This article, which looks at the Marian dimension of John Paul II’s pontificate, elucidates his many beautiful and powerful words about Our Lady in her role as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces. We are only now beginning to unravel the great teachings left us by our beloved Holy Father. This article was excerpted from Mary at the Foot of the Cross – VII: Coredemptrix, Therefore Mediatrix of All Graces, Academy of the Immaculate, 2008.– Assistant Ed.


I. Introduction: The Post-Conciliar Situation

The Servant of God Pope John Paul II has left to the Church a huge body of Marian teaching, which, in its quantity alone, is greater than that of all of his predecessors and which, in its quality and consistency, I believe is his greatest single legacy to the Church. While various aspects of this vast output have already been the object of numerous scholarly and popular studies, I would hazard to say that its rich doctrinal content, its inner coherence, and its clarity have barely begun to be appreciated. And perhaps even less appreciated is the fact that this vast and rich corpus of Marian teaching is not just the work of a noted theologian or preacher, but that, 1) when it occurs in a document of major importance, 2) when it can be shown to constitute a consistent and frequently repeated theme, or 3) when it is stated in a deliberate way which unmistakably indicates his intention to teach, it constitutes the ordinary magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff {footnote}Cf. Lumen Gentium #25. Cf. also Arthur Burton Calkins, Totus Tuus: John Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 1992) hereafter cited as Totus Tuus 265-270; Totus Tuus: Il Magistero Mariano di Giovanni Paolo II. Scelta antologicee introduzioni di Arthur Burton Calkins (Siena: Cantagalli, 2006) hereafter cited as TTMM 33-35.{/footnote}.

Indeed, on 16 October 2005, the anniversary of the election of John Paul II to the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI stated in an interview granted to Polish Television

Initially, in speaking of the Pope’s legacy, I forgot to mention the many documents that he left us—14 encyclicals, many Pastoral Letters, and others. All this is a rich patrimony that has not yet been assimilated by the Church. My personal mission is not to issue many new documents, but to ensure that his documents are assimilated, because they are a rich treasure; they are the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. We know that the Pope was a man of the Council, that he internalized the spirit and the word of the Council. Through these writings he helps us understand what the Council wanted and what it didn’t. This helps us to be the Church of our times and of the future {footnote}The text of the entire interview was made available on the Internet site of Vatican Radio on the evening of 16 October 2005 in the original Italian, and with translations in English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

My intention here is precisely to investigate the rich and multifaceted doctrine of John Paul II on the topic of Mary’s role as Mediatrix as it occurred in the course of his ordinary teaching, the greater part of which is not yet well-known and, consequently, has not yet been duly assimilated.

Without any doubt, Our Lady’s mediatorial role was particularly downplayed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council 1) because of the battles which had taken place on the council floor and behind the scenes {footnote}Cf. Ralph M. Wiltgen, SVD, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1985) 90-95, 153-159.{/footnote}, 2) because the Marian title Mediatrix was employed only once in Lumen Gentium in a very relativized context {footnote}Lumen Gentium #62. Cf. Mich ael O’Carroll, CSSp, Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc.; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1982) cited hereafter as Theotokos 242-245; Idem., “Still Mediatress of All Graces?” in Miles Immaculatae 24 (1988) 114-132; Idem., “Mary’s Mediation: Vatican II and John Paul II” in Ignazio M. Calabuig, OSM (ed.), Virgo Liber Verbi: Miscellanea di Studi in Onore di P. Giuseppe M. Besutti (Rome: Edizioni «Marianum», 1991) 543-559.{/footnote}, and 3) above all, because of the minimalist and one-sided interpretation of the council’s Marian teaching which predominated in the immediate post-conciliar period and continues to do so in many academic centers of mariology {footnote}Cf. TTMM 12-22.{/footnote}. Although he had already made any number of important statements on Marian mediation in the early years of his pontificate and would continue to do so until its very end, with his Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, John Paul II single-handedly re-launched the theological discussion of this topic which many leading mariologists had thought was already successfully superceded {footnote}Cf. Totus Tuus 182-188.{/footnote}. Even quite recently and quite unfortunately, the Pontifical International Marian Academy issued a publication entitled La Madre del Signore on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of 2000 which stated that

In our opinion such study (of Marian mediation) should not be conducted by re-proposing the presuppositions, the terminology and the metaphors used by many theologians before the Second Vatican Council, but rather according to the lines traced by the Constitution Lumen Gentium. Within this ambit John Paul II has amply considered the cooperation of the Virgin in the Trinitarian work of salvation under the categories of ‘mediation in Christ’ and of ‘maternal mediation,’ that is, as a particular function of the universal motherhood of Mary in the order of grace; to many theologians this way of presenting the question of the mediation of Mary appears more rich, based on a good biblical foundation (cf. Jn 19:25-27), more in conformity with the sensus fidelium, less subject to controversy {footnote}La Madre del Signore. Memoria, Presenza, Speranza. Alcune questioni attuali sulla figura e la missione della b. Vergine Maria (Vatican City: Pontificia Accademia Mariana Internationalis, 2000) hereafter cited as La Madre del Signore 80 (my trans.).{/footnote}.

Here it is necessary to make some very pointed comments. 1) To the uninitiated, at first glance this statement might seem unexceptionable, but, in fact, it not so subtly suggests that the entire millennial Catholic tradition of understanding and elucidating Our Lady’s unique mediatorial role by saints, mystics, and theologians, along with the papal magisterium of Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII, Saint Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, and Pius XII, which has put this matter in ever sharper relief {footnote}Cf. Theotokos 238-242; Gabriele M. Rosch ini, OSM, Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza, Vol. II (Isola del Liri: Tipografia Editrice M. Pisani, 1969) 198-235; Brunero Gherardini, La Madre: Maria in una sintesi sotricoteologica (Frigento: Casa Mariana Editrice, 1989) 287-324; Arthur Burton Calkins, “Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate in the Contemporary Roman Liturgy,” in Mark I. Miravalle, STD, (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations: Towards a Papal Definition? (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1995) 68-82.{/footnote}, is to be side-stepped. 2) This statement insinuates that the pre-conciliar methodology employed in exploring this topic is “less rich” than the conciliar treatment found in Lumen Gentium and is based on less solid biblical foundations. Such a vague statement, of course, simply begs the question. 3) Even more gratuitously and without a shred of supporting evidence, the authors of this communication inform us that their approach is in greater conformity to the sensus fidelium {footnote}Cf. Lumen Gentium #12, 34; Dei Verbum #10; Catechism of the Catholic Church #889; Theotokos 322-323.{/footnote}. 4) They also assure us that their proposed methodology is less subject to controversy, but that is only because, by prescribing the methodology to be used, they have effectively eliminated any opposition. 5) Without stating it in so many words here, the authors are also obviously concerned about avoiding controversy on the ecumenical level, as they clearly indicate elsewhere {footnote}Cf. La Madre del Signore 112-116.{/footnote}.Specifically, they state that students of mariology

– should abstain from the will to impose on brethren not in communion with the Catholic Church ‘other obligations beyond those which are indispensable (cf. Acts 15:28),’ that is, doctrinal questions about the Mother of the Lord which are quæstiones disputatæ among Catholic theologians;

– should proceed to a supervised and correct use of terms and formulae (purification of language); the use of formulae and terms which, on the one hand, are not ancient nor accepted by many Catholic theologians and on the other hand provoke grave discomfort in brothers and sisters who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church is certainly not useful for reciprocal understanding; rather it is wise to use a terminology which expresses doctrine with exactness and efficacy, but which does not provide grounds for false interpretations {footnote}La Madre del Signore 115 (my trans.).{/footnote}.

This kind of language is not slightly disturbing. In the name of a deceptive “ecumenical” correctness cleverly camouflaged as “purification of language,” the authors want to impose silence on Catholics about matters which were not fundamentally “quæstiones disputatæ among Catholic theologians” until after the Council. They are concerned about not “provoking grave discomfort in brothers and sisters who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church,” but not among their own Catholic brothers and sisters.

The dossier published in Marianum regarding the request for the dogmatic definition of Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate takes the very same line as what has just been quoted above, with even more specific indications about terminology, which it says that the Second Vatican Council wished to avoid. This is quite evidently because the same persons were involved in the redaction of these documents. In that dossier, the late Father Ignazio Calabuig, OSM, the principal redactor, goes on to state that the Council consciously and deliberately renounced

– using the title Coredemptrix and the term coredemptio with reference to the Blessed Virgin; to the latter the Council preferred cooperatio and this because since it has an ecclesial point of reference with a biblical foundation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9), it could effectively designate the collaboration given by Mary, in faith, obedience and love, to the formation both of the body of Christ in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and of his mystical body, the Church, which is indissolubly linked to Christ the Head and from whose life she herself lives;

– making use of a terminology of Western scholastic coinage: objective and subjective, mediate and immediate redemption, merit de congruo and de condigno, terms alien to the theological tradition of the East; such terminology could certainly have continued to be used in theological research, but it was unthinkable that an ecumenical council would make its own these terms which of themselves recall the disputes of the schools;

– defining in conceptual terms the association of Mary in the redemptive work of Christ, preferring to have recourse to the category of salvation history: thus describing the acts which, from the Incarnation all the way to the death on the cross, show the Mother intimately united to the redemptive work of the Son (cf. LG, #61);

– using the term mediatio with reference to the Virgin, employing in its place expressions like ‘maternal function’ (munus maternum) and ‘saving influence’ (salutaris influxus) or words like ‘cooperation’ (cooperatio), in passages in which it was legitimate to expect the word ‘mediation’ to be used with regard to the requirements of parallelism (cf. LG, #61, 63).

