The topic of Our Lady’s role as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for the People of God in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church is a very broad one, one which requires a number of preliminary clarifications. For the purposes of our analysis, it is important to recognize at the outset that in the overall category of Marian mediation three distinct “moments” of the process may be differentiated: 1. that of Mary’s collaboration in the redemption of the human race; 2. that of her distribution of the manifold graces won by the redemption and 3. that of her complementary intercession on behalf of the human race for the gift of redemption and all that flows from it. These three moments have been delineated by Dr. Mark I. Miravalle in terms of Our Lady’s role as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for the People of God. (1) Yet another way of clarifying these inter-related concepts is to say that Mary’s mediation constitutes the general category while the specific categories may be further distinguished as coredemption, mediation and advocacy.

There is no doubt that the category of Marian mediation is an ancient one traceable to the Scriptures (2) and expounded by the Fathers (3) and Doctors of the Church. (4) With time and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the theme has been continually enriched, developed and refined by subsequent ecclesiastical writers. This topic has also passed into the realm of popular piety and the liturgy as well as into the speculation of theologians and the magisterium of the Church.

The object of this particularstudy will be to investigate the manifold mediation of the Mother of God as it is testified to in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. The Church’s public worship is a privileged place for coming to grasp her deepest belief. Here is how the relationship between faith and liturgy is put in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Church’s faith precedes the faith of the believer who is invited to adhere to it. When the Church celebrates the sacraments, she confesses the faith received from the apostles—whence the ancient saying: lex orandi, lex credendi (or: legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi, according to Prosper of Aquitaine (5th cent.)). The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays. Liturgy is a constitutive element of the holy and living Tradition. (5)

The Servant of God Pope Paul VI cited this classic dictum lex orandi, lex credendi in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus with specific reference to the place of Mary in the Church’s worship.

The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is an intrinsic element of Christian worship. The honor which the Church has always and everywhere shown to the Mother of the Lord, from the blessing with which Elizabeth greeted Mary (cf. Lk. 1:42-45) right up to the expressions of praise and petition used today, is a very strong witness to the Church’s norm of prayer and an invitation to become more deeply conscious of her norm of faith. And the converse is likewise true. The Church’s norm of faith requires that her norm of prayer should everywhere blossom forth with regard to the Mother of Christ. (6)

Hence we should fully expect that the Church’s past and present liturgical formulations which speak of Mary’s mediatorial role will be sound indications of her fundamental belief.

A full treatment of the theme of Mary’s role as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for the People of God in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church would most probably require an extensive collaborative effort among liturgical specialists in all the rites of the Church, both in their past and presently fixed forms. A pioneering effort in this regard was already made over seventy years ago by Dom Idesbald Van Houtryve, O.S.B., a monk of the Belgian Abbey of Mont-César, Louvain. (7) The monastic scholar’s two-part article, although of a general nature, demonstrated nonetheless the author’s remarkable familiarity with liturgical fonts in the Latin Rites, such as the Roman, Sarum, Ambrosian and Mozarabic Missals and breviaries, and with the Byzantine Rite in its Greek form. Brief overviews of the liturgical testimony in this area have also been provided by E. Druwé, S.J. in his masterful study, “La Médiation Universelle de Marie,” (8) by Armand J. Robichaud, S.M. in his essay “Mary, Dispensatrix of All Graces” (9) and by Robert Javelet in his book, Marie, La Femme Médiatrice. (10) All of these studies, however, have concentrated almost exclusively on Our Lady’s mediation in the sense of her distribution of the grace of redemption with much less emphasis on her complementary roles as Coredemptrix and Advocate. These other two areas are dealt with in more detail by Father Serapio de Iragui, O.F.M. Cap. in a presentation which he made to the International Mariological Congress held in Rome in 1950. (11) Like Father Van Houtryve, he displays a notable mastery of Eastern and Western liturgical sources with a special emphasis on medieval breviary hymns.

Thisarticle has an aim which is at once more specific and more limited. It is my intention to study the evidence indicative of the Church’s belief in Our Lady’s roles as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate primarily in the present edition of the Roman Missal issued according to the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum of 3 April 1969 (12) (RM 70) and particularly in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary issued according to the Decree Christi mysterium celebrans of the Congregation for Divine Worship of 15 August 1986 (Col). The latter volume is described in this way by Fathers Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B. and Anthony Ward, S.M.:

The Collection is not strictly a new liturgical book nor a supplement to the Roman Missal, nor is it a wholly original composition. The Masses given in the Collection have, for the most part, been drawn from the Roman Missal or from the Propers of Masses of local Churches or Religious Orders and Institutes. It is precisely what its name indicates: a gathering under one cover of several Masses in honour of the Virgin Mary. The material is gathered and sanctioned by authority for use in Marian sanctuaries, in the celebration of Saturday Masses of Our Lady, and other such occasions provided for by law. (13)

In some ways it might be said that the Collection fulfills the function of the various Marian Masses published in editions of the Roman Missal prior to that of Pope Paul VI in the Proper of the Saints for Certain Places (Proprium Sanctorum pro Aliquibus Locis), but with the exception of the Masses for the Advent, Lenten and Easter seasons whose use is restricted to Marian shrines, (14) these Masses are available to priests and congregations of the entire Roman Rite. (15)

While many of the Masses in the Collection and virtually all of the Prefaces are of recent composition, they nonetheless conform faithfully to the norm lex orandi, lex credendi in expressing the faith of the Church. Thus Paul VI wrote in his Apostolic Letter Signum Magnum:

Nor is it to be feared that liturgical reform, if put into practice according to the formula “the law of faith must establish the law of prayer” may be detrimental to the “wholly singular” veneration due to the Virgin Mary for her prerogatives, first among these being the dignity of the Mother of God. (16)

It will be noted that in this case the Pope was citing the principle lex orandi, lex credendi from the perspective of the faith of the Church establishing the law of prayer. In fact Pius XII had proposed two formulations of this maxim in his Encyclical Letter Mediator Dei, the first and most ancient which comes from Prosper of Aquitaine affirming the constitutive nature of the liturgy of the Church for her belief and the second rightly insisting on the normative value of the Church’s belief in establishing the liturgy. (17) Our primary concern, as already indicated, will be, in line with the ancient formulation of the maxim lex orandi, lex credendi, to discover the Church’s belief in Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate as this is expressed in the contemporary liturgy of the Roman Rite.

Mary as Coredemptrix

The term Coredemptrix usually requires some initial explanation in the English language because often the prefix “co” immediately conjures up visions of complete equality. For instance a co-signer of a check or a co-owner of a house is considered a co-equal with the other signer or owner. Thus the first fear of many is that describing Our Lady as Coredemptrix puts her on the same level of her Divine Son and implies that she is our Redeemer in the same way that He is, thus reducing Jesus “to being half of a team of redeemers.” (18) In the Latin language from which the term Coredemptrix comes, however, the meaning is always that Mary’s cooperation or collaboration in the redemption is secondary, subordinate, dependent on that of Christ—and yet for all that—something that God “freely wished to accept… as constituting an unneeded, but yet wonderfully pleasing part of that one great price” (19) paid by His Son for world’s redemption. As Mark Miravalle points out:

The prefix “co” does not mean equal, but comes from the Latin word, “cum” which means “with.” The title of Coredemptrix applied to the Mother of Jesus never places Mary on a level of equality with Jesus Christ, the divine Lord of all, in the saving process of humanity’s redemption. Rather, it denotes Mary’s singular and unique sharing with her Son in the saving work of redemption for the human family. The Mother of Jesus participates in the redemptive work of her Saviour Son, who alone could reconcile humanity with the Father in his glorious divinity and humanity. (20)

While one might argue about the use of the term Coredemptrix (21) because of the possible confusion which might result from it and propose Pius XII’s term of predilection, alma socia Christi (beloved associate of Christ), (22) it is equally arguable that there is no other word which places the participation of the Mother of God in our redemption in such sharp and bold relief. (23)

A further argument brought up against the use of this term is that it was specifically avoided by the Second Vatican Council. It is, indeed, true that the term was not used in any of the official documents promulgated by the Council (24) and, undeniably, “ecumenical sensitivity” was a prime factor in its avoidance. (25) The concept, however, was nonetheless conveyed. Thus the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium speaks of Mary as “under and with him (Christ), serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God” (sub Ipso et cum Ipso, omnipotentis Dei gratia, mysterio remdeptionis inserviens), as “freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation” (humanæ saluti cooperantem) (#56), of the “union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation” (cum Filio in opere salutari coniunctio) (#57) and of how she

faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her (vehementer cum Unigenito suo condoluit et sacrificio Eius se materno animo sociavit, victimæ de se genitæ immolationi amanter consentiens) (#58).

Likewise the Council Fathers state that Mary

shared her Son’s sufferings as he died on the cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls (Filioque suo in cruce morienti compatiens, operi Salvatoris singulari prorsus modo cooperata est, oboedientia, fide, spe et flagrante caritate, ad vitam animarum supernaturalem restaurandam) (#61).

Monsignor Brunero Gherardini points out that, with or without the use of the term Coredemptrix, the Protestant observers recognized just as readily the Catholic position on Mary’s participation in the redemption. The great majority of those who adhere to the reformed tradition see any human participation in the work of man’s salvation, however secondary and subordinate, as contrary to Luther’s principle of solus Christus and thus “a robbery from God and from Christ.” (26) Hence in this enterprise we are dealing with more than just the possible justification of the term Coredemptrix, but a fundamental datum of Catholic theology, a matter which will not be facilely dealt with in ecumenical dialogue by simply substituting one word or phrase with another which seems more neutral. (27)

Father Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., founder of the Pontifical Faculty of Theology “Marianum” and tireless researcher in mariology, summarized the teaching of the papal magisterium on the coredemption under five headings: 1. Mary’s association with Christ the Redeemer; 2. her union with Christ the new Adam in the redemption of the human race as the new Eve; 3. her cooperation in the Redemption beyond the fact of her Divine Maternity; 4. her cooperation in the Redemption which involves her at the same time in the distribution of the graces of the Redemption and 5. her immediate collaboration in Christ’s redemptive death and the various effects flowing from it. (28) I have found that not all of these categories seem equally helpful in organizing the liturgical data on the Coredemption and so I have developed the following: 1. Associate of Christ the Redeemer; 2. the New Eve; 3. Totally Devoted to the Person and Work of Her Son; 4. Sharer in the Sufferings of Christ; 5. Presenting her Son to the Father; 6. the United Sacrifice of Jesus and Mary. Since it would be impossible within the limits of thisstudy to cite every text available, I will strive to illustrate each of these points with representative texts.


A. Associate of Christ the Redeemer

The concept of Mary as intimately associated with the life, suffering and death of Christ has deep roots in the Christian tradition. Hence describing her as associate or companion of the Redeemer (socia Redemptoris) (29) has become a standard way of recognizing her active role in the Redemption. The first explicit use of this terminology with regard to Mary occurs in the writings of Ambrose Autpert (+784), but he uses the verbal form sociata to express the idea. “As present knowledge goes, it is Ekbert of Schönau (+1184) who first uses the noun socia of Mary.” (30) As we have already indicated, Pope Pius XII had a particular preference for the term socia Christi in referring to Mary’s secondary and subordinate, but nonetheless real, collaboration in the Redemption. For instance, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus of 1 November 1950 he described Our Lady as “the noble associate of the divine Redeemer” (generosa Divini Redemptoris social) (31) and again in his Encyclical Letter Ad Cæli Reginam of 11 October 1954 he referred to her as the “Mother of the Christ God and… His associate in the work of redemption” (Christi Dei mater, socia in divini Redemptoris opera). (32) The term, “generous associate” (generosa socia), is used of Mary in the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium #61 and in John Paul’s Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater #38. (33)

Not surprisingly, we find the very same terminology utilized in the liturgy. (34) In the Preface of the Mass of Mary, the New Eve (Sancta Maria, Mulier Nova) the celebrant addresses the Father saying:

You gave to Christ, author of the New Covenant, the Blessed Virgin Mary as his mother and companion… (Quia beatam Virginem Mariam Christo, novi foederis auctori, matrem et sociam dedisti…). (35)

Likewise in the Mass of Holy Mary, Handmaid of the Lord (Sancta Maria, Ancilla Domini) the opening prayer begins:

Lord our God, in your loving plan of redemption you chose the Blessed Virgin, your lowly handmaid, to be the mother and companion of Christ your Son,… (Deus, qui beatam Virginem, humilem ancillam tuam, misericordi redemptionis consilio, Christi matrem et sociam statuisti,…) (36)

The Mass of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Mediatrix of Grace (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Mediatrix Gratiæ), is particularly expressive of Mary’s association with the Redeemer. Hence the Opening Prayer addresses God in this way:

Lord our God, in your eternal wisdom and love you chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of the author of all grace and his companion in bringing about the mystery of our redemption. (Deus, qui arcano providentiæ consilio, beatam Virginem Mariam gratiæ Auctorem proferre voluisti eique in humanæ redemptionis mysterio sociam dedisti…) (37)

Her role is further delineated in the Preface of that same Mass:

In your wisdom and goodness the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother and companion of the Redeemer, was to have a maternal role in the Church: of intercession and pardon, of prayer and grace, of reconciliation and peace. (Sed tuæ bonitatis consilio statuisti ut beata Virgo Maria, Redemptoris mater et socia, munus in Ecclesia exerceret maternum: intercessionis et veniæ, impetrationis et gratiæ, reconciliationis et pacis.)

In the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Good Counsel (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater Boni Consilii) the theme is sounded again:

How generously you poured out the gifts of your Holy Spirit upon the Blessed Virgin Mary to make her worthy to be the mother and companion of the Redeemer. (Qui beatissimam Virginem Mariam Sancti Spiritus donis abundanter replevisti ut digna fieret mater et socia Redemptoris …) (38)

Finally, let us take note of the praise-filled testimony of the Preface of the Mass of Our Lady of Ransom (Beata Maria Virgo de Mercede), a feast proper to the Mercedarian Order and celebrated on 24 September. (39)

In your wise and provident plan you joined the Blessed Virgin so closely to your Son in the work of redemption that she was with him as a loving mother in his infancy, stood by his cross as the faithful companion in his passion, … (Qui mirabili providentique consilio, beatam Virginem in opere salutis humanæ Filio tuo tam arcta societate iunxisti, ut in humilitate cunarum ei amantissima mater adesset et iuxta crucem staret fidelis socia passionis: …) (40)

B. The New Eve

St. Justin Martyr (+165), St. Irenaeus (+ after 193) and Tertullian (+ after 220) all signaled the parallelism and contrast between Mary and Eve. This teaching which had developed over the centuries (41) was highlighted in the Marian chapter of Lumen Gentium thus:

Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she “being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.” Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert with him in their preaching: “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.” Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her “Mother of the living,” and frequently claim: “death through Eve, life through Mary.” (42)

The English-speaking reader might expect that the Mass formulary of Mary, the New Eve (43) would capitalize on the Mary/Eve theme, only to be dismayed at not finding it so directly underscored. The primary reason for this is that the translators chose not to render the Latin title of this Mass (Sancta Maria, Mulier Nova) literally as “Holy Mary, the New Woman.” While the introduction to this formulary does in fact speak of Mary as the “New Eve,” it develops even more the idea of the “new woman.” (44)

The explicit theme of Mary as the New Eve, however, is not ignored in the Collection. (45) It is sounded already in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Chosen Daughter of Israel (Beata Maria Virgo, Electa Israel Progenies), the first of the Marian Masses of the Advent season:

She is by nature the daughter of Adam, who by her sinlessness undid the sin of Eve. (Ipsa enim condicione filia est Adæ, quæ culpam matris innocentia reparavit …) (46)

It will be noted that the Latin text does not mention Eve, but does speak of the sin of “the mother.”

The motif of Mary as the New Eve is beautifully developed in the Prefaces of the two Lenten Masses of Mary at the Foot of the Cross (Beata Maria Virgo iuxta Crucem Domini). In the first we have this lapidary statement:

At the cross the Blessed Virgin appears as the new Eve, so that, as a woman shared in bringing death, so a woman would share in restoring life. (Ibi enim beata Virgo nova fulget Eva, ut, sicut mulier contulit ad mortem, ita mulier conferret ad vitam.) (47)

In the second we have the happy fusion of the theme of socia (rendered this time in English as partner) with that of the “New Eve”:

In your divine wisdom you planned the redemption of the human race and decreed that the new Eve should stand by the cross of the new Adam: as she became his mother by the power of the Holy Spirit, so, by a new gift of your love, she was to be a partner in his passion … (Tu enim, ad humanam sobolem sapienti consilio reformandam novam Evam iuxta crucem novi Adami astare voluisti: ut quæ, divino fecundante Spiritu, facta erat mater, novo tuæ pietatis dono fieret socia passionis …) (48)

The description of Mary as a “partner in the passion of the New Adam” seems quite deliberately evocative of the text of Genesis in which the Lord God creates for Adam a “helper fit for him” (2:18, 20).

