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In the course of two millennia and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Catholic Church has come to an ever more focused understanding of the person and role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. The first Marian dogma stating that Mary is in fact the Theotókos, the God-bearer or Mother of God was solemnly declared by the Fathers of the Council of Ephesus in 431.1

Subsequently at the Lateran Council of 649 convoked by Pope St. Martin I the Church reached the certitude that Mary is ever Virgin: that she was a virgin before, during and after giving birth to Jesus.2 After centuries of debate the Catholic Church arrived at the assurance that Mary was immaculate from the first moment of her conception. 3 Finally in 1950, after ascertaining the Church’s long held belief, the Venerable Pius XII formally defined that the Virgin Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.4 Each of these truths are mysteries of faith which means that they are so deep our human minds can never fully exhaust their richness.

All four of these dogmas refer to the person of Mary in relation to her Son, the God-man, Jesus Christ. But, in fact, Catholics believe even more about Mary than these profound mysteries regarding her person. They also believe that she played and continues to play an entirely unique role in the work of our salvation. In the course of the second millennium saints and theologians have been meditating, preaching and writing about Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption and in the distribution of grace while for over one hundred fifty years the Popes have teaching about her maternal role.

I. The Mystery of Marian Coredemption

It is precisely this role or function that I would like to present today and I believe that there is no better place to begin than with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which devoted more space to the Mother of God than any other Ecumenical Council of the Church. Thus the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium speaks of Mary as “under and with him [Christ], serving the mystery of redemption, by the grace of Almighty God” [sub Ipso et cum Ipso, omnipotentis Dei gratia, mysterio remdeptionis inserviens], as “freely cooperating in the work of man’s salvation” [humanæ saluti cooperantem] (#56), of the “union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation” [ cum Filio in opere salutari coniunctio] (#57) and of how she faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan [non sine divino consilio], enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim which was born of her [ vehementer cum Unigenito suo condoluit et sacrificio Eius se materno animo sociavit, victimæ de se genitæ immolationi amanter consentiens] (#58).

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

The twentieth century Popes had already clearly taught the doctrine upon which the Council Fathers could base themselves. In his great Marian Encyclical Ad Diem Illum of 2 February 1904, Saint Pius X stated:

It was not only the glory of the Mother of God to have presented to God the Only-Begotten who was to be born of human members the material by which he was prepared as a Victim for the salvation of mankind, but hers also the office of tending and nourishing that Victim, and at the appointed time of offering Him at the altar.

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” [St. Bonaventure, I Sent, d. 48, ad Litt. dub. 4].5

In his Letter Inter Sodalicia of 22 May 1918 Pope Benedict XV wrote: According to the common teaching of the Doctors it was God’s design [non sine divino consilio], that the Blessed Virgin Mary, apparently absent from the public life of Jesus, should assist Him when He was dying nailed to the Cross. Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother’s rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind [ut dici merito queat, Ipsam cum Christo humanum genus redemisse.]. 6

Several years ago I discovered that the same Latin phrase – non sine divino consilio – which occurs in Benedict XV’s document is also used in Lumen Gentium #58, which I have cited above, but without acknowledging the authorship of Benedict XV. The point being made in both places is that Our Lady’s active collaboration in the work of redemption was explicitly willed by God and we can affirm, along with Blessed Pope Pius IX in his Bull Ineffabiliis Deus declaring the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, that this is clearly supported by the Catholic understanding of the role of
the “Woman” of Genesis 3:15 and her “Seed” who together are in an eternal state of enmity with the serpent. 7

The Venerable Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Letter Ad Cæli Reginam of 11 October 1954 insists just as firmly that it is God’s will that Mary is joined with Jesus in the work of our redemption.

Mary in the work of redemption was by God’s will joined with Jesus Christ, the cause of salvation, in much the same way as Eve was joined with Adam, the cause of death. Hence it can be said that the work of our salvation was brought about by a “restoration” (St. Irenaeus) in which the human race, just as it was doomed to death by a virgin, was saved by a virgin.

Moreover, she was chosen to be the Mother of Christ “in order to have part with Him in the redemption of the human race” [Pius XI, Auspicatus profecto].

“She it was, who, free from all stain of personal or original sin, always most closely united with her Son, offered Him up to the Eternal Father on Calvary, along with the sacrifice of her own claims as His mother and of her own mother love, thus acting as a new Eve on behalf of Adam’s children, ruined by his unhappy fall” [Mystici Corporis].8

Pius XII would go on to continue to underscore Mary’s unique role in his great Sacred Heart Encyclical Haurietis Aquas of 15 May 1956:

By the will of God, the most Blessed Virgin Mary was inseparably joined with Christ in accomplishing the work of man’s redemption, so that our salvation flows from the love of Jesus Christ and His sufferings intimately united with the love and sorrows of His Mother [Cum enim ex Dei voluntate in humanæ Redemptionis peragendo opere Beatissima Virgo Maria cum Christo fuerit indivulse coniuncta, adeo ut ex Iesu Christi caritate eiusque cruciatibus cum amore doloribusque ipsius Matris intime consociatis sit nostra salus profecta].9

No pope has taught more clearly and more consistently about Our Lady’s role in the work of redemption than Blessed John Paul II. Here is an important text from his general audience address of 4 May 1983:

Dearest brothers and sisters, in the month of May we raise our eyes to Mary, the woman who was associated in a unique way in the work of mankind’s reconciliation with God. According to the Father’s plan, Christ was to accomplish this work through his sacrifice. However, a woman would be associated with him, the Immaculate Virgin who is thus placed before our eyes as the highest model of cooperation in the work of salvation. …

The “Yes” of the Annunciation constituted not only the acceptance of the offered motherhood, but signified above all Mary’s commitment to service of the mystery of the Redemption. Redemption was the work of her Son; Mary was associated with it on a subordinate level. Nevertheless, her participation was real and demanding. Giving her consent to the angel’s message, Mary agreed to collaborate in the whole work of mankind’s reconciliation with God, just as her
Son would accomplish it. …

The orientation toward the redemptive sacrifice dominated Mary’s entire life as a mother. Unlike other mothers who cannot know in advance the sorrows that will come to them from their children, Mary already knew from those first days that her motherhood was on the way to a supreme trial.

For her, participation in the redemptive drama was the end of a long road. After seeing how the prediction about the opposition Jesus would undergo was fulfilled in the events of his public life, she understood more keenly, at the foot of the cross, the meaning of those words, “And you yourself shall be pierced with a sword”. Her presence on Calvary, which allowed her to unite herself with the sufferings of her Son with all her heart, was part of the divine plan: the Father wanted her, called to the most total cooperation in the mystery of redemption, to be integrally associated with the sacrifice and share all the pains of the Crucified, uniting her will to his in the desire to save the world. 10

Let us note two very important points here. The first is that, like his predecessors, John Paul stressed the fact that Mary’s collaboration is “according to the Father’s plan”, that is willed by God from all eternity. The second is that Mary’s cooperation is always “on a subordinate level”, but nonetheless “real and demanding”. It is the highest participation in the redemption possible for a creature, but always secondary, subordinate to and entirely dependent on the redemption wrought by Christ, her Son. This is the way the Council Fathers put it in Lumen Gentium #60:

For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. 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. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.

Two statements in the Catechism of the Catholic Church beautifully echo this conciliar teaching. The first occurs in #616:

No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible hi redemptive sacrifice for all.

The second in #618:

Because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men. … In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.

Here is a carefully balanced outline of the Church’s teaching on this matter that Blessed Pope John Paul II gave in his general audience address of 9 April 1997.

Down the centuries the Church has reflected on Mary’s cooperation in the work of salvation, deepening the analysis of her association with Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. St. Augustine already gave the Blessed Virgin the title “cooperator” in the Redemption (cf. De Sancta Virginitate, 6; PL 40, 399), a title which emphasizes Mary’s joint but subordinate action with Christ the Redeemer.

Reflection has developed along these lines, particularly since the 15th century. Some feared there might be a desire to put Mary on the same level as Christ. Actually the Church’s teaching makes a clear distinction between the Mother and the Son in the work of salvation, explaining the Blessed Virgin’s subordination, as cooperator, to the one Redeemer.

Moreover, when the Apostle Paul says: “For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9), he maintains the real possibility for man to cooperate with God. The collaboration of believers, which obviously excludes any equality with him, is expressed in the proclamation of the Gospel and in their personal contribution to its taking root in human hearts.

However, applied to Mary, the term “cooperator” acquires a specific meaning. The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary, instead, cooperated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her cooperation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity. 11

Here, once again the Pope highlights the uniqueness of Mary’s cooperation in the work of redemption. She “cooperated during the event itself and in the role of mother”, the mother specially prepared in advance for this unique role.

Blessed John Paul II again maintains a marvelous balance in presenting Mary’s unique function in the work of redemption in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris of 11 February 1984. He speaks first of the “unique and incomparable depth and intensity of suffering which only the man who is the only-begotten Son could experience” (Salvifici Doloris #18), a mental, emotional and physical suffering beyond our ability to comprehend.
Commenting on Colossians 1:24, in which St. Paul states “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church”, the Pope goes on to say:


The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s Redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it

. But at the same time, in the mystery of the Church as His Body, Christ has in a sense opened His own redemptive suffering to all human suffering. Insofar as man becomes a sharer in Christ’s sufferings – in any part of the world and at any time in history – to that extent he in his own way completes
the suffering through which Christ accomplished the Redemption of the world.

Does this mean that the Redemption achieved by Christ is not complete? No. It only means that the Redemption, accomplished through satisfactory love, remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering. In this dimension – the dimension of love – the Redemption which has already been completely accomplished is, in a certain sense, constantly being accomplished. Christ achieved the Redemption completely and to the very limit; but at the same time He did not bring it to a close. In this redemptive suffering, through which the Redemption of the world was accomplished, Christ opened Himself from the beginning to every human suffering and constantly does so. Yes, it seems to be part of the very essence of Christ’s redemptive suffering that this suffering requires to be unceasingly completed (Salvifici Doloris #24).

While Jesus’ suffering was more than sufficient to redeem the world, the Pope insists that it remains “open to all love expressed in human suffering”. This is, indeed, a mystery, something that is at the same time beyond our comprehension, but also a truth of faith. All of our sufferings can be united with those of Jesus for the sake of his body, the Church. While we can share in applying the work of the redemption to ourselves and to others by the patient
endurance of our sufferings, Mary had the unique role of joining her sufferings with those of Jesus at the very same moment when he was suffering for our redemption. The Pope continues:

It is especially consoling to note – and also accurate in accordance with the Gospel and history – that at the side of Christ, in the first and most exalted place, there is always His Mother through the exemplary testimony that she bears by her whole life to this particular Gospel of suffering.
In her, the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith but also a contribution to the Redemption of all. … It was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the cross together with the beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. …

As a witness to her Son’s passion by her presence, and as a sharer in it by her compassion, Mary offered a unique contribution to the Gospel of suffering, by embodying in anticipation the expression of St. Paul which was quoted at the beginning. She truly has a special title to be able to claim that she “completes in her flesh” – as already in her heart – “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Salvifici Doloris #25).

These two citations from Salvifici Doloris already help us to hold in tension the dynamic truths that underlie Mary’s compassion or cooperation in the redemption. On the one hand “The sufferings of Christ created the good of the world’s redemption. This good in itself is inexhaustible and infinite. No man can add anything to it.” On the other hand “Mary’s suffering [on Calvary], beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world.” Thus the Pope strikes once again that careful balance which is always a hallmark of Catholic truth: he upholds the principle that the sufferings of Christ were all-sufficient for the salvation of the world, while maintaining that Mary’s co-suffering “was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world.” This is an axiom that may be discovered in the lives of the saints of every era of the Church’s history from the days of the apostles to our own.

Now we must deal with a matter of terminology: How do we best describe this secondary and subordinate, but nonetheless active and unique role willed by God for Mary in the work of our redemption? Blessed Pope John Paul II used a good number of descriptive titles such as collaborator and cooperator, associate and ally. He has called her “the perfect co-worker in Christ’s sacrifice” (perfetta cooperatrice del sacrificio di Cristo) 12 and “the perfect model for those who seek to be united with her Son in his saving work for all humanity”.13

This is a matter on which neither our present Holy Father nor any of his predecessors have pronounced and we are quite free to debate it. My argument would simply be that none of the one-word titles such as collaborator, cooperator, co-worker, associate, partner and ally sufficiently accentuates the uniqueness of Mary’s role whereas others seem to me to be either lengthy phrases or cumbersome circumlocutions. 14

The fact is that there is a word that was coined and has become hallowed by usage to describe Mary’s unique role: Coredemptrix. The first use of the word Coredemptrix of which we are presently aware dates from the fourteenth or fifteenth century.15 It passed into theological circulation 16 and then into the vocabulary of the magisterium. It was first used in official documents issued by Roman Congregations at the beginning of the twentieth century17 and
subsequently by Pope Pius XI in allocutions to pilgrims18 and in a radio message on 28 April 1935 for the closing of the Holy Year at Lourdes.19 The word was not used by Pius XII (1939-1958) because of controversies about the doctrine which were only clarified at the end of his pontificate 20, and was described in the Prænotanda of the first draft of the schema which would eventually become chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium as among those words which are “absolutely true in themselves” [in se verissima], but were being avoided out of ecumenical sensitivity.21 We are also free to debate
about the wisdom and effectiveness of such a strategy.22

Although the doctrine of Mary’s unique collaboration in our redemption was clearly taught by the Second Vatican Council as we have seen, the word Coredemptrix was not used out of what I call “political” and “misdirected ecumenical sensitivity”. 23 What is even more significant, however, is that after a period of artificial suppression Blessed John Paul II used the word “Coredemptrix” or “coredemptive” at least seven times to describe Mary’s intimate cooperation in the work of our Redemption.24

The term Coredemptrix usually requires some initial explanation in the English language because often the prefix “co” immediately conjures up visions of complete equality. For instance a co-signer of a check or a co-owner of a house is considered a co-equal with the other signer or owner. Thus the first fear of many is that describing Our Lady as Coredemptrix puts her on the same level as her Divine Son and implies that she is “Redeemer” in the same way
that he is, thus reducing Jesus “to being half of a team of redeemers”.25 In the Latin language from which the term Coredemptrix comes, however, the meaning is always that Mary’s cooperation or collaboration in the redemption is secondary, subordinate, dependent on that of Christ – and yet for all that – something that God “freely wished to accept … as constituting an unneeded, but yet wonderfully pleasing part of that one great price”26 paid by His Son for world’s
redemption. As Dr. Mark Miravalle points out:

The prefix “co” does not mean equal, but comes from the Latin word, “cum” which means “with”. The title of Coredemptrix applied to the Mother of Jesus never places Mary on a level of equality with Jesus Christ, the divine Lord of all, in the saving process of humanity’s redemption. Rather, it denotes Mary’s singular and unique sharing with her Son in the saving work of redemption for the human family. The Mother of Jesusparticipates in the redemptive work of herSavior Son, who alone could reconcile humanity with the Father in his glorious divinity and humanity. 27

II. The Mystery of Mary’s Mediation of Grace

In its treatment of Mary’s Motherhood with regard to the Church the Catechism of the Catholic Church cites the text of Lumen Gentium 62 that “the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” 28 and then follows immediately with these further texts from Lumen Gentium by way of commentary:

Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men … flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it [Lumen Gentium 60]. No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold co-operation which is but a sharing in this one source [ Lumen Gentium 62].29

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

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

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

We should note that the first passage that Leo XIII quotes from St. Thomas speaks explicitly of those who “cooperate by predisposing and ministering in the union of man with God” [cooperantur ad unionem hominis cum Deo dispositive et ministerialiter]. 31 Among such secondary and subordinate mediators – the pope points out – Mary is
preeminent. It is precisely this role of Mary’s ministering in the union of man with God as a Mediatrix of grace that we now treat. Perhaps no Pope explained the intimate correlation between Mary’s coredemptive role and her role in the distribution of grace than did St. Pius X in his great Marian Encyclical Ad Diem Illum:

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.

It cannot of course be denied that the dispensing of these treasures is the particular and supreme right of Jesus Christ, for they are the exclusive fruit of His death, who by His Nature is the Mediator between God and man. Nevertheless, by this union in sorrow and suffering, We have said, which existed between the Mother and the Son, it has been allowed to the August Virgin “to be the most powerful Mediatrix and advocate of the whole world, with her Divine Son” (cf. Ineffabilis Deus [OL #64]).

The source, then, is Jesus Christ, “and of his fullness we have all received” (Jn. 1:16); “from him the whole body (being closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system according to the functioning in due measure of each single part) derives its increase to the building up of itself in love”. But Mary, as St Bernard justly remarks, is the “aqueduct,” or if you will, the neck by which the body is joined to the head and the head transmits to the body its power and virtue: “For she is the neck of our Head, by which he communicated to his mystical Body all spiritual gifts” (St. Bern. Sen., Quadrag. de Evangelio æterno, Serm. X, a. 3, c. 3). We are thus, it will be seen, very far from declaring the Mother of God to be the authoress of supernatural grace. Grace comes from God alone. But since she surpassed all in holiness and union with Christ, and has been associated with Christ in the work of Redemption, she, as the expression is, merits de congruo what Christ merits de condigno, and is the principal minister in the distribution of grace.32

Pius X’s predecessors, especially Leo XIII, had referred with some frequency to Mary’s function in the distribution of grace, but none of them had insisted so clearly on the fact that this flows from her coredemptive role.

On several occasions Pius’ successor, Benedict XV, referred to Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces, but perhaps the most striking of his statements deals with one of the miracles approved by him for the canonization of Joan of Arc.

First of all, grateful to God and to the powerful Virgin, We must recognize that we are debtors to God alone for the two miracles attributed to Joan of Arc, the authenticity of which has today been proclaimed. And if in every miracle We must recognize the mediation of Mary by means of whom according to the divine will all graces and favors come to us, no one can deny that in one of the miracles approved by Us this mediation of the Blessed Virgin has been manifested in a very special manner.

We think God has so disposed matters to remind the faithful that we must never forget Mary even when the miracle seems to be attributed to the intercession or the mediation of one who has been beatified or canonized. We believe that such is the lesson to be learned from the fact that Thérèse Belin was completely and instantaneously cured at the Sanctuary of Lourdes. On one hand Our Lord shows us that even on this earth, which is confided to the care of His Blessed Mother, He can work miracles through the intercession of one of His servants; on the other hand, He reminds us that even in such cases it is necessary to postulate the intercession of her whom the Holy Fathers greeted as “Mediatrix Mediatorum omnium”.

In other words, even while attributing a miracle to the intercession of a given saint, we can never discount the intercession and mediation of Mary.

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

Trusting in her intercession with

Christ our Lord, who though sole Mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5), wished however to make His Mother the advocate for sinners and the dispenser and mediatrix of His grace

, from the bottom of Our heart as a token of heavenly favor and of Our fatherly solicitude We heartily impart to you and to all the faithful entrusted to your care Our Apostolic Benediction.33

In this case we find Mary’s function with regard to the grace of Redemption delineated with two words in apposition, “dispenser and mediatrix” [ ministram ac mediatricem].