– configuring the ‘mediatorial action’ of Mary in geometric or spatial terms or in symbolic terms like ladder or neck, as if between Christ and the faithful there were a rampart which they could only surmount by means of the mediatorial intervention of the Virgin.

– the use of any expressions like that of ‘Mediatrix of all graces’ which, although recurring in papal documents previous to the Council, were the object of dispute among theologians; and the use of expressions such as ‘Mediatrix with the Mediator,’ ‘Christ and Mary’ in contexts which could produce the impression that the grace of the redemption is attributable, almost at the same level, to Christ and to the Virgin of Nazareth {footnote}Ignazio M. Calabuig, OSM, “Riflessione sulla richiesta della definizione dogmatica di ‘Maria corredentrice, mediatrice, avvocata’ ” in Marianum LXI (1999) hereafter cited as Calabuig 154-155 (my trans.)..

The underlying principle in all of this discussion about what is to be avoided, is precisely the idea that a general council of the Church can simply renounce the Church’s patrimony and banish the use of any terminology which was not used in the Council documents and thus comes to be regarded as “ecumenically” incorrect. Indeed, it is the doctrine taught by the Council which is of ultimate importance. The study of the background from which the document emerged is also of value, precisely insofar as it indicates how and why matters were treated in a particular way. Thus a study like Ermanno Toniolo’s {footnote}Ermanno M. Toniolo, OSM, La Beata Maria Vergine nel Concilio Vaticano II: Cronistoria del capitolo VIII della Constituzione Dogmatica “Lumen Gentium” e sinossi di tutte le redazioni (Rome: Centro di Cultura Mariana «Madre della Chiesa», 2004).{/footnote}, which furnishes a great deal of background information on how chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium arrived at its final form, is of great value, but the methodology followed in establishing the final form of chapter 8 need not become ipso facto the methodology which must be followed by all who work in the field of mariology. This will to impose a particular approach and methodology and to effectively rule out the employment of terminology and systems of thought that have developed in the Church in the course of centuries and even millennia, is a fundamental component of what I refer to as “Vatican II triumphalism” {footnote}Cf. TTMM 15-22.{/footnote}.

“Vatican II triumphalism” is a partial and one-sided interpretation of the documents of the council which favors positions sustained by certain parties at the time of the council while carefully avoiding mention of every affirmation in the council documents which could counterbalance the “favored” position. In the case of chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium on “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church,” the “favored” position gives great prominence to the role of Mary as model of the Church. This reflects the rediscovered approach of ecclesiotypical mariology which highlights the analogy between Mary and the Church, a theme which was emerging again at the time of the Council and is certainly valid in itself. At the same time the practitioners of this interpretation largely ignore the elements of cristotypical mariology, which underscores the analogy between Christ and Mary in chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, and prefer to dismiss these elements as deductive and “privilege-centered” {footnote}Cf. the comments of Fathers George F. Kirwin, OMI and Thomas Thompson, S.M. in Donald W. Buggert, O.Carm., Louis P. Rogge, O.Carm., Michael J. Wastag, O.Carm. (eds.), Mother, Behold Your Son: Essays in Honor of Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm. (Washington, DC: The Carmelite Institute, 2001), 17, 202.{/footnote}.

Obviously there were many theological insights which had come to the fore in the period preceding the Council due largely to scholarly research which had begun in the nineteenth century in the area of biblical, liturgical, patristic, and ecclesiological studies. Many of these found expression in the documents of the Council and specifically in the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium. All too often, however, an exaggerated emphasis on some of these insights on the part of the majority of the commentators, along with the total exclusion of balancing insights has, in fact, led to a “low mariology” which focuses almost exclusively on Mary as “woman of faith,” “disciple,” “sister” and “model” while largely ignoring her role as “spiritual mother,” “associate of the Redeemer” in the work of our salvation, “Mediatrix” and intercessor and, thus, tends to minimize the importance of the papal magisterium of the past two centuries. All too often, the virtually exclusive emphasis on ecclesiotypical mariology is accompanied by a whole-hearted acceptance of the historical-critical method of biblical exegesis and “lowest common denominator” of ecumenism {footnote}An excellent example of this approach is to be found in Raymond E. Brown, Karl P. Donfried, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and John Reumann (eds.), Mary in the New Testament: A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars (Philadelphia: Fortress Press; New York: Paulist Press, 1978).{/footnote}. The practitioners of this methodology are almost always devoid of that reverential fear before the mystery of Mary which comes instinctively to “little ones” who faithfully echo the sensus fidelium (conviction of the faithful).

Happily in his address to the Roman Curia of 22 December 2005, Pope Benedict XVI dealt a significant blow to “Vatican II triumphalism.” He stated:

The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?

Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or—as we would say today—on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church {footnote}L’Osservatore Romano cited hereafter as OR 23 dicembre 2005, p. 5; L’Osservatore Romano, English edition cited hereafter as ORE 1925:5 (first number = cumulative edition number; second number = page).{/footnote}.

I believe that these incisive words of the Pope speak for themselves and offer a trenchant critique of “Vatican II triumphalism,” at least as it pertains to its mariological practitioners.

Finally, it should be noted that the authority of Pope John Paul II is invoked by the authors of La Madre del Signore as providing definitive approval of their approach to the study of Marian mediation. My specific object in the presentation of this paper is to demonstrate that John Paul II’s approach to this topic does not conform to their dictates, but exhibits a remarkable richness which, at once, faithfully reflects the Church’s millennial tradition, while at the same time developing it and expressing it with remarkably synthetic insights.


II. The Terminology of Coredemption/Mediation

From at least the beginning of the twentieth century, authors have consistently treated Marian coredemption and mediation together under the general title of “mediation” {footnote}Cf. the classic work of E. Druwé, S.J., “La Médiation universelle de Marie,” in Hubert du Manoir, S.J. (ed.), Maria: Études sur la Sainte Vierge (Paris: Beauchesne et Ses Fils, 1949) Vol. I in which the first part of the study (427-537) deals with the doctrine of Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption and the second part (538-568) treats of Our Lady’s mediation or distribution of grace.{/footnote}.The founder of the Marianum, Father Gabriele M. Roschini, OSM, for instance, stated that some mariologists restrict the title of “Mediatrix” to the second phase of mediation (to the cooperation of Mary in the distribution of grace), reserving the title “Coredemptrix” to the first phase, that of her active and immediate cooperation in the work of the redemption; but even this first phase, he argues, is a true and proper mediation since it is a participation in the mediatorial work of Christ {footnote}Gabriele M. Roschini, OSM, Dizionario di Mariologia (Rome: Editrice Studium, 1961) 323.{/footnote}.This follows logically from the fact that both of these phases may be seen as subdivisions of the broad category of “Marian mediation” or what the late Father Giuseppe Besutti had consistently described in his Bibliografia Mariana since 1968 as “Mary in salvation history” (historia salutis) {footnote}Cf. Giusepp e M. Besutti, OSM, Bibliografia Mariana 1958-1966 (Roma: Edizioni Marianum, 1968) 194-205; Bibliografia Mariana 1967-1972 (1974) 164-167; Bibliografia Mariana 1973-1977 (1980) 155-158; Bibliografia Mariana 1978-1984 (1988) 256-259; Bibliografia Mariana 1985-1989 (1993) 328-333. In Bibliografia Mariana, Vol. IX—1990-1993 (1998) 329-330 Ermanno M. Toniolo changed the name of the category to “Cooperazione” and in Bibliografia Mariana, Vol. X—1994-1998 (2005) 207-212 Silvano M. Danieli changed the name of the category to “Maria: Nuova Eva—Mediatrice— Corredentrice”.{/footnote}. These two phases of the redemption are often differentiated as “objective” and “subjective,” as well as by other distinctions {footnote}These distinctions are carefully delineated in Juniper B. Carol, OFM, “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” in Juniper B. Carol, OFM (ed.), Mariology, Vol. 2 (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1957) 380-381.{/footnote} which Father Roschini’s successor as President of the Theological Faculty of the Marianum, Father Ignazio M. Calabuig, would have us eschew. Indeed, many papal documents may be cited which clearly teach that Our Lady’s cooperation in the distribution of grace flows directly from her coredemptive role. For this reason, we will find that not a few of the papal texts which can be cited in support of Marian coredemption, may also be cited in support of Mary’s role in the distribution of the graces of the redemption.

Here I will offer just three examples. The first comes from Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Adiutricem Populi of 5 September 1895:

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 for all time will flow from the Redemption {footnote}Acta Sanctæ Sedis hereafter cited as ASS 28 (1895-1896) 130 (Our Lady: Papal Teachings trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961) hereafter cited as OL #169 (alt.)). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

The next example comes from Saint Pius X’s great Marian Encyclical Ad Diem Illum of 2 February 1904:

Hence the ever united life and labors of the Son and the Mother which permit the application to both of the words of the Psalmist: ‘My life is wasted with grief and my years in sighs.’ When the supreme hour of the Son came, beside the cross of Jesus there stood Mary, His Mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind; and so entirely participating in His Passion that, if it had been possible ‘she would have gladly borne all the torments that her Son underwent.

From this community of will and suffering between Christ and Mary ‘she merited to become most worthily the reparatrix of the lost world’ (Eadmer, De Excellentia Virg. Mariæ, c. 9) and dispensatrix of all the gifts that our Savior purchased for us by his death and by his blood {footnote}ASS 36 (1903-1904) 453-454 (OL #232-233).{/footnote}.