Likewise the scriptural association of Eve as crediting the word of the serpent rather than accepting the word of God (Gen. 3:1-6) and thus with the barring of the gates of Paradise (Gen. 3:24) is appropriately played upon in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Gate of Heaven (Beata Maria Virgo, Ianua Cæli):

She is the humble Virgin, whose faith opened the gate of eternal life, closed by the disbelief of Eve. (Hæc est Virgo humilis, quæ æternæ vitæ ianuam, quam Eva incredula clauserat, nobis reseravit fidelis.) (49)

Finally the New Adam theme which resounds in Romans 5:12-17 is complemented by the New Eve theme developed in an alternative Advent Preface for use from 17 to 24 December which is provided in the second edition (1983) of the Roman Missal approved by the Italian Episcopal Conference.

The grace which Eve took away from us is given back to us in Mary. In her, Mother of all men, motherhood, freed from sin and from death, is open to the gift of new life. Where sin abounded, your mercy abounds even more in Christ our Savior. (La grazia che Eva ci tolse ci èridonata in Maria. In lei, madre di tutti gli uomini, la maternità, redenta dal peccato e dalla morte, si apre al dono della vita nuova. Dove abbondò la colpa, sovrabbonda la tua misericordia in Cristo nostro salvatore.) (50)

C. Totally Devoted to the Person and Work of Her Son

We have already quoted a passage from Lumen Gentium #56, but let us return to that illuminating paragraph again as it describes Mary’s fundamental orientation:

Committing herself whole-heartedly to God’s saving will and impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally, as a handmaid of the Lord, to the person and work of her Son, under and with him, serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God. (salvificam voluntatem Dei, pleno corde et nullo retardata peccato, complectens, semetipsam ut Domini ancillam personæ et operi Filii sui totaliter devovit, sub Ipso et cum Ipso, omnipotentis Dei gratia, mysterio redemptionis inserviens.) (51)

With these carefully chosen words the Council Fathers articulate the Catholic belief that Mary’s role in the life of Christ was not simply fulfilled by her giving birth to him and nurturing him, but that she devoted herself totally to his person and work, thus actively participating in the mystery of the redemption.

Many of the Mass formularies in the Collection illustrate how deeply this consciousness of Mary’s whole-hearted devotion has penetrated the prayer-life of the Church. This is very clearly underscored in the Preface of the Mass of Holy Mary, Handmaid of the Lord (Sancta Maria, Ancilla Domini) in which we can detect the very language of the Council Fathers.

In the Blessed Virgin Mary you were especially pleased, for by embracing your plan of salvation she gave herself wholeheartedly to the work of your Son as a faithful servant of the mystery of redemption. (Quia in beata Virgine tibi singulariter complacuisti: illa enim, salvificam voluntatem tuam complectens, operi Filii tui totaliter se devovit, mysterio redemptionis fideliter inserviens …) (52)

This conviction about Mary’s total dedication to Christ and his saving work is expressed in a variety of ways. In the Preface of the Mass of the Mother of Good Counsel (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater Boni Consilii) the priest states that

she gave herself wholeheartedly to your wise and loving plan for renewing all things in Christ. (intime adhæsit tuæ pietatis consilio omnia in Christo instaurandi.) (53)

while in that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Teacher in the Spirit (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Magistra Spiritalis) she is described as “sharing intimately in the mystery of Christ” (Quæ mysterio Christi tui intime sociata). (54) Again, the Preface of Our Lady of Ransom (Beata Maria Virgo de Mercede) addresses the Father as having

joined the Blessed Virgin … closely to your Son in the work of redemption (beatam Virginem in opere salutis humanæ Filio tuo … arcta societate iunxisti) (55)

while that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick (Beata Maria Virgo, Salus Infirmorum) says that

To all who look up to her in prayer she is the model of perfect acceptance of your will and of wholehearted conformity with Christ … (eam autem contemplantibus exemplar præbet animi tuæ voluntati perfecte consentientis et Christo plene se conformantis …). (56)

Another facet of the mystery of Mary’s total dedication to and identification with the person and work of her Son is to speak of her “sacrifice of self” or “self-offering” which thus rendered her available to serve him and so participate in the work of our redemption. Hence, in the Mass of Our Lady of Nazareth (Sancta Maria De Nazareth) the celebrant prays in the name of all the faithful in the Prayer over the Gifts

we pray that by following the example of the Virgin of Nazareth we may present ourselves as a holy and pleasing sacrifice. (ut, Virginis Nazarethanæ sequentes exempla, nosmetipsos exhibeamus hostiam sanctam, tibi placentem.) (57)

Likewise, in the Prayer over the Gifts in the second Mass of Mary, Image and Mother of the Church (Beata Maria Virgo, Imago et Mater Ecclesiæ, II) Our Lady is presented as

the shining model of true worship for your Church and of our duty to offer ourselves as a holy victim, pleasing in your eyes. (… quæ Ecclesiæ tuæ spiritalis cultus fulget exemplar, quo nosmetipsos exhibere debemus hostiam sanctam tibique placentem.) (58)


D. Sharer in the Sufferings of Christ

In the course of his pontificate Pope John Paul II frequently commented on the text of Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” In his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris of 11 February 1984 he did so with explicit reference to Our Lady’s “compassion” (59) or sharing in the sufferings of Christ:

As a witness to her Son’s passion by her presence, and as a sharer in it by her compassion, Mary offered a unique contribution to the Gospel of suffering, by embodying in anticipation the expression of St. Paul which was quoted at the beginning. She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she “completes in her flesh”—as already in her heart—”what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (quippe quæ præsens adesset, particeps effecta passionis compatiendo; Illa enim prorsus particularem causam habet ut dicat se “adimplere in carne sua—quemadmodum iam in corde fecit—ea quæ desunt passionum Christi”.) (60)

This idea of Mary’s compassion or co-suffering (61) in the spirit of Colossians 1:24 is brought out magnificently in the Opening Prayer of the first Mass of Mary at the Foot of the Cross (Beata Maria Virgo iuxta Crucem Domini, I):

Lord our God, in your mysterious wisdom you fill out the passion of Christ through the suffering that his members endure in the many trials of this life. As you chose to have the mournful mother stand by your Son in his agony on the cross, grant that we too may bring love and comfort to our brothers and sisters in distress. (Deus, qui passionem Christi tui in eius membris, infinitis vitæ ærumnis vexatis, arcano perficis consilio, concede, quæsumus, ut, sicut Filio tuo in cruce morienti, perdolentem Matrem astare voluisti, ita et nos, beatam Virginem imitati, fratribus laborantibus caritate et solacio semper adsimus.) (62)

Father Joncas’ comment about this prayer is that it

exquisitely unites the Pauline teaching of the suffering members of the Church bringing to completion the saving passion of Christ (cf. Col. 1:24), the share Mary had in the agony of her Son on the cross, and the mission of Christians to alleviate suffering by bearing it in solidarity with others. (63)

The above-cited prayer finds a splendid complement in the Prayer after Communion on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (Beatæ Mariæ Virginis Perdolentis Memoria).

As we honor the compassionate love of the Virgin Mary, may we make up in our own lives whatever is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the good of the Church. (… ut, compassionem beatæ Mariæ Virginis recolentes, ea in nobis pro Ecclesia adimpleamus, quæ desunt Christi passionum.) (64)

While, indeed, all of us are called to “bring to completion the saving passion of Christ,” there is no doubt that no other human being shared as fully as Mary in the passion of Christ and, if the sober Roman liturgy does not say this in so many words, it does so equivalently by the frequent repetition of this theme. Since space does not allow us to linger over each recurrence, let us take particular note of some representative texts. The Opening Prayer of the Mass of Our Lady of Sorrows articulates this theme in the classical and synthetic Roman manner.

Father, as your Son was raised on the cross, his mother Mary stood by him, sharing his sufferings. May your Church be united with Christ in his suffering and death and so come to share in his rising to new life … (Deus, qui Filio tuo in cruce exaltato compatientem matrem astare voluisti, da Ecclesiæ tuæ, ut Christi passionis cum ipsa consors effecta, eiusdem resurrectionis particeps esse mereatur.). (65)

Unfortunately, the official English translation of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) fails to do justice to the rich theological content of this prayer. In the first place the translation doesn’t clearly state that Mary’s presence and sharing in Christ’s sufferings was willed by the Father. Secondly, it doesn’t render accurately the request that the “Church may be her (Mary’s) companion in the passion of Christ.” (66) The request of the prayer, quite clearly, is that, as God willed that Mary should share in the suffering of Christ, we (as members of the Church) pray to be her companions in sharing in Christ’s passion, so as to share in his resurrection. Here the understanding is that participation in Mary’s compassion is a privileged way of sharing in Christ’s passion in order to share in his resurrection. Hence Mary’s co-suffering (compassion) is presented as a paradigm for the entire Church.

This theme of companionship with Mary in sharing in the work of the redemption is beautifully highlighted in the Prayer over the Gifts of the first Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Image and Mother of the Church, (Beata Maria Virgo, Imago et Mater Ecclesiæ I):

… warm our hearts with the love of the Virgin Mary, mother of the Church, and join us more closely with her in sharing the redeeming work of her Son. (… caritate Virginis Mariæ, Ecclesiæ Matris, inflammemus et operi redemptionis cum ea arctius sociari mereamur.) (67)

It is precisely by the charity which Mary bears for her children as Mother of the Church that we ask to be inflamed and thus merit to be intimately associated with her in the work of the redemption. This prayer, in effect, recognizes the uniqueness of Our Lady’s coredemptive role.

Among the numerous other liturgical texts which could be adduced illustrating Mary’s sharing in the suffering of Christ, let us take note of but two more. The first comes from the Preface of the third Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Image and Mother of the Church (Beata Maria Virgo, Imago et Mater Ecclesiæ III).

You have given the Blessed Virgin Mary to your Church as the perfect image of its role as mother and of its future glory. She is a virgin unsurpassed in purity of faith, a bride joined to Christ in an unbreakable bond of love and united with him in his suffering. (Qui Ecclesiæ tuæ beatam Virginem Mariam materni muneris et futuræ gloriæ purissimam dedisti imaginem: virginem fidei integritate conspicuam: sponsam indissolubili amoris vinculo Christo coniunctam atque illius sociatam passioni …) (68)

This composition gives evidence of a refined theological and poetic quality in linking the themes of Mary as mother, virgin and spouse. Of particular interest to us is the paralleling of her spousal relationship to Christ (69) with her being the sharer of his passion. The second text is yet another evocative depiction of Mary’s intimate union with her Son in his suffering which is presented in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Fairest Love (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater Pulchræ Dilectionis):

Beauty was hers in the passion of her Son: in her meekness she shared the suffering of the Lamb of God, her Son, silent before his executioners, and won for herself a new title of motherhood. (… pulchra in Filii passione, eius purpurata cruore, mitis agna mitissimo Agno compatiens, novo matris ornata munere …) (70)

Admittedly, this magnificent Latin composition is a challenge to unravel in English. The allusion “silent before his executioners” is not found in the Latin, but what is stated is that “beautiful in the passion of her Son, purpled by his blood,” Mary is “the meek ewe-lamb suffering with the Lamb most meek.”

E. Presenting her Son to the Father

In his Letter Inter Sodalicia of 22 May 1918 Pope Benedict XV put the mystery of Mary’s coredemption in bold relief. He said:

Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother’s rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind. (Scilicet ita cum Filio patiente et moriente passa est et pæne commortua, sic materna in Filium jura pro hominum salute abdicavit placandæque Dei justitiæ, quantum ad se pertinebat, Filium immolavit, ut dici merito queat, Ipsam cum Christo humanum genus redemisse.) (71)

So united with God’s salvific will was Mary, says the Pope, that “as far as it depended on her, (she) offered her Son to placate divine justice.” This motif of Mary as the Virgin offering her Son to the Father is one which we find taken up in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary in at least three places. First we find it expressed succinctly in the Prayer over the Gifts of the Mass of Holy Mary, Fountain of Light and Life (Sancta Maria, Fons Lucis et Vitæ):

All-holy Father, receive this offering which the Church, our virginal mother, makes in imitation of the mother of Christ. (Suscipe, sancte Pater, hanc oblationem, quam Matrem Christi imitans, tibi offert virgo Ecclesia.) (72)

Clearly, then, the Church’s offering of the Eucharist is seen as patterned on the offering of the Mother of Christ.

The next two instances which refer to the offering of Christ by the Virgin take as their point of departure the scene in the Gospel of Luke in which we are told of Mary and Joseph taking the infant Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem “to present him to the Lord” (Lk. 2:22) (73) while their point of arrival is quite explicitly the offering of Christ as victim on Calvary. Here is a portion of the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of the Lord (Sancta Maria in Præsentatione Domini):

She is the virgin daughter of Zion who, in fulfillment of the Law, presents to you her Son, the glory of your people Israel and the light of all nations. She is the Virgin, the handmaid of your plan of salvation, who presents to you the spotless Lamb, to be sacrificed on the altar of the cross for our salvation. (Hæc est Virgo Filia Sion, quæ legem adimplens, in templo tibi sistit Filium, gloriam plebis tuæ Israel et lumen omnium gentium. Hæc est Virgo, salvificæ dispensationis ministra, quæ tibi Agnum immaculatum offert, in ara crucis pro nostra immolandum salute.) (74)

It should be noticed here as in many other instances that the English text only approximates the Latin. The Latin verb sistit (75)is rendered as “presents” while the Latin verb offert is also translated as “presents” whereas its first meaning is obviously “offers.” Literally, the last line states that Mary is the “Virgin, the minister of the dispensation of salvation, who offers to you the Lamb who is to be immolated on the altar of the cross for our salvation.” In our second major section on Mary’s mediation we will have much more to say about Mary as ministra, a concept which in our judgement is not adequately rendered by the English word “handmaid.”

Our final reference to Mary as the “Virgin offering” comes from the Preface of the second Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Image and Mother of the Church (Beata Maria Virgo, Imago et Mater Ecclesiæ II). As in the immediately preceding citation, a definite parallel is intended between the offering in the temple and on the cross.

She is the Virgin who offers, presenting the Firstborn in your temple and sharing in his self-offering beside the tree of everlasting life. (Virgo offerens, tibi in templo Primogenitum sistit et apud lignum vitæ eius immolationi consentit.) (76)

The reference to the “Virgin who offers” (literally the Virgin offering) is an allusion (77) to a subtopic developed in Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus which links the presentation of Jesus in the temple to the salvific event of the cross. (78) While the idea of Mary sharing in the self-offering of Christ on the tree of the cross is very much in line with the theme of coredemption, what the Latin text says is even stronger, i.e., that Mary consents to his immolation on the cross. This final item is obviously a quite deliberate quotation from Lumen Gentium #58 and ought to be rendered as such:

Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her. (Ita B. Virgo in peregrinatione fidei processit, suamque unionem cum Filio fideliter sustinuit usque ad crucem, ubi non sine divino consilio stetit (cf. Io. 19, 25), vehementer cum Unigenito suo condoluit et sacrificio Eius se materno animo sociavit, victimæ de se genitæ immolationi amanter consentiens.) (79)

F. The United Sacrifice of Jesus and Mary

We have already quoted above from the celebrated Letter Inter Sodalicia of Benedict XV which concludes by stating that “we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind.” (ut dici merito queat, Ipsam cum Christo humanum genus redemisse.) (80) While this statement needs to be understood in the terms which we have outlined in the introduction to this section, it has continued to be confirmed by subsequent magisterial statements. Pope John Paul II declared in Salvifici Doloris that

it was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world. (dolores Beatæ Mariæ Virginis in Calvariæ loco ad fastigium pervenerunt, cuius altitudo mente humana vix fingi quidem potest, sed certe arcana fuit et supernaturali ratione fecunda pro universali redemptione.) (81)

Another very striking statement of this mystery occurs in Pope Pius XII’s Encyclical Letter Haurietis Aquas of 15 May 1956:

By the will of God, the most Blessed Virgin Mary was inseparably joined with Christ in accomplishing the work of man’s redemption, so that our salvation flows from the love of Jesus Christ and His sufferings intimately united with the love and sorrows of His Mother. (Cum enim ex Dei voluntate in humanæ Redemptionis peragendo opere Beatissima Virgo Maria cum Christo fuerit indivulse coniuncta, adeo ut ex Iesu Christi caritate eiusque cruciatibus cum amore doloribusque ipsius Matris intime consociatis sit nostra salus profecta …). (82)


The concept of our salvation flowing from the sacrifice of Christ “intimately united with the love and sorrows of His Mother” seems to be illustrated by two prayers in the Collection. The first is the Prayer after Communion from the first Mass of Mary at the Foot of the Cross (Beata Maria Virgo iuxta Crucem Domini, I):

… Grant that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, poured out upon your Church, may descend in power on all peoples, whom Christ the high priest, claims as the reward of the sacrifice he offered on the cross in the presence of his sorrowing mother. (… ut Paraclitus Spiritus in Ecclesia tua superabundans, in universas gentes affluenter redundet; quem, sacrificio crucis, compatiente Matre, Christus, summus sacerdos, promeruit. (83)

Father Joncas translates this text literally:

… we pray you, Lord, that the Spirit Paraclete superabounding in your Church may be generously poured out upon all nations (that Spirit) whom, by the sacrifice of the cross, with (his) Mother co-suffering, Christ the High Priest gained. (84)

My point is that the Latin text speaks of the sacrificio crucis, compatiente Matre i.e., “the sacrifice of the cross with the Mother co-suffering” by which Christ the High Priest gained the nations. This is effectively saying that our salvation flows from “the sacrifice of the cross with the Mother co-suffering.”