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

He, the Son of God, gave His heavenly Mother a share in His glory, His majesty, His kingship; because,

associated as Mother and Minister to the King of martyrs in the ineffable work of man’s Redemption, she is likewise associated with Him forever, with power so to speak infinite, in the distribution of the graces which flow from Redemption
.34

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

While Blessed John Paul II’s teaching on Marian coredemption is striking in its clarity and originality, his teaching on Mary as minister and mediatrix of all graces is more subtle and does not so readily fit as neatly into the scholastic mold of his predecessors, but nonetheless harmonizes with their teaching and is profound. I have treated this topic at length in a published essay.35 For our purposes it will suffice to make a number of points. First among these is that in the wake of the post-conciliar crisis in Mariology John Paul singlehandedly re-launched the discussion on Mary’s maternal mediation in #38-47 of his Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater of 25 March 1987. He had already prepared the ground in his first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis of 4 March 1979 in stating that

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
.36

Now from Blessed John Paul’s many statements, I will choose just a few. 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. 37

In his Apostolic Letter Spiritus Domini of 1 August 1987 commemorating the Bicentenary of the Death of St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori he 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.38

In his Message of 8 September 1995 to the Ordinary General Chapter of the Cistercian Order he offered this profound exhortation, obviously fully endorsing the teaching of 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).39

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

From the Cross the Savior 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). 40

These few examples serve as an indication of how Blessed John Paul II presented the perennial doctrine of the Church according to his own unique insights and approach.

Concluding the presentation of papal texts on Marian mediation, I would like to offer three texts on Mary’s mediation of grace from our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. The first comes from his homily on 11 May 2007 at the canonization of the Franciscan friar Frei Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão at Campo de Marte, São Paulo, Brazil:

Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, stands particularly close to us at this moment. Frei Galvão prophetically affirmed the truth of the Immaculate Conception. She, the Tota Pulchra, the Virgin Most Pure, who conceived in her womb the Redeemer of mankind and was preserved from all stain of original sin, wishes to be the definitive seal of our encounter with God our Savior. There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady. …

Let us give thanks to God the Father, to God the Son, to God the Holy Spirit from whom, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, we receive all the blessings of heaven.41

His statement that “There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady” is, indeed, a declaration of extraordinary clarity.

Secondly, I would like to present a text that comes from Pope Benedict’s general audience address of 30 March 2011 on St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori:

Precisely because it is Christological, Alphonsus’ piety is also exquisitely Marian. Deeply devoted to Mary, he illustrates her role in the history of salvation: an Associate in the Redemption and Mediatrix of grace, Mother, Advocate and Queen. 42

I believe that this citation not only serves as Pope Benedict XVI’s synthesis of St. Alphonsus’ Mariology, but it also also illustrates the papal teaching which I have briefly sketched here provided that we understand that “Associate in the work of Redemption” is one of the ways in which a number of popes – especially the Venerable Pius XII – have chosen to speak of Mary’s coredemptive role. She is Mediatrix of all graces because she actively cooperated in the work of our Redemption, thus becoming our spiritual Mother, our Advocate with her Son and the Queen who now sits at his right hand. 43

Finally, I conclude with this graceful reference that Pope Benedict made in his German homeland at the Marian Shrine of Etzelsbach on 23 September 2011, using a classical image of Our Lady’s mediation of grace:

Looking down from the Cross, from the throne of grace and salvation, Jesus gave us his mother Mary to be our mother. At the moment of his self-offering for mankind, he makes Mary as it were the channel of the rivers of grace that flow from the Cross. 44

1

Cf. Heinrich Denzinger, S.I., Enchiridion Symbolorum Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum: Edizione Bilingue (XXXVII) a cura
di Peter Hünermann (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 2000) [=D-H] #252; Jacques Dupuis, S.J. (ed.), The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church Originally Prepared by Josef Neuner, S.J. & Jacques Dupuis; Sixth
Revised and Enlarged Edition (New York: Alba House, 1998) [=TCF] #606/1.

2

Cf. D-H #503 [TCF #703].

3

Defined by Blessed Pius IX on 8 December 1854. Cf. D-H #2803 [TCF #709].

4

Cf. D-H #3903 [TCF #715].

5

Acta Sanctæ Sedis
[= ASS] 36 (1903-1904) 453; Our Lady: Papal Teachings, trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961) [=[OL] #231-232].

6

Acta Apostolicæ Sedis
[= AAS] 10 (1918) 181-182 [OL #267].

7

Acta Pii IX
(Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1971) 599 [OL #34].

8

AAS
46 (1954) 634-635 [OL #705].

9

AAS
48 (1956) 352 [OL #778].

10

Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II
[= Inseg GP] VI/1 (1983) 1135-1137; L’Osservatore Romano (weekly English edition) [= ORE] 783:1 (first number = cumulative
edition number; second number = page number ).

11

Inseg GP
XX/1 (1997) 621-622 [ORE 1487:7; Pope John Paul II, Theotókos – Woman, Mother, Disciple: A Catechesis on Mary, Mother of God
(Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000) [= MCat] 185-186].

12

Inseg GP
XIX/1 (1996) 1344 [ORE 1446:6].

13

Inseg GP
XVIII/2 (1995) 54 [ORE 1399:3].

14

With apologies to Father Aidan Nichols, O.P. I would put his proposal of “The Redemptive Collaboratrix” among these. Cf. his article “Von Balthasar and
the Coredemption” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross: Acts of the International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA: Academy of
the Immaculate, 2001) 314.

15

René Laurentin, “Le Titre de Corédemptrice. Étude historique,” Marianum 13 (1951) 399-402.

16

Cf. Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M., “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” Mariology 2 (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1957) 398-400; René Laurentin,Le titre de Corédemptrice: Étude historique (Rome: Éditions «Marianum», 1951) 15-16; Gabriele Roschini, O.S.M., Problematica sulla Corredenzione (Rome: Edizioni «Marianum», 1969) 15-17.

17

AAS
1 (1908) 409; 5 (1913) 364; 6 (1914) 108.

18

Domenico Bertetto, S.D.B., ed., Discorsi di Pio XI 2:1013; L’Osservatore Romano [=OR] 25 marzo 1934, p. 1.

19

OR
29-30 aprile 1935, p. 1

20

Cf. Alessandro M. Apollonio, F.I., Il “calvario teologico” della Corredenzione mariana (Castelpetroso: Casa Mariana Editrice, 1999) 7-8.

21

Cf. my treatment in Foundations II 119 and MMC 155-156.

22

Cf. my article “‘Towards Another Marian Dogma?’ A Response to Father Angelo Amato,” Marianum LIX (1997) 163-165.

23

Acta Synodalia Sacrosancti Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani Secundi
, Vol. I, Pt. VI (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1971) 99 (my trans.). Cf. Ermanno M. Toniolo, O.S.M., La Beata Maria Vergine nel Concilio Vaticano II (Rome: Centro di Cultura Mariana “Madre della Chiesa”, 2004) 98-99; Gabriele M. Roschini,
O.S.M., Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza II:111-112.

24

The specific instances may be found in Inseg GP III/2 (1980) 1646; [ORE 662:20]; Inseg GP V/3 (1982) 404; Inseg GP VII/2 (1984) 1151 [ORE 860:1]; Inseg GP VIII/1 (1985) 318-319 [ORE 876:7]; 889-890 [ORE
880:12]; Inseg GP XIII/1 (1990) 743:1; XIV/2 (1991) 756 [ORE 1211:4]. Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “Pope John Paul II’s Teaching on
Marian Coredemption” in Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship
Publishing Company, 1997) 113-147.

25

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

26

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

27

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

28

CCC
969.

29

CCC
970.

30

ASS
29 (1896-1897) 206 [OL #194 alt.].

31

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

32

ASS
36 (1903-1904) 453-454 [OL #233-234].

33

AAS
20 (1928) 178 [OL #287].

34

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

35

“Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, in the Papal Magisterium of Pope John Paul II” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross – VII: Coredemptrix, Therefore Mediatrix of All Graces. Acts of the Seventh International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA: Academy
of the Immaculate, 2008) 17-63.

36

Inseg GP
II/1 (1979) 607 [U.S.C.C. Edition 97, 98]. Emphasis my own.

37

Inseg GP
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.

38

[Inseg GP X/3 (1987) 145 [ORE 1001:5].

39

Inseg
XVIII/2 (1995) 330 [ORE 1410:3].

40

Inseg
XXI/2 (1998) 1248 [ORE 1571:19]. Emphasis my own.

41

Inseg B
III/1 (2007) 820-821 [ORE 1994:14].

42

ORE 2189:14. Ė proprio perché cristologica, la pietà alfonsiana è anche squisitamente mariana. Devotissimo di Maria, egli ne illustra il ruolo nella
storia della salvezza: socia della Redenzione e Mediatrice di grazia, Madre, Avvocata e Regina.

43

Cf. Psalm 44 [45]:10.

44

ORE
2213:13.

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Por Monseñor Arthur B. Calkins

El tema de María como Corredentora y Mediadora, o sea, de la Madre de Dios como la colaboradora humana mas íntima en el trabajo de nuestra redención y como principal dispensadora de las gracias de la redención después del mismo Jesús, ha ocupado a los teólogos desde los albores del siglo veinte. En verdad, parece ser que el primer escritor Inglés en usar y defender el término de Corredentora fue el Padre Frederick William Faber en el último capítulo de su obra clásica The Foot of the Cross, publicado por primera vez en 1858. Después, previo al Segundo Concilio Vaticano no pocos Obispos expresaron un deseo de tener una definición — acerca de Nuestra Señora como Corredentora y/o Mediadora. En su audiencia general del 13 de Diciembre de 1995, el Papa Juan Paulo II hizo una cortés referencia a los Padres del Concilio quienes “deseaban enriquecer aun mas la doctrina Mariana con otras declaraciones sobre el rol de María en el trabajo de salvación” sin criticarlos en ninguna manera. El simplemente comentó que “El contexto particular en el cual ocurrió el debate Mariológico Vaticano II no permitía que esos deseos, aun cuando eran sustanciales y muy extendidos, fuesen aceptados”.

La presente campaña que continua generando atención, adherencia y mucho debate teológico mundial ha agregado otro término a esos títulos interelacionados de Corredentora y Mediadora: el de Abogada. Este título tiene profundas raíces en la tradición Católica desde los tiempos de San Ireneo en el Siglo Segundo. Ocurre en la Salve, donde rezamos: “Ea, pues, Señora Abogada nuestra, vuelve a nosotros esos tus ojos misericordiosos”. En verdad, el gran documento Mariano del Segundo Concilio Vaticano rápidamente reconoció que María con todo derecho es invocada como Abogada.

Juntando los títulos de Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada nos permite visualizar el rol de María en nuestra salvación de una manera lógica y coherente: Es precisamente debido a la participación especial e íntima de Nuestra Señora en el trabajo de la redención (como Corredentora) que ella puede ser la distribuidora (Mediadora) de todas las gracias y la gran intercesora (Abogada) para sus hijos después del mismo Jesús (cf. Heb. 7:25; 1Jn 2:1) y el Espíritu Santo (cf. Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).

Cuando se hizo la primera petición de una definición del rol de María en nuestra salvación como Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada? Hasta donde pude determinar, esta petición proviene de una serie de revelaciones hechas en Amsterdam a una humilde y sencilla mujer Holandesa, Ida Peerdeman (1906-1996), desde Marzo 25, 1945 hasta Mayo 31, 1959. En el curso de estas revelaciones Nuestra Señora mencionó que ella deseaba ser conocida como “La Señora de Todos los Pueblos”. Ella pidió que se hiciera un dibujo de acuerdo a sus indicaciones (algo similar a la popular imagen en la medalla milagrosa) y que esta se distribuyera junto con una oración que ella le dictó a la visionaria. Después de la definición dogmática de la Asunción por el Papa Pío XII el 1 de Noviembre de 1950, Nuestra Señora le dijo a Ida que esta definición tenía que preceder “último y mas grande dogma”: el de María Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada, para los cuales la pintura y la oración iban a preparar el camino.

Lo que es especialmente interesante es que en el curso de las apariciones a Ida Peerdeman Nuestra Señora no nada mas habló de y ejemplificó el significado de estos títulos de diversas maneras, sino que ella también varias veces afirmó que podían ser corroboradas por los teólogos. En Amsterdam, el 4 de Abril del Año Mariano ella dijo:

Escucha bien! Desde el principio la Doncella del Señor fue escogida para ser la Corredentora. Dile a tus teólogos que pueden encontrar todo en sus libros! … No traigo una nueva doctrina. Estoy trayendo las ideas antiguas.

Varias veces en estas revelaciones Nuestra Señora les habló a los teólogos a través de Ida y les dijo que trabajaran para esta doctrina. Se deben observar varios puntos en este aspecto.

  1. En aquellos días y hasta el tiempo del Segundo Concilio Vaticano, la doctrina del rol de María en el trabajo de nuestra redención fue comúnmente tratado bajo la regla general de “mediación” en todos los libros estándar en Mariología. Algunos Mariologistas restringieron el título de “Mediadora” a la segunda fase de mediación (a la cooperación de María en la distribución de gracias), reservando el título de “Corredentora” a la primera fase (colaboración en el trabajo de nuestra redención). Pero aun esta primera fase, se pudiera discutir, es una mediación verdadera y apropiada ya que es una participación en el trabajo mediador de Cristo. Este tema fue objeto de una gran discusión y debate entre teólogos. Ya he indicado algunos de los factores que contribuyeron a la supresión de la discusión después del concilio [cf. Tratados anteriores por Monseñor Calkins en esta antología].
  2. Fue tan solo después de que los cuatro principales dogmas acerca de la persona de María [que ella es (1) Madre de Dios y (2) Siempre Virgen; que ella fue (3) Inmaculadamente Concebida y (4) Asunta al Cielo] fueran solemnemente propuestos por la autoridad magisterial de la Iglesia que la escena estaría preparada para un dogma relativo a la función o rol de María en el trabajo de la salvación bajo el triple nombramiento de Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada.
  3. De acuerdo a estas revelaciones recibidas por Ida Peerdeman, la misma virgen de manera efectiva afirmó que “el último y mas grande Dogma Mariano” ya es parte de la doctrina patrimonial de la Iglesia. Debe ser sacado a la luz y aclarado todavía mas por el trabajo de los teólogos y apropiado por toda la Iglesia. Nuestra Señora también indicó que habría una lucha en este aspecto, pero ella nunca sugirió que el dogma sería definido en base a una revelación privada, aunque sea muy digna de crédito. Esto está totalmente de acuerdo con la sabiduría milenaria de la Iglesia. Por ejemplo, en su magistral encíclica sobre el Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, Haurietis Aquas, el Papa Pío XII se esforzó en resaltar que la doctrina de la Iglesia sobre el Sagrado Corazón de Jesús no se origina a partir de las revelaciones a Santa Margarita Maria Alacoque, aun si estas hayan aportado el mayor ímpetu para la devoción en tiempos modernos. En lugar de eso, el Papa Pío XII con firmeza declaró que la doctrina y devoción de la Iglesia están basadas en las fuentes fundamentales de revelación: las Escrituras y la Tradición.

Ahora se debe hacer una pregunta importante: Cual es el juicio de la Iglesia sobre las revelaciones recibidas por Ida Peerdeman? El 31 de Mayo de 1996, el Obispo Hendrik Bomers, C.M. de Haarlem (la Diócesis que incluye a Amsterdam) y su Auxiliar, el Obispo Joseph Punt, publicaron una notificación haciendo una distinción entre las apariciones/mensajes recibidos por Ida Peerdeman por un lado y el título “La Señora de Todos los Pueblos” por el otro. Además especificaron:

En este momento la Iglesia no se puede pronunciar acerca del carácter sobrenatural de las apariciones y el contenido de los mensajes. Las personas tienen libertad para hacer un juicio personal de acuerdo a su propia conciencia.

La oración “Señor Jesucristo…” que incluye el título de “La Señora de Todos los Pueblos” desde 1951 ha disfrutado de la aprobación de la Iglesia por el Monseñor Huibers, quien era Obispo de Haarlem en esa fecha. Es nuestro juicio que no existe ninguna objeción en contra de la veneración pública de la Santísima Virgen María bajo este título.

Lo que también es de interés es que menos de un mes después de esta declaración, el 17 de Junio de 1996, la visionaria murió a la edad de noventa años. Su misa de funeral fue celebrada por el Obispo Bomers quien empezó su homilía en esa ocasión declarando que “Estamos hoy aquí reunidos como personas que amamos, admiramos y estimamos a Ida Peerdeman”. El año pasado, el primer Día Internacional de Oración en honor de La Señora de Todos los Pueblos fue celebrado en Amsterdam el 31 de Mayo de 1997. Aun con una mínima publicidad atrajo a 5,000 personas y llenó el auditorio donde fue presidida por el Obispo Bomers. El segundo Día de Oración se celebró en Amsterdam el 31 de Mayo de 1998 con 12,000 personas representando a 60 países presentes. En esa ocasión el Obispo Bomers anunció que hacía poco tiempo había establecido un comité teológico para estudiar las revelaciones recibidas por Ida Peerdeman. (Muy significativamente, después de haber permitido oficialmente la devoción a la Señora de Todos los Pueblos y después de haber un camino para una investigación teológica del mensaje, en la Festividad del Santo Nombre de María, el 12 de Septiembre de 1998, el Obispo Bomers fue llamado a su eterna recompensa).

Claro esta, los anteriores hechos no constituyen la aprobación que la Iglesia ha acordado a las apariciones de Nuestra Señora de Fátima en 1917, pero por el otro lado los recientes desarrollos pueden ser vistos como marcadamente positivos.

En un artículo tan relativamente corto es imposible comentar en detalle las muchas características de los mensajes recibidos por Ida Peerdeman. Podemos decir que tratan de un periodo de gran crisis en la Iglesia y en el mundo. Parecería que muchos de los elementos de estas palabras proféticas, que en algunas ocasiones son ilustradas en una forma apocalíptica, ya han sido verificadas. Aquí me debo limitar a los dos elementos mas importantes de estas revelaciones que se dan como un medio particular de obtener la proclamación del dogma: la oración y la pintura.

La oración fue dada en la Festividad de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, el 11 de Febrero de 1951:

Señor Jesucristo, Hijo del Padre, envía ahora a Tu Espíritu sobre la tierra. Deja que el Espíritu Santo viva en los corazones de todos los pueblos, para que sean preservados de la degeneración, del desastre y de las guerras. Que la Señora de Todos los Pueblos, que una vez fue María, sea nuestra Abogada, Amen.

Igual como la oración compuesta por el Papa Juan XXIII para el Concilio, es una oración para un nuevo derramamiento de los dones del Espíritu Santo. Casi no hay necesidad de hacer comentarios sobre lo apropiado de rogar para ser “preservados de la degeneración, desastres y guerras”. Estos elementos caracterizan nuestro mundo moderno separado de sus raíces divinas en tantas formas.