Our third instance comes from the Servant of God Pius XII’s Radio Message of 13 May 1946 on the occasion of the crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima:

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 the Redemption {footnote}Acta Apostolicæ Sedis hereafter cited as AAS 38 (1946) 266 (OL #413 (alt.)). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

These texts should be seen as illuminating the following statements in Lumen Gentium #60 and 62 which are reciprocally illuminated by them.

In the words of the apostle there is but one mediator: ‘for there is but one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all’ (1 Tim 2:5-6). But 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 originates not in any inner necessity but in the disposition of God. It 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. It does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it …

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. This, however, is so understood that it neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator.

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 cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.

The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary, which it constantly experiences and recommends to the heartfelt attention of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer {footnote}Here I have used the translation of Austin Flannery, O.P., Vatican Council II: The Post Conciliar Documents (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1975) 418-419.{/footnote}.

When these papal texts and these two paragraphs from Lumen Gentium are read as complementary and mutually illuminating, they give us a balanced presentation of the Catholic doctrine on Mary’s unique participation in the mediation of Christ. When these texts of Lumen Gentium, however are read according to the exegesis of “Vatican II triumphalists,” they lead to a diminution of the Catholic doctrine on Our Lady. In #5 of his Encyclical Redemptoris Missio of 7 December 1990 {footnote}Inseg XIII/2 (1990) 1403 (ORE 1175:6).{/footnote}, John Paul II gives us a concise commentary on Christ as the unique Mediator between God and man and concludes the encyclical in #92:

To ‘Mary’s mediation, wholly oriented towards Christ and tending to the revelation of his salvific power,’ I entrust the Church and, in particular, those who commit themselves to carrying out the missionary mandate in today’s world {footnote}Inseg XIII/2 (1990) 1486 (ORE 1175:19).{/footnote}.

III. Mary’s Mediating Presence in the Mystery of Christ

Before proceeding further in a more specific analysis of John Paul II’s teaching on Mary’s unique participation in the mediation of Christ, I would like to present the way in which he situates Mary in the mystery of Christ. In #22 of his programmatic first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis of 4 March 1979, John Paul II had already sketched Mary’s presence in the mystery of the Redemption and in Christian life in broad strokes which were, at the same time, pregnant with meaning to be further developed, effectively insisting that her mediation is absolutely unique and that consequently she “must be in all the ways of the Church’s daily life”:

For if we feel a special need, in this difficult and responsible phase of the history of the Church and of mankind, to turn to Christ, who is Lord of the Church and Lord of man’s history on account of the mystery of the Redemption, we believe that nobody else can bring us as Mary can into the divine and human dimension of this mystery. Nobody has been brought into it by God himself as Mary has. It is in this that the exceptional character of the grace of the divine Motherhood consists. Not only is the dignity of this Motherhood unique and unrepeatable in the history of the human race, but Mary’s participation, due to this Maternity, in God’s plan for man’s salvation through the mystery of the Redemption is also unique in profundity and range of action

The special characteristic of the motherly love that the Mother of God inserts in the mystery of the Redemption and the life of the Church finds expression in its exceptional closeness to man and all that happens to him. It is in this that the mystery of the Mother consists. The Church, which looks to her with altogether special love and hope, wishes to make this mystery her own in an ever deeper manner. For in this the Church also recognizes the way for her daily life, which is each person.

The Father’s eternal love, which has been manifested in the history of mankind through the Son whom the Father gave, ‘that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,’ comes close to each of us through this Mother and thus takes on tokens that are of more easy understanding and access by each person. Consequently, Mary must be in all the ways of the Church’s daily life. Through her maternal presence the Church acquires certainty that she is truly living the life of her Master and Lord and that she is living the mystery of the Redemption in all its life-giving profundity and fullness {footnote}Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II (Rome: Liberaria Editrice Vaticana) hereafter cited as Inseg II/1 (1979) 607-608 (U.S.C.C. Edition 97, 98). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

While the Pope does not speak explicitly here of Mary’s mediation in Christ, he lays a solid foundation for understanding it which I would summarize in the following points: 1) In accord with the great tradition, he emphasizes the uniqueness of Our Lady’s divine maternity and her participation in the mystery of the Redemption. 2) He declares that the eternal love of the Father, manifested through the Son, comes close to us through the Mother. He presents it as axiomatic that “no one can bring us into the divine and human mystery of the Redemption as Mary can” precisely because “nobody has been brought into it by God himself as Mary has.” Although he would draw out the nature of this maternal mediation and its mode of operation at much greater length in the third part of his Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater (#38-47) {footnote}For an excellent study on Marian mediation in Redemptoris Mater, cf. Manfred Hauke, “La Mediazione materna di Maria secondo papa Giovanni Paolo II,” Maria Corredentrice: Storia e Teologia VII (Frigento: Casa Mariana Editrice, 2005) hereafter cited as Hauke 35-91, esp. 42-45.{/footnote} and in many other instances, as we shall see, the foundation already appears here: “Mary’s participation … in God’s plan for man’s salvation … is … unique in profundity and range of action.” 3) Thus he concludes that Mary must be in all the ways of the Church’s daily life. Without using the classical terminology, the Pope had gracefully sketched Marian coredemption and mediation of grace in this magnificent text.

In #9 of his next Encyclical, Dives in Misericordia of 30 November 1980, the Pope presented Mary as the Mother of Mercy, underscoring that she was uniquely called to bring people close to the mystery of mercy:

Mary is also the one who obtained mercy in a particular and exceptional way, as no other person has. At the same time, still in an exceptional way, she made possible with the sacrifice of her heart her own sharing in revealing God’s mercy. This sacrifice is intimately linked with the cross of her Son, at the foot of which she was to stand on Calvary. Her sacrifice is a unique sharing in the revelation of mercy, that is, a sharing in the absolute fidelity of God to His own love, to the covenant that He willed from eternity and that He entered into in time with man, with the people, with humanity; it is a sharing in that revelation that was definitively fulfilled through the cross. No one has experienced, to the same degree as the Mother of the crucified One, the mystery of the cross, the overwhelming encounter of divine transcendent justice with love: that ‘kiss’ given by mercy to justice. No one has received into his heart, as much as Mary did, that mystery, that truly divine dimension of the redemption effected on Calvary by means of the death of the Son, together with the sacrifice of her maternal heart, together with her definitive ‘fiat.’ Mary, then, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the Mother of mercy: Our Lady of mercy, or Mother of divine mercy; in each one of these titles there is a deep theological meaning, for they express the special preparation of her soul, of her whole personality, so that she was able to perceive, through the complex events, first of Israel, then of every individual and of the whole of humanity, that mercy of which ‘from generation to generation’ people become sharers according to the eternal design of the most Holy Trinity.

The above titles which we attribute to the Mother of God speak of her principally, however, as the Mother of the crucified and risen One; as the One who, having obtained mercy in an exceptional way, in an equally exceptional way ‘merits’ that mercy throughout her earthly life and, particularly, at the foot of the cross of her Son; and finally as the One who, through her hidden and at the same time incomparable sharing in the messianic mission of her Son, was called in a special way to bring close to people that love which He had come to reveal {footnote}Inseg III/2 (1980) 1510-1511 (St. Paul Edition 30-31). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

With a few bold strokes, the Pope sketches once again Mary’s insertion in the mystery of Christ and her unique role in the work of our redemption. 1) He begins by stating that she “obtained mercy in a particular and exceptional way, as no other person has,” thus alluding to the preservative redemption of her Immaculate Conception. 2) Then he states that “the sacrifice of her heart” … “is a unique sharing in the revelation of mercy,” thus alluding to her intimate union with Jesus in the offering of his perfect sacrifice on Calvary  {footnote}“The Heart of Mary as Coredemptrix in the Magisterium of Pope John Paul II” in S. Tommaso Teologo: Ricerche in occasione dei due centenari accademici (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana “Studi Tomistici” #59, 1995) 320-335.{/footnote}. 3) “No one” he insists “has experienced, to the same degree as the Mother of the crucified One, the mystery of the cross,” hence “she knows its price” ({footnote}On Our Lady’s knowledge of the price (pretium) of the redemption, cf. St. Bonaventure, Collationes de septem donis Spiritus Sancti, 6 in Doctoris seraphici S. Bonaventuræ … Opera Omnia, vol 5, ed PP. Collegii a S. Bonaventura (Ad Claras Aquas (Quaracchi): Ex Typographia Collegii S. Bonaventuræ, 1891) p. 486.{/footnote}4) “Having obtained mercy in an exceptional way, in an equally exceptional way” the Mother of mercy “‘merits’ (‘meretur’) that mercy throughout her earthly life and, particularly, at the foot of the cross of her Son” {footnote}Cf. St. Pius X’s Encyclical Ad Diem Illum of 2 February 1904 in which he speaks of how Mary merited («promeruit») to become the reparatrix of the lost world and how she merits (promeret) de congruo what Christ merits de condigno (Acta Sanctæ Sedis hereafter cited as AAS 36 (1903-1904) 453-454 (OL #233-234). For a discussion of this terminology cf. Juniper B. Carol, OFM, “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” in Mariology 2:383, 409-411.5) Thus Mary “was called in a special way” to bring to people that love which Jesus “had come to reveal”  {footnote}This seems to parallel without the use of more technical language St. Pius X’s conclusion about Mary as princeps largiendarum gratiarum ministra in Ad Diem Illum. Cf. ASS 36 (1903-1904) 454 (OL #234).{/footnote}Without exaggerating or stretching the point, we are surely not mistaken in seeing Mary’s unique participation in the work of redemption and her mediation of grace in this graceful yet dense exposition.