The second prayer which I adduce as supportive of this thesis is the Opening Prayer of the second Mass of Mary at the Foot of the Cross (Beata Maria Virgo iuxta Crucem Domini, II):

Lord our God, you placed at the side of your suffering Son his mother to suffer with him, so that the human race, deceived by the wiles of the devil, might become a new and resplendent creation. (Deus, qui ad humanam substantiam diabolica fraude deceptam mirabiliter reparandam Filio tuo patienti compatientem Matrem sociasti, …) (85)

Here Joncas translates:

God, who associated the co-suffering Mother with your suffering Son for the wondrous repairing of the human substance, deceived by devilish deceits,… (86)

My point once again is that the Latin text speaks of God’s “associating the co-suffering Mother with his suffering Son” for the repairing of the human race deceived by the wiles of the devil. Without taking away at all from the fact that the sacrifice of Christ is more than sufficient for the salvation of the world, the prayer of the Church (lex orandi) as expressed in the Collectio states that salvation has effectively come about through the sacrifice of Christ to which is joined the compassion or co-suffering of Mary.

Mary as Mediatrix

In its treatment of Mary’s Motherhood with regard to the Church the Catechism of the Catholic Church cites the text of Lumen Gentium 62 that “the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” (87) and then follows immediately with these further texts from Lumen Gentium by way of commentary:

Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men… flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it (Lumen Gentium 60). No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold co-operation which is but a sharing in this one source (Lumen Gentium 62). (88)

Although the conciliar text does not make any allusion to it, there is a striking corroboration of the analogy between the priesthood of Christ and his unique mediation and the various ways of sharing in this priestly mediation developed in Pope Leo XIII’s Rosary Encyclical of 20 September 1896, Fidentem Piumque. Let us look at the argument which he develops with the help of St. Thomas Aquinas:

Undoubtedly the name and attributes of the absolute Mediator belong to no other than Christ; for being one Person and yet both Man and God He restored the human race to the favor of the Heavenly Father. “One Mediator of God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself a redemption for all” (I Tim. 2:5-6).

And yet, as the Angelic Doctor teaches: “There is no reason why certain others should not be called in a certain way mediators between God and man, that is to say in so far as they cooperate by predisposing and ministering in the union of man with God” (ST III, q. 26, a. 1). Such are the angels and saints, the prophets and priests of both Testaments, but especially has the Blessed Virgin a claim to the glory of this title. For no single individual can even be imagined who has ever contributed or ever will contribute so much toward reconciling man with God. To mankind heading for eternal ruin, she offered a Savior when she received the announcement of the mystery brought to this earth by the Angel, and in giving her consent gave it “in the name of the whole human race” (ST III, q. 30, a. 1). She is from whom Jesus is born; she is therefore truly His Mother and for this reason a worthy and acceptable “Mediatrix to the Mediator.” (89)

We should note that the first passage which Leo XIII quotes from St. Thomas speaks explicitly of those who “cooperate by predisposing and ministering in the union of man with God” (cooperantur ad unionem hominis cum Deo dispositive et ministerialiter). (90) Among such secondary and subordinate mediators, the pope points out, Mary is preeminent.

A. Minister of Grace According to the Magisterium

For quite some time I have been impressed by the convergence and mutual complementarity of the theme of Mary as a “minister of grace” in both the papal magisterium and the Masses of the Collection. Unfortunately however, I have not found any organized exposition of the papal texts which treats explicitly of Mary’s “ministering in the union of man with God.” Since I am convinced that this category of “minister of grace” is a very important way of approaching the mystery of Mary’s maternal mediation, I ask the reader to bear with this exposition which, of necessity, will be proportionately more detailed than other allusions that I have thus far made to Marian themes in the magisterium which are already well documented and may be found in the indices of standard mariological references. My hope is that this framework may also be a contribution to studies on the papal Marian magisterium.

The argument about the ministerial nature of Mary’s mediation was developed to a marked degree by Leo XIII in a number of his “Rosary Encyclicals” which he wrote every year from 1883 to 1898 to encourage this Marian devotion and teach about Mary’s mediation. (91) Here is the first instance which I have found in the first of those Encyclical Letters, Supremi Apostolatus of 1 September 1883:

We consider that there can be no surer and more efficacious means to this end (to render our labors and our cares more effective) than by obtaining through devotion and piety the favor of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, the guardian of our peace and the minister to us of heavenly grace, who is placed on the highest summit of power and glory in heaven, in order that she may bestow the help of her patronage on men who through so many labors and dangers are striving to reach that eternal city. (Hanc ad rem nihil validius potiusque iudicamus, quam religione et pietate demereri magnam Dei Parentem Mariam Virginem, quæ pacis nostræ apud Deum sequestra et cælestium administra gratiarum, in celsissimo potestatis est gloriæque fastigio in cælis collocata, ut hominibus ad sempiternam illam civitatem per tot labores et pericula contendentibus patrocinii sui subsidium impertiat.) (92)

It should be noted that ministra and administra, the feminine forms respectively of minister and administer, both have roughly the same range of meanings: subordinate, servant, attendant, assistant or minister. (93) Hence the terms are virtually synonymous.

The following year Pope Leo wrote similarly in his Encyclical Letter Superiore Anno of 30 August 1884:

We have a confident hope that God will at length let Himself be moved and have pity upon the state of His Church, and give ear to the prayers coming to Him through her whom He has chosen to be the dispenser of all heavenly graces. (… in spem certam adducimur, fore et aliquando propitietur Deus, Ecclesiæque suæ miseratus vicem, audiat tandem preces obsecrantium per Eam, quam ipse cælestium gratiarum voluit esse administram.) (94)

It is well known that Leo XIII was an excellent Latinist and that he had mastered the idiom to such an extent that translators often opted for a more colloquial rendition of his thought in English rather than a literal and possibly slavish translation. It should be noted, nonetheless, that the phrase “dispenser of all heavenly graces” renders the more technical cælestium gratiarum administram.

The ministry of Our Lady is also alluded to in Leo XIII’s Encyclical Iucunda Semper of 8 September 1894 even though it disappears beneath the surface of the English translation.

If in all this series of mysteries, Venerable Brethren, are developed the counsels of God in regard to us—”counsels of wisdom and of tenderness”—not less apparent is the greatness of the benefits for which we are debtors to the Virgin Mother. No one can meditate upon this without feeling a new awakening in his heart of confidence that he will certainly obtain through Mary the fullness of the mercies of God. (Hæc omnia, Venerabiles Fratres, in quibus consilium Dei proditur, consilium sapientiæ, consilium pietatis, simulque permagna in nos merita Virginis Matris elucent, neminem quidem possunt non iucunde afficere, certa spe iniecta divinæ clementiæ et miserationis administra Maria consequendæ.) (95)

The point being made rather eloquently in Latin is that those who meditate on the mysteries of the rosary can have confidence that they will obtain the divine clemency and pity through the ministry of Mary.

A year later in his Encyclical Letter Adiutricem Populi of 5 September 1895 Leo made the following declaration:

It is impossible to measure the power and scope of her offices since the day she was taken up to that height of heavenly glory in the company of her Son, to which the dignity and luster of her merits entitle her. From her heavenly abode, she began, by God’s decree, to watch over the Church, to assist and befriend us as our Mother; so that she who was so intimately associated with the mystery of human salvation is just as closely associated with the distribution of the graces which from all time will flow from the Redemption. (Ad hæc vero dici vix potest quantum amplitudinis virtutisque tunc accesserit, cum ad fastigium cælestis gloriæ, quod dignitatem eius claritatemque meritorum decebat, est apud Filium assumpta. Nam, inde, divino consilio, sic illa coepit advigilare Ecclesiæ, sic nobis adesse favere mater, ut quæ sacramenti humanæ redemptionis patrandi administra fuerat eademque gratiæ ex illo in omne tempus derivandæ esse pariter administra, permissa ei pæne immensa potestate. (96)

Here let us note that Leo links the concept of Mary’s ministerial service both to her previous association with Christ in the work of redemption as well as to her role in the present dispensation. Hence, he delineates her role as associate in the redemption as sacramenti humanæ redemptionis patrandi administra while he refers to her role in the distribution of grace as gratiæ ex illo in omne tempus derivandæ pariter administra. (97)

The concept as well as the terminology of Mary as “minister of grace” was duly adopted by Leo XIII’s successor, Pope St. Pius X, in his Encyclical Letter Ad Diem Illum of 2 February 1904.

We are thus, it will be seen, very far from declaring the Mother of God to be the authoress of supernatural grace. Grace comes from God alone. But since she surpassed all in holiness and union with Christ, and has been associated with Christ in the work of Redemption, she, as the expression is, merits de congruo what Christ merits de condigno, and is the principal minister in the distribution of grace…. With these principles laid down and returning to our subject, will it not appear to all that it is right and proper to affirm that Mary, whom Jesus made His constant companion from the house of Nazareth to the place of Calvary, knew, as no other knew, the secrets of his heart, distributes as by a mother’s right the treasures of His merits, and is the surest help to the knowledge and love of Christ? (Patet itaque abesse profecto plurimum ut nos Deiparæ supernaturalis gratiæ efficiendæ vim tribuamus, quæ Dei unius est. Ea tamen, quoniam universis sanctitate præstat coniunctioneque cum Christo, atque a Christo ascita in humanæ salutis opus, “de congruo,” ut aiunt, promeret nobis quæ Christus “de condigno” promeruit, estque princeps largiendarum gratiarum ministra. … His positis, ut ad propositum redeamus, cui Nos non iure recteque affirmasse videbimur, Mariam, quæ a Nazarethena domo ad Calvariæ locum assiduam se Iesu comitem dedit, eiusque arcana cordis ut nemo alius novit, ac thesauros promeritorum eius materno veluti iure administrat, maximo certissimoque esse adiumento ad Christi notitiam atque amorem?) (98)

What I wish to underscore here is St. Pius X’s specific reference to Mary as “the principal minister in the distribution of grace” (princeps largiendarum gratiarum ministra). This forceful assertion is further reinforced by his insistence that Mary “distributes… the treasures of His merits” (thesauros promeritorum eius… administrat). Here we find the use of the verbal form administrare, to manage, to direct, to administer, to distribute. (99) The idea is quite precise in its imagery: the graces of the Redemption come to us through the mediation of the Mother of God. (100)


The employment of the designation of Mary as ministra gratiarum continued with Pope Benedict XV who, in his Encyclical Letter Fausto Appetente Die of 29 June 1921 spoke thus of St. Dominic:

He knew well that while on one hand Mary is all powerful with her divine Son who grants all graces to mankind through her, on the other hand she is by nature so good and so merciful that, inclined to aid spontaneously those who suffer, she is absolutely incapable of refusing her help to those who invoke her. (Probe enim noverat Mariam ex una parte quidem tantum auctoritate apud Filium divinum posse, ut is, quidquid gratiarum hominibus confert, illa semper administra et arbitra conferat, ex altera autem tam benignæ clementisque esse naturæ ut, cum ultro solita sit miseris succurrere, omnino nequeat opem postulantibus recusare.) (101)

Let us note that the English translation we are using, while it adequately gives us the sense of the text, does not translate the word administra, very important for our analysis. A literal rendering would clarify that “whatever graces her divine Son grants to mankind, he confers always with her as minister and mediator.”

In the reign of Pope Pius XI we find the terminology of Our Lady’s “ministry of grace” in the conclusion of his great encyclical on reparation through and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Miserentissimus Redemptor of 8 May 1928:

Trusting in her intercession with Christ our Lord, who though sole Mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5), wished however to make His Mother the advocate for sinners and the dispenser and mediatrix of His grace, from the bottom of Our heart as a token of heavenly favor and of Our fatherly solicitude We heartily impart to you and to all the faithful entrusted to your care Our Apostolic Benediction. (Cuius Nos confisi apud Christum deprecatione, qui unus cum sit “Mediator Dei et hominum,” suam sibi Matrem adsciscere voluit peccatorum advocatam gratiæque ministram ac mediatricem, cælestium munerum auspicem paternæque benevolentiæ Nostræ testem, vobis, Venerabiles Fratres, vestrisque curis concredito gregi universo, apostolicam benedictionem peramanter impertimus.) (102)

In this case we find Mary’s function with regard to the grace of Redemption delineated with two words in apposition, “dispenser and mediatrix” (ministram ac mediatricem). We find the Pontiff employing the same language in his Letter Sollemne semper of 15 August 1932 to Cardinal Schuster of Milan:

In fact, the Mother of God, minister of heavenly graces, was placed at the zenith of power and of glory in heaven to give the help of her patronage to men searching their way on earth among many fatigues and dangers. (Ipsa enim Dei Parens, cælestium administra gratiarum, in celsissimo potestatis gloriæque fastigio est in cælis collocata, ut hominibus per tot labores et pericula in terris peregrinantibus patrocinii sui subsidium impertiat.) (103)

The Servant of God Pope Pius XII also adopted the language of his predecessors on the Marian “ministry of grace” in the course of his pontificate. On 21 April 1940 in an allocution to Genoese pilgrims he made a very interesting comparison between Mary’s “ministry of grace” and that of Peter.

To Mary, who reigns in heaven “humble yet higher than any creature,” near His Throne, God grants the custody of the treasures of His manifold graces. She is, moreover, their minister and generous dispenser…. While Peter has the keys of heaven, Mary has the key to God’s heart; while Peter binds and looses, Mary also binds with the chain of love and looses with the gift of pardon. While Peter is the guardian and minister of indulgences, Mary is the generous and wise treasurer of God’s favors. (Maria, che regna nei cieli, “umile ed alta più che creatura,” a cui presso il suo trono Dio concesse la custodia dei tesori della multiforme sua grazia, ne èpure ministra e dispensiera generosa…. Se Pietro ha le chiavi del cielo, Maria ha le chiavi del cuore di Dio; se Pietro lega e scioglie, anche Maria lega, con le catene dell’amore; anche essa scioglie, con l’arte del perdono. Se Pietro è il custode e il ministro dell’indulgenza, Maria è la munifica e sapiente tesoriera dei divini favori). (104)

Pius used the occasion of a radio broadcast to the Shrine of Fatima for the coronation of the statue of Our Lady on 13 May 1946 to set forth the doctrinal foundations of Our Lady’s Queenship, a matter he would take up with even greater solemnity eight years later in his Encyclical Ad Cæli Reginam. In the Portuguese transmission, widely publicized and commented upon, he said:

He, the Son of God, gave His heavenly Mother a share in His glory, His majesty, His kingship; because, associated as Mother and Minister to the King of martyrs in the ineffable work of man’s Redemption, she is likewise associated with Him forever, with power so to speak infinite, in the distribution of the graces which flow from Redemption. (Ele o Filho Deus, reflecte sobre a celeste Me a glória, a majestade, o império da sua realeza;—porque associada, como Me e Ministra, ao Rei dos mártires na obra inefável da humana Redenço, lhe épara sempre associada, com cum poder quasi imenso, na distribuiçao das graças que da Redenço derivam.) (105)

As in many other papal texts we note here a description of Our Lady in her capacity as both Coredemptrix and Mediatrix. In the first role she is described as “Minister to the King of martyrs in the ineffable work of man’s Redemption” and in the second as “associated with Him forever… in the distribution of the graces which flow from Redemption.” Here the term “minister” refers explicitly to the coredemptive phase of Mary’s activity, while the mediatorial phase is characterized as “the distribution of graces.” However, one could hardly deny that this too might be described as a “ministry.”

A reference in his letter to the Polish Episcopate on 8 December 1955 is a little less specific about Our Lady as “minister of grace,” but the idea is not altogether absent.

Furthermore, to dispel anxiety, you must lift your eyes to the Mother of God, your Queen, in a renewal of devotion; having crushed the infernal serpent under her heel, she is the mediatrix and dispenser of reward for your every conquest. (Præterea ut omni perturbatione vacetis, vestri convertendi sunt oculi novo pietatis studio ad Dei Genetricem Reginam vestram quæ, cum virgineo pede infernum inimicum calcaverit, cuiuslibet intemeratæ victoriæ est ministra et auctrix.) (106)

Here she is literally described as the “minister and authoress of untainted victory,” but the victory is always undeniably one of grace.

Although the term ministra gratiarum does not occur in the body of the Second Vatican Council’s explicit treatment of Our Lady in the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium, it is not because it was not proposed. The history of its proposal is interesting and illuminating. The late Father Karl Balic, O.F.M., founder of the Pontifical International Marian Academy and one of the Council’s chief Marian experts, (107) together with his colleagues of the Academy drafted the first schema of a Marian document for the Council. That draft, (108) quickly rejected, dealt with the theme of Mary’s mediation in a way that was both more reflective of the previous papal magisterium on this matter and consequently more developed than what one presently finds in Lumen Gentium #60 and 62.

