us . . . if we wish to be faithful to God’s plan and respond to the world’s deepest yearnings. . . .A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart’s contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us.” (43, emphasis in original)
Perhaps the question worth asking is this: how might we foster a spirituality of communion so that the gifts of Mary are valued alongside those of Peter?

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Nicole Labadie

Nicole Labadie is a wife and mother. A native Texan, she graduated from St. Edward’s University in Austin and received her Master of Divinity from the University of Notre Dame. She is passionate about her work as a college campus minister and enjoys praying through music, drinking coffee, and cake decorating.

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