IV. Mary’s Maternal Mediation in Christ in Redemptoris Mater

In his Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, John Paul would deal explicitly and at length with the concept of Mary’s mediation in Christ. He would do so using and maximizing the very texts of Lumen Gentium chapter 8 which Vatican II triumphalists like to use to minimize and neutralize Mary’s role. Without explicit reference to the magisterium of his predecessors on this matter, his detailed analysis of chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium in the third part of Redemptoris Mater was a real tour de force and brought the topic of Mary’s mediation to the fore once again after the Marian “eclipse” which began in the immediate post-conciliar period and which, at least in part, is directly attributable to the minimalist interpretations which were all too readily accepted in the theological community and among pastors as providing the authoritative explanation of the conciliar doctrine. This encyclical might be described in every sense as a document issued motu proprio, that is on the Pope’s own initiative. While it might be seen as developing from the brilliant Marian passages developed in the first two Trinitarian encyclicals, Redemptor Hominis of 4 March 1979, and Dives in Misericordia of 30 November 1980, as we have seen above, there is further ample evidence that it was very much the fruit of the Pope’s own reflection and prayer. In his general audience address of 25 March 1987, he stated:

I announced it (the encyclical) on the first of January and it is being published in preparation for the Marian Year.

I have been thinking of it for a long time. I have pondered it at length in my heart. Now I thank the Lord for having granted me to offer this service to the sons and daughters of the Church, in answer to the expectations signaled to me from various quarters.

This Encyclical is essentially a meditation on the revelation of the mystery of salvation, which was communicated to Mary at the dawn of Redemption, and in which she was called to participate and collaborate in a completely exceptional and extraordinary way.

It is a meditation which reviews and in part carefully examines the teaching of the Second Vatican Council as contained in the eighth chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, entitled ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and of the Church.’ …

The Encyclical expresses the universality of Christ’s Redemption and the universality of the Virgin Mary’s motherhood {footnote}Inseg X/1 (1987) 807-809 (ORE 981:23). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

On the Pope’s very explicit authorship of Redemptoris Mater, we have the further corroboration of René Laurentin:

The Holy Father personally wrote this encyclical in Polish. He submitted the Italian translation (of the draft document) to representatives of a number of Roman congregations or offices (Faith, Christian Unity, Evangelization) as well as the Roman universities (Marianum, Gregorian) and so on. However, he incorporated only a few suggestions and steadfastly maintained the direction and coherence of the document {footnote}Rene Laurentin, A Year of Grace with Mary trans. Michael J. Wrenn (Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1987) 150.{/footnote}.

I can personally testify to the dissatisfaction of a member of one of the faculties mentioned above, who stated to me that Redemptoris Mater would have been a far better document if the Pope had followed the advice of his faculty. So much for the frustration of Vatican II triumphalists and their unwillingness to heed the Pope’s authoritative elucidation of the Marian teaching of Vatican II!

I will not attempt here a lengthy exegesis of the third part of Redemptoris Mater, which deals explicitly with “Maternal Mediation,” but for the purposes of this study I would like to signal these highly significant passages in #38 and 39:

The teaching of the Second Vatican Council presents the truth of Mary’s mediation as ‘a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself .’ Thus we read: ‘The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. She experiences it continuously and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that, encouraged by this maternal help, they may more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer’ (Lumen Gentium, #62). This role is at the same time special and extraordinary. It flows from her divine motherhood and can be understood and lived in faith only on the basis of the full truth of this motherhood. Since by virtue of divine election Mary is the earthly Mother of the Father’s consubstantial Son and his ‘generous companion’ in the work of redemption ‘she is a mother to us in the order of grace’ (Lumen Gentium, #61). This role constitutes a real dimension of her presence in the saving mystery of Christ and the Church

For it must be recognized that before anyone else it was God himself, the Eternal Father, who entrusted himself to the Virgin of Nazareth, giving her his own Son in the mystery of the Incarnation. Her election to the supreme office and dignity of Mother of the Son of God refers, on the ontological level, to the very reality of the union of the two natures in the person of the Word (hypostatic union). This basic fact of being the Mother of the Son of God is from the very beginning a complete openness to the person of Christ, to his whole work, to his whole mission …

Mary entered, in a way all her own, into the one mediation ‘between God and men’ which is the mediation of the man Christ Jesus. If she was the first to experience within herself the supernatural consequences of this one mediation—in the Annunciation she had been greeted as ‘full of grace’—then we must say that through this fullness of grace and supernatural life she was especially predisposed to cooperation with Christ, the one Mediator of human salvation. And such cooperation is precisely this mediation subordinated to the mediation of Christ.

In Mary’s case we have a special and exceptional mediation, based upon her ‘fullness of grace,’ which was expressed in the complete willingness of the ‘handmaid of the Lord.’ In response to this interior willingness of his Mother, Jesus Christ prepared her ever more completely to become for all people their ‘mother in the order of grace.’{footnote}Inseg X/1 (1987) 725-727 (St. Paul Editions 54-56). Emphasis in the first two paragraphs my own.{/footnote}

From these very rich passages—and without doubt there are many more—I would like to make the following points: 1) Mary’s mediation is clearly presented as “a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself.” This is hardly a new truth, but it is one which the council put in clear relief and which the Pope consistently stressed. 2) It was the Pope’s genius to present this truth in his first two encyclicals in terms of “Mary’s presence in the mystery of Christ.” In Redemptoris Mater he further expanded this concept in speaking of her mediation as “a real dimension of her presence in the saving mystery of Christ and the Church.” 3) While his predecessors had already clearly spoken of Mary’s role in the distribution of graces as a result of her collaboration in the work of our redemption, in Redemptoris Mater John Paul II stressed that, even prior to this, there is already a basis for Mary’s mediation “on the ontological level,” i.e., that it flows intrinsically from her role in the Incarnation. In effect, he is arguing from “the joint predestination of Jesus and Mary” which he had already insisted on in #8 of the encyclical, declaring that “In the mystery of Christ she is present even ‘before the creation of the world,’ as the one whom the Father ‘has chosen’ as Mother of his Son in the Incarnation” {footnote}Inseg X/1 (1987) 687 (St. Paul Editions 14).{/footnote} This principal had been known for hundreds of years as the Franciscan thesis {footnote}Cf. Peter Damian Fehlner, OFMConv., “Fr. Juniper B. Carol, OFM: His Mariology and Scholarly Achievement” in Marian Studies XLIII (1992) 22-29.{/footnote} and finally passed into the magisterium in Blessed Pius IX’s Ineffabilis Deus {footnote}Cf. Totus Tuus 201, note 41.{/footnote}. It was also clearly enunciated in #61 of Lumen Gentium thusly:

The predestination of the Blessed Virgin as Mother of God was associated with the Incarnation of the divine word: in the designs of divine Providence she was the gracious mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord {footnotes}Flannery 418.{/footnotes}.

4) Precisely on this ontological basis which recognizes Mary as indissolubly linked to Jesus in the eternal plans of God as both Mother and Associate, he would characterize her mediation as “maternal.” After analyzing the first two parts of the encyclical, Dr. Manfred Hauke points out what constitutes the specific newness in the Pope’s treatment of the “maternal mediation” of the Mother of God in the third part of the encyclical:

Here we don’t simply have a new (or old, ‘pre-conciliar’) accessory element, juxtaposed to the conciliar teaching; rather Mary’s mediation is intimately linked to the mystery of Christ and of the Church …

No other magisterial document treats the mediation of Mary in Christ so amply. The most important formulations on Mary’s mediation are found from time to time under the christological sign in the biblical considerations on the ‘testament of the cross of Jesus’ (Jn 19:26 ff; RM, 20-24) and in the first section of the third part specifically dedicated to Mary’s mediation (RM, 38-41). The doctrine of ‘Mary’s maternal mediation’ in Christ is connected with the theme of consecration to Mary, which in a certain sense is the heart of the Pope’s mariology and has found the greatest attention in the scientific studies on the Marian doctrine of the Holy Father {footnote}Hauke 44-45 (my trans.).{/footnote}.

As Manfred Hauke rightly points out, the importance of the doctrine of Our Lady’s mediation is surely an indispensable factor in the Pope’s Marian magisterium. Along with the classic scholastic understanding of analogy, it is one of the two foundations grounding Marian consecration {footnote}Cf. Totus Tuus 159-188.{/footnote}.

By way of summary, we may say that the Pope’s treatment of Mary’s “maternal mediation in Christ” is his most premeditated contribution to the topic of Marian mediation and that which has been most noted in the academic world, but, as we shall see, by no means his only one. With Redemptoris Mater he gave a legitimacy to this subject which had been virtually treated as a non-issue in mariological circles after the Council.


V. Mary’s Mediation in the Father’s Plan

As we have already noted, Pope John Paul II had declared in #8 of Redemptoris Mater that “In the mystery of Christ (Mary) is present even ‘before the creation of the world,’ as the one whom the Father ‘has chosen’ as Mother of his Son in the Incarnation” {footnote}Inseg X/1 (1987) 687 (St. Paul Editions 14).{/footnote}. Now let us see in more detail how he develops this insight and what he derives from it.

In his homily of 15 September 1984, at Toronto’s Downsview Airport, he spoke thus:

Eternal Wisdom came into the world and was spoken in the Son who became Man and was born of the Virgin Mary.

Eternal Wisdom embraced then from the very beginning also Mary when it assiged the Son’s dwelling place on the earth: ‘Pitch your tent in Jacob, make Israel your inheritance’ (Sir 24:13). For she is the daughter of Israel; she is from the line of Jacob. She is the Mother of the Messiah!