Unfortunately, the climate at the Council was not auspicious for the full assimilation of the doctrine on Mary’s mediation which had already been well established. (109) The story of the conflicts in the Council on the Marian chapter in general, on Our Lady’s mediation in particular and the fear of offending Protestants is now well documented. (110) What are of particular interest to us here are three facts: 1. the first schema spoke explicitly of Mary as the “minister and dispenser of heavenly graces” (gratiarum administra et dispensatrix) (111); 2. in 1964, prior to the final vote on chapter eight of Lumen Gentium, 37 Council Fathers proposed adding to the second sentence in #62 “minister and dispenser of all graces” (omnium gratiarum administra et dispensatrix) and, of that number, 35 wished to explain “because she was associated with Christ in acquiring them” (eo quod Christo sociata fuit in illis acquirendis) further stating that this is the “common doctrine” of the Church (hæc dicunt pertinere ad communem doctrinam), to which the Doctrinal Commission responded simply that these proposed additions implied theological explanations which the text did not deal with (Implicant tamen explicationes theologicas, de quibus textus non iudicat); (112) 3. these words are nonetheless inserted in the final conciliar text by virtue of their inclusion in footnote 16 which illustrates the modest statement that “the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.” In the full Latin texts of the footnotes of Lumen Gentium chapter eight published in Marian Studies one finds the words of St. Pius X’s Ad Diem Illum that Mary is the “dispenser of all gifts” (universorum munerum dispensatrix) and the closing lines of Pius XI’s Miserentissimus Redemptor which refer to Mary as the “minister and mediatrix of grace” (gratiæque ministram ac mediatricem). (113)

Perhaps as a delicate way of reasserting the tradition, the Servant of God Paul VI made use of the ecumenically contested but nonetheless well-established terminology in his Encyclical Letter Mense Maio of 29 April 1965. In the context of his exhortation to fervent prayer because of world conditions he said:

Even if the grave sins of men provoke God’s justice and merit His just punishments, we must not forget that he is “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort,” that He has appointed Mary most holy as the generous steward of His merciful gifts. (Quodsi gravia hominum delicta Dei iustitiam lacessunt, eiusque iustas merentur poenas, nihilominus hoc etiam obliviscendum non est, ipsum esse Patrem misericordiarum et Deum totius consolationis, ac donorum misericordiæ suæ Mariam sanctissimam generosam administram eum constituisse.) (114)

He gives as perennial reasons for hope that God is the Father of mercies and that he has made Mary the “generous steward of his merciful gifts” (donorum misericordiæ suæ generosam administram), hence one may conclude quite correctly the “minister of his grace.”

Paul VI further highlighted Mary’s ministry in his Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum of 13 May 1967.

From that moment (of her consent at the Annunciation), she consecrated all of herself to the service not only of the heavenly Father and of the Word Incarnate, who had become her Son, but also to all mankind, having clearly understood that Jesus, in addition to saving his people from the slavery of sin, would become the King of a messianic Kingdom, universal and eternal…. It can be asserted that the whole life of the humble handmaid of the Lord, from the moment when she was greeted by the Angel, until her assumption in body and soul to heavenly glory, was a life of loving service. (Ex quo tempore totam se ministerio devovit non solum Patris cælestis et Verbi incarnati, quod Filius ipsius factum est, sed etiam universi hominum generis…. tota humilis Ancillæ Domini vita ex quo tempore ab Angelo est salutata ad tempus usque, quod ex hisce terris ad cælestium gloriam anima et corpore est evecta, amantis ministerii vita fuisse dicenda est.) (115)

One wonders why the National Catholic Welfare Conference English translators chose to render both occurences of the word ministerium as service instead of ministry. The latter term is not only the literal translation but also connotes better, it seems to me, the very distinctive function and office which Mary carried out. It was indeed a specific ministry. Father Calabuig points out that Paul VI was here already developing and refining the text of Lumen Gentium #56. (116)

Finally let us note howJohn Paul IIcontinued to speak of Our Lady’s ministry. In his allocution to the Roman Curia of 22 December 1987 he said

The Marian Year, in fact, prepares us to approach Christ in this Advent of the third millennium in order to relive the mystery of his Incarnation, following Mary who precedes us in this journey of faith. She was the first “minister” of the Word. (L’Anno Mariano, infatti, ci prepara ad andare incontro a Cristo, in questo Avvento del terzo Millennio, a rivivere il mistero della sua incarnazione, seguendo Maria che ci precede in questo cammino di fede. Ella è stata la prima “ministra” del Verbo.) (117)

In his Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus of 1 May 1991 he wrote in #62:

Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, constantly remained beside Christ in his journey towards the human family and in its midst, and she goes before the Church on the pilgrimage of faith. May her maternal intercession accompany humanity towards the next Millennium, in fidelity to him who “is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (cf. Heb. 13:8), Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name I cordially impart my blessing to all. (Redemptoris Mater Maria, Christo continenter adhærens in via ad homines cumque hominibus atque Ecclesiam in fidei peregrinatione antecedens, hominum genus materna sua prosequatur precatione proximum ad Millenium, fidissima ipsius administra qui “heri et hodie idem, et in sæcula” est Iesus Christus, Dominus noster, cuius demum nomine singulis ex animo benedicimus Nos.) (118)

Unfortunately, fidissima ipsius administra is not rendered in the official English translation and the phrase “in fidelity…” gives the impression of modifying humanity rather than Mary. A more literal translation of the part of the text of immediate interest to us would be:

May Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer,… accompany humanity by her maternal prayer to the next Millennium, she, the most faithful minister of him who “is the same yesterday, today and forever,” Jesus Christ our Lord…

In considering this final text let us note first that the attribution of the term administra to Mary is a testimony to a magisterial tradition which, as we have seen, stretches back well over a hundred years from the pontificate of Leo XIII. Secondly, we notice that this rich, precise and evocative term has simply disappeared in the English translation, sacrificed, evidently for a smoother, more idiomatic presentation, but perhaps also because the translator was unaware of its doctrinal resonances. When one knows something of the associations of the word and its magisterial usage, however, the implications are much the richer and signal a more emphatic reference to Mary’s mediation of grace.


It is also to be noted that the final three texts which we have cited do not speak explicitly of Mary’s mediation of grace, but rather of her ministry in a more general context. These texts do not in any way exclude her role of being minister or dispenser of grace, but rather situate it in a more comprehensive framework. These references harken back to the description of Mary given in Leo XIII’s Encyclical Adiutricem Populi as “minister of the mystery of human redemption” (sacramenti humanæ redemptionis patrandi administra) and are in full harmony with the description which we have already seen in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of the Lord as “minister of the plan of salvation” (salvificæ dispensationis ministra).

By way of concluding our consideration of the magisterial statements about Mary as “minister of grace,” I would like to cite the words of Father Armand J. Robichaud, S.M. on Our Lady as “Dispensatrix (dispenser) of all graces.” Although I have limited this analysis to instances of the term “minister of grace” (with the three exceptions noted above) because of the parallel liturgical usage which we will see, it is obvious that the terms dispensatrix and ministra are virtually equivalent and that his statement, which takes into consideration many other papal texts on Mary’s mediation, also serves as an excellent summary of the doctrine which we have been considering.

When we assert that Our Lady is the Dispensatrix of all graces we mean that she actually obtains them for us, through some true causality on her part… By “all graces” we mean sanctifying grace, the infused theological and moral virtues, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, all actual graces, the charismatic gifts, and even temporal favors having a bearing on our supernatural end. In brief, everything which produces, conserves, increases, or perfects the supernatural life of man. This universally extends likewise to the beneficiaries of Mary’s mission, for it affects all human beings of all times, including the souls in purgatory. (119)

B. Minister of Grace according to the Liturgy

Coming to the concept of Mary’s ministry from the perspective of Lumen Gentium #56 which speaks of Mary’s “serving the mystery of the redemption” (mysterio redemptionis inserviens) and from Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum (120) which we have seen above, Father Ignacio Calabuig Adán, O.S.M. says that the term ministry (ministerium) predicated of Mary seems to add to the term service (servitium) a note of stability and organic unity which thus implies an office or mission (munus). (121) He cites St. Peter Chrysologus’ application of the term minister of salvation (ministra salutis) to Mary already in the fifth century (122) and cites with approval the reapplication of this term to Our Lady once again in the postconciliar Roman liturgy. (123) (We are already aware of the precedent in the pontifical magisterium of the past hundred years.) He says that

Mary carries out, first on earth and then in heaven, the task which God in his mercy has assigned to her (= “ministra dispensationis salvificæ,” “ministra pietatis,” in view of the salvation of the human race (“ministra redemptionis“.) (124)

Let us consider carefully what he is expounding. Mary’s ministry, both on earth and in heaven, he says, is a service to the salvific plan of God. Because this is so, she is fittingly described in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of the Lord (Sancta Maria in Præsentatione Domini) as “minister of God’s saving plan” (ministra dispensationis salvifica) (125) and in that of Our Lady of Ransom (Beata Maria Virgo de Mercede) as “minister of our redemption.” (126)

Both of these designations may be considered as encapsulated in the term ministra pietatis. I leave this term in Latin for the moment because of the difficulty facing the translator who wants to render it with a simple English phrase. The basic meaning of pietas is dutifulness. To an ancient Roman its meaning would have been supplied by its point of reference: pietas directed to the gods meant piety or devotion; pietas directed to one’s parents or elders meant respect or deference; pietas directed to one’s country meant patriotism; pietas on the part of the gods meant benevolence, compassion and mercy. (127) As we will recognize from the discussion of Mary as “the minister of God’s saving plan,” it is this final denotation which best renders this word for our purposes. Mary is indeed the minister of God’s mercy, compassion, tenderness and loving kindness. (128) I submit that it is this range of meaning which is the most faithful to the Latin liturgical texts with which we will now deal.

There is one final preliminary observation to be made before we begin to consider the liturgical texts themselves. The English translators have consistently rendered the words ministra and administra as “handmaid.” This word, indeed, has a long and distinguished history as rendering the Latin word ancilla in Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk. 1:38). I believe that Manuel Miguens, O.F.M. has made an excellent case for translating the original Greek word doule, rendered in the Latin Vulgate as ancilla, with the stronger word servant (129) which in Latin would be serva. Be that as it may, I think that it weakens the sense of the Latin text in each instance considerably to translate the word ministra as handmaid. Father Calabuig and Doctor Barbieri justly argue that the word ministerium adds to the word servitium the connotation of stability and implies a munus (office). (130) So it does also in English. A woman serving as a prime minister or holding a cabinet level post as minister of finance would rightly balk at being called the “first handmaid” or the “handmaid of finance.” While the term ancilla is still a fully appropriate description of Our Lady in her littleness and is used as such in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (131) I submit that it notably diminishes the role attributed to Mary as salvificæ dispensationis ministra (132) and redemptionis ministra (133) to render it respectively as “the handmaid of your plan of salvation” and “the handmaid of our redemption” as is done in the vernacular typical edition of the Collection published for use in the United States.

Much stronger and more faithful to the original Latin typical edition, it seems to me, is to denominate Mary as “minister of God’s saving plan” and “minister of our redemption.” True, she is not the principal minister who is always Christ. But “under and with him” (sub Ipso et cum Ipso), she has no equal in “serving the mystery of the redemption” (mysterio redemptionis inserviens). (134) Hence, while I will continue to cite the English translation approved for use in the United States in each citation, I wish to register my dissatisfaction with it in this regard and in commenting I will provide my own translation when it seems appropriate. I find it rather ironic that in this era when the word minister and ministry seems to be so consistently over-used, one who has a special claim to this title should be denied it.

In the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary the word administra only occurs once, (135) in the Prayer over the gifts of the first Mass of Mary at the Foot of the Cross (Beata Maria Virgo iuxta Crucem Domini, I):

Lord, graciously receive the offerings of your family and make them the sacrament of our redemption, which Mary faithfully served at the altar of the cross. (Oblationes familiæ tuæ, Domine, clementer assume, et in sacramentum humanæ redemptionis converte, cuius generosa Virgo, in ara crucis exstitit administra. (136)

The word administra is not identifiable in the English translation; the closest reflection of it is in the verb “served.” The relevant portion might be rendered literally thus: “make them the sacrament of human redemption of which the generous Virgin stood as a minister at the altar of the cross.” (137) What is stated here obviously testifies to the doctrine of the coredemption: Mary stood as a minister at the altar of the cross. But there is at least a further implication, even if it is not developed: she who shared in the ministry of Christ on the altar of the cross shares also in the application of the gifts of the redemption.

The term ministerium is attributed to Our Lady in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Epiphany of the Lord (Beata Maria Virgo in Epiphania Domini):

Through the ministry of the Blessed Virgin you draw the families of all peoples to faith in the Gospel. (Quia per Beatæ Virginis ministerium ad fidem Evangelii cunctas attrahis familias p opulorum…) (138)

Here, according to Manlio Sodi, we have an image of the Virgin holding the infant Jesus in her arms and presenting him to the Magi who represent all peoples. But is this reflection limited strictly to the past? In the liturgy of the Church these words take on a trans-temporal significance. They may also be seen as referring to Mary’s heavenly ministry and that is indisputably a ministry of grace. Thus Mary is acknowledged as having a ministry of drawing all families of peoples to the faith.

The word ministra itself occurs six times in the Collection (139) and we have already dealt at some length with two of them: “minister of God’s saving plan” (ministra dispensationis salvifica) (140) and “minister of our redemption” (redemptionis ministra). (141) It need only be added here that both of these descriptions are ways of speaking about Mary’s mediation and, while they do not speak explicitly of her mediation of grace, they definitely imply it because both the concept of God’s saving plan and that of redemption necessarily include the saving grace won for us by Christ.

Next, there are three instances of the term ministra pietatis. The first of these is to be found in the Preface of the Mass of Holy Mary, Handmaid of the Lord (Sancta Maria, Ancilla Domini):

In the Blessed Virgin Mary you were especially pleased, for by embracing your plan of salvation she gave herself wholeheartedly to the work of your Son as a faithful servant of the mystery of redemption. She who gave great service to Christ was given great honor by you, his Father. She who saw herself as your lowly handmaid was raised up by you to reign as queen in glory in the presence of your Son, where she intercedes for us in her goodness as the servant of your love. (Quia in beata Virgine tibi singulariter complacuisti: illa enim, salvificam voluntatem tuam complectens, operi Filii tui totaliter se devovit, mysterio redemptionis fideliter inserviens; unde eam, quæ multum Christo ministravit, multum honorificasti; et quæ humilem ancillam tuam se dixit, eam gloriosam apud Filium tuum exaltasti reginam, ubi, pietatis ministra, pro nobis intercedit benigna.) (142)

First let us note that the text of Lumen Gentium #56 is being quoted directly here on Mary’s serving the mystery of the redemption. Next we recognize the coredemptive dimension: Mary ministered greatly to Christ (multum Christo ministravit) which led to her glorification. Hence she now reigns as Queen with Christ the King “where she intercedes for us as the benevolent minister of divine mercy.” The official Italian translation further supports our interpretation by speaking of Mary “exalted as the glorious queen at the side of the throne of your Son where she intercedes for us as minister of mercy and grace.” (143)

The Preface of the Mass of Holy Mary, Queen and Mother of Mercy (Sancta Maria, Regina et Mater Misericordiæ) also provides us with an important instance of Mary as ministra pietatis:

She is the gracious queen who has herself uniquely known your loving kindness and stretches our her arms to embrace all who take refuge in her and call upon her help in their distress. She is the mother of mercy, always attentive to the voice of her children, seeking to win your compassion for them, and asking your forgiveness for their sins. She is the handmaid of your love, never ceasing to pray for us to your Son, that he may enrich our poverty with his grace and strengthen our weakness with his power. (Hæc est regina clemens, quæ misericordiam tuam singulariter experta, omnes ad eam confugientes recipit, ac de tribulatione clamantes exaudit. Hæc est mater misericordiæ, ad preces filiorum semper inclinata, ut eis indulgentiam obtineat et veniam impetret peccatorum. Hæc est ministra pietatis, quæ Filium tuum pro nobis indesinenter exorat, ut sua gratia nostram ditet paupertatem, sua virtute nostram roboret infirmitatem.) (144)

This is a strikingly beautiful and expressive Preface, a true paean of praise to God for the great things that he has done in Mary as well as a celebration of her as Queen and Mother of Mercy. Pope John Paul II tells us in his Encyclical Dives in Misericordia that by virtue of her preventive redemption, her Immaculate Conception, she has “obtained mercy in an exceptional way” (more extraordinario misericordiam experta) (145) and this duly echoed in the words “she… has herself uniquely known your loving kindness” (misericordiam tuam singulariter experta). The final sentence cited above is a beautiful description of the effects of Mary’s intercession: as minister of divine mercy (146) she intercedes for us with her Son so that he may enrich us with his grace and strengthen us with his power. Whereas in the first part of this Preface Mary’s ministry of receiving sinners is described, at the end her ministry of intercession is emphasized, an intercession which wins us grace.