Lo que casi siempre al principio incomoda las sensibilidades Católicas es la aparentemente extraña referencia a “la Señora de Todos los Pueblos, que una vez fue María”. La misma visionaria pensó que las palabras eran extrañas y las autoridades de la Iglesia ante quien tenía que acudir para obtener la aprobación de la oración en un principio solamente dieron permiso con la omisión de las palabras “que una vez fue María”. Esto hizo que Nuestra Señora insistiera el 28 de Marzo y el 2 de Julio de 1951 y otra vez el 17 de Febrero y el 6 de Abril de 1952 en que se debía dar permiso para la publicación de la oración en su totalidad. Esto finalmente fue concedido y el 5 de Octubre de 1952 Nuestra Señora le dijo a Ida que le dijera al Obispo que ella estaba satisfecha.

Pero porque esta insistencia? El 2 de Julio de 1951 (entonces observado como la Festividad de la Visitación) Nuestra Señora dijo:

Las palabras “que una vez fue María” significan: muchos pueblos han conocido a María solamente como María. Ahora, sin embargo, en esta nueva era que esta comenzando quiero ser la Señora de Todos los Pueblos. Todos entenderán esto.

El 6 de Abril del siguiente año ella explicó además que ella se convirtió en la Señora de Todos los Pueblos al pie de la Cruz donde Jesús le pidió que aceptara a Juan como su hijo (cf. Jn 19:26), que “fue en el Sacrificio de la Cruz donde se dio el cambio”. Las palabras de la oración de ninguna manera niegan que María es siempre María, sino que de una manera apropiada subraya la maternidad universal conferida a ella por Jesús.

La persistencia de Nuestra Señora en relación a las palabras de la oración me parecen particularmente significativas a la luz de la tendencia de muchos Mariologos desde el Concilio para dar un gran énfasis en la histórica “María de Nazaret” al mismo tiempo que tratan de hacer menos la exaltada posición a la cual la elevó Dios. Esta llamada “baja Mariología” se encuentra en muchos enfoques revisionistas de María tal como aquellos propuestos por los feministas radicales y los teólogos liberales.

Poco tiempo después de dar la oración, el 4 de Marzo de 1951 Nuestra Señora llamó la atención a la forma con la cual se le aparecía a la visionaria y pidió que se hiciera una pintura la cual debía ser distribuida junto con la oración. Ella está de pie sobre el globo rodeada por ovejas y delante de una cruz con sus manos extendidas (como en la medalla milagrosa) y emitiendo los tres rayos de Gracia, Redención y Paz. En las palmas de cada mano hay la cicatriz de una herida, un mudo testimonio de su íntima colaboración en el trabajo de nuestra redención. En una ilustración gráfica de la Corredentora como la describió Juan Paulo II el 31 de Enero de 1985 en Guayaquil, Ecuador, “crucificada espiritualmente con su hijo crucificado”. El cíngulo tiene la intención de ser un recordatorio de la tela de Jesús en la Cruz. El 31 de Mayo de 1951 la Señora dijo:

Por medio de la gracia de Mi Amo y Señor, y por amor a la humanidad, el Padre envió a Su único Hijo engendrado como Redentor al mundo. Juntos ahora quieren enviar al Espíritu Santo, el Espíritu de la Verdad, Quién solo El puede traer Paz. Por eso: “Gracia, Redención y Paz”. En esta era el Padre y el Hijo quieren enviar a María, “la Señora de Todos los Pueblos” como Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada. Ahora ya te he dado una explicación clara y lúcida de la imagen.

Se puede obtener mas información sobre la Señora de Todos los Pueblos en el Centro de Acción de La Señora de Todos los Pueblos, P.O. Box 31481, St. Louis, MO 63131, EUA; tel: (314) 965-2863; fax: (314) 965-3806 o La Señora de Todos los Pueblos, Diepenbrockstraat 3, 1077 VX Amsterdam, Países Bajos; tel: (0031) 20-662-0504; fax: (0031) 20-471-1333.

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Por Mons. Arthur B. Calkins

Me siento muy agradecido por la oportunidad de responder a la declaración de la comisión de la Academia Pontificia Internacional Mariana, sobre la conveniencia de una definición dogmática, por parte del Papa, de María como Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada, y responder a la vez al artículo que se publicó como comentario a dicha declaración ( ambos publicados en la edición del 4 de junio de 1997 de L’Osservatore Romano).

Primera Parte

I . No son Documentos Oficiales de la Santa Sede

Antes que nada, el hecho más importante que hay que tener en cuenta es que dichos documentos no son textos oficiales de la Santa Sede, aún cuando fueron publicados en el diario vaticano L’Osservatore Romano y su edición semanal en inglés y otras lenguas. Ambos documentos no representan un amplio espectro de las opiniones de los miembros de la Academia Pontificia Internacional Mariana, de la cual yo también soy miembro; ni siquiera por lo que se, contienen una abierta, justa y honesta consideración de los temas involucrados.

El sondeo inicial fue hecho sin una representación de los que están a favor de la definición y sin un debate serio. Los comentarios posteriores fueron escritos más con intención de propaganda que con seria atención a la realidad de los temas discutidos. Me temo que estos documentos son una muestra clásica de la manipulación de los medios de comunicación y de numerosos sectores dentro de la Iglesia, por parte de grupos interesados en interpretar el magisterio de la Iglesia desde su parcial perspectiva, un abuso que se ha venido dando después del Concilio Vaticano II y que es necesario exponer a plena luz.

II. Una Clarificación sobre el Significado de ‘Corredentora’

Este término requiere de ordinario una explicación previa, especialmente para las personas de habla inglesa, ya que el prefijo “co” es de inmediato interpretado como designando completa igualdad. Por ejemplo, el cosignatario de un cheque o el co-propietario de una casa es considerado en igualdad con el otro signatario o propietario. Es natural, pues, el temor de muchos de que describir a Nuestra Señora como Corredentora equivale a ponerla al mismo nivel de su Divino Hijo, implicando que es “Redentora” en el mismo sentido que Él lo es, reduciendo así a Jesús a “la mitad del equipo de redentores”. Sin embargo, en latín -de donde proviene el término Coredemptrix- el sentido es siempre que la cooperación de María y su colaboración en la redención es secundaria, subordinada y dependiente de Cristo, y aún así, “querida y aceptada libremente por Dios…como constituyendo una parte no necesaria pero sí maravillosamente grata del gran precio” pagado por el Hijo para la redención del mundo. Como señala el Dr. Mark Miravalle:

El prefijo “co” no significa ‘ igual’, sino que viene del latín “cum” que significa ‘con’. El título de Corredentora aplicado a la Madre de Jesús no pone nunca a María en nivel de igualdad con Jesucristo, divino Señor de todos en el proceso salvífico de la redención humana. Denota más bien, su singular y única participación en la obra salvífica de su Hijo por la redención de la familia humana. La Madre de Jesús participa en la obra redentora de su Hijo el Salvador, el único que pudo reconciliar la humanidad con el Padre en su gloriosa divinidad y humanidad.

Claramente, pues, lo que quieren los que están a favor de una definición papal no es una declaración dogmática de que María es la cuarta persona de la Santísima Trinidad, o que está en igualdad con Jesús ( ambos absurdos les han sido atribuidos por la prensa secular y católica). Lo que ellos quieren, es un reconocimiento oficial de que María ha participado en la redención del mundo de un modo tan especial que no tiene paralelo con ninguna otra humana creatura. De forma clásica en teología y en la ensañanza de los Papas esto se ha expresado con el término ‘Corredentora’.

III. La Corredención de María y el Concilio Vaticano Segundo

Desde la primera línea de su comentario, sale a relucir una de las estrategias clave de quienes se oponen a la definición dogmática: hacer aparecer a los que están a favor de esta definición como contrarios al Concilio Vaticano II:

Desde cualquier perspectiva que se considere, el movimiento que solicita la declaración dogmática de los títulos marianos: Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada, no está en acuerdo con el sentido del gran texto mariológico del Concilio Vaticano II, el capítulo ocho de “Lumen Gentium”.

Respondiendo a esta mala interpretación sin fundamento, quisiera señalar cuatro puntos:

1 El capítulo ocho de Lumen Gentium enseña con toda claridad la doctrina de María Corredentora en los números 56, 58 y 61. He aquí una cita muy importante del número 58:

La Santísima Virgen María…perseveró fielmente su unión con el Hijo hasta la cruz, junto a la cual, no sin designio divino, se mantuvo erguida, sufriendo profundamente con su Unigénito y asociándose con entrañas de madre a su sacrificio, consintiendo amorosamente en la inmolación de la víctima que ella misma había engendrado.

Este texto usa claramente el lenguaje de enseñanza papal previa sobre la íntima colaboración de María en el misterio de la redención, como se nota también en la siguiente cita del número 61:

Por disposición de la divina Providencia, (María) fue en la tierra la Madre excelsa del divino Redentor, compañera singularmente generosa entre todas las demás criaturas y humilde esclava del Señor. Concibiendo a Cristo, engendrándolo, alimentándolo, presentándolo al Padre en el templo, padeciendo con su Hijo cuando moría en la cruz, cooperó en forma enteramente singular a la obra del Salvador con la obediencia, la fe, la esperanza y la ardiente caridad con el fin de reataurar la vida sobrenatural de las almas.

En ambos textos podemos notar el gran énfasis puesto en María como la más íntima colaboradora en la obra de nuestra redención.

2. ¿Por qué no usa el Concilio la palabra ‘Corredentora’ aun cuando muchos Obispos acudieron a él en busca de una declaración de María como Corredentora y Mediadora? Esto se debe a una dudosa estrategia encaminada a favorecer el diálogo ecuménico. En el prólogo del primer borrador del documento que vendría luego a ser el capítulo ocho de Lumen Gentium, encontramos la siguiente afirmación:

Algunas expresiones y términos usados por los Sumos Pontífices han sido omitidos ya que, aunque en sí mismos absolutamente ciertos, podrían con dificultad ser entendidos por los hermanos separados ( en este caso protestantes). Entre estos términos pueden nombrarse los siguientes: “Corredentora de la raza humana…” [ Pío X, Pío XI ].

Estas eran las leyes del juego que los Padres Conciliares se vieron obligados a seguir. Algunos teólogos argumentarían que tal enfoque ha llevado a un ecumenismo tipo “mínimo común denominador”. Monseñor Brunero Gherardini, distinguido profesor de teología ecuménica, hace ver que, con o sin el uso del término ‘Corredentora’, los observadores protestantes en el Concilio captaron de inmediato la postura Católica sobre la participación de María en la redención. Ellos consideran cualquier participación humana en la obra de la redención del hombre, aún de modo secundario o subsidiario, como algo contrario al principio de Lutero “solus Christus” [solo Cristo] y, por lo tanto, una usurpación a Dios y a Cristo. Se sigue de aquí que al elaborar la enseñanza de la Iglesia sobre la colaboración de María en la redención estamos lidiando no sólo con la posibilidad de justificar un término, sino con un dato fundamental de teología Católica, un tema que no será de fácil manejo en el diálogo ecuménico con sólo sustituir una palabra o frase por otra que pareciera más neutral.

3. El Papa Juan Pablo II, uno de los Padres del Concilio Vaticano II, habló el 13 de Diciembre de 1995, acerca del deseo de algunos de los Padres Conciliares sobre un tratamiento más explícito de María como Corredentora y Mediadora en una forma que no fuera tan negativa, como en la afirmación hecha en el comentario que decía: “El actual movimiento en pro de una definición no está claramente en línea con la dirección del Vaticano II.” He aquí lo que dijo el Papa:

Durante las sesiones del Concilio, muchos Padres quisieron enriquecer aún más la doctrina mariana con otras afirmaciones sobre el papel de María en la obra de la salvación. El contexto particular en que se desarrolló el debate mariológico del Vaticano II no permitió que estos deseos, aunque fundamentales y ampliamente difundidos, fueran aceptados; sin embargo, la entera discusión sobre María en el Concilio, siguió siendo vigorosa y equilibrada, y los temas en sí, aunque no completamente definidos, recibieron significativa atención en el tratamiento general. Aún así, la vacilación de algunos Padres respecto al título ‘Mediadora’ no impidió que el Concilio usara este título al menos una vez, y afirmara en otros términos el papel mediador de María desde su consentimiento al mensaje del ángel, hasta su maternidad en el orden de la gracia (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 62). Más aún, el Concilio asevera su cooperación “de un modo totalmente singular” en la obra de restaurar la vida sobrenatural en las almas (ibid., n. 61).

Es este un comentario agudo hecho por alguien que ha continuado meditando y desarrollando estos mismos temas. A mi entender, este es el primer reconocimiento oficial hecho público por un Papa sobre las corrientes dentro del Concilio que moldearon la redacción del capítulo 8 de Lumen Gentium. Hace una fina referencia a los Padres que “quisieron enriquecer aún más la doctrina mariana con otras afirmaciones sobre el papel de María en la obra de la salvación”, sin criticarlos de ninguna manera. Hace también referencia al papel de María como Corredentora (cooperación en la obra de restaurar la vida sobrenatural en las almas) y Mediadora.

4. Se ve claro que los autores del comentario en cuestión, quisieran crear la impresión de que el Concilio Vaticano II dejó esculpida en granito una posición de la cual la Iglesia no podría desviarse nunca en el futuro. Pero en primer lugar, ningún Concilio tiene autoridad para obligar a los fieles en materias que no comprometan la fe y la moral. Y en segundo lugar -lo que es todavía más importante– los Padres Conciliares explícitamente declaran en el número 54 de Lumen Gentium que el Concilio:

…no tiene la intención de proponer una doctrina completa sobre María ni resolver las cuestiones que aún no ha dilucidado plenamente la investigación de los teólogos. Así, pues, siguen conservando sus derechos las opiniones que en las escuelas Católicas se proponen libremente acerca de aquella que, después de Cristo, ocupa en la santa Iglesia el lugar más alto y a la vez el más próximo a nosotros.

Es interesante notar que, justo en vísperas del Concilio las cuestiones íntimamente relacionadas entre sí acerca de la activa participación de María en la obra de nuestra redención como Corredentora y Mediadora, habían alcanzado un alto nivel sin precedente en claridad y madurez tanto entre los teólogos como entre los fieles. Al mismo tiempo, sin embargo, la oposición empezó a aparecer. Ya hemos anotado que la “sensibilidad ecuménica” sería presentada como una primera razón para evitar el tema o al menos su tratamiento directo; también empezó a surgir entre varios influyentes Obispos y sus periti (expertos), disgusto hacia el lenguaje general sobre la mediación, tal y como se venía aplicando tradicionalmente a María.

Tomando en cuenta este conflicto que salió a relucir en el aula Conciliar, la declaración arriba citada tiene un significado especial.
Pone en evidencia, sin ninguna duda, que los Padres Conciliares quisieron dejar constancia de su intención de no cerrar las puertas a la libre discusión sobre teología Mariana, aún cuando no estaban preparados paraa hacer declaraciones explícitas sobre algunos temas que habían sido largamente considerados en “en posesión”, y que ahora venían a ser disputados, tal como la activa colaboración de María en la obra de nuestra redención.

Segunda Parte

Continuando con mi respuesta a la declaración de algunos miembros de la Academia Pontificia Internacional Mariana, respecto a la conveniencia de una definición dogmática de María como Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada, lo mismo que al posterior comentario en apoyo de dicha declaración, me doy perfectamente cuenta que requiere mucho más tiempo y paciencia el corregir impresiones equivocadas, que el producirlas.

Para presentar el caso a favor de la definición dogmática, uno debe proceder con cuidado y proporcionar las fuentes de modo que estas puedan ser evaluadas de modo independiente. Se que esto también requerirá cierto grado de concentración por parte del lector. Pero creo que este esfuerzo por parte mía y de ustedes vale la pena, porque lo que está en juego es muy importante. No se trata tan solo de conferir nuevos títulos a la Madre de Dios como para ofrecerle “nuevas joyas a su corona”, sino más bien, esforzarnos por captar la magnitud de la misión que Dios le ha dado en nuestra salvación, y lo que El espera de nosotros también. ¡Que el Espíritu Santo guie a los que ponderen los siguientes hechos a ejemplo de María misma (cf. Lc 2:19, 51)!

IV. “ ¿Término no usado por el Magisterio Papal?”

El comentario publicado sin firma el 4 de Junio de 1997 en la edición diaria italiana de L’Osservatore Romano nos informa que “desde el tiempo del Papa Pío XII, el término Corredentora no ha sido uzado en ningún documento importante del Magisterio papal.” Esta afirmación hace surgir algunas preguntas legítimas e importantes.

1. ¿ Este término fue usado en el Magisterio papal antes de Pío XII ? Sí, lo fue. La palabra ¨Corredentora¨ que tiene unos quinientos años de historia en teología como una forma de hablar acerca de la singular colaboración de María en la obra de nuestra redención, hizo su primera aparición en pronunciamientos oficiales de las Cogregaciones Romanas durante el reinado del Papa Pío X (1903-1914). Se pueden encontrar en las Acta Apostolicae Sedis [ abreviado: AAS, publicación oficial de las Actas de la Sede Apostólica]. Aunque San Pío X no firmó estos documentos, sí fueron promulgados bajo su autorización. El Papa Pío XI hizo referencia explícita a María como Corredentora en sus alocuciones a los peregrinos y en un radiomensaje del 28 de Abril de 1935 para la clausura del Año Santo en Lourdes. Basados en este uso, el término y el esclarecimiento de su significado se hizo cada vez más frecuente entre los teólogos y mariólogos hasta la víspera del Concilio Vaticano II.

2. ¿Ha sido utilizado el término por algún Papa subsiguiente? Sí, la palabra ¨Corredentora¨ o ¨corredentivo¨ ha sido usada por lo menos seis veces por el Papa Juan Pablo II, al hablar de la íntima cooperación de María en la obra de nuestra Redención. También ha usado la palabra ¨corredentor¨ o ¨corredención¨al menos en tres ocasiones al hablar de la contínua colaboración de los Cristianos en la obra de la Redención.

V. “ ¿Marginal y Desprovisto de Peso Doctrinal?”

El comentario sin firma afirma además que “el término Corredentora no ha sido usado por el Magisterio papal en ningún documento importante”, para luego admitir que se le puede encontrar “ aquí y allá en escritos papales más bien marginales y desprovistos de peso doctrinal.” Antes de seguir adelante, echemos un vistazo al párrafo 25 de la Constitución Dogmática sobre la Iglesia Lumen Gentium , del Concilio Vaticano II, un texto de capital importancia sobre el Magisterio del Papa u oficio de enseñanza:

“…Este obsequio religioso de la voluntad y del entendimiento de modo particular debe ser prestado al magisterio auténtico del Romano Pontífice aun cuando no hable ‘ex cathedra’; de tal manera que se reconozca con reverencia su magisterio supremo y con sinceridad se preste adhesión al parecer expresado por él, según su manifiesta mente y voluntad , que se colige principalmente (1) ya sea por la índole de los documentos, o (2) ya sea por la frecuente proposición de la misma doctrina, o (3) la manera en que la doctrina es formulada..