How marvellously are the words of the Book of Sirach fulfilled in her—an unknown and hidden Virgin of Nazareth: ‘From eternity, in the beginning, he created me, and for eternity I shall remain’ (Sir 24:19). You, beloved Daughter of God our Father—you were truly foreseen from eternity in Divine Wisdom, since from eternity by this Wisdom the Son was given to us.

You, beloved Mother of God’s Son!

You, Virgin Spouse of the Holy Spirit!

You, who dwell in the tabernacle of the Most Holy Trinity!

Truly, you will never cease to be in the very heart of the Divine Plan.

And that which Wisdom proclaims further on in Sirach is also true: ‘I ministered before him in the holy tabernacle, and thus was I established on Zion … and in Jerusalem I wield my authority’ (Sir 24:10, 11).

Eternal Wisdom caused all this. And in time eternal Wisdom concealed it—to the point of the emptying that took place on the Cross of Christ. But right there—at the Cross of Christ—eternal Wisdom revealed both your service and your power! And it did so with the words: ‘This is your mother!

The only one who hears these words is John, and yet in him all people hear them— everyone and each one.

Mother, this is your service, your holy service!

Mother, this is your power!

By means of this holy service, the most holy service, through this motherly power you ‘took root in an honoured people, in the portion of the Lord, who is their inheritance’ (Sir 41:13).

All of us desire to have you as a Mother, for as such you were left to us by Christ lifted up on the Cross. And this act of his was the fruit of eternal Wisdom. All of us desire your motherly service which conquers hearts, and we long for this power which is the motherly service born from the whole mystery of Christ.

The title Sorrowful Mother means precisely this. Alma Socia Christi means precisely this, for you have been associated with Christ in his whole mystery, which eternal Wisdom reveals and in which we desire to share ever more deeply: ‘They who eat me will hunger for more. They who drink me will thirst for more’ (Sir 42:21) {footnote}Inseg VII/2 (1984) 553-555 (ORE 855:8). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.


While this is, indeed, a somewhat lengthy and poetic text, it is also extremely rich in dogmatic content. (Indeed, one wonders how much it might have been appreciated by those who first heard it in the excited atmosphere of a first papal visit to Canada!) Let us note that 1) the Pope is using texts from the Book of Sirach which frequently appeared in Marian Masses, in the Roman Breviary, and in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary before the liturgical reform subsequent to the Second Vatican Council, but whose Marian resonance is almost totally discounted at the moment; 2) these texts are recognized as having Christ as the primary point of reference; 3) the Church for centuries also understood that by analogy these texts also referred to Mary {footnote}Cf. Stefano M. Manelli, F.I., All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology Revised and Enlarged Second Edition trans. by Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I. (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005) 105, 420; Louis Bouyer, The Seat of Wisdom: An essay on the place of the Virgin Mary in Christian theology trans. A. V. Littledale (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962) 45-48.{/footnote}.In this case the Pope boldly, but correctly reappropriated them in the light of Mary’s “presence ‘even before the creation of the world’ in the mystery of Christ.”

Now let us examine what he said. 1) Mary was “truly foreseen from eternity in Divine Wisdom”—thus inseparable from the mystery of the Incarnate Word. 2) Mary “will never cease to be in the very heart of the Divine Plan.” 3) From the Cross, Christ, “Eternal Wisdom, revealed both Mary’s service and her power” with the words, “This is your Mother.” 4) Mary has been given a “holy service” and a “motherly power.” 5) “This power … is the motherly service born from the whole mystery of Christ.” 6) By referring to Mary as “Sorrowful Mother” and “Alma Socia Christi” the Pope clearly alludes to Mary’s sharing in the work of the Redemption from which all graces flow.

In a general audience address of 12 January 2000, the Holy Father stated:

Completing our reflection on Mary at the end of the series of catecheses devoted to the Father, today we want to stress her role in our journey to the Father.

He himself willed Mary’s presence in salvation history. When he decided to send his Son into the world, he wanted him to come to us by being born of a woman (cf. Gal 4:4). Thus he willed that this woman, the first to receive his Son, should communicate him to all humanity.

Mary is therefore found on the path that leads from the Father to humanity as the mother who gives the Saviour Son to all. At the same time, she is on the path that men must take in order to go to the Father through Christ in the Spirit (cf. Eph 2:18).

To understand Mary’s presence on our journey to the Father, we must recognize with all the Churches that Christ is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ (Jn 14:6) and the only Mediator between God and men (cf. 1 Tim 2:5). Mary is involved in Christ’s unique mediation and is totally at its service … Viewed in this way, Mary’s mediation appears as the most sublime fruit of Christ’s mediation and is essentially directed to bringing us into a more intimate and profound encounter with him {footnote}Inseg XXIII/1 (2000) 53-54 (ORE 1626:11 (alt.)). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

Now let us summarize the salient points found here: 1) The Father “himself willed Mary’s presence in salvation history.” 2) The Father specifically willed her “role in our journey to him.” 3) The Father “willed that this woman, the first to receive his Son, should communicate him to all humanity.” Here let us note that, according to the Pope, Mary’s mediatorial role is willed by the Father so that Mary “should communicate Jesus to all humanity.” 4) Just as Mary is “found on the path that leads from the Father to humanity” so at the same time “she is on the path that men must take in order to go to the Father through Christ in the Spirit.” 5) Since “she is on the path that men must take in order to go to the Father through Christ,” she can certainly be called a “Mediatrix with the Mediator” as the Pope himself, citing Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, had already pointed out in a footnote in Redemptoris Mater {footnote}Inseg X/1 (1987) 725, note 237 (St. Paul Editions 78, note 96). The formula used is Mediatrix «ad Mediatorem».{/footnote}.6) The goal of Mary’s mediation “is essentially directed to bringing us into a more intimate and profound encounter with him.” 7) This text in a certain sense continues to develop those Marian passages pregnant with meaning which we have already cited from Redemptor Hominis and Dives in Misericordia.


VI. Marian Coredemption and Mediation

We have already provided some classic texts from the papal magisterium indicating how Mary’s distribution of the graces of the redemption flows from her active collaboration in the work of the redemption or how the second phase of Marian mediation flows from the first. (Of course, we also recognize that this kind of scholastic terminology has already been strictly proscribed according to the tenets of “Vatican II triumphalism”.) Let us now take note of how John Paul II illustrated this concept.

In his general audience address of 30 June 1993, the Pope made this point:

Mary was uniquely associated with Christ’s priestly sacrifice, sharing his will to save the world by the cross. She was the first to share spiritually in his offering as Sacerdos et Hostia, and did so most perfectly. As such, she can obtain and give grace to those who share in her Son’s priesthood on the ministerial level, the grace moving them to respond ever more fully to the demands of spiritual oblation that the priesthood entails: in particular, the grace of faith, hope, and perseverance in trials, recognized as a challenge to share more generously in the redemptive sacrifice {footnote}.

Here, we can readily recognize the familiar pattern: Mary was the first to share in Christ’s priestly sacrifice and she did so most perfectly; therefore “she can obtain and give grace to those who share in her Son’s priesthood on the ministerial level.” Of course this is not a declaration that Mary is limited to obtaining and giving grace only to priests. The entire general audience address was given to the theme of “Marian devotion in the life of the priest” and so the Pope deemed it appropriate to underscore the priestly dimension of Christ’s sacrifice in which Mary was the first and most perfect participant. In fact, this line of thought follows closely upon the statement in Lumen Gentium #62 that:

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 cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source {footnote}Flannery 419. In his Encyclical Fidentem Piumque of 20 September 1896 Pope Leo XIII developed a similar line of reasoning with regard to the superiority of Mary’s mediation to that of priests of both the Old and New Testament. (ASS 29 (1896-1897) 206; OL #194){/footnote}.

John Paul continued to reflect on the correlation between Marian coredemption and mediation in #120 of his Encyclical Veritatis Splendor of 6 August 1993 in this way:

Mary is also Mother of Mercy because it is to her that Jesus entrusts his Church and all humanity. At the foot of the Cross, when she accepts John as her son, when she asks, together with Christ, forgiveness from the Father for those who do not know what they do (cf. Lk 23:34), Mary experiences, in perfect docility to the Spirit, the richness and the universality of God’s love, which opens her heart and enables it to embrace the entire human race. Thus Mary becomes Mother of each and every one of us, the Mother who obtains for us divine mercy

Until the time of his birth, she sheltered in her womb the Son of God who became man; she raised him and enabled him to grow, and she accompanied him in that supreme act of freedom which is the complete sacrifice of his own life. By the gift of herself, Mary entered fully into the plan of God who gives himself to the world

Mary shares our human condition, but in complete openness to the grace of God. Not having known sin, she is able to have compassion on every kind of weakness. She understands sinful man and loves him with a Mother’s love {footnote}Inseg XVI/2 (1993) 273, 274 (ORE 1310:XVIII-XIX). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

Again I will limit myself to underscoring what I see as the major points here. 1) Mary accompanied Jesus “in that supreme act of freedom which is the complete sacrifice of his own life” and thus “By the gift of herself, she entered fully into the plan of God who gives himself to the world.” This echoes the classic formulation of Marian coredemption that she offered Jesus and offered herself in union with him for the redemption of the world, but it does so in a very graceful way, emphasizing that this was a part of God’s divine plan. 2) Because of this cooperation Mary is “the Mother who obtains for us divine mercy” and “she is able to have compassion on every kind of weakness.” Clearly this declaration that she obtains mercy for us is simply another way of saying that she obtains grace for us. 3) We also find that thought—brought to full completion by the Pope in this magnificent doctrinal formulation—which he had already established in Dives in Misericordia, i.e., that Mary is the

One who, having obtained mercy in an exceptional way, in an equally exceptional way ‘merits’ that mercy throughout her earthly life and, particularly, at the foot of the cross of her Son; and finally as the one who, through her hidden and at the same time incomparable sharing in the messianic mission of her Son, was called in a special way to bring close to people that love which He had come to reveal {footnote}Inseg III/2 (1980) 1511 (St. Paul Edition 31).{/footnote}.