The Preface of the Mass of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Providence (Beata Maria Virgo, Divinæ Providentiæ Mater) affords us a third opportunity to study the meaning of ministra pietatis:

In Cana of Galilee, when she interceded with her Son for the bridegroom and bride, he gave the first of his signs: water turned into wine, the wedding guests rejoiced, and the disciples believed in their Master. Now enthroned as queen at her Son’s right hand, she provides for all the needs of the Church as the handmaid of your love and as a mother who cares for each of her children, entrusted to her by Christ Jesus while he hung upon the cross. (In Cana Galilææ pro sponsis Filium rogavit, qui initium fecit signorum: unda rubescit, lætantur convivæ atque in Magistrum credunt discipuli. Et nunc, regina sedens ad dexteram Filii, cunctis Ecclesiæ necessitatibus succurrit, atque unicuique nostrum, quos Christus Iesus a cruce illi commendavit, ministra pietatis adest ac provida mater.) (147)


The texts of this Mass are taken largely from the Proper Mass of Our Lady of Divine Providence, first granted to the Clerics Regular of St. Paul (Barnabites) by Pope Benedict XIV in 1744 and later to several other religious institutes. (148) The formulary found in the Proper of Saints for Certain Places and assigned to the Saturday before the Third Sunday of November in the former Roman Missal (RM 67) as well as the one found in the Collection both provide for this celebration the Gospel of the wedding feast of Cana (Jn. 2:1-11). Hence the apposite reference to the Cana scene in the new proper Preface. The section which concerns us particularly may be rendered literally thus:

And now as queen seated at the right hand of her Son, she comes to the aid of all the needs of the Church, and to each one of us whom Christ Jesus entrusted to her from the cross she is present as a minister of divine mercy and provident mother. (149)

Thus this Preface manages to emphasize both dimensions of the title of the Mass: Mary’s spiritual motherhood and her provident care for each member of the faithful as a minister of God’s loving kindness.

Finally, in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Mediatrix of Grace (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Mediatrix Gratiæ) we find the fullest elaboration of the meaning of Mary’s role as ministra pietatis. This euchological text describes her as ministra gratiæ, an office which follows from her relationship with the Redeemer as Mother and Associate and derives from his unique mediation:

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord. Truly God and truly human, (150) he was chosen by you as the one mediator between you and the human family, always living to make intercession for us. In your wisdom and goodness the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother and companion of the Redeemer, was to have a maternal role in the Church: of intercession and pardon, of prayer and grace, of reconciliation and peace. The love that she bestows as a mother is entirely the gift of Christ, the one mediator, from whom alone she receives her power. Her children, in their trials and fears, turn with confidence to the Blessed Virgin, calling to her as mother of mercy and handmaid of grace. (Vere dignum et iustum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine, sancte Pater, omnipotens æterne Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum. Quem, verum Deum et hominem verum, unum inter te et homines constituisti mediatorem, semper vivum ad interpellandum pro nobis. Sed tuæ bonitatis consilio statuisti ut beata Virgo Maria, Redemptoris mater et socia, munus in Ecclesia exerceret maternum: intercessionis et veniæ, impetrationis et gratiæ, reconciliationis et pacis. Quæ maternæ caritatis dispensatio tota ex unica Christi mediatione pendet totamque ex illa haurit virtutem. Unde fideles, in angustiis et periculis versantes, ad beatam Virginem fidentes confugiunt, quam matrem misericordiæ invocant et gratiæ ministram.) (151)

At the very outset it should be recognized that this Preface is the most developed and comprehensive statement of Mary’s mediation of grace to be found in the Roman liturgy insofar as this author is aware. It reproduces an important clarification about the relationship of Mary’s mediation to that of Christ which is taken directly from Lumen Gentium #60 and #62. (152) Moreover, in my opinion, it manages to situate Mary’s mediatorial role more successfully than does the conciliar text, in a way which does not minimize it, but shows it to be a real maternal office or mission in the Church (munus maternum in Ecclesia) which she exercises by divine design (tuæ bonitatis consilio).

Before continuing the analysis of this capital text, it should also be noted that this Mass of Mary, Mother and Mediatrix of Grace, replaces the original Mass of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces (Beatæ Mariæ Virginis omnium gratiarum Mediatricis), (153) which was granted by Pope Benedict XV at the request of Cardinal Désiré Joseph Mercier, Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Belgium. (154) As all the Marian Masses of the former Roman Missal used the same Marian Preface, we can say that this new Preface, as all the Prefaces which we have been analyzing, represents a genuine enrichment of the liturgical cultus of Our Lady. More specifically, we can say that it presents the doctrine of Mary’s mediation of grace in the context of worship as it has never been previously presented. Here I would like to propose my own fairly literal translation of a part of this magnificent Preface in order to highlight Mary’s maternal mission, especially her mission as “minister of grace”:

In the design of your goodness you ordained that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Associate of the Redeemer, should exercise a maternal mission in the Church: of intercession and pardon, of pleading and grace, of reconciliation and peace. The carrying out of this mission of motherly love derives entirely from the unique mediation of Christ and draws all its power from it. Wherefore the faithful, entangled in trials and dangers, fly trustingly to the Blessed Virgin, whom they call upon as the Mother of mercy and the minister of grace.

Following the lead of Father Calabuig, I wish to underscore that the word munus has acquired a very specific meaning in ecclesiastical Latin refering to an office or mission which a person is designated to carry out. One speaks, for instance, of the munus episcoporum or the office of Bishops. It is not incorrect to translate this word as role or function—and, indeed, “maternal role” may seem to be a more natural phrase than “maternal mission.” What I wish to emphasize in this Preface is the clear assertion that by God’s explicit design Mary exercises a unique maternal office which includes the mediation of grace. The faithful rightly call upon her as Mother of mercy and minister of grace i.e., the one who ministers grace, the one through whom grace comes. A final word: just as I find “handmaid of love” a weak rendition of ministra pietatis, so I find “handmaid of grace” equally innocuous in interpreting ministra gratiæ, which is a strong proclamation of Mary’s mediation of grace.

The Preface which we have just considered is beautifully complimented by another, this one from the Mass of Mary, Mother of the Lord (Sancta Maria, Mater Domini). The term which I wish to highlight this time is totally complementary to ministra gratiæ, namely dispensatrix gratiæ. We have already met this term in the papal magisterium and have noted that during the Council the Theological Commission acknowledged as “common doctrine” that “Mary is the minister and dispenser of all graces (omnium gratiarum administra et dispensatrix) because she was associated with Christ in acquiring them.” Here we have the liturgical confirmation of that doctrine:

In the mother of your Son you showed the wonders of your power and through her you still continue to accomplish in us our salvation. In your wisdom and love she fulfills a mother’s role in the household of the Church and is entrusted with the distribution of grace. Through her words you instruct us, through her example you draw us to follow her Son, through her prayers you grant us forgiveness. (Qui in Filii tui Genetrice magna fecisti et per eam salutem in nobis operari non desinis: ipsa enim, tuo providenti consilio, materno in Ecclesia fungitur munere ac gratiæ tuæ dispensatrix exsistit fidelis; cuius verbis nos admones, exemplis ad Christi attrahis sequelam, precibus nobis indulges.) (155)

This beautiful prayer formula taken from the Proper Masses of the Mercedarians (156) strongly accentuates Mary’s mediation, particularly her mediation of grace. Let us consider some of its major features by looking at another partial literal translation of the text.

You do not cease to work out our salvation through her: for in your providential plan she carries out a mother’s mission in the Church and stands forth as the faithful dispenser of grace. By her words you admonish us; by her example you attract us to the following of Christ; by her prayers you pardon us.

It is truly a categorical affirmation to declare that God does not cease to work out our salvation through Mary, but this statement is also measured against the Church’s millennial experience of the efficacy of Mary’s maternal intercession and her gradual growth in recognizing it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Church’s belief in her agency as a “minister of our redemption” is made clear by these strong assertions: “By her words you admonish us; by her example you attract us to the following of Christ; by her prayers you pardon us.”

Such lapidary statements give eloquent testimony to Mary’s mediation and it is precisely in this context that Mary is called “the dispenser of grace” (dispensatrix gratiæ). This term has been used to describe Our Lady’s mediation and specifically her role in the distribution of grace in the papal magisterium since at least 24 January 1806 with the Apostolic Constitution Quod Divino Afflata Spiritu of Pius VII. (157) To my knowledge the appearance of this term in the Collection is the first instance of its liturgical use in a Missal intended for use throughout the Roman Rite.

I would now like to add a word about the extent of Mary’s role as dispenser or minister of grace. The title of the original Mass granted by the Congregation of Rites at the request of Cardinal Mercier was The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces (Beatæ Mariæ Virginis omnium gratiarum Mediatricis) which obviously indicates that all graces without exception come through the mediation of Our Lady. This concept is also attested to by the first Entrance Antiphon proposed for the Mass formulary which is the successor to that original one: Hail, holy Mary, rich fountain of love, treasure-house of all graces,… (Ave, sancta Maria, fons pietatis, omnium gratiarum referta ubertate, …). (158) Finally, there is this testimony from the Postcommunion of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Miraculous Medal (Beatæ Mariæ Virginis Immaculatæ a sacro Numismate) provided in the Proper of Saints for Certain Places in the former Roman Missal for 27 November:

O Lord God Almighty, it is your will that we possess everything through the immaculate Mother of your Son… (Domine Deus omnipotens, qui per immaculatam Genetricem Filii tui omnia nos habere voluisti…). (159)

As Monsignor Lebon pointed out, (160) the wording of this prayer is a direct allusion to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux’s famous statement in his sermon on Our Lady’s Nativity (commonly referred to as the sermon on the aqueduct) that “it is God’s will that we have everything through Mary” (quia sic est voluntas eius, qui totum nos habere voluit per Mariam). (161) Just as these words of St. Bernard are echoed in this oration, they have been cited repeatedly by Supreme Pontiffs in speaking of Mary’s mediation of grace. (162)

Mary as Advocate

In his book, Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Dr. Mark Miravalle declares:

Along with mediating the graces of redemption from God to the human family, Mary also acts as the intercessory advocate for the People of God in their return to God. Mary not only mediates the graces of God to humanity as Mediatrix, but she also mediates the petitions of the human family back to God, in humble service of both. Mary intercedes to God the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit on behalf of humanity as our Advocate, especially in times of danger and difficulties. (163)

In stating himself in this way Dr. Miravalle also acknowledges that he is following a thought process traced by St. Maximilian-Maria Kolbe. (164) In lecture notes dated 5-20 August 1940 Maximilian speaks of the union between Mary and the Holy Spirit.

From the moment that this union was effected, the Holy Spirit grants no grace, the Father does not send down his own supernatural life through the Son and the Holy Spirit into the souls except through the Mediatrix of all graces, the Immaculate, with her cooperation and by her consent. She received all the treasures of grace as her own, and distributes them to whom and in the measure in which she wills…. And only through her does the love of creatures reach Jesus and through him the Father. Creatures do not always realize all this, but this is how it always happens. (165)

Mary, then, according to St. Maximilian, is not only the chosen channel of grace to man, but also the unique human person through whom man begins his return to God. As Miravalle puts it:

Mary, therefore, is at the end of the sanctifying action of God (as Mediatrix of all graces), and at the beginning of the reaction of the human family back to God (as Advocate for the People of God). Mary is neither the end nor the starting point of God’s action to humanity, but has an instrumental presence at both points because of her intimate union with the Holy Spirit. (166)

The theme of Mary as our Advocate is also a very ancient one in Christian literature. It can be traced to the thought of St. Irenaeus (+ after 194) who spoke of the Virgin Mary becoming the advocate of the virgin Eve, destroying virginal disobedience by virginal obedience. (167) “It has been assumed,” says Father O’Carroll, “that the Greek word used was Paracletos,” (168) the same word used by Jesus to speak of himself and the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16-17). Just as we speak of Mary’s mediation as subordinate and secondary to and dependent upon the mediation of Jesus, so Mary’s advocacy must be understood in the same way.

Our Lady’s advocacy is likewise presupposed in the earliest recorded invocation to the Mother of God of which we are aware, the prayer known in the Latin tradition as the Sub tuum præsidium. (169) While the earliest extant manuscript of this prayer, which dates from the third or fourth century, is in Greek, a standard rendering of this prayer in English is the following:

We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all danger, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin. (170) (Sub tuum præsidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix; nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, Virgo gloriosa et benedicta). (171)

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council saw fit to make a reference to this famous prayer in #66 of Lumen Gentium. In #62 of that same chapter they point to Mary’s advocacy as a consequence of her spiritual maternity:

This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix (Propterea B. Virgo in Ecclesia titulis Advocatæ, Auxiliatricis, Adiutricis, Mediatricis invocatur). (172)

Pope John Paul II developed this theme in his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater by saying that “Mary’s motherhood continues unceasingly in the Church as the mediation which intercedes.” (173) He also presented the idea succinctly in a homily which he gave at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii on 21 October 1979: “Mary is always at the very center of our prayer. She is the first among those who ask. She is Omnipotentia supplex: the ‘Omnipotence of intercession.'” (174)

As the liturgy characterizes Mary as “minister of grace,” so it also describes her as “advocate of grace.” In the Preface for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (In Conceptione Immaculata Beatæ Mariæ Virginis) the celebrant addresses the Father in these words:

You chose her from all women to be our advocate with you and our pattern of holiness. (… et ipsam præ omnibus tuo populo disponebas advocatam gratiæ et sanctitatis exemplar.) (175)

This is really another way of looking at the mystery of Mary’s mediation of grace and Father O’Keefe does not hesitate to render the idea in this way:

You established her, far beyond all others, as the intercessor who would obtain grace for your people, and would be the model of the sanctity for which they were to strive. (176)

The same terminology is found in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of All Creation (Beata Maria Virgo, Universorum Regina):

When the Blessed Virgin, your lowly handmaid, endured with patient suffering the shame of her Son’s crucifixion you exalted her above all the choirs of angels to reign with him in glory and to intercede for all your children, our advocate of grace and the queen of all creation. (sed et beatam Virginem, humilem ancillam tuam, quæ ignominiam crucis Filii patienter sustinuit, super choros Angelorum exaltasti, ubi cum ipso regnat gloriosa, pro cunctis hominibus exorans, advocata gratiæ et universorum regina.) (177)

The whole Preface, of which we have only quoted a part, makes a striking parallel between the humiliation and exaltation (Kingship) of Christ and the analogous humiliation and exaltation (Queenship) of Mary. (178) It also evokes the Old Testament image of the Queen Mother who sits at the right hand of her son the King and intercedes on behalf of others. (179) It is in this sense that Mary is our “advocate of grace.”

A. Intercessor

Without a doubt the liturgy is a privileged witness to the Church’s profound belief in Mary’s advocacy on behalf of her children. A beautiful example of this occurs in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Gate of Heaven (Beata Maria Virgo, Ianua Cæli):

She is the Virgin at prayer, always interceding for sinners that they may turn to her Son, who unseals the fountain of ever-flowing grace and opens the door of forgiveness. (Hæc est Virgo supplex, pro peccatoribus iugiter exorans, ut ad Filium suum convertantur, perennis gratiæ fontem et veniæ patens ostium.) (180)

Here the Latin describes Mary as the Virgo supplex, literally “the suppliant Virgin” who obtains by her entreaty the return of sinners to her Son.

After reviewing the testimony of the conciliar and subsequent documents of the papal magisterium on Mary as the “supplex Mater” (the suppliant Mother), Father Calabuig notes what a frequent theme Mary’s intercession is in the liturgy and how this very recurrence testifies to the truth of the axiom that the lex supplicandi (the law of supplication) has established the lex credendi (the law of belief). (181) There is hardly a Marian prayer in the Roman liturgy which does not beg or refer in some manner to Mary’s intercession. Father Calabuig refers to the ancient and splendid oration of the Solemnity of the Mother of God (182):

God our Father, may we always profit by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, for you bring us life and salvation through Jesus Christ her Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. (Deus, qui salutis æternæ, beatæ Mariæ virginitate fecunda, humano generi præmia præstitisti, tribue, quæsumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamus, per quam meruimus Filium tuum auctorem vitæ suscipere.) (183)

While the English translation does convey the idea of Mary’s intercession on our behalf, it doesn’t do justice to the richness of the concepts employed in the Latin. (184) Here is an attempt to be faithful to those concepts while also striving to render them in dignified modern English:

God our Father, through the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary, you have bestowed the rewards of eternal salvation upon the human race. Through her, we were privileged to receive your Son, the source of our life. Please grant that we may experience her intercession on our behalf. (185)

This prayer may be taken as representative of a great many in former editions of the Roman Missal as well as that of Paul VI. A glance at the valuable index provided by Fathers Johnson and Ward indicates how frequently the words “intercede” and “intercession”—not to mention other cognate forms—are attributed to Our Lady in the Collection. (186) Unfortunately, I am not aware of a similar tool which could be indicated for immediate references to the vocabulary of the present Roman Missal. I have found at least twelve orations in Masses of Our Lady which employ the word intercede or intercession and even more which deal with the idea.