Basado en un cuidadoso análisis de este texto, he sostenido en mi libro Totus Tuus que la enseñanza del Papa sobre la consagración o entrega a María forma una parte importante de su “magisterio ordinario” y que él ha llevado esta doctrina a un nuevo nivel de importancia. Creo que se puede alegar lo mismo respecto a su enseñanza sobre María como Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada.
Espero poder desarrollar esta idea e ilustrarla en artículos posteriores.

Ahora, ¿No parece un tanto irónico que un escritor anónimo en el diario Vaticano pueda campantemente minimizar el ejercicio diario del oficio de enseñanza del Papa y de sus predecesores, tachándolo de “marginal y desprovisto de peso doctrinal”? ¿Podría este increíble intento de invalidar la enseñanza papal ser mejor explicado por el hecho de que, tanto la declaración como los dos comentarios fueron publicados mientras el Santo Padre estaba en Polonia?

La pregunta que quisiera hacer aquí es sencillamente esta: ¿ Qué podríamos considerar más “marginal y desprovisto de peso doctrinal”, el ejercicio del Papa de su magisterio ordinario o la supuesta sabiduría superior de un autor o autores que se esconden detrás de la cubierta del anonimato? La verdadera sabiduría queda del lado del Santo Padre.

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Por Mons. Arthur B. Calkins

Es un oficial de la Comisión “Ecclesia Dei” en Roma, miembro destacado de la Academia Internacional Pontificia Mariana y miembro correspondiente de la Academia Pontificia Teológica.

I. El Misterio de la Iniquidad

En un lenguaje simple, no obstante poético y profundo el tercer capítulo del Libro del Génesis, narra la historia de la caída del hombre. Tres criaturas juegan los roles principales en este drama momentáneo: la serpiente, la mujer y el hombre. La serpiente seduce. La mujer que fue dada al hombre como compañera permitió ser seducida y el hombre la siguió. La historia parece muy simple pero tiene sus implicaciones monumentales. El hombre, Adán, es el progenitor y cabeza de la familia humana. La mujer, Eva, es su compañera. Como compañeros son iguales, pero tienen diferentes roles. ¨El es la cabeza de su mujer y la cabeza de la familia humana. “La totalidad de la raza humana es en Adán ‘un cuerpo y un hombre’. Por esta ‘unidad en la raza humana’, todo hombre está implicado en el pecado de Adán.”

Al mismo tiempo debe ser aclarado que el rol de la mujer entregada al hombre como su ayudante, estuvo lejos de ser menospreciada. Anotemos ahora lo que describió el Venerable John Cardenal Henry Newman:

Eva tuvo una posición definitivamente esencial en la Primera Alianza. La suerte de la raza humana era con Adán; él fue que nos representó. Fue con Adán que nosotros caímos; a pesar de que Eva fue la que cayó, aún así, si Adán hubiese permanecido, no hubiésemos perdido los privilegios sobrenaturales con los que había sido embestido como nuestro primer padre… pero después, como ella tuvo su propia relación general con la raza humana, así también, tuvo su lugar especial en relación a la prueba y a la caída en Adán. En aquellos eventos iniciales, Eva tuvo una participación integral… cooperó, no como un instrumento irresponsable, sino íntima y personalmente en el pecado; ella lo trajo. Como lo muestra la historia, fue una condición sine-qua-non, una causa positiva y activa de él. Y tuvo su participación en el castigo; en la sentencia pronunciada sobre ella, fue reconocida como un agente real en la tentación y sus consecuencias, y sufrió de acuerdo a ello.

Dios reparte el castigo primero a la serpiente (Gn 3:14-15), después a la mujer (Gn 3:16) y finalmente al hombre (Gn 3:17-19). Lo que es particularmente impactante, sin embargo, es que la sentencia pasó de la serpiente en forma reversa a la caída. El Señor dijo: “Pondré enemistad entre tí y la mujer y entre tu descendencia y su descendencia; ella te aplastará la cabeza mientras tu intentes morderle el talón” (Gn 3:15). Este texto se ha hecho famoso como el Protoevangelio (“primer evangelio”) y el Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica explica por qué:

La tradición Cristiana ve este pasaje como un anuncio del “Nuevo Adán”, quien debido a que se hizo “obediente hasta la muerte y aún muerte de cruz,” supera superabundantemente la desobediencia de Adán. Más aún, muchos Padres y Doctores de la Iglesia han visto a la mujer anunciada en el “Protoevangelio” como María, la madre de Cristo, “nueva Eva.” De hecho, el magisterio de la Iglesia (autoridad enseñadora) cada vez está más convencido de la validez de estos discernimientos de los Padres y Doctores a través de los siglos, y han visto al Protoevangelio como una revelación de la liga indisoluble entre Jesús y María en la obra de nuestra salvación. La Constitución de la Sagrada Liturgia del Concilio Vaticano II, SacroSanctum Concilium, provee una corroboración explícita de tal asociación al declarar que María “está inseparablemente ligada a la obra salvadora de su Hijo” [indissolubili nexu cum Filii sui opere salutary coniungitur] (#103). Esto sigue lógicamente de un principio de capital importancia enunciado por el Venerable Papa Pío IX en su Constitución Apostólica Ineffabilis Deus del 8 de Diciembre de 1854, que dice: “Dios, por un y el mismo decreto, ha establecido el origen de María y la Encarnación de la Divina Sabiduría.”

II. El Misterio de la Mediación

Un estudio atento de la revelación que Dios nos da, tanto en el designio divino como en las nuevas revelaciones, de que Dios escoge tratar con su pueblo a través de ciertas personas que designa para que actúen como su representante ante ellos y de sus representantes ante El. Esto podría ser verdaderamente descrito como el “misterio de mediación.” Después del pecado de Adán y Eva (Gn 3:6) los primeros ejercicios de mediación de los que tenemos noticia son las ofrendas de Abel y Caín (Gn 4:3-5). Estas ofrendas constaron de un acto de adoración o sacrificio a Dios.

¿Qué es un sacrificio? Sacrificio, que constituye el acto supremo de adoración externa y pública, puede ser definido como el ofrecimiento e inmolación a Dios de algo sensible (frutas, líquidos, animales) para reconocer su absoluto señorío y para expiar los pecados. Sacrificio, consecuentemente, tiene dos aspectos: uno material y sensible por que es un acto público y externo; el otro es interno y espiritual por que para tener un valor moral efectivo debe estar motivado por un contenido espiritual e íntimo. Las ofrendas especialmente de algo que es vivo tal como las frutas o aún más animales y por tanto la consecuencia de inmolación o destrucción de esas ofrendas es un contra balance al acto creativo de Dios. Así como Dios ha dado vida a todas las cosas, el hombre simbólicamente le regresa la vida. Particularmente en la inmolación de una víctima a Dios, tal como un cordero, una cabra, un becerro o un toro a través de la mediación de un sacerdote, el hombre expresa su total dependencia y dedicación a Dios. El fin último de un sacrificio es la unión mística del hombre con su Dios. En aquellos días iniciales de la raza humana, aún después del establecimiento del sacerdocio de Aarón, Caín y Abel actuaron como mediadores frente a Dios.

Aunque no estamos explícitamente informados sobre el porqué el sacrificio de Caín no fue aceptable, podemos bien asumir que tiene que ver con la falta de una disposición espiritual propia de su parte. A partir del asesinato de Abel por su hermano Caín (Gn 4:8), el pecado de nuestros primeros padres ha sido subsecuentemente multiplicado billones de veces, sobre los pecados personales de todos sus descendientes.
Consecuentemente, el Antiguo Testamento nos muestra numerosos casos en los cuales un representante es designado por Dios mismo para interceder en favor de su gente y calmar su cólera encendida por la cuenta de sus pecados, la cual quizá les sea quitada y su gente reciba más bien Sus bendiciones.

Los sacerdotes, profetas y reyes del Antiguo Testamento, cada uno de acuerdo a su oficio particular, comparten este rol de mediación. En variadas circunstancias y aún con una más clara manifestación del Plan de Dios, estos mediadores escogidos nos revelan dos cosas: (1) el designio divino de la mediación por el cual Dios estableció un orden para demostrar su misericordia a su gente, y (2) al mismo tiempo, el rol providencial de esta mediación.

Mientras fue claro que Dios requería una reparación aceptable para restablecer su amistad con el hombre, también se volvió claro que un mero hombre no podría definitivamente “superar el abismo” que el pecado había causado entre Dios y sus criaturas. Tal y como el autor inspirado de la Carta a los Hebreos nos dice:

No conteniendo, en efecto, la Ley más que una sombra de los bienes futuros, no la realidad de las cosas, no puede nunca, mediante unos mismos sacrificios que se ofrecen sin cesar año tras año, dar la perfección a los que se acercan. De otro modo, ¿No habría cesado de ofrecerlos al no tener ya conciencia de pecado los que ofrecen ese culto una vez purificados? Al contrario, con ellos se renueva cada año el recuerdo de los pecados, pues es imposible que Sangre de toros y machos cabríos borre pecados. (Hb 10:1-4)

El pecado, una ofensa contra el Dios infinito, requirió en efecto una reparación que el hombre, dejado a sus propios inclinaciones permaneció incapaz de hacerla. Ninguna criatura meramente humana pudo realmente tener éxito en la mediación entre Dios y su gente, excepto en su mejor caso, prefigurar en forma parcial la mediación total, completa y definitiva que era necesaria.

III. Jesús el Perfecto Mediador

En el mero corazón del misterio de nuestra redención está el hecho de que Jesucristo es el “único mediador entre Dios y el hombre… quien se entregó a sí mismo como expiación por todos” (I Tm 2:5-6). ¿Porqué Jesús es el único y perfecto mediador? Esta afirmación del nuevo Catecismo nos da los elementos fundamentales que necesitamos para formular una respuesta:

Ningún hombre aunque fuese el más Santo, estaba en condiciones para tomar sobre sí los pecados de todos los hombres y ofrecerse en sacrificio por todos. La existencia en Cristo de la persona divina del Hijo, que al mismo tiempo sobrepasa y abraza a todas las personas humanas, y que le constituye Cabeza de toda la humanidad, hace posible su sacrificio redentor por todos (CIC616).

Siendo uno con Dios en su divinidad, Jesús es al mismo tiempo uno con el hombre en su humanidad. En su persona divina se unen las dos naturalezas de las dos partes que se habían separado por el pecado del hombre: representa a Dios al hombre y al hombre con Dios. Como la Palabra que es uno con el Padre desde toda la eternidad, el Hijo no es mediador, pero se vuelve en uno desde el momento en que empieza a tomar la carne en el seno de la Virgen María. El autor inspirado de la Carta a los Hebreos, bajo la guía del Espíritu Santo, llegó a entender que a pesar de que no surgió de la tribu sacerdotal de Leví y nunca se refirió a sí mismo como sacerdote, Jesús fue el perfecto gran sacerdote que tuvo éxito en ´puentear´ la brecha entre Dios y su gente, en forma tal, que ningún otro sacerdote pudo haberlo hecho (cf. Hb 4:14-10:18). Lo hizo por medio de ofrecer el sacrificio de sí mismo en la cruz.

IV. La Colaboración en la Mediación de Jesús

Ahora bien, mientras no puede haber disputa de que Jesús es el sacerdote y víctima de ese sacrificio por el cual estamos salvados, y que el sólo por virtud de su muerte y resurrección (el misterio pascual) es el Redentor del mundo, la Iglesia Católica también sostiene que:

porque en su persona divina encarnada, se ha unido en cierto modo a cada hombre, “se ofrece a todo hombre la posibilidad de que, en forma sólo conocida por Dios, se asocie a este misterio pascual”… De hecho Jesús quiere asociar a su sacrifico redentor a aquellos mismos que son sus primeros beneficiarios. Eso lo realiza en forma excelsa en su Madre, asociada más íntimamente que nadie al misterio de su sufrimiento redentor (CIC 618).

He aquí el resumen cuidadoso de la enseñanza de la Iglesia en este asunto que el Papa Juan Pablo II dio en el discurso de su audiencia general el 9 de Abril de 1997.

A través de los siglos, la Iglesia ha reflexionado sobre la cooperación de María en la obra de la salvación, profundizando el análisis de su asociación con el sacrificio redentor de Cristo. Sn. Agustín le dio ya el título a la Santísima Virgen de ¨cooperadora¨ en la Redención (cf. De Sancta Virginitate, 6; PL 40, 399), un título que enfatiza la acción conjunta pero subordinada con Cristo el Redentor. Se ha desarrollado la reflexión sobre estas líneas, particularmente desde el siglo 15vo. Algunos temieron que esto pudiera mostrar un deseo de poner a María al mismo nivel que Cristo. En realidad, las eseñanzas de la Iglesia ponen una clara distinción entre la Madre y el Hijo en la obra de la salvación, explicando la subordinación de la Santísima Virgen, como cooperadora del único Redentor. Más aún, cuando el Apóstol Pablo dice ¨ya que somos colaboradores de Dios¨ (1 Cor. 3:9), mantiene la posibilidad real para el hombre de cooperar con Dios. La colaboración de los creyentes, la que obviamente excluye cualquier igualdad con El, está expresada en la proclamación del Evangelio y en sus personales contribuciones al tomar raíces en el corazón humano. Sin embargo, el término ¨cooperador¨ aplicado a María, adquiere un significado específico. La colaboración de los Cristianos en la salvación se da después del evento del Calvario, cuyos frutos se esfuerzan por distribuir por medio de oración y sacrificio. En cambio María, cooperó durante el evento mismo y en el rol de madre; por tanto su cooperación cubre la totalidad de la obra salvadora de los Cristianos. Sólo Ella fue asociada de esta manera con el sacrificio redentor que mereció la salvación a toda la humanidad. En unión con Cristo y en sumisión a El, colaboró en obtener la gracia de salvación para toda la humanidad.

Ambos textos cuidadosamente anotan que (1) es posible para las criaturas ser “asociadas en el sacrificio redentivo de Jesús” o ser “cooperadores en la obra de salvación”, y (2) que María fue asociada o cooperó más íntimamente que ninguna otra persona en el misterio del sufrimiento redentor de Jesús. El Papa Juan Pablo II hace notar dos muy importantes puntos (1) la cooperación de María difiere de la nuestra por que se dio “durante el mismo evento del Calvario” y (2), la colaboración total excepcional en la obra de la salvación está “subordinada” a aquella de Cristo y “en sumisión a él”.

Ahora bien, debe ser llanamente reconocido que la enseñanza de la Iglesia Católica sobre la cooperación del hombre en la obra de la salvación fue la roca de traspié para Martín Lutero (1483-1546), y subsecuentemente, para prácticamente todos aquellos cuerpos eclesiales que se derivan de la reforma Protestante. Sin embargo, la Iglesia Católica está convencida que estas enseñanzas están enraizadas en el Nuevo Testamento y así lo ha aseverado consistentemente, en la forma más solemne en el Concilio de Trento, y más reciente en el Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica. Sn. Augustín (354-430) podría ser tomado como el principal exponente de esta doctrina. El dijo: ”Aquel que te hizo sin tu cooperación no te salvará sin tu ayuda.” La Congregación de la Doctrina de la Fe y el Consejo Pontificio para la Promoción de la Unidad Cristiana, encontraron necesario, en el curso de 1998, reactivar estas enseñanzas respondiendo a la Declaración Conjunta de la Iglesia Católica y de la Federación Mundial Luterana sobre la Doctrina de la Justificación. La respuesta asevera que:

Más aún, la Iglesia Católica mantiene que las buenas obras del justificado son siempre fruto de la gracia. Pero al mismo tiempo, y sin disminuir la totalidad de la iniciativa divina, también son el fruto del hombre justificado e interiormente transformado. Podemos por tanto decir que la vida eterna es al mismo tiempo, gracia y premio dado por Dios por las buenas obras y méritos.

Este es un principio de importancia fundamental en la teología Católica y lo mismo que en la vida espiritual.

V. La Colaboración de María en la Mediación de Jesús

Los Padres del Concilio Vaticano II enseñaron, con una maravillosa perspicacia que “María, habiendo entrado íntimamente en la historia de la salvación, de alguna forma une en su persona y hace eco a las doctrinas más fundamentales de la fe”. Por tanto no deberíamos estar sorprendidos que estos mismo Padres reconocieron a María como el modelo perfecto de la colaboración humana en la gracia de Dios, “en sumisión a Cristo y con él, al servicio del misterio de la redención.” Anotan que la “unión de la Madre con el Hijo en la obra de la salvación es aparente desde el tiempo de la concepción virginal de Cristo hasta su muerte” y aún más especifican que:

La Santísima Virgen avanzó en su peregrinación de fe, y mantuvo fielmente su unión con su Hijo aún en la cruz donde permaneció de pie en conformidad con el plan divino. Ahí soportó con su Hijo único la intensidad de sus sufrimientos y unió a sí misma al sacrificio en su corazón maternal, consintiendo amorosamente en la inmolación de la víctima nacida de Ella.

Que quede bien anotado que, de acuerdo a la enseñanza consistente de la Iglesia, la colaboración de María en la obra redentora abarca la vida entera en la tierra del Dios-Hombre desde la Anunciación hasta el Calvario, pero que alcanza su cúspide en el Gólgota donde María es involucrada en dos ofrecimientos simultáneos: el ofrecimiento de su Hijo y el ofrecimiento de sí misma. Esto ha sido repetidamente enseñado por todos los Pontífices en el siglo veinte. He aquí una expresión clásica del primer ofrecimiento del Ciervo de Dios Pío XII en su Carta Encíclica Mystici Corporis del 29 de Junio de 1943, del que el texto de arriba de Lumen Gentium hace una referencia explícita:

Ella [María] fue quien, inmune a todo pecado, personal o heredado, aún más cercanamente unida con su Hijo, Lo ofreció en el Gólgota al Padre Eterno junto con el holocausto de sus derechos y de su amor maternal, como la nueva Eva, por todos los hijos de Adán contaminados a través de la infeliz caída…

En su Exhortación Apostólica Signum Magnum del 13 de Mayo de 1967, el Ciervo de Dios el Papa Pablo VI enfatiza el segundo ofrecimiento al señalar marcadamente la caridad de Nuestra Señora, fuerte y constante en el cumplimiento de su misión, hasta el punto de sacrificarse a sí misma en comunión total con los sentimientos de su Hijo que se inmoló a Sí mismo en la Cruz para darle al hombre una nueva vida.