VII. The Reverser of the Curse

I now wish to consider some striking texts in which the Holy Father presents Mary as the “New Eve.” I have already presented some of his most important magisterial texts on this fundamental theme in other places {footnote}Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “Pope John Paul II’s Teaching on Marian Coredemption” in Mark I. Miravalle, STD., (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997) 126-132; “Pope John Paul II’s Ordinary Magisterium on Marian Coredemption: Consistent Teaching and More Recent Perspectives” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross—II: Acts of the Second International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2002) 13-16; TTMM 203-216.{/footnote}.The ones which follow, however, I have not previously commented on and these have a special bearing on Our Lady’s role as the “one who reverses the curse.” Just as Eve’s sin was instrumental in bringing about the loss of grace, so was Mary’s opposite activity in bringing about its restoration {footnote}On this theme cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “Maria Reparatrix: Tradition, Magisterium, Liturgy” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross—III: Maria, Mater Unitatis. Acts of the Third International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2003) 223-258.{/footnote}.

In his homily at Second Vespers at St. Mary Major’s on 8 December 1985, concluding the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, the Holy Father said:

Precisely where, in the heart of a woman— Eve—sin abounded, in the heart of woman—Mary—grace abounded all the more. The grace which comes to humanity through Mary is much more abundant than the harm which comes from the sin of our progenitors. In Mary as in no other human creature we see the triumph of grace over sin; we see the fulfillment of the prophecy contained in Genesis (cf. Gen 3:15) of the ‘seed of the woman’ that ‘crushes the head’ of the infernal serpent {footnote}Inseg VIII/2 (1985) 1458 (ORE 917:10). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

On 16 June 1999, John Paul II gave an address in his hometown of Wadowice in which he said:

The Son of God came into the world to accomplish the Father’s saving plan, to bring about the redemption of man and restore him to the sonship which he had lost. In this mystery Mary has a special place. God called her to become the woman by whom the original sin of the first woman would be undone. In a certain sense God needed this mediation of Mary. He needed her free consent, her obedience and her devotion, in order to reveal fully his eternal love for humanity {footnote}Inseg XXII/1 (1999) 1391 (ORE 1599:8). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

1) Note how he begins with a formulation of a doctrine that can be traced back to Saints Justin Martyr and Irenaeus: “God called her to become the woman by whom the original sin of the first woman would be undone.” 2) Next comes the seemingly audacious declaration that “in a certain sense God needed this mediation.” This certainly hearkens back to the classic doctrine of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, of whom the Pope has frequently declared his discipleship {footnote}Cf. Totus Tuus 31, 64-66, 74, 131-132, 187-188, 260-261, 266 and also Fr. Etienne Richer’s study published in this volume.{/footnote},that “being necessary to God by a necessity which is called ‘hypothetical’ (that is, because God so willed it), the Blessed Virgin is all the more necessary for men to attain their final end” {footnote}True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin #39 in God Alone: The Collected Writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort (Bay Shore, NY: Montfort Publications, 1988) 300.{/footnote}.This, of course, only seems audacious if one has not been paying attention to the Pope’s constant insistence about Mary’s role being willed in God’s eternal plan. God’s “need” of Mary is not absolute because God needs no one outside of himself, but he has “willed” to need Mary as a part of his plan for humanity. The Pope was very clear about this aspect of Montfort’s teaching in his address to the Eighth Mariological Theological Colloquium on St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort on 13 October 2000 when he said:

By relating the Mother of Christ to the Trinitarian mystery, Montfort helped me to understand that the Virgin belongs to the plan of salvation, by the Father’s will, as the Mother of the incarnate Word, who was conceived by her through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s every intervention in the work of the regeneration of the faithful is not in competition with Christ, but derives from him and is at his service. Mary’s action in the plan of salvation is always Christocentric, that is, it is directly related to a mediation that takes place in Christ. I then realized that I could not exclude the Mother of the Lord from my life without disregarding the will of God-the-Trinity, who wanted to ‘begin and complete’ the great mysteries of salvation history with the responsible and faithful collaboration of the humble Handmaid of Nazareth {footnote}Inseg XXIII/2 (2000) 593 (ORE 1665:5).{/footnote}.

3) As Eve’s disobedience brought about sin, disorder, and suffering, so God needed Mary’s free consent, obedience, and devotion “in order to reveal fully his eternal love for humanity.” Thus as Eve became a vessel of wrath (cf. Rom 9:22), Mary became a vessel of God’s eternal love.

In his Angelus address on the Feast of the Assumption of that same year, 1999, the Pope made an interesting reference to Mary’s mediation or reparation on behalf of Eve which reflects the thought of St. Irenaeus on Mary as the “advocate of Eve”: {footnote}Adversus Hæreses 5, 19.{/footnote}

Now from heaven, where the Queen of the angels and saints is crowned, the Mother of God and of the Church is close to the Christian people before whom she shines as the ‘new and immaculate woman (who) mediated for the guilt of the first woman’ (Sacramentarium Gregorianum, Præfatio in Assumpt., n. 1688) {footnote}Inseg XXII/2 (1999) 163 (ORE 1605:3 (alt.)). The word translated as “mediated” is actually riparò.{/footnote}.

In this case he draws no explicit conclusion about the effects of this mediation, but clearly indicates Mary’s role as reversing the curse.

In his Regina Cæli address on 22 April 2001, which was also “Divine Mercy Sunday” he was more explicit. He said:

As we approach the conclusion of the solemn Eucharistic celebration, let us turn our gaze to Mary Most Holy, whom we call upon today with the sweetest name of ‘Mater misericordiæ.’ Mary is ‘Mother of mercy,’ because she is the Mother of Jesus in whom God revealed to the world his ‘heart’ overflowing with love.

God’s compassion for man is communicated to the world precisely through the Virgin Mary’s motherhood. Mary’s motherhood, which began in Nazareth through the work of the Holy Spirit, was fulfilled in the Easter mystery, when she was closely associated with the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the divine Son. At the foot of the Cross Our Lady became mother of the disciples of Christ, mother of the Church and of all humanity. ‘Mater misericordiæ’ {footnote}Inseg XXIV/1 (2001) 762 (ORE 1690:2).{/footnote}.

Here, let us carefully note three points: 1) The Pope says that “God’s compassion for man is communicated to the world precisely through the Virgin Mary’s motherhood” i.e., it comes to us through the mediation of Mary. 2) According to him, there are two phases of this motherhood: that of the Son of God which began in Nazareth, that of her spiritual children which was consummated at the foot of the Cross. 3) It was also there that she became “Mother of mercy,” the mother through whom grace comes to us.



VIII. Mediatrix of All Graces

Did John Paul II actually teach that Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces? Remember that Father Calabuig had declared that this phrase is no longer acceptable since, “although recurring in papal documents previous to the Council, (it was) the object of dispute among theologians” and therefore is to be avoided {footnote}Calabuig 155.{/footnote}.Such a statement obviously betrays little respect for the papal magisterium, but much for theologians, especially those who question the magisterium. Did John Paul II heed this admonition? For those who have not followed his reasoning closely, the answer might seem to be “yes,” but, in fact, it is “no.” Clearly he did speak of Mary as Mediatrix of all graces—in line with his predecessors and with a certain frequency.

A. Let us first review his explicit verbal references to Mary as Mediatrix of all graces or of every grace.

1. On 1 December 1978 in his address to the General Council, Provincial Superiors and Directors of the Italian Institutes of the Congregation of St. Joseph (Giuseppini of St. Leonard Murialdo) he said:

We cannot conclude without addressing the Blessed Virgin, so loved and venerated by Murialdo, who had recourse to her as the Universal Mediatrix of all grace. The thought of Mary returned continually in his letters. In them he inculcated the recitation of the rosary, entrusted his sons with spreading devotion to the Holy Virgin, and stated: ‘If one wishes to do a little good among the young, one must instill love for Mary in them.’ The beneficial work carried out by your Founder is the best confirmation of this. So follow his example in this matter too {footnote}Inseg I (1978) 250 (Talks of John Paul II (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1979) 370).{/footnote}.

2. In addressing young people on 30 August 1980 at Our Lady’s Shrine on Mount Roio, he said:

I conclude by entrusting you to the Virgin Mary, to whom St. Bernardine was extremely devoted and whom, it can be said, he went proclaiming all over Italy every day. Having lost his own mother, he chose Our Lady as his mother and always lavished his affection on her and trusted completely in her. He became the singer of Mary’s beauty, it can be affirmed, and preaching her mediation with inspired love, he was not afraid to state: ‘Every grace that is given to men proceeds from a triple ordained cause: from God it passes to Christ, from Christ it passes to the Virgin, from the Virgin it is given to us’ (Sermo VI in festis B.V.M. de Annun. a. 1, c. 2).

Turn to her every day with confidence and with love, and ask her for the grace of the beauty of your soul and of your life, of what alone can make you happy {footnote}Inseg III/2 (1980) 495 (ORE 648:3).{/footnote}.