B. Protection

We have already noted that the Latin word præsidium is translated as “patronage” in the ancient Marian prayer which dates from the third or at latest the fourth century in its original Greek form. (187) It is a word whose range of meaning isn’t matched by one single English word. It means a sitting before, hence a (military) protection, a defense, a place occupied by a garrison and, in a more general sense, help, assistance, support. (188) By the early Middle Ages præsidium became a conventional way of describing the protection which could be expected as a result of Mary’s advocacy, of her all-powerful intercession. Hence it is found in private prayers invoking Our Lady’s help already in this period of Christian history. (189) Here is how it occurs in the Opening Prayer of the Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Beatæ Mariæ Virginis de Monte Carmelo Memoria):

Father, may the prayers of the Virgin Mary protect us and help us to reach Christ her Son… (Adiuvet nos, quæsumus, Domine, gloriosæ Virginis Mariæ intercessio veneranda, ut, eius muniti præsidiis, ad montem, qui Christus est, pervenire valeamus.) (190)

Unhappily, several allusions are lost in this translation. (191) Let us listen to Father Joncas’ incisive comment:

The central petition of the prayer is that the worshiping assembly may be aided by Mary’s intercession. The result of granting this petition would be that the worshiping assembly ascend to Christ. The English translation obscures the mountain imagery in the final part of the petition which connects the geographical roots of the feast among the hermits on Mt. Carmel and the mystical imagery of the “ascent of Mt. Carmel” as a metaphor for the soul’s movement toward union with Christ. (192)

Even more important, from our perspective, is the plea that Mary’s intercession might help us, so that “fortified by her protection,” (193) we may reach the mountain which is Christ.


This idea of Mary’s protection (præsidium) recurs a number of times in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (194) For instance, in the Prayer after Communion of the Mass of Our Lady of the Cenacle (Beata Maria Virgo a Cenaculo) the priest prays

… grant that under the protection of the Blessed Virgin we may work for the unity and peace of all those for whom your Son offered himself as the sacrifice of our redemption. (… concede ut, sub beatæ Virginis præsidio, ad fratrum concordiam et pacem adlaboremus pro quibus Iesus Christus, Filius tuus, redemptionis se obtulit hostiam.). (195)

Here the concept is precisely that under Mary’s protection we will have the right conditions to work for unity and peace. In the Opening Prayer of the Mass of the Holy Name of Mary (Sanctum Nomen Beatæ Mariæ Virginis) the language is borrowed directly from the Sub tuum præsidium:

… grant that we who call upon the holy name of Mary, our Mother with confidence in her protection may receive strength and comfort in our needs. (… concede propitius, ut, qui sub eius præsidium secure confugimus, materno invocato nomine confortemur.) (196)

Unfortunately, the translators have transformed the relative clause and also the object of the petition while retaining some of the key ideas. A more literal translation can bring to the fore more readily the literary borrowing: “grant that we who fly trustingly to her protection, may be comforted by calling upon her maternal name.” (197)

In a very notable way the concept of Mary’s protection (præsidium) occurs in the Latin title and repeatedly in the prayers of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pillar of Faith (Beata Maria Virgo, Fidei Præsidium), which borrows in great part from the Mass of Our Lady of the Pillar, taken from the typical edition of the Missal approved by the Spanish Episcopal Conference. (198) Perhaps the idea is best exemplified in the Opening Prayer:

Almighty and eternal God, you gave the Blessed Virgin Mary, glorious mother of your Son, as a pillar of strength to all who call upon her aid; grant through her intercession that we may be strong in faith, unwavering in hope, and steadfast in love. (Omnipotens æterne Deus, qui beatam Virginem Mariam, gloriosam Filii tui Genetricem, præsidium dedisti omnibus eam invocantibus, concede nobis ut, ipsa intercedente, fortes simus in fide, firmi in spe, constantes in caritate.) (199)

One understands the obvious allusion to the famous pillar in Saragossa, surmounted by a statuette of Our Lady, which, according to tradition, was left by her to Saint James the Great, the Apostle of Spain, as a precious reminder that he must be strong in the faith. (200) However, it seems to me that the word præsidium here has more the sense of “defending wall,” “bulwark” or “fortification.” Such is the power of Our Lady’s protection for those who seek her as their advocate. Here I would propose that the idea could be rendered with even more strong imagery: “Almighty, eternal God, who has given the Blessed Virgin Mary, the glorious Mother of your Son as a defending wall to all who call upon her, …” (201)

The same idea of the strength of Our Lady’s protection is communicated in this line of the Preface:

Bathed in the glory of her Son, she shines upon his people as a star of hope and a pillar of faith. (Germine gloriosa, spes fulget fidelium et fidei præsidium.) (202)

I offer this literal rendition to illustrate my point: “Glorious by virtue of her Son (the seed, the bud), she shines out as the hope of the faithful and the bulwark of faith.” (203) Likewise the notion of Mary as a source of impregnable strength is to be found in the Prayer after Communion of that Mass:

Lord our God, present in your Church in many ways, we thank you for the sacrament we have received and pray that, with the support of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may be true to the faith on earth and so enjoy the vision of your glory in heaven. (Deus, qui multis modis Ecclesiæ tuæ præsens ades, gratias tibi de susceptis sacramentis referimus et supplices deprecamur, ut, beatæ Mariæ Virginis freti præsidio, fidei præcepta sequamur in terris et ad tuam gloriam in cælis contemplandam pervenire mereamur.) (204)

I would propose that here beatæ Mariæ Virginis freti præsidio could be rendered more forcefully as “relying on the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The concept of Mary’s maternal protection in the Roman Liturgy is certainly not limited to the occurrence of the word præsidium. We find it, for instance, in the beautiful Preface of the Mass of the Commendation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Commendatio Beatæ Mariæ Virginis):

At the foot of the cross of Jesus, by his solemn and dying wish, a deep bond of love is fashioned between the Blessed Virgin Mary and his faithful disciples: the Mother of God is entrusted to the disciples as their own mother, and they receive her as a precious inheritance from their Master. She is to be for ever the mother of those who believe, and they will look to her with great confidence in her unfailing protection. (Quia iuxta crucem Iesu, sacro ipsius testamento, inter beatam Virginem et fideles discipulos arctum instauratur amoris vinculum: Genetrix discipulis in matrem commendatur, discipuli Matrem accipiunt pretiosam Magistri hereditatem. Illa in ævum erit mater credentium, isti in perpetuum ad eam securi confugient.) (205)

The final sentence in Latin could be rendered in English: “She will for ever be the mother of believers who will always fly safely to her,” but the English translators have done well here to recognize that the very idiomatic securi confugient speaks of Mary’s motherly protection. (206) A point not to be missed is that confugere is precisely the verb used in the prayer Sub tuum præsidium (We fly to your patronage) and hence it makes a subtle allusion to the trusting spirit of that prayer.

The same verb is used with the same association in the Preface of the Mass of Mary, Mother of Reconciliation (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater Reconciliationis):

You gave the Blessed Virgin Mary, sinless as she was, a heart of compassion for sinners; seeing her love as their mother, they turn to her with trust as they ask your forgiveness … (tu enim beatæ Virgini, ignaræ peccati, cor miserans erga peccatores dedisti; qui eius maternam caritatem intuentes, ad eam confugiunt tuam veniam implorantes …) (207)

Recognizing the compassion of Mary’s heart for sinners, “they fly to her imploring your pardon.” Sinners should know that Mary is not the source of pardon, which comes from God, but that she is their “advocate of grace” with him. This, in fact, is carefully drawn out in the Opening Prayer of the same Mass which beautifully sets out Mary’s role as the “Reconciler of sinners”:

Lord our God, through the precious blood of your Son you reconciled the world to yourself and at the foot of the cross you chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of reconciliation for sinners; grant through her intercession that we may obtain pardon for our sins. (Deus, qui, pretioso sanguine Filii tui, mundum tibi reconciliasti eiusque Matrem, iuxta crucem, peccatorum Reconciliatricem constituere dignatus es, tribue quæsumus, ut, eiusdem beatæ Virginis Mariæ intercessione, nostrorum delictorum veniam consequamur.) (208)

Here we might simply point out that a more literal translation would indicate that God was pleased to appoint the mother of his Son as the Reconciler of sinners. The very use of the verb constituere here indicates Mary’s appointment to an office, a special function, a mission or role (munus). (We have already noted that she is called the “minister of the salvific plan” (salvificæ dispensationis ministra). (209)) Hence, it is through her intercession that we may obtain pardon for our sins. (210)

The Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians (Beata Maria Virgo, Auxilium Christianorum) further illustrates the theme of God’s appointing Mary to a special role as advocate or helper:

You chose the immaculate Virgin Mary, the mother of your Son, to be the mother and help of Christians, so that under her protection, we might be fearless in waging the battle of faith, steadfast in holding the teaching of the apostles, and tranquil in spirit in the storms of this world, until we reach the joy of your heavenly city. (Quia immaculatam Virginem Mariam, Filii tui Genetricem, matrem et auxilium populi christiani constituisti, ut, ipsa protegente, fidei certamen certet intrepidus, in Apostolorum doctrina firmus consistat et inter mundi procellas incedat securus, donec ad cælestem civitatem lætus perveniat.) (211)

We might also simply note here that matrem et auxilium populi christiani constituisti indicates that God gave Mary the particular role of advocate by appointing her to be “the mother and help of the Christian people” and, thus, with her protecting them (ipsa protegente) they can be fearless, steadfast and secure.

C. Patronage

We have already noted more than once that præsidium is translated as “patronage” in the traditional English version of the Sub tuum præsidium (We fly to thy patronage). In fact the idea of Mary’s patronage was yet another way of illustrating her advocacy in the Middle Ages. (212) Just as a vassal would put himself under the patronage and at the service of a suzerain, so many Christians freely choose to put themselves under Mary’s patronage by committing (or consecrating) themselves to her. (213) Not surprisingly, we find that the terms patron (patrona) and patronage (patrocinium) have also entered into the liturgical vocabulary of the Collection. (214) Here is an example from the Prayer after Communion of the Mass of the Holy Name of Mary (Sanctum Nomen Beatæ Mariæ Virginis):

Lord our God, you have given us new strength at the table of your word and sacrament; grant that by the guidance and patronage of blessed Mary we may turn away from all that dishonors the name of Christ and seek only what brings it into good repute. (Tribue nobis, quæsumus, Domine, quos ad verbi et sacramenti mensam roborasti, ut, beatæ Mariæ ductu et patrocinio, et illa respuamus, quæ christiano inimica sunt nomini et ea, quæ sunt apta, sectemur.) (215)

Here the understanding quite clearly is that all those for whom Mary is a mother in the order of grace (216) have a right to her guidance and patronage. (217)

In the Prayer over the Gifts of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Teacher in the Spirit (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Magistra Spiritalis), there is also the unhesitating assertion that Mary’s patronage extends over all who have been reborn in the waters of Baptism:

Lord, we offer these gifts from joyful hearts; through them sanctify your servants, whom the Blessed Virgin instructs by her example and watches over by her patronage, so that, faithful to our baptismal promises, we may serve you and our neighbor with sincerity of heart. (Per hæc munera quæ tibi lætantes offerimus, sanctifica, quæsumus, Domine, famulos tuos, quos beata Virgo docet exemplis et patrocinio custodit, ut promissa baptismi fideliter adimplentes, tibi fratribus sincero corde deserviant.) (218)

The Italian translation of this prayer seems surprisingly less faithful to the Latin text than is the English, but in rendering patrocinio custodit as “she protects us with her help” (219), we get the idea that Our Lady’s patronage is always dynamic, that she never ceases to watch over her spiritual children.


The linking of Mary’s patronage with her spiritual maternity is even clearer in the Prayer after Communion of the Mass of Our Lady of Ransom (Beata Maria Virgo de Mercede):

Lord God, we have received the sacrament of redemption and life and now pray that through the intercession of Our Lady of Ransom, whom in your mercy you gave us as our loving mother and patroness in heaven, we may serve ever more strenuously the mystery of salvation on earth and be at last admitted into your heavenly kingdom. (Sumptis, Domine, sacramentis redemptionis et vitæ, supplices deprecamur, ut, intercedente beata Maria Virgine de Mercede, quam misericorditer nobis piissimam matrem et cælestem dedisti patronam, humanæ salutis mysterio deserviamus impensius atque in regna cælorum mereamur admitti.) (220)

Thus Mary is the advocate or patroness of those who “have received the sacrament of redemption” precisely because she is their mother. As mother, she ever intercedes for them and looks after them.

Finally, in the Preface of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick (Beatæ Mariæ Virginis, Salus Infirmorum) Mary is indicated as being a special patron of the sick because of her own share in the mystery of suffering:

In a wonderful way you gave the Blessed Virgin Mary a special share in the mystery of pain. She now shines radiantly as a sign of health, of healing, and of divine hope for the sick who call on her patronage. (Quia beata Virgo Maria, doloris mysterii mirum in modum particeps effecta, infirmis eius patrocinium invocantibus signum fulget salutis et supernæ spei …) (221)

In this graceful way Mary’s patronage is linked with her role as Coredemptrix, her unique participation in the mystery of redemptive suffering.

Conclusion

It should be apparent by now that the themes of Our Lady’s Coredemption, Mediation and Advocacy are abundantly represented in the Mass formularies of the present Roman Liturgy, especially in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have not touched the Liturgy of the Hours, nor have I considered the readings available in the Lectionary of Paul VI or in the Collection. In fact, it cannot be said that this study has exhausted all the instances in which these themes occur, even in the liturgical books to which I have limited myself. I do believe, however, that I have provided sufficient examples to demonstrate that a case is not being built on one or two debatable texts, but on a truly ample documentation.

A. Summary

We have examined at some length how the euchological texts present Mary’s collaboration in the redemption in various ways such as the associate of Christ (socia Christi), the new Eve (nova Eva), totally devoted to the person and work of her Son, a sharer in the sufferings of her Son, the one who presents her Son to the Father and the one who unites her sacrifice to that of her Son. We have then studied the liturgical treatment of Mary as “minister of grace” (ministra gratiæ, ministra pietatis and other cognate forms) which indicate that Mary truly exercises an office of mediating and distributing the grace of the redemption. Finally we have considered some ways in which the present orations of the Roman liturgy present Mary as advocate for the people of God: advocate of grace (advocata gratiæ), intercessor, protection (præsidium), Reconciler of sinners, help of Christians and patroness (patrona).

It is obvious that the liturgy does not present these themes in airtight compartments and we have often seen how the various topics which we have investigated are so interwoven that they cannot be neatly separated one from the other. I would now like to present two Prefaces which unite in themselves, in a marvelously lapidary way, the three topics which we have been considering, i.e., Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. Each one consolidates the doctrines which we have been examining from its own unique thematic perspective.

The first of these Prefaces is that of the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Mediatrix of Grace (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Mediatrix Gratiæ), which we have already looked at under the topic of Mary’s mediation of grace. So doctrinally rich is this composition that a second examination will not be out of place.

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord. Truly God and truly human, (222) he was chosen by you as the one mediator between you and the human family, always living to make intercession for us. In your wisdom and goodness the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother and companion of the Redeemer, was to have a maternal role in the Church: of intercession and pardon, of prayer and grace, of reconciliation and peace. The love that she bestows as a mother is entirely the gift of Christ, the one mediator, from whom alone she receives her power. Her children, in their trials and fears, turn with confidence to the Blessed Virgin, calling to her as mother of mercy and handmaid of grace. (Vere dignum et iustum est, æquum et salutare, nos tibi semper et ubique gratias agere, Domine, sancte Pater, omnipotens æterne Deus, per Christum Dominum nostrum. Quem, verum Deum et hominem verum, unum inter te et homines constituisti mediatorem, semper vivum ad interpellandum pro nobis. Sed tuæ bonitatis consilio statuisti ut beata Virgo Maria, Redemptoris mater et socia, munus in Ecclesia exerceret maternum: intercessionis et veniæ, impetrationis et gratiæ, reconciliationis et pacis. Quæ maternæ caritatis dispensatio tota ex unica Christi mediatione pendet totamque ex illa haurit virtutem. Unde fideles, in angustiis et periculis versantes, ad beatam Virginem fidentes confugiunt, quam matrem misericordiæ invocant et gratiæ ministram.) (223)

I have already proposed above my own literal translation of a part of this splendid composition in order to highlight Mary’s maternal mission as “minister of grace.” Here I should like to underscore the fact that Mary is also referred to as the “companion of the Redeemer” (Redemptoris socia), thus establishing the basis of her maternal and mediatorial mission (munus maternum): of intercession and pardon, of prayer and grace, of reconciliation and peace (intercessionis et veniæ, impetrationis et gratiæ, reconciliationis et pacis) and her role as “minister of grace” (gratiæ ministra). Mary’s advocacy is sensitively sketched thus: “Her children, in their trials and fears, turn with confidence to the Blessed Virgin, calling to her as mother of mercy.” One familiar with the Latin text of the Sub tuum præsidium will notice a subtle allusion to that prayer in the words periculis and confugiunt.