Estos dos ofrecimientos son magníficamente resumidos en la Carta Inter Sodalicia del Papa Benedicto XV, del 22 de Marzo de 1918, que se ha vuelto justamente famosa:

De acuerdo a las enseñanzas comunes de los Doctores, fue un diseño de Dios que la Santísima Virgen María aparentemente ausente de la vida pública de Jesús, asistiera cuando El estaba muriendo clavado en la Cruz. María sufrió y, tal como fue, casi murió junto con su Hijo sufriente; por la salvación del mundo entero renunció a sus derechos maternales, y, hasta donde dependió de Ella, ofreció a su Hijo para aplacar la justicia divina; por tanto, correctamente podríamos decir que junto con Cristo redimió a la humanidad.

Benedicto habla aquí claramente de nuestra redención como un esfuerzo conjunto. Esto, desde luego, no quita nada del hecho que los méritos de Jesús fueron suficientes para nuestra redención o que María, como una criatura, nunca pudo haber igualado a su Hijo divino. Reconoce, más bien, que la presencia de María en el Calvario fue “de acuerdo al diseño de Dios” que fue la voluntad de Dios como fluyendo de la liga indisoluble entre Jesús y María en la obra de nuestra salvación, lo cual estaba ya anotado claramente en el Protoevangelio.

VI. María Corredentora

El hecho de que María junto con Cristo redimió a la raza humana, conduce de manera natural al fiel que continua meditando el hecho de acuñar la palabra ¨Corredentora¨ para describir su rol. El primer uso de esta palabra del cual tengamos conocimiento ahora, data del siglo catorce o quince. El término Corredentora usualmente requiere alguna explicación inicial en la lengua Inglesa, porque frecuentemente el prefijo “co” inmediatamente evoca visiones de completa igualdad. Por ejemplo, un co-firmante de un cheque o un co-propietario de una casa es considerado un co-igual con el otro firmante o propietario. Por tanto, el primer temor de muchos es que al describir a Nuestra Señora como Corredentora la pone en el mismo nivel de su Hijo Divino, e implican que es “Redentora” en la misma forma que él es, reduciendo a Jesús de esta manera “a ser la mitad del equipo de redentores.” Sin embargo, en la lengua Latina, de la cual proviene el término Corredentora, el significado siempre es que la cooperación de María o la colaboración en la redención es secundaria, subordinada, dependiente de aquella de Cristo –y a pesar de todo eso- algo que Dios “libremente quiso aceptar… constituyendo una innecesaria, pero aún así hermosamente agradable parte de un gran precio” pagado por Su Hijo por la redención del mundo. Como el Dr. Mark Miravalle anota:

El prefijo “co” no significa igual, pues proviene de la palabra Latina “cum” que significa “con”. El título de Corredentora, aplicado a la Madre de Jesús, nunca pone a María a nivel de igualdad con Jesucristo, el Señor divino de todos, en el proceso salvifico de la redención humana. Más bien, denota el singular y excepcional compartir de María con su Hijo en la obra salvifica de la redención para la familia humana. La Madre de Jesús participa en la obra redentora de su Hijo Salvador, quien por sí mismo pudo reconciliar a la humanidad con el Padre en su gloriosa dignidad y humanidad.

La palabra ha pasado de un uso teológico al vocabulario del magisterio. Fue primero usada en documentos oficiales emitidos por las Congregaciones Romanas a principios del siglo y subsecuentemente, por el Papa Pío XI en alocusiones a los peregrinos en su mensaje de radio del 28 de Abril de 1935 para la clausura del Año Santo en Lourdes. Aunque la doctrina de la colaboración excepcional de María en nuestra redención fue claramente enseñada por el Concilio Vaticano II como ya lo hemos visto, la palabra Corredentora no fue usada por razones de “sensibilidad ecuménica.” Lo que es aún más significante, sin embargo, es que después del período de la supresión artificial, el Papa Juan Pablo II ha usado la palabra “Corredentora” o “corredentiva” cuando menos seis veces para describir la cooperación íntima de María en la obra de nuestra Redención.

Ahora, me gustaría apuntar lo que creo puede ser el ejemplo más significativo de la enseñanza del Papa Juan Pablo sobre María Corredentora. Este viene de la homilía que dio en el Santuario Mariano de Nuestra Señora de la Alborada en Guayaquil, Ecuador el 31 de Enero de 1985. En aquella ocasión dijo:

María nos precede y acompaña. El silencioso itinerario que inicia con su Inmaculada Concepción y pasa por el sí de Nazaret, que la hace Madre de Dios, encuentra en el Calvario, un momento particularmente señalado. También allí, aceptando y asistiendo al sacrificio de su Hijo, es María aurora de la Redención;…Crucificada espiritualmente con su Hijo crucificado (cf. Gál. 2:20), contemplaba con caridad heroica la muerte de su Dios, ¨consintiendo amorosamente en la inmolación de la víctima que Ella misma había engendrado¨ (Lumen Gentium, 58)…Efectivamente, en el Calvario, Ella se unió al sacrifico del Hijo que tendía a la formación de la Iglesia; su corazón materno compartió hasta el fondo la voluntad de Cristo de ¨reunir en uno todos los hijos de Dios que estaban dispersos¨ (Jn 11:52). Habiendo sufrido por la Iglesia, María mereció convertirse en la Madre de todos los discípulos de su Hijo, la Madre de su unidad…Los Evangelios no nos hablan de una aparición de Jesús resucitado a María. De todos modos, como Ella estuvo de manera especialmente cercana a la Cruz del Hijo, hubo de tener también una experiencia privilegiada de su Resurrección. Efectivamente, el rol como Corredentora de María no cesó con la glorificación de su Hijo.

Esta parte de la homilía del Santo Padre constituye una magnifica catequesis sobre las varias formas en que María colaboró en la obra de nuestra redención. Anotemos como cuidadosamente el Papa desarrolla este tema.

  1. Primero, subraya que la cooperación de María con el plan de Dios por nuestra salvación concretamente empieza con la Inmaculada Concepción de María. La creó llena de gracia precisamente en vista del rol para el cual la había predestinado. Este don de ser totalmente transformada por la gracia desde el primer momento de su existencia en el seno de su madre, fue para que su cooperación con los designios de Dios no fueran impedidos por los deseos de la carne.
  2. Luego anota que su colaboración se convierte en explícita y deliberada en su respuesta al ángel: “Hágase en mi según tu palabra” (Lc. 1:38). Tal como el Padre Richard Foley, S.J. lo anota: “el consentimiento de Nuestra Señora a la iniciativa de Dios fue la condición indispensable para que su plan redentor siguiese en operación.”
  3. Después el Papa delinea la disposición interior de María en el Calvario. La describe como “aceptando y asistiendo al sacrificio de su hijo” y cita aquí el texto importante del Concilio Vaticano II sobre María “consintiendo amorosamente a la inmolación de esta Víctima que ella concibió” (Lumen Gentium, 58).
  4. Integrado a su ofrecimiento de Jesús como víctima al Padre, está el ofrecimiento de sí misma en unión con él. El Santo Padre remarca que María “unida a sí misma con el sacrificio de su Hijo lo que llevó a la fundación de la Iglesia.” Por tanto subraya el hecho de que, a través de un total sacrificio secundario y subordinado al de Jesús, el sacrificio de María no puede ser separado de aquél de su hijo.
  5. Precisamente porque María es una co-oferente del sacrifico del Calvario, Juan Pablo II la describe como “crucificada espiritualmente con su hijo crucificado.” Esta parece ser a la primera una aseveración impactante, aún una exageración, hasta que el Papa nos provee con su punto de referencia, la declaración llana de Sn. Pablo a los Gálatas: “Yo he sido crucificado con Cristo” (2:20). Si el Apóstol de los Gentiles puede decir esto de sí mismo y nos invita a ser imitadores de él (cf. I Co. 4:16; Flp. 3:17), cuanto más esto puede ser atribuido a María la “Nueva Eva,” ella que fue la más íntima asociada a Jesús en la obra de la redención.

VII. María Mediadora de Todas las Gracias

De acuerdo a las enseñanzas consistentes del magisterio papal durante los pasados cien años, es precisamente del rol de María como Corredentora de donde procede su función en la distribución de las gracias. He aquí como el Papa León XIII lo describe en su Carta Encíclica Adiutricem Populi del 5 de Septiembre de 1895:

Es imposible medir el poder y el alcance de sus oficios [los de María], desde el día en que fue tomada a lo más alto de la gloria celestial en compañía de su Hijo, la cual se merece por la dignidad y brillo de sus méritos. Desde su morada celestial empezó por decreto de Dios, a cuidar la Iglesia, para asistirnos y ampararnos como nuestra Madre; de tal manera que aquella que fue íntimamente asociada con el misterio de la salvación humana, siguede igual manera estrechamente asociada con la distribución de las gracias que estarán fluyendo por todos los tiempos a causa de la Redención.

En este texto, el Papa León XIII ilumina el rol de María como la Mediadora de todas las gracias. Al igual que en el caso de nuestro entendimiento del rol corredentivo de María, debemos siempre reconocer la mediación de María como secundaria y subordinada a, y dependiente de, aquella de Cristo mismo. En verdad, en Lumen Gentium No. 60 los Padres del Concilio Vaticano Segundo enfatizan que:

La misión maternal de María hacia los hombres de ninguna manera oscurece ni disminuye esta única mediación de Cristo, sino más bien muestra su eficacia. Porque todo el influjo salvífico de la Bienaventurada Virgen en favor de los hombres no es exigido por ninguna ley, sino que nace del divino beneplácito de Dios. Fluye de la superabundacia de los méritos de Cristo, se apoya en su mediación, de ella depende totalmente y de la misma saca toda su virtud.

Aún así al mismo tiempo debe ser aseverado que, precisamente por disposición de Dios, ningún otro ser humano colaboró en una forma tan íntima en la Redención de la humanidad como lo hizo María. Tal como el Papa lo pone en su discurso de la audiencia general del 9 de Abril de 1997, que ya ha sido citado anteriormente.

La cooperación de María abarca toda la obra salvífica de Cristo. Unicamente Ella fue asociada en esta manera en el sacrificio redentivo que mereció la salvación de toda la humanidad. En unión con Cristo y en sumisión a él, colaboró en la obtención de la gracia de la salvación para toda la humanidad.

Para ponerlo simplemente: porque María es la Corredentora, también es la Mediadora de todas las gracias.

Otro principio muy importante debe ser anotado en el texto citado arriba: habla de la unión de María con Jesús en la Redención del género humano. Esto no es decir que Jesús no sea el Redentor todo suficiente o que María puede haber sido pensada como una que se le iguale, sino más bien que por la voluntad de Dios, fue indisolublemente unida con él en la obra de la redención, y es consecuentemente, inseparablemente unida con él en la dispensación de los frutos de la redención. Esta ha sido la enseñanza consistente de la Iglesia bajo la guía del Espíritu Santo. Escuchemos que hermosamente el Papa Sn. Pío X aclara esta doctrina en su Carta Encíclica Ad Diem Illum del 2 de Febrero de 1904:

Es debido a esta comunidad de dolor y voluntad entre María y Cristo, que “Ella mereció convertirse de la manera más valiosa como la Reparadora del mundo perdido y, por tanto, la Dispensadora de la totalidad de los dones que Jesús por su muerte y su Sangre adquirió para nosotros. Ahora bien, no negamos que la distribución de estos dones pertenecen estrictamente por derecho a Cristo personalmente, ya que han sido adquiridos para nosotros sólo por Su muerte, y El es en su propio derecho el Mediador entre Dios y el hombre. Aún así, sin menoscabo de la comunidad de dolor y sufrimiento entre la Madre y el Hijo ya mencionada, la augusta Virgen, fue privilegiada para ser “la más poderosa Mediadora y abogada del todo el mundo, con su Hijo Divino.”

El misterio de la indisoluble unión de María con Jesús en la obra de nuestra redención está proféticamente proclamada en Génesis 3:15 y descrita en los Evangelios de Lucas y Juan. Más aún, el capítulo 12 del Apocalipsis nos muestra como la relación maternal de María con Jesús es extendida al “resto de su descendencia” (Ap 12:17). De verdad, no existe otra unión divino-humana que se compare con esta relación excepcional entre Jesús y María, la que existe precisamente “por nosotros los hombres y por nuestra salvación”. Debido a lo excepcional de esta unión, el Padre Stefano Minelli pudo hacer este sorprendente reclamo sobre la mediación de María:

La diferencia fundamental entre la Mediación maternal de María y cualquier otra mediación participativa por parte de otras criaturas, celestiales o terrenales, consiste el hecho de que mientras las otras mediaciones están limitadas en tiempo y espacio, la Mediación de María en cambio se extiende a toda la creación celestial o terrena, y toca todas las edades hasta le final de la creación.

Esta declaración del padre Minelli es sorprendente por que subraya la extensión de la mediación de María, pero no por que parta de las enseñanzas de la Iglesia. De hecho, solamente está haciendo eco al Siervo de Dios el Papa Pío XII quien declaró el 13 de Mayo de 1946, en su mensaje de radio a Fátima, que el Hijo de Dios dio a su Madre celestial una participación de Su gloria, Su majestad, Su reino; porque, asociada como Madre y Ministro del Rey de los mártires en la obra inefable de la Redención del hombre, es de igual manera asociada con El para siempre, con el poder por así decirlo infinito, en la distribución de las gracias que fluyen de la Redención.

VIII. María Abogada

En la homilía hermosamente rica que dio nuestro Santo Padre en Guayaquil, Ecuador, el 31 de Enero de 1985 y que ha sido citada anteriormente, dijo que “el rol de María como Corredentora no cesa con la glorificación de su Hijo” y continuo explicando que:

La Iglesia cree que la Santísima Virgen asunta al cielo está junto a Cristo, vivo siempre para interceder por nosotros (cf. Hb 7:25), y que a la mediación Divina del Hijo se une la insesante súplica de la Madre en favor de los hombres, sus hijos. María es aurora y la aurora anuncia indefectiblemente la llegada del sol. Por eso os aliento hermanos y hermanas todos Ecuatorianos, a venerar con profundo amor y acudir a la Madre de Cristo y de la Iglesia, la ¨omnipotencia suplicante¨ (omnipotentia supplex), para que nos lleve cada vez más a Cristo, su Hijo y nuestro Mediador.

Existen al menos dos puntos sobresalientes que pueden ser sacados de esta declaración ricamente doctrinal. El primero, que María participa en la intercesión sacerdotal de Cristo glorificado que está ahora sentado a la derecha del Padre donde intercede incesantemente por nosotros. En unión con Jesús, también es nuestra Abogada. El segundo, es una mayor precisión del rol intercesorio de María: es “omnipotentia supplex,” una frase casi intraducible que indica que Ella es al mismo tiempo ambas cosas, suplicante al mismo tiempo que todopoderosa. El Papa ha usado esta expresión paradójica para describir la intercesión de Nuestra Señora en un sinnúmero de ocasiones. Quizá una de las mejores explicaciones de esta terminología viene de Sn. Alfonso María de Ligorio:

Puesto que la Madre, entonces, debería ser igual de poderosa que su Hijo, Jesús, quien es omnipotente, ha hecho también a María omnipotente; sin embargo, también es verdad que mientras que Jesús es omnipotente por naturaleza, María es omnipotente solamente por gracia. Ella aparece como tal por el hecho de que cualquier cosa que la Madre pide, el Hijo nunca se lo niega… María, entonces, es llamada omnipotente en el sentido en el cual tal término puede ser aplicado a una criatura que es incapaz del atributo divino; esto es que Ella es omnipotente porque obtiene por sus oraciones todo lo que desea.

Puesto que María es Corredentora y Mediadora de todas las Gracias, también es nuestra más perfecta humana Abogada frente a la Santísima Trinidad. Este título tiene sus raíces profundas en la tradición Católica, iniciando desde Sn. Irineo en el siglo segundo. Esto ocurre en la Salve que nosotros rezamos: “ea pues, Señora Abogada nuestra, vuelve a nosotros esos tus ojos misericordiosos.” La palabra Abogada ha sido atribuida a María literalmente cientos de veces en el magisterio papal y la referencia a su intercesión ha sido un tema constantemente recurrente. En verdad, el gran documento Mariano del Concilio Vaticano Segundo reconoce que María es correctamente invocada como Abogada.

Poniendo juntos los tres títulos Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada nos permite captar el rol de María en nuestra salvación en una forma lógica y coherente: es precisamente debido a la participación única, íntima y excepcional de Nuestra Señora en la obra de la redención (como Corredentora), que es capaz de ser la distribuidora (Mediadora) de todas las gracias y la gran intercesora (Abogada) para sus hijos, después del mismo Jesús (cf. Hb 7:25; 1 Jn 2:1) y del Espíritu Santo (cf. Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). En verdad, cada uno de estos términos trae otra faceta de cómo María comparte de una manera sin precedente en la mediación única sacerdotal de Jesús: participa en la obra de nuestra redención, distribuye las gracias de la redención y vive para interceder por nosotros.

Estos tres temas están hermosamente entrelazados en la conclusión de la gran Carta Encíclica de Pío XI Miserentissimus Redemptor, sobre la reparación al Sagrado Corazón de Jesús:

Que la gran Madre de Dios, que nos dio a Jesús como Redentor, que lo creo, y que lo ofreció como Víctima en la Cruz, quien por su misteriosa unión con Cristo y por su incomparable gracia merece con todo derecho el nombre de Reparadora, se digne sonreír sobre Nuestros deseos y Nuestras necesidades. Confiando en su intercesión con Cristo Nuestro Señor, quien siendo el único mediador entre Dios y el hombre (I Tm 2:5) quiso, sin embargo, hacer de Su Madre la abogada para los pecadores y la dispensadora y mediadora de Su gracia, desde el fondo de Nuestro corazón y como una prueba de favor celestial y de nuestra solicitud paternal, impartimos de todo corazón a ustedes y a todos los fieles encargados a tu protección Nuestra Bendición Apostólica.

IX. Algunas Preguntas

Este ensayo ha sido escrito para mostrar la lógica interna y la coherencia de proponer una definición papal solemne de María como Corredentora, Mediadora y Abogada. He escogido hacerlo de una manera extensa basado en las enseñanzas de los papas recientes. Es completamente posible formar el caso para la definición en términos de la evidencia escriturística o de las indicaciones dadas por la vida litúrgica de la Iglesia o sobre la base del testimonio de los Santos y teólogos. Un buen número de tales estudios han sido hechos y continúan siendo profundizados en varias lenguas.

He escogido presentar esta pequeña introducción sobre el asunto, primeramente sobre las bases de la autoridad de las enseñanzas de los papas modernos, precisamente porque ellos reflejan y sintetizan la creencia de la Iglesia en una forma que puede ser comprensible a los fieles y que no requiere de un soporte extensivo de estudios escriturísticos, la historia de la teología, la vida de los Santos, etc. Más aún, esta vía manifiesta que el contenido de la definición propuesta es ya una parte del magisterio ordinario (opuesto al extraordinario) de la Iglesia. Los títulos no son novedades, sino más bien han sido consistentemente utilizados por los papas en el último siglo y medio, para describir el rol excepcional de María en la vida de los fieles. Tuve que escoger cuidadosamente citas para representar los cientos más, ya que el espacio no me permite presentarlos y se hubiera hundido por su propio peso este corto estudio. El punto es, que aquellos que quieran argumentar en contra de lo anteriormente presentado, no están argumentando conmigo o mis teorías, sino más bien con los sucesores de Pedro cumpliendo su oficio de la enseñanza oficial.