3. On 27 September 1982, he exhorted seminarians at the Basilica of Our Lady of Graces in Brescia: “Entrust yourselves always with great confidence to Mary Immaculate, dispenser of every grace, to whom this fine seminary of yours is dedicated” {footnote}Inseg V/3 (1982) 601 (ORE 755:8).{/footnote}.

4. In his Angelus address of 17 January 1988, he said:

Another centre of Marian devotion worthy of mention is the Church dedicated to Our Lady in Meadi, on the outskirts of Cairo, on the banks of the Nile. The Church seems to have been built in the fifth century, even if, in the course of the centuries and in modern times, it has been modified and restored. It is entrusted to the Coptic-Orthodox Christians, and many pilgrims continuously come to this sanctuary to entrust their intentions to the Mediatrix of all graces {footnote}Inseg XI/1 (1988) 119 (ORE 1023:5).{/footnote}.

5. In his homily for Octave of Easter, 10 April 1988, in the Roman parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, he said:

In this Marian Year, your parish, which is placed under the patronage of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, Redemptoris Mater, has an extra reason for renewing and strengthening its own devotion towards her, the Mediatrix of all graces, our Advocate with her Son Jesus and the Help of Christians. Call upon her, honour her, draw close to her. She will hear you and will obtain for you whatever good you desire {footnote}Inseg XI/1 (1988) 863 (ORE 1036:11).{/footnote}.

6. In his reflection at the Shrine of Our Lady of Graces in Benevento on 2 July 1990, he stated:

With loving intuition from ancient times you have been able to grasp the mystery of Mary, as mediatrix of all graces, because she is the Mother of the very Author of Grace, Jesus Christ. That is why the people of Benevento throughout the ages have turned and continue to turn to her, invoking her not only as ‘Our Lady of Graces,’ but often also as ‘Our Lady of Grace’ {footnote}Inseg XIII/2 (1990) 17 (ORE 1148:2).{/footnote}.

7. On 18 September 1994, in his Angelus address in Lecce, he said:

From the city of Lecce, honoured by the name of Civitas mariana, I raise my prayer to you today, Most Holy Virgin. I do so among this beloved people of Apulia, who venerate you with deep devotion and hail you as the Mother of all Graces. You who go before us on the pilgrimage of faith, accompany the Successor of Peter on today’s visit which is a further step in the ‘Great Prayer for Italy

Watch over each with assiduous care, and pour an abundance of your gifts on all, O Queen without the stain of sin, O Mother of all Graces, O Virgin Mary!{footnote}Inseg XVII/2 (1994) 344-345 (ORE 1358:8-9).{/footnote}


8. On 28 June 1996, in his address to the General Chapter of the Mercedarian Sisters of Charity, he prayed:

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, invoked with the title ‘de las Mercedes,’ assist you and lead you to frequent encounters with her divine Son in the Eucharistic mystery. May she, true Ark of the New Covenant and Mediatrix of all graces, teach you to love him as she loved him. May she also support you with her intercession in the various apostolic works in which you are involved {footnote}Inseg XIX/1 (1996) 1638 (ORE 1451:5).{/footnote}.

9. On 25 August 2001, the Holy Father introduced the Mass he was celebrating for Polish pilgrims in this way:

‘When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman …’ (Gal 4:4). This saving mystery, in which God has assigned to the woman, Mary of Nazareth, a role that cannot be replaced, is continually made present in the Eucharist. When we celebrate the Holy Mass, the Mother of the Son of God is in our midst and introduces us to the mystery of His redemptive sacrifice. Thus, she is the mediatrix of all the grace flowing from this sacrifice to the Church and to all the faithful {footnote}Inseg XXIV/2 (2001) 192 (ORE 1707:1). Emphasis my own. For the second part of the text beginning with “When we celebrate …”, I have followed the English translation from the Polish given in ORE 1776:V where it was quoted in the Instruction by the Congregation for the Clergy of 4 August 2002 “The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community”, #13.{/footnote}.

Of these nine instances, only in the first and the second is the Pope quoting someone else, St. Leonard Murialdo and St. Bernardine of Siena, but we have every reason to believe that his quotations of these saints were deliberate. In fact in the second case, later on the same day, 30 August 1980, in his address to priests, religious, and lay leaders at the Basilica of St. Bernardine, he further stated:

Let our service, dear brothers and sisters, which has the supreme aim of making men convinced of the heavenly Father’s love, be entrusted entirely to the Mother of God and our Mother, so greatly loved and celebrated by our Saint, who has expressions of extraordinary tenderness for her, admirably exalting her in her mission as bestower of grace {footnote}Inseg III/2 (1980) 503 (ORE 648:6).{/footnote}.

It could also be pointed out that in the ninth text cited above the Pope only states that Mary “is the mediatrix of all the grace flowing from this sacrifice (of the Mass) to the Church and to all the faithful,” but if this is the case with the greatest source of grace possible in this life, can we believe that this is less true through the other sacraments and in other circumstances?

B. Let us now consider references which speak of Our Lady as Mediatrix of grace. These do not speak of all graces, but may be seen to imply them.

1. On 31 May 1980, in the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, he prayed:

You obtain from God, for us, all these graces which are symbolized by the rays of light which radiate from your open hands. Provided only that we venture to ask you for them, that we approach you with the confidence, the boldness, the simplicity of a child. And it is in this way that you lead us incessantly towards your divine Son {footnote}Inseg III/1 (1980) 1544-1545 (France: Message of Peace, Trust, Love and Faith (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1980) 53-54).{/footnote}.

2. On 23 October 1980, in addressing the Bishops of Korea on the “ad limina” visit, he concluded thus:

And even as we endeavour to fulfil our weighty pastoral responsibilities, we are profoundly convinced that the destiny of God’s people is in the power of his grace, which in turn is abundantly dispensed through the hands of his Blessed Mother Mary. She has long presided over the evangelization of your people and will continue to lead you all to Christ Jesus her Son, and through him to the Father, to whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be praise and thanksgiving for ever and ever {footnote}Inseg III/2 (1980) 961.{/footnote}.

3. Commenting on the Gospel of the Visitation in the famous Servite Church of the Annunciation in Florence on 19 October 1986, to a group of sick people and volunteers, he said:

After having accepted the extraordinary message, Mary sets out for the mountain village where another woman finds herself in need …

Thus, as the one who maternally inspires vocations and distributes graces, she stands at the head of a host of volunteers, who for two thousand years have formed the uninterrupted chain of Christian solidarity and service to one’s neighbour {footnote}Inseg IX/2 (1986) 1107-1108 (ORE 963:8).{/footnote}.

4. In his Apostolic Letter of 5 June 1987, on the occasion of the Sixth Centenary of the “Baptism” of Lithuania, he wrote: “They (the faithful on pilgrimage) entrust themselves to her who Christ on the Cross, in a supreme act of love, gave us as Mother and Mediatrix of Grace” {footnote}Inseg X/2 (1987) 1972 (ORE 994:2).{/footnote}.5. In his Apostolic Letter Spiritus Domini of 1 August 1987, commemorating the bicentenary of the death of St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori, the Pope wrote:

Devotion to Mary occupies a totally unique place for him (St. Alphonsus) in the economy of salvation: Mary is the Mediatrix of grace and Companion in redemption; for this reason she is Mother, Advocate and Queen. In fact, Alphonsus did everything under her protection from the beginning of his life until his death {footnote}Inseg X/3 (1987) 145 (ORE 1001:5).{/footnote}.

6. On 28 February 1992, in his address to participants in the World Congress for Directors of Pilgrimage Shrines and Pilgrimage Leaders, he said:

I entrust you and your ministry to the care of Mary, Mediatrix of divine grace, Comfort of the afflicted, Star of the sea, Help of Christians, Refuge of sinners, Mother of those who go on pilgrimage from this earth to the eternal kingdom {footnote}Inseg XV/1 (1992) 491 (ORE 1231:2).{/footnote}.

7. In his message for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe of 8 May 1995, he wrote: “May Mary, the Mediatrix of grace, ever watchful and concerned for all her children, obtain for all humanity the precious gift of harmony and peace” {footnote}Inseg XVIII/1 (1995) 1250 (ORE 1391:4).{/foonote}.The Holy Father quoted these very words again in writing to Bishop Albert Houssiau of Liège, Belgium on 31 July 1999, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary in recognition of Our Lady’s apparition at Banneux {footnote}Inseg XXII/2 (1999) 92 (ORE 1606:2).{/footnote}.

8. In his Angelus address of 23 June 2002, Pope John Paul II declared that “Beside the merciful Heart of Christ, we venerate the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of grace and of salvation” {footnote}Inseg XXV/1 (2002) 1042 (ORE 1749:1).{/footnote}.

C. Let us also consider these beautiful papal texts which clearly imply that Mary is the chosen vessel for the distribution of graces.

1. In his Angelus address of 19 July 1987, he asked:

Who is it that calls us? It is the mysterious presence of Mary. The Immaculate Conception. The all Pure. The all Holy. The Full of Grace. She was conceived completely immaculate, because, according to the Angel’s greeting at the Annunciation, she is full of grace, totally free from original sin and its consequences.