The second Preface which I would like to indicate as tying all of the themes together is that of the Mass of Our Lady of Ransom (Beata Maria Virgo de Mercede):

In your wise and provident plan you joined the Blessed Virgin so closely to your Son in the work of redemption that she was with him as a loving mother in his infancy, stood by his cross as the faithful companion in his passion, and assumed into heaven, became our advocate, and the handmaid of our redemption. She cares unceasingly with a mother’s love for all your children in their need, breaking the chains of every form of captivity, that they might enjoy full liberty of body and spirit. (Qui mirabili providentique consilio, beatam Virginem in opere salutis humanæ Filio tuo tam arcta societate iunxisti, ut in humilitate cunarum ei amantissima mater adesset et iuxta crucem staret fidelis socia passionis: ad supernam autem civitatem evecta advocata nostra fieret ac redemptionis ministra. Unde de fratribus Filii sui in necessitate versantibus semper curat caritate materna, ut, omnis captivitatis fractis compedibus, plena corporis et animi libertate fruantur.) (224)

I have already considered portions of this superb composition under the topics of 1. Associate of the Redeemer, 2. totally devoted to the work of her Son and 3. “minister of the redemption” (redemptionis ministra). Now let us simply observe how the theme of coredemption is developed by describing Mary as “joined closely to her Son in the work of redemption” and as his “faithful companion in his passion” (fidelis socia passionis); how that of mediation is attested to by the reference to Mary as “minister of redemption” (redemptionis ministra) and that of Advocate is witnessed to not only by the word advocata but also by the description of how she cares for all of her children with a mother’s love. The use of the word necessitate may also be seen as alluding to the Sub tuum præsidium. Both of these texts, it seems to me, are not only magnificent prayers, but remarkable formulations of Our Lady’s mediatorial office, first on earth, then in heaven.

B. Specific Conclusions

1. Consolidation of Doctrine. In his foreword to Præcelsa Filia Sion Cardinal Virgilio Noè states that

The Church of God has discovered ever new meanings in the Gospel figure of Mary, Mother of the Lord Jesus, but the times in which we ourselves have lived have seen significant strides made in the deepening of theological, spiritual, liturgical and pastoral understanding of her role in the economy of salvation. (225)

These words of Cardinal Noè aptly express my own conviction as I bring this study to a close. How striking that the times in which we live—with all of the counter signs and confusion and with the “Marian eclipse” which followed immediately upon the Council—should constitute a privileged moment for “the deepening of theological, spiritual, liturgical and pastoral understanding of (Mary’s) role in the economy of salvation”! This is surely not merely man’s doing; it seems to be a sovereign manifestation of God’s will.

Another entire study would be required to speak authoritatively about the Marian Mass formularies found in the editions of the Roman Missal prior to that promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 (including those in the Propers of Saints for Certain Places), but I believe that this almost casual remark of Father Joncas about the past and present prayer formulas for the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is highly significant: “It may be instructive to compare the two orations to show the shift from devotional to mystagogical prayer on this feast.” (226) I would simply add to this an acknowledgement that the conciliar emphasis on placing Our Lady in the context of salvation history has had a very salutary effect in the composition of these new Masses.

In this particular matter the words of Paul VI in Signum Magnum, which I cited at the beginning of this investigation, have proven prophetic:

Nor is it to be feared that liturgical reform, if put into practice according to the formula “the law of faith must establish the law of prayer” may be detrimental to the “wholly singular” veneration due to the Virgin Mary for her prerogatives, first among these being the dignity of the Mother of God. (227)

As I previously noted, the Pope was citing the principle lex orandi, lex credendi here from the perspective of the faith of the Church establishing the law of prayer.

What I find particularly remarkable in this regard is that, even though the conciliar treatment of Mary’s mediation was deliberately minimalistic, the term Coredemptrix was not mentioned and Our Lady’s advocacy was presented from a somewhat apologetic perspective without notable development, nonetheless the doctrine which these Masses consolidate corresponds to some of the highest points reached by the papal magisterium on Our Lady. I believe that this is a matter to note well because since the Council there has been silence on many fronts about already well-established Marian truths with the tacit or even explicit understanding that it is no longer appropriate to speak about them since the Council did not do so. This is a clear misreading of the intent of chapter eight of Lumen Gentium whose prologue concludes thus:

It (this sacred synod) does not, however, intend to give a complete doctrine on Mary (quin tamen in animo habeat completam de Maria proponere doctrinam), nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified. (228)

Hence, while we cannot say that the Mass formularies which we have considered represent a “development of doctrine” in the strict sense, we can say that, from the doctrinal side, they provide an extremely valuable testimony to the Church’s faith and perform a genuine work of consolidation. In this sense I pray that the study of these texts and—even more—their use in worship will help to dispel a lingering confusion in some quarters regarding the magnitude and scope of Mary’s mission in the life of Christ and of the Church.


2. Need for greater clarity and fidelity in the English translations. At this stage I do not think it necessary to belabor the need for a careful revision of the English translations of these Marian liturgical texts. While I have not done an exhaustive analysis of all the translations (which was not the aim of this study), I believe that the euchological texts which I have analyzed are sufficiently representative. In a number of respects the translations of the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary are notably superior to the translations generally found in the English edition of the Roman Missal of Paul VI. Unfortunately, this is not enough.

At times the English renditions of these magnificent prayers betray a remarkable arbitrariness, (229) the acceptance of a questionable ideology (230) and an innocence of some of the finer points of the Marian theology which the Latin originals embody. To me the most egregious instance of this final issue is the constant rendition of ministra pietatis and ministra gratiæ as “handmaid of love” and “handmaid of grace” which ignores the consistent terminology employed in the papal Marian magisterium for the last hundred years. My strong recommendation is that a revision of the present English translations be undertaken with the collaboration of theologians thoroughly conversant with the magisterial tradition and competent in mariology. In this regard I wish to cite the words ofPope John Paul IIof 4 December 1993 to Bishops of the United States on the “ad limina” visit:

One of your responsibilities in this regard, as stewards of the grace of the supreme priesthood (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 26), is to make available exact and appropriate translations of the official liturgical books so that, following the required review and confirmation by the Holy See (cf. CIC, can. 838, §2-3), they may be an instrument and guarantee of a genuine sharing in the mystery of Christ and the Church: lex orandi, lex credendi. The arduous task of translation must guard the full doctrinal integrity and, according to the genius of each language, the beauty of the original texts. When so many people are thirsting for the living God (Ps. 42:2)—whose majesty and mercy are at the heart of liturgical prayer—the Church must respond with a language of praise and worship which fosters respect and gratitude for God’s greatness, compassion and power. When the faithful gather to celebrate the work of our redemption, the language of their prayer—free from doctrinal ambiguity and ideological influence—should foster the dignity and beauty of the celebration itself, while faithfully expressing the Church’s faith and unity (cf. Vicesimus quintus annus, nn. 9 and 21). (231)

3. Magisterial value of these texts. In his introduction to the valuable study tool provided by Fathers Johnson and Ward for the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cardinal Noè says:

On the occasion of the Marian Year of 1987-1988, the Congregation for Divine Worship brought to term the notable work involved in the preparation of a collection of liturgical texts to facilitate, above all in Marian shrines, liturgical celebration in honour of the Mother of God. As the publication itself amply explains, a good number of the prayers, chants and chosen readings from the Sacred Scriptures had in the first place arisen among local Christian communities, but their coordination and reshaping for the benefit of the wider pastoral needs of the Roman Rite is an event of far from negligible importance in the development by the magisterium and in the experience of the Christian people of the great riches that are represented by Mary, the Mother of God. (232)

The Cardinal speaks here of the publication of these Masses as a “development by the magisterium… of the great riches that are represented by Mary, the Mother of God.” This is a point which should not be missed. The development and approval of the Masses in the Collection have a definite magisterial value precisely because of the axiom that “the law of prayer is the law of faith” or legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi. (233) The Mass formularies of the present Roman liturgy testify strongly to the Church’s belief in Mary’s role as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for the People of God. At the same time, these marvelous prayers of the Church militant are meant to draw her children ever more securely into the worship of the Church triumphant in union with Mary, her Mother. This is so because, as the Council Fathers happily put it:

Having entered deeply into the history of salvation, Mary, in a way, unites in her person and re-echoes the most important doctrines of the faith: and when she is the subject of preaching and worship she prompts the faithful to come to her Son, to his sacrifice and to the love of the Father. (234)

Laus Iesu Virginique Matri Eius!

Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins is an official of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” in Rome, a contributing member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy and the author of Totus Tuus. He is internationally known for his numerous articles on Our Lady and for his scholarly work in the fields of dogmatic and spiritual theology. This article was originally published in Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations: Towards a Papal Definition?, Queenship, 1995.

Notes

Key to Abbreviations

AAS: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis (1909 — ).

Acta Pii IX: Pii IX Pontificis Maximi Acta (Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1971).

Acta Syn: Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani Secundi, Vol., I, Pt. IV (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1971).

ASC II: Alma Socia Christi: Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani Romæ Anno Sancto MCML Celebrati II: De Cooperatione B. V. Mariæ in Acquisitione et Distributione Gratiarum (Roma: Academia Mariana Internationalis, 1952).

ASS: Acta Sanctæ Sedis (1865-1908).

Cal-Barb: Ignazio M. Calabuig, O.S.M. – Rosella Barbieri, “Il Prefazio della Messa ‘Sancta Maria in Præsentatione Domini'” in Virgo Liber Verbi: Miscellanea di Studi in Onore di P. Giuseppe Besutti, O.S.M. (Roma: Edizioni «Marianum», 1991) 605-627.

Calabuig: Ignacio Calabuig Adán, O.S.M., “Il Culto alla Beata Vergine: Fondamenti Teologici e Collocazione nell’Ambito del Culto Cristiano” in Elio Peretto, O.S.M. (ed.), Atti del 7˚ Simposio Internazionale Mariologico (21-23 giugno 1988) (Roma: Edizioni «Marianum»; Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1989) 185-313.

Cassell’s: D. P. Simpson, M.A., Cassell’s Latin Dictionary (London: Cassell Ltd., 5th ed., 1984).

CCC: Catechism of the Catholic Church (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1994).

CMP: Sergius Alvarez Campos, O.F.M., Corpus Marianum Patristicum (Burgos, Spain: Ediciones Aldecoa, S.A., 1970-1985) 8 vols.

Col: Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine 2 vols. (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987). English translation: Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2 vols. (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1992).

Flannery: Austin Flannery, O.P., ed., Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1975).

Gherardini: Brunero Gherardini, La Madre: Maria in una sintesi storico-teologica (Frigento (AV): Casa Mariana Editrice, 1989).

Inseg: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, I (1978 –) (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979 — ).

Joncas: Jan Michael Joncas, “Mary in the Mysteries of Christ during Ordinary Time: Liturgical References,” Marian Studies 43 (1992) 72-131.

Maria: Hubert du Manoir, S.J. (ed.), Maria: Études sur la Sainte Vierge 8 vols. (Paris: Beauchesne et Ses Fils, 1949-1971).

Mariology: Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M. (ed.), Mariology 3 vols. (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1955-1961).

Miravalle: Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1993).

Modi: Sacrosanctum Oecumenicum Concilium Vaticanum Secundum. Schema Constitutionis Dogmaticæ de Ecclesia Modi a Patribus Conciliaribus Propositi a Commissione Doctrinali Examinati – Caput VIII: De Beata Maria Virgine Deipara in Mysterio Christi et Ecclesiæ (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1964).

MSS IV: Maria in Sacra Scriptura: Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani Anno 1965 in Republica Dominicana Celebrati IV: De Beata Virgine Maria in Evangeliis Synopticis (Roma: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 1967)

OL: Our Lady: Papal Teachings, trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961).

OR: L’Osservatore Romano, daily Italian edition. Roman numeral = volume; first Arabic numeral = number; second Arabic numeral indicates page.

ORE: L’Osservatore Romano, weekly edition in English. First number = cumulative edition number; second number = page.

Oremus: Martin D. O’Keefe, S.J., Oremus: Speaking with God in the Words of the Roman Rite (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1993).

Perrella: Salvatore M. Perrella, O.S.M., I «Vota» e i «Consilia» dei Vescovi Italiani sulla Mariologia e sulla Corredenzione nella Fase Antipreparatoria del Concilio Vaticano II (Roma: Edizioni «Marianum», 1994).

PFS: Cuthbert Johnson, O.S.B. and Anthony Ward, S.M., Præcelsa Filia Sion: Approaching the Euchological Vocabulary of the Collection Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine. Notitiæ 278-279 (Vol. 25 (1989) No. 9-10).

PMM: Giustino Farnedi, O.S.B. and Francesco Massola, Piccolo Messale della Madonna (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana; Casale Monferrato: Edizioni Piemme, 1988).

Prob: Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., Problematica sulla Corredenzione (Roma: Edizioni “Marianum,” 1969).

RM 67: The Roman Missal in Latin and English for Sunday, Feast, Ferial and Votive Masses (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1968).

RM 70: Missale Romanum ex Decreto Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II Instauratum Auctoritate Pauli PP. VI Promulgatum (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, editio typica altera 1975). English translation: The Roman Missal revised by Decree of the Second Vatican Council and published by authority of Pope Paul VI (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., second edition 1985).

Robichaud: Armand J. Robichaud, S.M., “Mary, Dispensatrix of All Graces” in Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M. (ed.), Mariology Vol. 2 (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1957) 426-460.

Schug: John A. Schug, O.F.M. Cap., Mary, Mother (Springfield, MA.: St. Francis Chapel Press, 1992).

Sodi: Manlio Sodi, Con Maria verso Cristo: Messe della beata Vergine Maria (Milan: Edizioni Paoline, 1990).

Summa Aurea: Jean-Jacques Bourassé, Summa Aurea de Laudibus Beatissimæ Virginis Mariæ Vols. 1-12 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1862); Vol. 13 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1866).

Theotokos: Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, Inc.; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1982).

Totus Tuus: Arthur Burton Calkins, Totus Tuus: John Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment (Libertyville, IL: Academy of the Immaculate “Studies and Texts, No. 1,” 1992).

TPS: The Pope Speaks, 1 — (1954 — ).

(1) Cf. Miravalle passim.

(2) Cf. Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” Mariology 2:386-392; Robichaud 439-442.

(3) On the question of Marian mediation in the Fathers, cf. Domiciano Fernández, C.M.F., “‘Maria Mediatrix’ en la Epoca Patristica,” Mater Fidei et Fidelium: Collected Essays to Honor Théodore Koehler on His 80th Birthday. Marian Library Studies (new series) Volume 17-23 (Dayton, Ohio: University of Dayton, 1985-1991) 207-217 and my comment on this essay in “Mater Fidei et Fidelium: An Overview,” Divinitas 37 (1993) 161-162.

(4) Cf. Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., “Mediation, Mary Mediatress,” Theotokos 241-242.

(5) CCC #1124.

(6) AAS 66 (1974) 162 (St. Paul Editions, #56, p. 46).

(7) Idesbald Van Houtryve, O.S.B., “La Médiation de Marie dans la Liturgie,” La Vie Diocésaine, Bulletin du Diocése de Malines, XI (1922) 245-259, 349-360.

(8) Maria 1:429-433, 545-547.

(9) Robichaud 436-439.

(10) Robert Javelet, Marie, La Femme Médiatrice (Paris: O.E.I.L., 1984) 135-143.

(11) Serapio de Iragui, O.F.M. Cap., “La mediación de la Virgen en la liturgia,” ASC II:192-233.

(12) Flannery 137-141.

(13) PFS 633.

(14) Cf. General Introduction of Col #29-33.

(15) Cf. General Introduction of Col #34-37.

(16) AAS 59 (1967) 467 (St. Paul Edition 3).

(17) AAS 39 (1947) 541; cf. also Calabuig 216.

(18) Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm., Understanding the Mother of Jesus (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1979) 93.

(19) Willian G. Most, “Reparation to the Immaculate Heart,” Cross and Crown 8 (1956) 139.

(20) Miravalle XV.

(21) On its origin, diffusion and the status quæstionis on its use up to 1969, cf. Prob 14-23.

(22) Cf. Acta Syn 108; Prob 75; Theotokos 54.

(23) Cf. Juniper Carol’s masterful handling of the objections in his magisterial article, “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” Mariology 2:422-424.


(24) In Theotokos 308 Father O’Carroll informs us that 54 Bishops at the Council wished a conciliar pronouncement on Mary as Coredemptrix, 36 sought a definition and 11 a dogma of faith on this matter. Cf. Perrella 246-247.