1. ¿Por qué el título de Corredentora?

Mi primera respuesta es ¿“Por qué no”? Es verdad que la palabra puede confundir aquellos que no saben su etimología, vgr: que “con” no significa “igual a”. Pero el uso de este término por los papas lo mismo que la doctrina consistente de la Iglesia, hace abundantemente claro que esta no es una intención para poner a María como un Redentor igual que Jesús. Por otro lado, ¿qué títulos pueden indicar mejor la posición única, excepcional, ocupada por María en la economía de la gracia? ¿Cooperadora, colaboradora, co-trabajadora, co-sufriente, participante? Pero estos términos pueden y deben de ser usados para todos nosotros. No indican la singularidad del rol de María. El gran convertido Inglés y escritor espiritual, Padre Frederick William Faber, argumenta en favor de la forma inglesada de la palabra “co-redentora” en 1857 en su trabajo clásico Al Píe de la Curz:

De hecho no hay ninguna otra palabra en la cual la verdad pueda ser expresada; y, muy lejos de la redención única y suficiente de Jesús, la cooperación de María está, en que su cooperación permanece solitaria y alejada de la cooperación de los elegidos de Dios… Pero ni la Inmaculada Concepción ni la Asunción nos dará una mayor idea de la exaltación de María que este título de co-rredentora, cuando tenemos que indagar teológicamente su significado.

2. ¿Por qué proponer una definición papal?

Ha sido anotado que ya existen cuatro dogmas sobre María. Estos son que ella es (1) la Madre de Dios (Teotokos); (2) siempre virgen; que fue (3) concebida inmaculadamente y, (4) asunta al cielo en cuerpo y alma. Todas estas verdades de fe atañen a la persona de María, pero hasta la fecha la Iglesia no ha propuesto a los fieles en la forma más solemne la verdad sobre el rol de María en sus vidas.

¿Pero porqué esto debe ser hecho cuando hay otros asuntos dentro de la Iglesia que parecen ser mucho más importante y mucho más urgentes? Hay, sin lugar a duda, evidencia indiscutible que ahora existe una gran parte de dos generaciones de Católicos, que no saben su fe o no la toman muy seriamente. Esto no pasó por accidente. Hay muchos que, con buena intensión o no, aprovecharon el momento al final del Concilio Vaticano II para expropiar la catequesis y la educación Católica y han contribuido poderosamente al caso que ha sobrevenido. Ellos no han sido simplemente quitados por la publicación del Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica, ni tampoco será capaz un simple acto legislativo de lograrlo.

La depravación y la permisividad moral del mundo en el cual se vive diariamente es cada vez más aparente y más atractivo –y se ha infiltrado dentro de la Iglesia. Anticoncepción, aborto, la disolución de familias, la pornografía bramante en los medios, la atentada justificación de la homosexualidad, el feminismo militante, la confusión de los roles del hombre y la mujer, la promoción de una sociedad sin valores –todo esto infesta los hijos e hijas de la Iglesia Católica. El Papa Pablo VI y Juan Pablo II no han titubeado hacer resueltamente frente a estos numerosos errores con coraje, proveyendo claras líneas de acción y exhortando a los fieles a ser convertidos y seguir el camino de los Evangelios. Treinta años después de la Humanae Vitae la sabiduría profética de Pablo VI es mucho más aparente que como fue en 1968, pero, ¿ha cambiado el curso?

En muchos lugares se han introducido innovaciones negligentes, intensivas e imprudentes dentro del culto de la Iglesia. Una nueva forma de iconoclacia ha causado la injustificable destrucción de muchos Santuarios Católicos. Más aún, existe una notable tendencia a trabajar en varios niveles para cambiar la orientación de la liturgia de estar centrada en Dios, a pasar a una más centrada en el hombre. El lenguaje del “Santo sacrificio de la Misa” está desapareciendo lentamente de nuestro vocabulario. Aún más, hay un intento por parte de algunos estrategas altamente colocados para demoler la liturgia presente Romana y restituirla menos reconocible. Todo esto ha conducido a una desorientación masiva por parte de los sacerdotes, religiosos y laicos, resultando en muchas deserciones y apostasía. ¿Podemos razonablemente esperar que más mandatos en la aplicación correcta de las normas litúrgicas de la Iglesia alterarán dramáticamente la situación presente?

Ahora bien, desde luego, no quiero minimizar los muchos signos esperanzadores en el horizonte o en ocasiones el trabajo heroico que se ha estado haciendo en muchos niveles para restablecer la práctica Católica en fe, moral y culto en donde esto ha sido necesario. Pero estoy convencido que una definición papal de María como Corredentora, Mediadora de todas las gracias y Abogada del Pueblo de Dios podría tener incalculables efectos positivos, directos e indirectos, en todas estas áreas que no se podrán dar de otra manera. Esto es porque María, presente en la Iglesia como Madre del Redentor, toma parte, como una madre, en esa “monumental batalla contra los poderes de las tinieblas” que continúa a través de la historia humana.

Ella no sólo es la “Mujer” del Protoevangelio (Gn 3:15), sino también la “Mujer” triunfante del Apocalipsis (Ap 12). Entre más la Iglesia le reconozca su rol en nuestra salvación, lo proclame y lo celebre, más Satanás será vencido y más Jesús reinará. Los padres del Concilio Vaticano Segundo dieron las palabras a esta intuición cuando declararon en Lumen Gentium No. 65 que:

Mientras [María] es predicada y honrada, atrae a los creyentes hacia su Hijo y Su sacrificio, y hacia el amor del Padre. La Iglesia, a su vez, buscando la gloria de Cristo, se hacen más semejante a su excelso modelo, progresando continuamente en la fe, la esperanza y la caridad, buscando y obedeciendo en todas las cosas la divina voluntad.

3. ¿Una definición no causará problemas ecuménicos?

Esta ha sido una objeción que ha sido consistentemente tomada por aquellos que se oponen a una definición. Mi pregunta hacia ellos es ¿”Por qué una proclamación más explícita de la verdad causa problemas”? La Iglesia encontró necesario reafirmar la imposibilidad de la ordenación de la mujer, a pesar de haber reconocido que existirían repercusiones en aquellos cuerpos eclesiales que tienen ministerios de la mujer. Como lo hemos visto anteriormente, en 1998 fue apremiada a defender la ininterrumpida tradición de la Iglesia sobre la colaboración del hombre en la obra de su redención.

Debemos estar perfectamente claros en este principio fundamental del ecumenismo Católico enunciado por los Padres del Concilio Vaticano Segundo:

Es de todo punto necesario que se exponga claramente toda la doctrina. Nada es tan ajeno al espíritu del ecumenismo como ese falso acercamiento conciliatorio, que daña la pureza de la doctrina Católica y oscurece su sentido genuino y definido. Pero al mismo tiempo, hay que exponer la fe Católica con mayor profundidad y con mayor exactitud, con forma y lenguaje que la haga realmente comprensible a los hermanos separados. Aparte de esto, en el diálogo ecuménico los teólogos Católicos, siguiendo la doctrina de la Iglesia, al investigar con los hermanos separados los divinos misterios, deben proceder con amor a la verdad, con caridad y con humildad.

Estos mismos Padres estuvieron conscientes que entre ellos [las iglesias separadas y Cuerpos Eclesiales en el Occidente], hay puntos de vista considerablemente diferentes de la doctrina de la Iglesia Católica aún concernientes a Cristo, la Palabra de Dios hecha carne y la obra de la redención, y por tanto, concernientes al misterio y ministerio de la Iglesia y al rol de María en la obra de la salvación.

Ellos nunca pensaron obviamente, que el rol de María debía ser omitido en silencio en el diálogo ecuménico. De hecho, concluyeron en el documento maestro del Concilio, Lumen Gentium, con estas palabras:

Ofrezcan todos los fieles súplicas insistentes a la Madre de Dios y Madre de los hombres, para que Ella, que estuvo presente en las primeras oraciones de la Iglesia ahora también, ensalzada en el cielos sobre todos los bienaventurados y los ángeles, en la comunión de todos los Santos, interceda ante Su Hijo, para que las familias de todos los pueblos, tanto los que se honran con el nombre de Cristiano como los que aún ignoran al Salvador, sean felizmente congregados con paz y concordia en un sólo pueblo de Dios, para gloria de la Santísima e Individida Trinidad.

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I. Enmity between the Woman and the Serpent

In his profound Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater of March 25, 1987, the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II stated:

In the salvific design of the Most Holy Trinity, the mystery of the Incarnation constitutes the superabundant fulfillment of the promise made by God to man after original sin, after that first sin whose effects oppress the whole earthly history of man (cf. Gen. 3:15). And so, there comes into the world a Son, “the seed of the woman” who will crush the evil of sin in its very origins: “he will crush the head of the serpent.” As we see from the words of the Protogospel, the victory of the woman’s Son will not take place without a hard struggle, a struggle that is to extend through the whole of human history. The “enmity,” foretold at the beginning, is confirmed in the Apocalypse (the book of the final events of the Church and the world), in which there recurs the sign of the “woman,” this time “clothed with the sun” (Rev. 12:1).

Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word, is placed at the very center of that enmity, that struggle which accompanies the history of humanity on earth and the history of salvation itself. In this central place, she who belongs to the “weak and poor of the Lord” bears in herself, like no other member of the human race, that “glory of grace” which the Father “has bestowed on us in his beloved Son,” and this grace determines the extraordinary greatness and beauty of her whole being. Mary thus remains before God, and also before the whole of humanity, as the unchangeable and inviolable sign of God’s election, spoken of in Paul’s letter: “in Christ … he chose us…before the foundation of the world, … he destined us … to be his sons” (Eph. 1:4, 5). This election is more powerful than any experience of evil and sin, than all that “enmity” which marks the history of man. In this history Mary remains a sign of sure hope. …

Thanks to this special bond linking the Mother of Christ with the Church, there is further clarified the mystery of that “woman” who, from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis until the Book of Revelation, accompanies the revelation of God’s salvific plan for humanity. For Mary, present in the Church as the Mother of the Redeemer, takes part, as a mother, in that “monumental struggle; against the powers of darkness” which continues throughout human history (1).

It seems to me that the words received by Ida Peerdeman from March 25, 1945, to May 31, 1959, must be read and understood in this context traced out by the Pope. In fact, I believe that all of the major Marian apparitions recognized as worthy of credence by the Church since that of Guadalupe in 1531 reflect the struggle between the Woman and the serpent.

Let us begin with Guadalupe. The extraordinary image of the Virgin “not made by human hands” shows her standing on a black crescent moon, identified by some scholars as the serpent god of the Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl, to whom millions of human sacrifices were made yearly. Helen Behrens (2), a noted Guadalupan expert offers this interpretation of the image and the name “Guadalupe”:

Neither Bishop Zumárraga nor any other Spanish prelate has been able to explain why (Our Lady) wished her image to be de Guadalupe. The reason must be that she did not say the phrase at all. She spoke in the native language, and the combination of words which she used must have sounded like de Guadalupe to the Spaniards. The Aztec “te coatlaxopeuh” has a similar sound. “Te” means “stone”; “coa” means “serpent,” “tla” is the noun ending which can be interpreted as “the,” while “xopeuh” means “crush” or “stamp out.” Her precious image will thus be known (by the name of) the Entirely Perfect Virgin, Holy Mary, and it will crush, stamp out, abolish or eradicate the stone serpent (3).

It is arguable that the “Woman who crushes the stone serpent” brought about the greatest movement of evangelization in the history of the Church. Within seven years of the apparition to St. Juan Diego eight million natives asked for Baptism, virtually wiping out one of the most cruel and diabolic cults which the world has known.

Another very important iconic reproduction of the “Woman who crushes the serpent” was manifested to St. Catherine Labouré in the vision which she had on November 27, 1830, in the chapel of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul on the Rue du Bac in Paris. There she beheld the image of Our Lady familiar to us as Our Lady of Grace or of the miraculous medal with her foot on the head of the serpent. Strangely none of the written accounts by Catherine mention the serpent, but as Fr. Joseph I. Dirvin, C.M. writes:

That Catherine transmitted the details of the serpent and the stars to her director, at least by word of mouth, is morally certain, for she approved the medal which bore both details from the first. Besides, in 1836, when the artist LeCerf was painting canvases of the apparitions, she described the serpent to her director as “green with yellow spots” – a rather fearsome serpent, and one, certainly, to offend the sensibilities of an artist (4)!

This image of Our Lady, reproduced literally millions of times in medals, statues and pictures has become imprinted in the souls of generations of Catholics calling to mind at once the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 and the image of the “Woman Clothed with the Sun” in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation.

In the July 1917 apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, it is not an image of a serpent or of a dragon which the shepherd children see, but rather a terrifying vision of the kingdom of the prince of darkness. Let us listen to Lúcia’s narration of the event:

“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times to Jesus, especially whenever you make some sacrifice:

‘O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’”

As Our Lady spoke these last words, she opened her hands once more, as she had done during the two previous months. The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in the fire, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. (It must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. Terrified and as if to plead for succor, we looked up at Our Lady, who said to us, so kindly and so sadly:

“You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace” (5).

Here let it be noted that it is through the instrumentality of Mary’s hands that the children see the vision; she has the power to reveal the horrors of hell because hell is subject to her.

The messages communicated to Ida Peerdeman are apocalyptic, but of a different genre, one more similar to the third secret of Fatima. Throughout the scenes, especially those from 1945 to 1950, spiritual battle becomes a kind of constant background. Our Lady says to Ida: “This is the spiritual battle that is being carried on all over the world. It is much worse than the actual wars now being waged, because it is undermining mankind” (6). On another occasion Ida sees St. Peter’s while Our Lady stretches her hand over it and says “This must and shall be protected. The other spirit is infiltrating with such dreadful success” (7). Yet again she says: “Pass this on: Christendom, you do not know the great danger you are in. There is a spirit that is out to undermine you, but … (and her hands make a sign of blessing), the Victory is ours” (8). The kingdom of darkness is very clearly alluded to in the prayer given by Our Lady: “Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster and war.” (9).

The spiritual battle which Ida sees is much more insidious than material warfare. Our Lady draws the matter out for her on March 28, 1951:

Do you know, child, what kind of period this is? It is a time such as the world has not experienced in centuries – such falling away from the Faith! … in these modern times, in this modern world, which knows so well how to act promptly and swiftly in material affairs, it is equally necessary, in spiritual matters, to act swiftly and without delay. …

Rome still thinks itself to stand securely; it is not conscious of how it is being undermined! Do you realize that theology must yield to the interests of my Son? …

Rome must be conscious of its role in these days. Does Rome know who the enemy is that is lying in wait for her, like a serpent stealthily making its way in the world? I am not referring to Communism alone; there are yet other “prophets” to come, false prophets (10)!

What develops as the scenes unfold is that theologians have a special role to play in this spiritual battle because the era of true peace in the Church and in the world is dependent upon the recognition of the unique role which God has given to Mary. Now that the major truths about her person – her Immaculate Conception, her Divine Motherhood, her Perpetual Virginity and her Glorious Assumption – have been solemnly professed by the Church, it is time to recognize the altogether unique role which Mary has played and is playing as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate. So speaks Our Lady to Ida:

My purpose and my commission to you is none other than to urge the Church, the theologians, to wage this battle. For the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will to send the Lady, chosen to bear the Redeemer into this world, as Co-redemptrix and Advocate. I have said, “This time is our time.” By this I mean the following: The world is caught up in degeneration and superficiality. It is at a loss. Therefore, the Father sends me to be the Advocate, to implore the Holy Spirit to come. …

In the sufferings, both spiritual and bodily, the Lady, the Mother has shared. She has always gone before. As soon as the Father had elected her, she was the Co-redemptrix with the Redeemer, who came into the world as the Man-God. Tell that to your theologians.

I know well, the struggle will be hard and bitter (and then the Lady smiles to herself and seems to gaze into the far distance), but the outcome is already assured (11).

Let us listen now to the words of Our Lady to Ida on August 15, 1951: “I have crushed the snake with my foot. I have become united to my Son as I had always been united with Him. This is ‘the dogma’ that has gone before in the history of the Church” (12). Indeed, Our Lady has crushed the serpent; the grace of the redemption has been poured out, but it must still be appropriated. Indeed the victory is assured, but its timing will depend on your part and mine – and I can find no explanation for the incredible opposition and even hostility to the proposed dogma except that this is the serpent’s way of stalling for more time. The opposition itself stems from before the time of the Second Vatican Council and was reflected in the debates on the council floor and behind the scenes. As the Servant of God John Paul II put it very delicately and diplomatically in his Marian catechesis of December 13, 1995:

During the Council sessions, many Fathers wished further to enrich Marian doctrine with other statements on Mary’s role in the work of salvation. The particular context in which Vatican II’s Mariological debate took place did not allow these wishes, although substantial and widespread, to be accepted, but the Council’s entire discussion of Mary remains vigorous and balanced, and the topics themselves, though not fully defined, received significant attention in the overall treatment (13).

The point is that the council did not and could not close the door on further precisions on Our Lady’s role in the work of our redemption even if many commentators today would have us believe that. The ongoing controversy about this which Our Lady frequently indicated to Ida seems to be echoed by what she said to Sister Agnes Sasagawa on October 13, 1973: “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres” (14).

My point is simply that Marian doctrine is never marginal or a luxury in the Church. The recognition of the role that the Lord has given to Mary for our benefit is bound to have many important ramifications. How befittingly Ida heard Our Lady apostrophize on the Feast of the Assumption in 1951:

Rome, do you know, how completely everything is being undermined? The years will speed by unheeded, but the longer you wait, the more the Faith will decline; the greater the number of years, the greater the apostasy (15).

II. Mediatrix of All Graces

In the course of the second millennium the Catholic Church has come to an ever clearer understanding of the role of Mary as the distributor of all of the graces of the redemption in which she had an active role. This has been affirmed by all of the popes of modern times, even though, because of complex maneuvering behind the scenes and on the council floor, the Second Vatican Council effectively refused to pronounce on this matter. The council did effectively recognize that Mary may rightly be called Mediatrix, but abstained from stating that she is by the express will of God “Mediatrix of All Graces” (16). Hence the following statement of Pope Benedict XVI in his homily of May 11, 2007, at the canonization of Frei Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão at Campo de Marte, São Paulo, Brazil, complements and completes the teaching of the council and may be safely taken as representative of what his predecessors have been teaching for the past 150 years:

Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, stands particularly close to us at this moment. Frei Galvão prophetically affirmed the truth of the Immaculate Conception. She, the Tota Pulchra, the Virgin Most Pure, who conceived in her womb the Redeemer of mankind and was preserved from all stain of original sin, wishes to be the definitive seal of our encounter with God our Savior. There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady. …

My dear friends, allow me to finish by recalling the Vigil of Prayer at Marienfeld in Germany: in the presence of a multitude of young people, I spoke of the saints of our epoch as true reformers. And I added: “Only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world” (Homily, August 20, 2005). This is the invitation that I address to all of you today, from the first to the last, in this Eucharist without frontiers. God said: “Be holy, as I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). Let us give thanks to God the Father, to God the Son, to God the Holy Spirit from whom, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, we receive all the blessings of heaven; from whom we receive this gift which, together with faith, is the greatest grace that can be bestowed upon a creature: the firm desire to attain the fullness of charity, in the conviction that holiness is not only possible but also necessary for every person in his or her own state of life, so as to reveal to the world the true face of Christ, our friend! Amen (17)!