Mary is thus an excellent and unique vehicle of Christ’s redemption. She is a most privileged channel of his grace, a chosen path by means of which grace comes to mankind with an extraordinary and marvellous abundance. Where Mary is present, grace abounds and people are healed both in body and soul {footnote}Inseg X/3 (1987) 97-98 (ORE 998:2). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

2. In his address of 22 February 1993, to the Bishops’ Conference of Ghana on the “ad limina” visit, he made this beautiful statement:

In your response to this challenge (the growth of sects and other new religious movements), you will want to foster sound devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the ‘Image and Mother of the Church’ (cf. Lumen Gentium, nn. 53, 63: Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine, nn. 25-27). As the ‘Health of the Sick’ and ‘Fountain of Salvation’ (ibid., 44, 31), she is the exemplar of the Church as the Saviour’s chosen means for communicating his gifts of grace and healing {footnote}Inseg XVI/1 (1993) 498-499 (ORE 1280:3). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

3. In his Message of 8 September 1995, to the Ordinary General Chapter of the Cistercian Order, he offered this profound exhortation, obviously fully endorsing St. Bernard of Clairvaux, its original formulator:

From this theological and spiritual approach there stems a deep and strong devotion to Our Lady, of which Bernard is the distinguished master and witness. ‘Do not forget,’ he teaches, ‘to make all that you decide to offer pass through Mary, so that grace, by returning to its Author, may take the same path that it took in its descent’ (Sermo in Nativ., V) {footnote}Inseg XVIII/2 (1995) 330 (ORE 1410:3).{/footnote}.

4. In his general audience address of 9 December 1998, he made this striking statement about Mary’s intimate involvement in the outpouring of the living water of the Holy Spirit:

From the Cross the Saviour wished to pour out upon humanity rivers of living water (cf. Jn 7:38), that is, the abundance of the Holy Spirit. But he wanted this outpouring of grace to be linked to a mother’s face, his Mother’s. Mary now appears as the new Eve, mother of the living, or the Daughter of Zion, mother of all peoples. The gift of a universal mother was included in the Messiah’s redeeming mission: ‘After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished …,’ the Evangelist writes after the two statements: ‘Woman, behold your son!’ and ‘Behold your mother!’ (Jn 19:26-28) {footnote}Inseg XXI/2 (1998) 1248 (ORE 1571:19). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.

With just a few graceful allusions here, the Pope adroitly calls to mind Mary’s role of Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces beneath the Cross.

5. In the course of his pilgrimage to Poland, he made this statement during his homily at the Liturgy of the Word in Sosnowiec on his pastoral visit of 14 June 1999:

Shortly, we shall crown the famous image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help of Jaworzno, from Osiedle Stałego. This gesture has a special eloquence. On the one hand, it is a sign of the working people of Zagłębie. Because of their devotion to Mary, because they constantly entrust to her the today and tomorrow of the Church, this faith is kept safe in the hearts of workers, despite the many trials they have undergone, especially in the last 50 years. On the other hand, this act of crowning is a confirmation of the fact that the community of believers in Jaworze and all of Zagłębie truly experiences the special presence of Mary, thanks to whom human aspirations rise before God and divine grace descends upon men {footnotes}Inseg XXII/1 (1999) 1361(ORE 1598:11). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.



IX. Some Conclusions

At the end of this study, it may be helpful to state what we have found and what I have attempted to do.

1. Even from what has been presented here, it should now be apparent that Pope John Paul II has left us a remarkably coherent body of teaching on Mary’s maternal mediation in the course of his long pontificate of over twenty-six years.

2. His most recognized contribution on this topic is his treatment in Redemptoris Mater which effectively re-launched discussion of Mary’s mediation in academic and mariological circles. It was conducted with exclusive reference to the pronouncements of the Second Vatican Council’s chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, but with great care to insist on Mary’s mediation as being “mediation in Christ” and uniquely “maternal mediation.” It was, in effect, a maximalist interpretation of the conciliar teaching and it also developed the concept of mediation on the “ontological level” flowing from God’s eternal designs, a new acquisition in terms of magisterial teaching, at least insofar as I am aware.

3. Over and above, anterior and subsequent to his treatment of Marian mediation in Redemptoris Mater, however, John Paul II consistently made frequent reference to Mary’s mediation in speeches, homilies and in all forms of papal documents. These references—often passing, but of notable depth and beauty—are seen to be fully consonant with the tradition and the magisterium of his predecessors, and shed unexpected light on the mystery of Marian mediation. They are not obiter dicta, but form part of his ordinary magisterium.

4. More than any of his predecessors, John Paul II has contextualized Mary’s presence in the mystery of Christ. This is particularly true of his treatment of Our Lady in the brief, but profoundly rich passages about her in his Encyclicals Redemptor Hominis and Dives in Misericordia. These also help to orient what he presented at greater length in Redemptoris Mater and to provide a truly valuable point of entrance into the mystery of Marian mediation.

5. Likewise, closely allied to his thought on Mary’s presence in the mystery of Christ, is his meditation on Mary’s role in the Father’s plan and what he had described in Redemptoris Mater as her belonging to the “ontological level” of mediation. All of these are different facets of the same mystery.

6. His development of what I have characterized as Mary’s role as “Reverser of the Curse,” proceeds from the classic formulation of Mary as the “New Eve” presented by St. Irenaeus. In doing so, he emphasizes Mary as the one through whom the grace of God reaches man.

7. The great majority of those who have gained prominence as the major arbiters of the discipline of mariology since the Council and up to the present, hold for a “minimalist” interpretation of the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on Marian mediation. They thus want to proscribe the use of the classical terminology of Marian mediation, by mandating a methodology which is an effective break with the Roman Catholic tradition—and they enlist Pope John Paul II as upholding their position.

8. From what I have presented here, it should be apparent that the late Pope did not follow their prescriptions. While “Mediatrix of all graces” has effectively become prohibited terminology in academic mariological circles, we see that the Pope used the expression at least nine times and gave many other indications that he firmly believed that, according to the divine plan, Mary is truly the “Mediatrix of all graces.” At the very least, we can say his teaching clearly demonstrates that the term is not forbidden and that there need be no “rupture” with the pre-conciliar understanding and use of this title.

9. I already know the evaluation of my presentation here that will be made by the Marian minimalists. Just as was the case with the Pope’s use of the term Coredemptrix, which I have carefully documented {footnote}Arthur Burton Calkins, “The Mystery of Mary the Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium,” in Mark I. Miravalle, STD (ed.), Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 2002) 41-44.{/footnote},they will readily dismiss the Pope’s usage of the title Mediatrix of all graces as “marginal and therefore devoid of doctrinal weight”{footnote}Documenti pontifici secondari, e quindi senza peso dottrinale is the phrase which occurs in the unsigned commentary on the Declaration of the Theological Commission of the 1996 Częstochowa Mariological Congress in OR 4 giugno 1997, p. 10 (ORE 1497:10).{/footnote}because it does not occur in papal documents of the highest level of importance. My response is that these papal statements, nonetheless, constitute a fundamental component of the ordinary magisterium of the Roman Pontiff and this is so, precisely in view of the frequency with which he returned to this theme {footnote}Cf. Lumen Gentium #25.{/footnote},revealing ever new facets of unexpected beauty.

10. In further responding to the inevitable attempts to undervalue the teaching of Pope John Paul II on Mary as Mediatrix of all graces, I am pleased to quote Pope Benedict XVI again, who specifically tells us: “We know that the Pope was a man of the Council, that he internalized the spirit and the word of the Council. Through these writings he helps us understand what the Council wanted and what it didn’t.”

11. While I am convinced that the doctrine on Mary as Mediatrix of all graces is the very heart of Pope John Paul II’s teaching on Marian mediation, I make no pretense here of having covered, or even alluded to, all of the aspects of his teaching on this vast topic. I have been primarily interested in establishing the truth of Mary’s distribution of graces (the second phase of Marian mediation or the application of the fruits of the redemption or “descending” mediation—all terms which we have been enjoined to avoid) in the magisterium of Pope John Paul II, precisely because this is under attack. Dr. Manfred Hauke has already provided an excellent introduction to Mary’s maternal mediation in the cycle of the seventy Marian catecheses given at general audiences from 6 September 1995 to 19 November 1997 {footnote}Cf. Hauke 46-52.{/footnote}.There remains much more to delineate in terms of “ascending” Marian mediation, i.e., of going “to Jesus through Mary,” which is another major element in the Pope’s magisterium on this topic and which I have barely been able to touch upon in this presentation. I have not presented his exegesis of the Visitation (Lk 1:39-56) or the Cana narratives Jn 2:1-11) or of Mary’s presence in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14), which certainly bear on Mary’s role as Mediatrix. Nor have I analyzed the topic of Mary’s mediation as intercession—not that this is of no interest—but rather because Marian minimalists would prefer to reduce Marian mediation to this dimension alone.

12. While it is apparent that the thought of John Paul II cannot be described as fitting into the classic scholastic mold, neither does it contradict the great insights of the scholastics. His approach is uniquely his own and it is obvious that, especially from the time that he discovered Louis de Montfort, he never stopped pondering on Mary’s place in his life, in the life of his country, and in the life of the Church. The result of this pondering (cf. Lk 2:19, 51) is an immense enrichment of Marian doctrine for the entire Church. Much still remains to be explored, but I am convinced that what I have presented here is a further enhancement and refinement of the Church’s doctrine on Marian mediation.

A final reflection: One might be tempted to ask: How conscious was Pope John Paul II of being an agent in the development of Marian doctrine? How did this doctrine come to him? Was he aware of the Marian gems that he was lavishly scattering in the course of his daily teaching? Why did he make some of his most beautiful statements on Mary’s mediation of graces in some of the most unexpected places? We will most probably never know in this life. What is most important, however, is the great patrimony of Marian teaching which he has left us and which still needs to be discovered, analyzed, assimilated, and handed on. For this, we must give thanks to the Lord and Our Lady, and the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II!



This article was excerpted from Mary at the Foot of the Cross – VII: Coredemptrix, Therefore Mediatrix of All Graces, Academy of the Immaculate, 2008.