(25) The Prænotanda of the original conciliar schema on Our Lady says: Omissæ sunt expressiones et vocabula quædam a Summis Pontificibus adhibita, quæ licet in se verissima, possent difficulius intelligi a fratribus separatis (in casu a protestantibus). Inter alia vocabula adnumerari queunt sequentia: “Corredemptrix humani generis” (S. Pius X, Pius XI) … Acta Syn 99. Cf. Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza II (Isola del Liri: Tipografia M. Pisani, 1969) 111-112.

(26) Gherardini 281.

(27) Cf. Roschini, Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza II:113.

(28) Prob 71-92.

(29) Cf. Perrella 212-213.

(30) Theotokos 53. Cf. entire article 53-55, also Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., “Socia: the word and idea in regard to Mary,” Ephemerides Mariologicæ 25 (1975) 337-357.

(31) AAS 42 (1950) 769 (OL #520).

(32) AAS 46 (1954) 635 (OL #706).

(33) Inseg X/1 (1987) 725 (St. Paul Edition 54).

(34) For a detailed discussion of the liturgical treatment of Mary as Socia Redemptoris cf. Calabuig 207-216, esp. 225-229. For all the occurrences of the term socia and its cognate forms in Col cf. PFS 766.

(35) Col #20. All italics used in prayers are my own.

(36) Col #22.

(37) Col #30.

(38) Col #33.

(39) Cf. the introduction to this Mass in Col and the formulary given under this date in RM 67.

(40) Col #43.

(41) Cf. Theotokos 139-141; Calabuig 221-225; Perrella 210-212.

(42) #56 (Flannery 416).

(43) Col #20.

(44) Interestingly, the English translators, desirous of carrying out the “New Eve” motif, have rendered the Prayer after Communion of this Mass: “Lord our God, in the Blessed Virgin Mary you formed a new heart for the second Eve…” whereas the Latin simply says: “Domine, sancte Pater, qui beatæ Virgini cor novum tribuisti…”

(45) For the occurrences of the term Eva in Col cf. PFS 687; for occurrences of Adam cf. 652.

(46) Col #1.

(47) Col #11.

(48) Col #12. For an alternative trans., cf. Joncas 113 who renders socia passionis as “a female companion of (Jesus’) suffering.”

(49) Col #46.

(50) My trans. from the Italian.

(51) I have altered the word order in the Flannery trans. Cf. Flannery 416.

(52) Col #22.

(53) Col #33.

(54) Col #32.

(55) Col #43

(56) Col #44.

(57) Col #8.

(58) Col #26.

(59) Cf. Theotokos 104-105.

(60) Inseg VII/1 (1984) 309 (ORE 822:6; St. Paul editions, 41).

(61) For occurrences of the term compassio and its cognate forms cf. PFS 664.

(62) Col #11.

(63) Joncas 107.

(64) RM 70: 15 September. For alternate translations, cf. Joncas 111; Oremus 155.

(65) RM 70: 15 September.

(66) Oremus 154. For an even more literal translation, cf. Joncas 107.

(67) Col #25.

(68) Col #27.

(69) On the notion of Mary as spouse of Christ, cf. Theotokos 333-334; J.-B. Terrien, S.J., La Mère de Dieu et La Mère des Hommes Vol. I (Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1900) 179-188; M. J. Scheeben, Mariology trans. T. L. M. J. Geukers (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co. 1948) I:162-169.

(70) Col #36.

(71) AAS 10 (1918) 181-182 (OL #267). This text has occasioned much debate and discussion among Mariologists. Cf. Prob 90-91; Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., De Corredemptione Beatæ Virginis Mariæ. Disquisitio positiva (Civitas Vaticana: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1950) 524-527; Perrella 146-147.

(72) Col #16.

(73) On Mary’s role in presenting Jesus in the temple cf. André Feuillet, P.S.S., Jesus and His Mother: The Role of the Virgin Mary in Salvation History and the Place of Woman in the Church trans. Leonard Maluf (Still River, MA: St. Bede’s Publications, 1984) 46; Ibid., Le Sauveur Messianique et Sa Mère dans les Récits de l’Enfance de Saint Matthieu et de Saint Luc (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana «Collezione Teologica» #4, 1990) 72-74; Stefano M. Manelli, F.F.I., Mariologia Biblica (Frigento (AV): Casa Mariana Editrice, 1989) 259.

(74) Col #7.

(75) On the use of the verb sistere cf. Cal-Barb 613.

(76) Col #26.

(77) Cf. introduction to Mass #26 in Col.

(78) AAS 66 (1974) 131-132 (St. Paul Editions 18-20).

(79) Flannery 417. From this point on, if parts of magisterial texts are italicized in English and in the corresponding original language, the italics are mine.

(80) AAS 10 (1918) 181-182 (OL #267).

(81) Inseg VII/1 (1984) 309 (ORE 822:6; St. Paul Editions 40).

(82) AAS 48 (1956) 352 (OL #778). For comments on this text as teaching Mary’s coredemptive role, cf. Perella 153-156.

(83) Col #11. Lawrence M. Choate, O.S.M. points out in his study, “Mary in the Lent and Easter Seasons: Liturgical References,” Marian Studies 42 (1991) 59 that “The translation has made quem … Christus … promeruit refer to universas gentes rather than to Paraclitus Spiritus.”

(84) Joncas 111.

(85) Col #12.

(86) Joncas 108.

(87) CCC 969.

(88) CCC 970.

(89) ASS 29 (1896-1897) 206 (OL #194).

(90) For commentary on the Marian application of this text cf. Gherardini 307-309.

(91) Cf. Theotokos 218-219.

(92) ASS 16 (1883) 113; (OL #81).

(93) Cf. Cassell’s 16, 373.

(94) ASS 17 (1884) 49 (OL #97).

(95) ASS 27 (1894-1895) 179 (OL #154).

(96) ASS 28 (1895-1896) 130 (OL #169).

(97) For commentary on this text cf. Schug 61-62.

(98) ASS 36 (1903-1904) 454-455 (OL #234-235).

(99) Cf. Cassell’s 16.

(100) For commentary on this text cf. Schug 66-67; Perrella 143-144. On the distinction between meriting de condigno and de congruo cf. Theotokos 246; Gherardini 311-318; William G. Most, Mary in our Life (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1954) 21, 24.

(101) AAS 13 (1921) 334 (OL #275).

(102) AAS 20 (1928) 178 (OL #287).

(103) AAS 24 (1932) 376 (OL #317).

(104) Domenico Bertetto, S.D.B. (ed.), Il Magistero Mariano di Pio XII (Roma: Edizioni Paoline, 1956) #46-47 (OL #361, 365).

(105) AAS 38 (1946) 264 (OL #407, 413).

(106) AAS 48 (1956) 75 (OL #770).

(107) Cf. Theotokos 68.

(108) Acta Syn 92-97; notes 98-121. The body of the text is also supplied together with an English translation by James T. O’Connor in Marian Studies 37 (1986) 197-211.

(109) Cf. Totus Tuus 184-185.

(110) Cf. Theotokos 242-245, 354-356; Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., “Mary’s Mediation: Vatican II and John Paul II,” in Virgo Liber Verbi: Miscellanea di Studi in Onore di P. Giuseppe M. Besutti, O.S.M. (Roma: Edizioni “Marianum,” 1991) 543-559; ibid., “Still mediatress of all graces?” Miles Immaculatæ 24 (1988) 121-126; Thomas Mary Sennott, O.S.B., “Mary mediatrix of all graces, Vatican II and Ecumenism,” Miles Immaculatæ 24 (1988) 151-167.

(111) Acta Syn 93, lines 25-26; Marian Studies 37 (1986) 202-203.

(112) Modi 15; cf. Carlos Balic, O.F.M., “El Capitulo VIII de la Constitución ‘Lumen Gentium’ comparado con el primer esquema de la B. Virgin Madre de la Iglesia,” Estudios Marianos 27 (1966) 178.

(113) Marian Studies 37 (1986) 232-233.

(114) AAS 57 (1965) 357 (TPS 10:223).

(115) AAS 59 (1967) 469-470 (St. Paul Editions 5-6).

(116) Calabuig 217-218.

(117) Inseg X/3 (1987) 1481 (ORE 1021:6).

(118) Inseg XIV/1 (1991) 1023 (ORE 1189:15).

(119) Robichaud 427. Cf. also the summary of the magisterial teaching on Mary as Mediatrix of all graces which the author has made based on the observations of the late Canon Bittremieux, ibid. 435. Father Schug’s book, Mary, Mother 54-91 and passim can also be profitably consulted for magisterial texts on Mary’s mediation. His specific thesis is to prove that “Mary is a physical instrumental cause in the distribution of all grace” (8), a matter beyond the scope of our present enquiry, but even without entering into this specific argument, his book is a gold mine of references.

(120) AAS 59 (1967) 469-470 (St. Paul Editions 6-7).

(121) Calabuig 218; Cal-Barb 616-617.

(122) Calabuig 219, footnote 75.

(123) Calabuig 219.

(124) Calabuig 220 (my trans.).

(125) Col #7.

(126) Col #43.

(127) Cf. Cassell’s 449.

(128) This is also in perfect conformity with the medieval Latin usage well established in the Church. J. F. Niermayer, in his Mediæ Latinitatis Lexicon Minus: A Medieval Latin-French/English Dictionary (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1976), 796 furnishes the following meanings of pietas: 1. goodness, charity, beneficence, alms; 2. divine mercy; 3. pity, compassion.

(129) Cf. Manuel Miguens, O.F.M., Mary “The Servant of the Lord”: An Ecumenical Proposal (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1978) esp. 11-55; ibid., “Servidora del Señor,” MSS IV:73-110.

(130) Calabuig 218; Cal-Barb 617.

(131) Cf. PFS 655-656.

(132) Col #7 Preface.

(133) Col #43 Preface.

(134) Lumen Gentium #56.

(135) PFS 652.

(136) Col #11.

(137) Cf. Joncas 109 where he translates this: “change (them) into the sacrament of human redemption, of which the noble Virgin, at the altar of the cross, showed herself the female servant.”

(138) Col #6.

(139) PFS 722.

(140) Col #7.

(141) Col #43.

(142) Col #22.

(143) … esaltata come regina gloriosa accanto al trono del tuo Figlio, dove intercede per noi ministra di pietà e di grazia, PMM 208.

(144) Col #39.

(145) Inseg III/2 (1980) 1511 (St. Paul Editions 31).

(146) Interestingly, the Italian renders ministra pietatis here as “dispenser of grace” (la dispensatrice di grazia), PMM 359.

(147) Col #40.

(148) Cf. introduction to this Mass in Col.

(149) The Italian text gives here “as an attentive mother and dispenser of grace” (come madre premurosa e dispensatrice di grazia), PMM 366.

(150) This is an instance of a translation accommodated to feminist ideology in order to avoid the literal translation “True God and true man.” Further instances of this may be found in the Prayer after Communion of the Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of the Lord (Beata Maria Virgo in Resurrectione Domini) (Col #15) and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cause of Our Joy (Beata Maria Virgo, Causa Nostræ Lætitiæ) (Col #34). For an analysis of the issues involved, cf. Helen Hull Hitchcock (ed.), The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the Worship of God (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992).

(151) Col #30.

(152) Cf. Sodi 142-144.

(153) RM 67 in Propers of the Saints for Certain Places under the date of 8 May. The original date chosen by Cardinal Mercier was 31 May. When this day was designated as the Feast of the Queenship of Mary by Pope Pius XII in 1954, this observance was transferred to 8 May. Cf. J. Lebon, “A propos des textes liturgiques de la fête de Marie Médiatrice,” Marianum 14 (1952) 122-128.

(154) Cf. Theotokos 245-246.

(155) Col #19.

(156) Col #19 Introduction. Strangely the English edition attributes it to the Proper Masses of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottines).

(157) Summa Aurea 7:546 (OL #14). Cf. the documentation offered in Robichaud 428-435.

(158) Col #30.

(159) RM 67.

(160) Cf. Lebon 124.

(161) Sermo de Aquæductu, #7 in J. Leclercq, O.S.B. and H. M. Rochais (eds.), Sancti Bernardi Opera (Rome: Editiones Cistercienses, 1968) V:279.

(162) Cf. Pius IX, Encyclical Ubi Primum (Acta Pii IX I:164; OL #23); Leo XIII, Encyclical Iucunda Semper (ASS 27 (1894-1895) 183-184; OL 163); Pius XI, Ingravescentibus Malis (AAS 29 (1937) 375; OL #338); for instances of Pius XII, cf. Robichaud 434-435.


(163) 57.

(164) Miravalle 67-68.

(165) Anselm W. Romb, O.F.M. Conv. (ed.), The Kolbe Reader (Libertyville, IL: Franciscan Marytown Press, 1987) 192.

(166) Miravalle 68.

(167) CMP Vol. I, #90, 95; cf. Theotokos 5-6 (especially on the debate of Patristic scholars on the meaning of advocate in this context), 189-190.

(168) Theotokos 5-6.

(169) Cf. Miravalle 57; Totus Tuus 41-45.

(170) Theotokos 336.

(171) Joseph P. Christopher, Charles E. Spence and John F. Rowan (eds.), The Raccolta (Boston: Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1957) #333.

(172) Lumen Gentium #62 (Flannery 418-419).

(173) Maternitas Mariæ in Ecclesia indesinenter perdurat ut mediatio intercedens. Inseg X/1 (1987) 728 (St. Paul Editions 57).

(174) Inseg II/2 (1979) 816 (ORE 610:3).

(175) RM 70: 8 December.

(176) Oremus 356.

(177) Col #29.

(178) Cf. Sodi 140.

(179) Cf. Miravalle 58-59; Miguens, Mary “The Servant of the Lord” 49, 62-67.

(180) Col #46.

(181) Calabuig 235-242.

(182) Calabuig 241.

(183) RM 70 Opening Prayer for 1 January.

(184) Cf. critique and literal translation of this prayer in John Allyn Melloh, S.M., “Mary in the Mysteries of Christ from Advent to the Baptism of the Lord: Liturgical References,” Marian Studies 41 (1990) 74-75.

(185) Oremus 25; cf. also the translation in RM 67 of the Opening Prayer from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Christmas to the Purification.

(186) PFS 708-709.

(187) Cf. Totus Tuus 42.

(188) Cassel’s 467-468.

(189) Cf. Henri Barré, C.S.Sp., Prières Anciennnes de l’Occident a la Mère du Sauveur (Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1963) 36, 112 (3), 142 (79), 159 (48), 232 (10), 234 (82), 266 (24).

(190) RM 70, 16 July.

(191) The same oration is used as the Opening Prayer for the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Teacher in the Spirit (Beata Maria Virgo, Mater et Magistra Spiritalis) (Col #32) where a more faithful translation is given.

(192) Joncas 128.

(193) Cf. the translation of the Opening Prayer of Col #32 which has “under her protection,” the literal translation of Joncas 128 which renders this idea “equipped by her help” and Oremus 138 which gives “guarded by her help.”

(194) PFS 741.

(195) Col #17.

(196) Col #21.

(197) In repeated cases like this one cannot help being puzzled at the seeming arbitrariness of the translators and those entrusted with verifying their translations.

(198) Cf. Introduction to Col #35.

(199) Col #35.

(200) Cf. Zsolt Aradi, Shrines to Our Lady Around the World (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1954) 22-24; Domenico Marcucci, Santuari Mariani d’Europa (Milano: Edizioni San Paolo, 1993) 144-145.

(201) The Italian edition gives: “Dio, onnipotente ed eterno, che nella beata Vergine Maria, gloriosa madre del tuo Figlio, hai dato un sostegno e una difesa a quanti la invocano …” (PMM 310) indicating that God has given Mary as “a support and a defense” to those who call upon her. The same title is given to the Mass, Maria Vergine Sostegno e Difesa della nostra Fede (PMM 308).

(202) Col #35.

(203) The Italian translation renders fidei præsidium “defense of the faith” cf. PMM 312.

(204) Col #35.

(205) Col #13.

(206) The Italian text gives: The faithful will for ever run to her as to a secure refuge (Ricorreranno nei secoli i fedeli come a un sicuro rifugio). PMM 136.

(207) Col #14.

(208) Col #14.

(209) Cf. Col #7: Preface.

(210) Cf. Sodi 104-106.

(211) Col #42.

(212) Cf. Barré 39, 142 (81), 183 (21), 302 (11).

(213) Cf. Totus Tuus 48-52.

(214) PFS 736.

(215) Col #21.

(216) Cf. Lumen Gentium #62.

(217) Cf. Sodi 124-125.

(218) Col #32.

(219) ci protegge con il suo aiuto, PMM 292.

(220) Col #43.

(221) Col #44.

(222) Cf. footnote 150 above.

(223) Col #30.

(224) Col #43.

(225) PFS 629.

(226) Joncas 110, footnote 91.

(227) AAS 59 (1967) 467 (St. Paul Edition 3).

(228) Lumen Gentium #54 (Flannery 414).

(229) Cf. footnote 198 above.

(230) Cf. footnote 150 above.

(231) ORE 1320:3.

(232) PFS 630.

(233) CCC #1124.

(234) Lumen Gentium #65 (Flannery 420-421).