Probably the most striking representation of this Catholic belief is to be found in the image of Our Lady of the miraculous medal as she appeared to St. Catherine Labouré on November 27, 1830.

On each of her fingers were three precious stones of differing size and from them came rays of light which fell upon the sphere at her feet. But from some of these stones no rays at all were cast.

Just as I was thinking of this – continues Catherine – the Blessed Virgin turned her eyes to me, and a Voice spoke within me: “The sphere which you see is the world; it includes France and every inhabitant of the earth. The rays of light which come from my hands are the graces which I shower on those who ask for them.”

Our Lady gave me to understand with what generosity and great joy she dispensed grace. “But,” she said, “there are graces for which I am not asked, and it is for this reason that some of the stones you see are not sending forth any rays of light” (18).

In her Third Memoir, finished on August 31, 1941, Lúcia offers us this profound insight into the mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary:

As I have already written in the second account, Our Lady told me on June 13th, 1917, that she would never forsake me, and that her Immaculate Heart would be my refuge and the way that would lead me to God. As she spoke these words, she opened her hands, and from them streamed a light that penetrated to our inmost hearts. I think that, on that day (of the second apparition), the main purpose of this light was to infuse within us a special knowledge and love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary, just as on the other two occasions it was intended to do, as it seems to me, with regard to God and the mystery of the most Holy Trinity.

From that day onwards, our hearts were filled with a more ardent love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. From time to time, Jacinta said to me: “The Lady said that her Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God. Don’t you love that? Her Heart is so good! How I love it!” (19)

Here the images of Our Lady’s mediation are quite striking. Her Heart will be Lucia’s “refuge and the way that will lead her to God.” Secondly there is the image of Mary’s hands opening and the light streaming from them. This is reminiscent of the vision of St. Catherine Labouré, but here there is the understanding that through Mary’s mediation one can receive special insights into the Most Blessed Trinity as well as into her own Immaculate Heart.

Lúcia goes on to report to us some of the extraordinary insights of her little cousin Jacinta:

You will remain here to make known that God wishes to establish in the world devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. When you are to say this, don’t go and hide. Tell everybody that God grants us graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that people are to ask her for them; and that the Heart of Jesus wants the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated at his side. Tell them also to pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for peace, since God has entrusted it to her. If I could only put into the hearts of all, the fire that is burning within my own heart, and that makes me love the Hearts of Jesus and Mary so much!” (20)

Here we may note Bl. Jacinta’s firm conviction about the mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with God and “that the Heart of Jesus wants the Immaculate Heart of Mary to be venerated at his side,” a confirmation that the recognition of Mary’s unique coredemptive and mediatorial role is the will of Jesus.

Now it is very interesting that the general posture of Our Lady in the image that she instructed Ida to have painted and that Ida herself had seen on May 31, 1951, is very similar to that of the image found on the miraculous medal. There are a number of differences, however. One is that Our Lady stands before the cross, indicating her collaboration in the work of our redemption. Another is that the globe of the world is surrounded by flocks of sheep. Let us listen to Ida’s description.

Then the Lady speaks to me again, “My child, imprint this image deeply on your mind and transmit it correctly: The flocks of sheep represent the peoples of the world who will not find rest until they achieve content and fix their eyes on the Cross, the center of this world.”

“Now look at my hands and relate what you see.” Now I see in the palms of her hands what appear to be wounds already healed and from these, rays of light stream out, three from each hand, and diffuse themselves upon the sheep.

Smiling, the Lady adds, “These three rays are grace, redemption, and peace. Through the grace of my Lord and Master, and for the love of mankind, the Father sent His only-begotten Son as Redeemer for the world. Now they both wish to send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, Who alone can bring peace. Hence: ‘Grace, redemption and peace.’ The Father and the Son wish, as at this very time, to send Mary, ‘the Lady of All Nations’ as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. – Now I have given you a clear and lucid explanation of the picture. There is nothing more to be said (21).

What is particularly striking here is that Mary’s hands have the stigmata imprinted on them. I believe that this is an entirely new feature in Marian iconography, but entirely justified pictorially. After Jesus, the God-man, no human creature – including all of the stigmatics of history – have shared more intimately in the saving Passion of Jesus than his mother. Let us listen to the words of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II in his Marian catechesis of April 9, 1997, which faithfully echoes the teachings of his predecessors on this important point:

Applied to Mary, the term “cooperator” acquires a specific meaning. The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary, instead, cooperated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her cooperation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity (22).

Iconographically, then, we have here a remarkable indication that Mary’s mediation of grace, redemption and peace flows from her role as Co-redemptrix: precisely from her wounded hands pour forth the graces of redemption. She would repeat this message again to Ida on July 2, 1951, with further explanations:

Now look hard at my hands. From them emanate rays of grace, redemption and peace. The rays shine upon all peoples, upon all sheep. Among these peoples there are many of good will. To be of good will means to keep the first and great commandment. The first and great commandment is LOVE. He who loves, will honor his Lord and Creator in His creation. He who loves, will do nothing that would dishonor his neighbor. That is what this world is lacking: Love of God – Love of Neighbor (23).

Our Lady indicates that “the rays shine upon all peoples, upon all sheep. Among these peoples there are many of good will.” Quite evidently she is saying that the graces which she mediates are not only for Catholics, not even just for Christians, but for all people of good will. All peoples need to know that the grace of redemption comes from Jesus through Mary. The more explicit this knowledge is, the more all peoples can benefit from it. The call for the dogma is also a call for the “new evangelization.”

III. The Advocate for All Humanity with Jesus and the Holy Spirit

In the wonderfully rich homily which our Holy Father gave in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on January 31, 1985, he said that “Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son” and then he went on to explain that

The Church believes that the Most Holy Virgin, assumed into heaven, is near Christ, forever living to make intercession for us (cf. Heb. 7:25), and that to her Son’s divine mediation there is joined the incessant supplication of his Mother on behalf of men, her sons and daughters.

Mary is the dawn, and the dawn unfailingly announces the arrival of the sun.

Therefore I recommend to all of you, brothers and sisters of Ecuador, that you honor with profound love and have recourse to the Mother of Christ and the Church the “all-powerful suppliant” (omnipotentia supplex), that she will bring us ever closer to Christ, her Son and our Mediator (24).

There are at least two salient points to be drawn from this doctrinally rich statement. The first is that Mary participates in the priestly intercession of the glorified Christ who is now seated at the right hand of the Father where he ceaselessly intercedes for us. In union with Jesus (cf. Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1) and the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) (25) she, too, is our Advocate. The second is a further precision of Mary’s intercessory role: she is omnipotentia supplex, an almost untranslatable phrase which indicates that she is at the same time both a suppliant as well as all-powerful. Pope John Paul II used this paradoxical expression to describe Our Lady’s intercession on a number of occasions (26). Perhaps one of the best explanations of this terminology comes from St. Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori:

Since the Mother, then, should have the same power as the Son, Jesus, who is omnipotent, has also made Mary omnipotent; though, of course, it is always true that, while Jesus is omnipotent by nature, Mary is omnipotent only by grace. But that she is so appears from the fact that, whatever the Mother asks for, the Son never denies her. … Mary, then, is called omnipotent in the sense in which such a term can be applied to a creature who is incapable of a divine attribute; that is, she is omnipotent because she obtains by her prayers whatever she wishes (27).

As Mary is Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces, she is also our most perfect human Advocate before the Blessed Trinity. This title has profound roots in the Catholic tradition going all the way back to St. Irenaeus in the second century. It occurs in the Hail, Holy Queen where we pray: “turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us.” The word Advocate is predicated of Mary literally hundreds of times in the Papal Magisterium and reference to her intercession is a constantly recurring theme. Indeed, the great Marian document of the Second Vatican Council readily recognized that Mary is rightly invoked as Advocate (28). In his great Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater John Paul gave a brilliant analysis of how Mary’s role as Advocate is intimately related to her role as Mediatrix:

At Cana in Galilee there is shown only one concrete aspect of human need, apparently a small one of little importance (They have no wine). But it has a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ’s messianic mission and salvific power. Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind, and in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind. And that is not all. As a mother she also wishes the messianic power of her Son to be manifested, that salvific power of his which is meant to help man in his misfortunes, to free him from the evil which in various forms and degrees weighs heavily upon his life (29).

On May 31, 1955, Our Lady gave Ida what was to be the clearest description of her role as Advocate:

You will have to endure a great deal as yet in this century. You, nations of this era, do realize that you are under the protection of “the Lady of All Nations”; call upon her as the Advocate; ask her to stave off all disasters; ask her to banish degeneration from this world.

Degeneration breeds disaster. Degeneration generates war. You should ask by means of my prayer to eject it from this world; do you not know what great value and power this prayer boasts before God? He will grant the requests of his Mother, when she comes to plead for you as Advocate (30).

IV. Conclusion

In concluding his important, but unfortunately largely forgotten Encyclical Letter of May 8, 1928, Miserentissimus Redemptor, Pope Pius XI formulated this prayer:

May the most gracious Mother of God, who gave us Jesus as Redeemer, who reared Him, and at the foot of the Cross offered Him as Victim, who by her mysterious union with Christ and by her matchless grace rightly merits the name Reparatrix, deign to smile upon our wishes and our undertakings. Trusting in her intercession with Christ our Lord, who though sole Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), wished however to make His Mother the advocate for sinners and the dispenser and mediatrix of His grace, from the bottom of our heart as a token of heavenly favor and of our fatherly solicitude we heartily impart to you and to all the faithful entrusted to your care our apostolic benediction (31).

If one reads this text with care, one will discover that Pius XI effectively identifies the Mother of God as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. One of the keys is to understand that the Latin word Reparatrix which the Pope used is an equivalent of the word Co-redemptrix. By offering his death for us on the Cross, Jesus “repaired” our relationship with the Father; he made “reparation” to him. As the “New Eve” at the side of the “New Adam,” Mary was united with him in this act of “reparation” in a way that was secondary, subordinate and dependent on him, but at the same time altogether unique. Hence she may be rightly called Reparatrix or Co-redemptrix (32). Secondly, the Pope pointed out that while Jesus, the God-man, is the sole Mediator between the Creator and his creatures, he wished to make His Mother “the dispenser and mediatrix of His grace.” Thirdly, the Pope also stated that the Lord wanted to make His Mother the “advocate for sinners.”

Linking together the titles Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate enables us to grasp Mary’s role in our salvation in a logical and coherent way: it is precisely because of Our Lady’s unique and intimate participation in the work of the redemption as Co-redemptrix that she is able to be the distributor (Mediatrix) of all graces and the great intercessor (Advocate) for her children after Jesus himself and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, each of these terms brings out another facet of how Mary shares in an unparalleled way in the unique priestly mediation of Jesus: she cooperates in the work of our redemption; she distributes the graces of the redemption; she lives to make intercession for us.

These three titles represent the Church’s ever deepening grasp of the unique role which the Mother of God plays in the work of the redemption, not only in the past, but here and now. The titles are not new, much less is their content new. The role of Mary in the work of our redemption has been the central question in Mariology for the past century and because, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council rightly stated, “Mary, having intimately entered into salvation history, somehow brings together in herself and reverberates the most important doctrines of the faith” (33). Therefore, far from being a side issue, I believe that this is the most important question facing theology today. Thus far the great majority of Catholic theologians have refused to affirm clearly what the Holy Spirit has been teaching the Church about Mary for the past millennium and have preferred instead the route of compromise and minimalism. One need only consult “agreed statements” like Mary in the New Testament (34), The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary (35), the much-touted declaration of the Dombes Group (36) and the ARCIC agreed statement on Mary of 2005 (37). Catholic pastors with the rarest of exceptions have also maintained an almost total silence about this matter and, indeed, at this stage many are genuinely ignorant of the Church’s millennial tradition.

But as Our Lady repeatedly stressed to Ida: now is the time to act. If God has made Mary the greatest and most perfect creature possible and has given her a totally unique role in the work of redemption – always subordinate to the God-man and dependent upon him – can we legitimately deny this or remain silent about it? Jesus is at the very center of our faith and Mary stands next to him. No, she is not the center of our faith, but she stands next to the center. She is inseparable from Jesus, united to him by an indissoluble bond and likewise united to the Church by an indissoluble bond. This is what the revelations of Our Lady of All Nations insist on, but this is not a new doctrine; it is the perennial teaching of the Church, now unfortunately all too often unknown, misunderstood or obscured. We must make this doctrine known, humbly, but joyfully. We must pray and sacrifice so that the definition requested by Our Lady comes about. I believe that we must accept the words spoken to “Rome” as also addressed to ourselves:

Rome, do you know, how completely everything is being undermined? The years will speed by unheeded, but the longer you wait, the more the Faith will decline; the greater the number of years, the greater the apostasy (38).

The Lord asks our collaboration, just as he asked for Mary’s. On this depends the “Triumph of her Immaculate Heart” (39) prophesied by Our Lady at Fatima and the Lord has chosen to make this triumph the key to the Reign of the Most Sacred Heart of his Son.

Praised be the Hearts of Jesus and Mary!

 

Msgr. Calkins gave the preceding paper on May 31, 2008, at a Mariological conference on coredemption in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

 

Notes

(1) Redemptoris Mater #11, 47. Emphasis my own.

(2) Cf. A Handbook on Guadalupe (Kenosha, WI: Franciscan Marytown Press, 1974) 113-115.

(3) Cited in Francis Johnston, The Wonder of Guadalupe (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1981) 47-48. Emphasis my own. Cf. also The Dark Virgin: The Book of Our Lady of Guadalupe – A Documentary Anthology edited by Donald Demarest & Coley Taylor (Coley Taylor, Inc. / Publishers, 1956) 26-28; A Handbook on Guadalupe 107-112; Thomas Mary Sennott, Acheiropoeta: Not Made by Hands (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 1998) 27.

(4) Joseph I. Dirvin, C.M., Saint Catherine Labouré of the Miraculous Medal (NY: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1958) 97.

(5) Louis Kondor, S.V.D. (Ed.), Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words trans. Dominican Nuns of Perpetual Rosary (Fatima: Postulation Centre, 1976), Fourth Memoir, 162. Emphasis my own.

(6) The Messages of The Lady of All Nations (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Co., 1996) (= Messages followed by date, then page number in parenthesis) January 3, 1946 (8).

(7) Messages December 16, 1949 (24).

(8) Messages August 15, 1950 (30-31). Emphasis my own.

(9) Messages February 11, 1951 (39).

(10) Messages March 28, 1951 (44-45). Emphasis on “like a serpent …” my own.

(11) Messages April 29, 1951 (49-51).

(12) Messages August 15, 1951 (54).

(13) Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II XVIII/2 (1995) 1369 (Pope John Paul II, Theotókos – Woman, Mother, Disciple: A Catechesis on Mary, Mother of God (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000) 51).

(14) Teiji Yasuda, O.M.V., Akita: The Tears and Message of Mary trans. John M. Haffert (Asbury, NJ: 101 Foundation, 1989) 78. These words are also quoted by Bishop John S. Ito in his pastoral letter of April 22, 1984, in which he authorized the veneration of the Holy Mother of Akita, cf. 196.

(15) Messages August 15, 1951 (56).

(16) Cf. Lumen Gentium #60, 62.

(17) Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI III/1 (2007) 820-821 (L’Osservatore Romano, weekly edition in English (= ORE). First number = cumulative edition number; second number = page) 1829:3. Emphasis my own except for Immaculate Conception, Tota Pulchra and “Be holy, as I am holy” (Lev. 11:44).

(18) Omer Englebert, Catherine Labouré and the Modern Apparitions of Our Lady trans. Alastair Guinan (NY: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1959) 34-35.

(19) Kondor Third Memoir, 107. Italics my own.

(20) Kondor Third Memoir, 111-112. Italics my own.

(21) Messages May 31, 1951 (52).

(22) Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II XX/1 (1997) 621-622 (Pope John Paul II, Theotókos – Woman, Mother, Disciple: A Catechesis on Mary, Mother of God (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000) 185-186).

(23) Messages July 2, 1951 (54).

(24) Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II VIII/1 (1985) 321 (ORE 876:7).

(25) These texts in John’s gospel all refer to the Greek word Parakletos which is sometimes left in the Greek form “Paraclete” and variously translated as “Counselor” and “Advocate.” It refers to one who intercedes and pleads the cause of another.

(26) Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II II/1 (1979) 1034 (ORE 580:1); Inseg II/2 (1979) 816, 818 (ORE 610:3); Inseg VI/2 (1983) 558.

(27) St. Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Part I trans. Charles G. Fehrenbach, C.SS.R. et al. (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1962) 113 (Opere Ascetiche di S. Alfonso M. De Liguori Vol. VI (Rome, 1936) 205-206).

(28) Cf. Lumen Gentium #62.

(29) Redemptoris Mater #21.

(30) Messages May 31, 1955 (87).

(31) Acta Apostolicæ Sedis 20 (1928) 178 (Our Lady: Papal Teachings) trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961) #287.

(32) 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.

(33) Lumen Gentium #65.

(34) 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 (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA – Paulist Press, New York, N.Y.,1978).

(35) H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess (eds.), The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VIII (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1992).

(36) Alain Blancy and Maurice Jourjon and the Dombes Group, Mary in the Plan of God and in the Communion of Saints trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (NY: Paulist Press, 2002).

(37) The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, Mary, Grace and Hope in Christ: An Agreed Statement (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2005).

(38) Messages August 15, 1951 (56).

(39) Cf. Kondor Fourth Memoir, 162.

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The following article is an excerpt from a chapter in the recently published Marian anthology, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Seat of Wisdom Books, A Division of Queenship, 2008. Fifteen international Mariology experts contributed to the text. The book features a foreword by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke and has 17 chapters divided into four parts: 1. Mary in Scripture and the Early Church; 2. Marian Dogma; 3. Marian Doctrine; and 4. Marian Liturgy and Devotion. The book is now available from Queenship Publications. Visit our store to order a copy. To view the book in its entirety, simply click here. Asst. Ed.

Some – perhaps many – Catholics, if they give any thought to it at all, may think that the practice of consecrating oneself to Our Lady or placing one’s life entirely in her hands is a rather recent phenomenon in the life of the Church. Indeed, even if they are rather well informed, they may be of the conviction that this custom dates from the time of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (+1716), the author of the famous treatises, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin and The Secret of Mary. Surely without hesitation, St. Louis de Montfort (whom I hope will soon be named a Doctor of the Church) and St. Maximilian-Maria Kolbe (+1941) should be acknowledged as two of the principal proponents of Marian consecration in modern times. Yet the fact remains that this devotional practice dates from the earliest days of the Church and is really rooted in the Scriptures themselves, especially the words of Jesus from the Cross spoken to his Mother and to the beloved disciple (cf. Jn. 19:25-27).

Arguably the greatest proponent of Marian consecration in our own time was the Servant of God Pope John Paul II (+2005). His motto as bishop and pope was Totus Tuus (all yours), an abbreviated form of one of St. Louis de Montfort’s formulas, Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt (I am all yours [O Mary] and everything I have is yours).1 More than any other teacher of Marian consecration before him, this pope rooted his teaching and practice in the entrusting of John to Mary and Mary to John on Calvary. Here is a very important text from his Encyclical Redemptoris Mater of March 25, 1987, in which he expounded this doctrine in an authoritative manner:

The Redeemer entrusts Mary to John because he entrusts John to Mary. At the foot of the Cross there begins that special entrusting of humanity to the Mother of Christ, which in the history of the Church has been practiced and expressed in different ways. The same apostle and evangelist, after reporting the words addressed by Jesus on the Cross to his Mother and to himself, adds: “And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn. 19:27). This statement certainly means that the role of son was attributed to the disciple and that he assumed responsibility for the Mother of his beloved Master. And since Mary was given as a mother to him personally, the statement indicates, even though indirectly, everything expressed by the intimate relationship of a child with its mother. And all of this can be included in the word “entrusting.” Such entrusting is the response to a person’s love, and in particular to the love of a mother.

The Marian dimension of the life of a disciple of Christ is expressed in a special way precisely through this filial entrusting to the Mother of Christ, which began with the testament of the Redeemer on Golgotha. Entrusting himself to Mary in a filial manner, the Christian, like the Apostle John, “welcomes” the Mother of Christ “into his own home” and brings her into everything that makes up his inner life, that is to say into his human and Christian “I”: he “took her to his own home” (Redemptoris Mater 45).

Explaining the intimate relationship which Jesus wishes us to have with his Mother, the Pope pointed out that, while it is truly a personal relationship with Mary, it is ultimately oriented to Jesus himself:

This filial relationship, this self-entrusting of a child to its mother, not only has its beginning in Christ but can also be said to be definitively directed towards him. Mary can be said to continue to say to each individual the words which she spoke at Cana in Galilee: “Do whatever he tells you.” … Precisely with her faith as Spouse and Mother she wishes to act upon all those who entrust themselves to her as her children. And it is well known that the more her children persevere and progress in this attitude, the nearer Mary leads them to the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8) (Redemptoris Mater 46).

Historical Forms

The more one studies, the more one discovers Mary’s maternal presence in the itinerary of the Church’s life as well as the desire on the part of the faithful to entrust themselves to her. Here we can only indicate some of the major landmarks on this journey.2

Patristic Period

It does not seem presumptuous to see the first adumbrations of the tradition which would come to be known as Marian consecration in the Church in the most ancient recorded prayer to the Mother of God, dating from the third or fourth century, the Sub tuum praesidium.3 It is the filial prayer of Christians who know Mary’s motherly mercy (eusplangchnía in the Greek text) and therefore do not hesitate to have recourse to her protection (praesidium in the Latin text). If it does not speak of belonging to Mary, it is surely not far removed from this concept.

The late redoubtable Marian encyclopedist, Father Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., renders this third- or, at the latest, fourth-century prayer according to the reconstruction of Father Gabriele Giamberardini, O.F.M.: “Under your mercy, we take refuge, Mother of God, do not reject our supplications in necessity. But deliver us from danger. [You] alone chaste, alone blessed.”4 This Marian troparion used in almost all the rites of the Church and cited in Lumen Gentium 66 is ordinarily rendered into English after the Latin version: “We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God, despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all danger, O ever glorious and Blessed Virgin.”5 Mother Maria Francesca Perillo, F.I., on the basis of her recent study on the philology and doctrinal contents of the prayer, translates: “We take refuge in your womb, Holy Mother of God; do not refuse our pleas in our need, but save us from danger, O incomparable Virgin, divinely pure and blessed.”6

This ancient Marian invocation is of capital importance from many perspectives. First, it constitutes a remarkable witness to the fact that prayer was already explicitly addressed to Mary as Theotókos, or “Mother of God,” long before the Council of Ephesus which vindicated the use of this title in 431. Secondly, it may well reflect a tradition even older than the third century, the era from which many scholars believe the Egyptian papyrus dates, going all the way back to the apostolic period. Thirdly, while this antiphon (called a “troparion” according to Byzantine liturgical usage) does not explicitly call Mary “our Mother,” it does so in equivalent and very expressive terms.

About this justly famous and most ancient of Marian prayers Father Quéméneur makes this careful observation:

Here we do not yet have a consecration properly so called, but we already discern the fundamental elements that characterize Marian consecrations. The Sub tuum recognizes the patronage of the Mother of God; it is a spontaneous gesture of recourse to Mary. Originating in Egypt, the Sub tuum, with slight variations, will soon be taken up by the other churches; starting with the sixth century, it is inserted into the Byzantine, Ambrosian, and Roman liturgies. We can say that it is the root from which the formulas of other Marian prayers will arise.7

Significantly, and very conscious that he was standing in the most ancient stream of the Church’s Tradition, John Paul II framed the first part of his great acts of consecration and entrustment of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1982 and 1984 with the words of this antiphon: “We have recourse to your protection, holy Mother of God.”8 There are numerous other instances of his quotation of this most ancient Marian prayer.9

Father O’Carroll informs us that his confrère, the late Father Henri Barré, C.S.Sp., found evidence for the title servus Mariae in African sermons from the fifth and sixth centuries which indicate a personal attitude of belonging to Mary.10 Father Stefano De Fiores, S.M.M., also points to the use of this term in St. Ephrem the Syrian (+373) and Pope John VII (+707), but indicates that these instances cannot compare with the consistent usage and fervor of St. Ildephonsus of Toledo (+667).11 Ildephonsus is usually considered the first major representative of the spirituality of “Marian slavery”12 which eventually develops into what is now known as Marian consecration.13 400. In the case of Pope John VII one might profitably consult the testimony presented by Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M.,

Pope John Paul II himself, in his homily in Saragossa on November 6, 1982, immediately prior to the Entrustment of Spain to Our Lady, reviewed what is for us the most relevant information about this Benedictine Abbot who became the archbishop of Toledo:

St. Ildephonsus of Toledo, the most ancient witness of that form of devotion which we call slavery to Mary, justifies our attitude of being slaves of Mary because of the singular relation she has with respect to Christ. “For this reason I am your slave, because your Son is my Lord. Therefore you are my Lady because you are the slave of my Lord. Therefore, I am the slave of the slave of my Lord, because you have been made the Mother of my Lord. Therefore I have been made a slave because you have been made the Mother of my Maker” [De virginitate perpetua Sanctæ Mariæ, 12: PL 96, 108].

As is obvious, because of these real and existing relationships between Christ and Mary, Marian devotion has Christ as its ultimate object. The same St. Ildephonsus saw it with full clarity: “So in this way one refers to the Lord that which serves his slave. So, what is delivered up to the Mother redounds to the Son; thus passes to the King the honor that is rendered in the service of the Queen” [c. 12: PL 96, 108]. Then one understands the double employment of the desire expressed in the same blessed formula, speaking with the most Holy Virgin: “Grant that I may surrender myself to God and to you, to be the slave of your Son and of you, to serve your Lord and you” [c. 12: PL 96, 105].14

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The next major witness to the development of the tradition is the great Doctor of the Church St. John of Damascus (+c.750). The last of the great Eastern Fathers of the Church interprets the name of Mary, according to Syriac etymology, to mean “lady” or “mistress.” In his Exposition of the Orthodox Faith he says of Mary: “Truly she has become the Lady ruler of every creature since she is the Mother of the Creator.”1 In his first homily on the Dormition of the Mother of God he consequently prays:

We are present before you, O Lady [Despoina], Lady I say and again Lady, binding our souls to our hope in you, and as to a most secure and firm anchor [cf. Heb. 6:9], to you we consecrate [anathémenoi] our minds, our souls, our bodies [cf. 1 Thess 5:23], in a word, our very selves, honoring you with psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles [cf. Eph. 5:19], insofar as we are able-even though it is impossible to do so worthily. If truly, as the sacred word has taught us, the honor paid to our fellow servants testifies to our good will towards our common Master, how could we neglect honoring you who have brought forth your Master? … In this way we can better show our attachment to our Master.

Turn your gaze on us, noble Lady, Mother of the good Master, rule over and direct at your discretion all that concerns us; restrain the impulses of our shameful passions; guide us to the tranquil harbor of the divine will; make us worthy of future blessedness, of the beatific vision in the presence of the Word of God who was made flesh in you.2

One notes how in language which is redolent with scriptural overtones St. John makes the total gift of himself and those who are joined with him, of all that they have and are, to Our Lady. He deliberately used the Greek term anathémenoi in order to indicate that “consecration” means “setting aside for sacred use.” What is literally signified, according to the use of this word in Leviticus 27:28 and in other places in the Old Testament, is that this “giving of oneself to Mary” is so exclusive, absolute and permanent that one who would revoke the gift would be “cut off” (i.e. anathema) from God and his people. In analyzing this text, Father José María Canal, C.M.F., makes three major points: 1) Damascene’s deliberate use of the term “consecration” which pertains to setting aside for sacred use; 2) the comprehensiveness of this act which excludes nothing; and 3) its basis in Mary’s unique relationship to her divine Son by virtue of the divine maternity.3

Medieval Period

In the feudal setting of the early Middle Ages we find the custom of “patronage” (patrocinium) becoming widespread. In order to protect their lives and possessions, freemen would vow themselves to the service of their overlords; in exchange for the assurance of protection and the necessities of life, the client would place himself completely at the disposal of his protector. Here is a description of a traditional ceremony by which a vassal would put himself under the patronage and at the service of a suzerain, by the well-known liturgical scholar, Josef Jungmann, S.J.:

He put his hands in the enfolding hands of the master, just as is done today by the newly ordained priest when he promises honor and obedience to his bishop at the end of the ordination Mass. The act is also called commendation: se commendare, se tradere, in manus or manibus se commendare (tradere), and also patricinio se commendare (tradere). From the side of the overlord there was the corresponding suscipere, recipere, manus suscipere and the like.4

Not surprisingly, in those ages of faith this relationship of vassalage would provide a way of describing one’s relationship to Mary. If Jesus is one’s Lord, as we have already seen St. John of Damascus reason, then it is only logical that Mary becomes one’s Lady. Fulbert of Chartres (+1028) provides us with a beautiful prayer in which he underscores that his consecration to Christ in baptism also makes of him another “beloved disciple” (cf. Jn 19:26-27) “committed” to Mary:

Remember, O Lady, that in baptism I was consecrated to the Lord and professed the Christian name with my lips. Unfortunately I have not observed what I have promised. Nevertheless I have been handed over [traditus] to you and committed to your care [commendatus] by the Lord, the living and true God. Watch over the one who has been handed over to you [traditum]; keep safe the one who has been committed to your protection [commendatum].5

Likewise, a freeman who was in debt or otherwise not prospering in his affairs might present himself to an overlord “a rope around his neck, a sign that [he] was to become a serf, engaging his person, his family and his goods.”6 This, too, could be transferred into the spiritual realm and appropriated to one’s relationship to Our Lady as we see in the case of St. Odilo, abbot of Cluny (+1049) who as a young man consecrated himself to Our Lady by going to a church dedicated to her and presenting himself at her altar with a rope around his neck and praying:

O most loving Virgin and Mother of the Savior of all ages, from this day and hereafter take me into your service and in all my affairs be ever at my side as a most merciful advocate. For after God I place nothing in any way before you and I give myself over to you forever as your own slave and bondsman [tanquam proprium servum, tuo mancipatui trado].7

Another beautiful image of the patrocinium of the Virgin is that of her “protective mantle,” or Schutzmantel as it became known in German. In the Christian East the same image of the Virgin’s “protective mantle” is manifested in a slightly different iconographical style in the feast and image of the Pokrov.8 Here is Jungmann’s description of the Marian iconography which would become classical in the medieval West:

The emblem of Citeaux was the image of the Mother of God with the abbots and abbesses of the order kneeling under her mantle. Caesarius of Heisterbach (+1240) also knew this motif as he shows in his description of a Cistercian monk in heaven, looking about in vain for his brothers until Mary opens out her wide mantle and discloses a countless number of brothers and nuns. In the later Middle Ages especially, the motif of the protective mantle is widespread, commonly as an expression of protection being sought or hoped for, chiefly in connection with the image of the Mother of God.9

Arnold Bostius (+1499), a Flemish Carmelite, wrote explicitly about Mary’s patronage and protection of his order in his major Marian work, De Patronatu et Patrocinio Beatissimae Virginis Mariae in Dicatum sibi Carmeli Ordinem. Although he did not use the word “consecration” to describe the Carmelite’s relationship to Mary because that meaning had not yet been appropriated to the word, he used all the equivalent Latin expressions such as dicare, dedicare, devovere, sub qua vivere, etc.,10 and he maintained, as Pope Pius XII would in his letter, Neminem Profecto of February 11, 1950,11 that the wearing of the Carmelite scapular was an explicit sign of the acceptance of Mary’s patronage and protection, of the Carmelite’s belonging to her.12 In continuity with his predecessor, Pope John Paul II took up the same theme in his message to the prior general of Carmelites of the Ancient Observance and the superior general of the Discalced Carmelites on the 750th anniversary of the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, stating that “the most genuine form of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, expressed by the humble sign of the scapular, is consecration to her Immaculate Heart.”13

Modern Period

This heritage of the patrocinium of Mary would find expression in the Marian Congregations (sodalities) established by the Belgian Jesuit Jean Leunis in 1563 for the students of the Collegio Romano.14 The admission to the congregation, which had as its aim the formation of militant Christians after the ideals of St. Ignatius Loyola and which was placed under the patronage of Our Lady, soon became an act of oblation to the Virgin. The text of one of these early admission ceremonies by Father Franz Coster (+1619) was published in the Libellus sodalitatis in 1586 and is most likely the very formula which he first used to receive students into the congregation which he had founded at Cologne, Germany, in 1576. In it the sodalist chooses Mary as “Lady, Patroness and Advocate” and begs her to receive him as her servum perpetuum.15 Father Quéméneur underscores the fact that the Marian Congregations introduce yet another perspective into the question of Marian consecration which is inherited from the late Middle Ages: the corporate dimension.16

In 1622, the Marian Congregation admission formulae of the Italian Jesuit Pietro Antonio Spinelli as well as that of Father Coster were published in the book Hortulus Marianus of Father La Croix. The two formulae are described respectively as modus consecrandi and modus vovendi to the Blessed Virgin. Jungmann comments that this is the first appearance of the word consecrare (to consecrate) with the meaning of putting oneself under the patrocinium of Mary and it is taken as being synonymous with the word devovere which in classical Latin meant to devote oneself to a deity.17 In effect, the understanding from the beginning of this usage has been that by the act of consecration to Our Lady the sodalist places himself at the service of Christ the King through her mediation and under her patronage.18 The use of the term “consecration,” with the meaning of giving oneself completely to Mary in order to belong more perfectly to Christ, enters into the common Catholic lexicon from this period and has continued to be used in this sense by the popes of the past hundred years.

During virtually the same period of time that the Jesuit Marian Congregations were developing, confraternities of the Holy Slavery of Mary were germinating in the soil of Spain. In fact, the earliest of these, founded under the inspiration of Sister Agnes of St. Paul at the convent of the Franciscan Conceptionists at Alcalá de Henares, dates from August 2, 1595,19 and thus antedates the foundation of the sodality movement. The first theologian of this “Marian slavery” as it was practiced in Alcalá was the Franciscan Melchor de Cetina “who composed in 1618 what may be called the first ‘Handbook of Spirituality’ for the members of the confraternity.”20

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As the seventeenth century progressed, the confraternities multiplied and papal approval followed. One of the great promoters and proponents of this spirituality was the Trinitarian, St. Simon de Rojas (+1624),1 who was canonized by Pope John Paul II on July 3, 1988. The Augustinian Bartolomé de los Rios (+1652)2 extended the work of his friend de Rojas into the Low Countries and propagated it by means of his writings, which were known and cited by St. Louis de Montfort.3

Perhaps the single most important figure to emerge thus far in our brief consideration of the forms of Marian consecration in the spiritual journey of the Church is Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (+1629). Founder of the Oratory of Jesus and promoter of the Teresian reform of Carmel in France, his greatest glory in terms of the history of spirituality is probably one of which he was never conscious, that of being the “founder of the French School” of spirituality. His spiritual paternity would enrich the Church through St. John Eudes and the Ven. Jean-Jacques Olier, Sts. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort and Jean-Baptiste de la Salle. His disciples of even the second and third generations would continue to develop his doctrine with their own refinements and emphases. The depth of thought and the ponderousness of his style rendered him somewhat inaccessible so that often his immediate followers such as Olier and Eudes presented the fruits of his contemplation in ways which were much more appealing,4 but there can be no doubt that he was “le chef d’école.”

Of specific interest to us is that while visiting Spain in 1604 Bérulle, who had been a member of the Marian Congregation in his days in the Jesuit College of Clermont, came into contact with the confraternities of the Slaves of the Virgin and in particular with that of Alcalá de Henares, where he went to see the general of the Carmelites.5 This exposure would seem to have had a notable influence on the development of his own spirituality, for he would eventually formulate a “vow of servitude” to the Virgin Mary because of his conviction that in the divine design God wished to include in the vocation and predestination of Jesus Christ his divine filiation as well as the divine maternity.6 Hence Mary, the first to have made the vow of servitude to Jesus, “pure capacity for Jesus filled with Jesus,”7 relates one perfectly to him. Here are his words:

To the perpetual honor of the Mother and the Son, I wish to be in the state and quality of servitude with regard to her who has the state and quality of the Mother of my God. … I give myself to her in the quality of a slave in honor of the gift which the eternal Word made of himself to her in the quality of Son.8

We have already indicated a number of Bérulle’s illustrious disciples, but surely the greatest of them all was St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, described as “the last of the great Bérullians.”9 According to François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D.:

All of his teaching is marked by the powerful Christocentrism of the French School, with the same insistence on the mystery of the Incarnation and on the place of Mary in this mystery. But in receiving this precious talent, he makes it fruitful in a way that is personal and original. Above all, he renders accessible to all, especially the poorest and the smallest, the doctrine which Bérulle had formulated in a very theological manner, but in difficult language.10

While Bérulle had already indicated the link between baptism and his “vow of servitude to Jesus,” de Montfort would associate Mary with one’s baptismal commitment as well. What he proposes in his classic work, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, is a renewal of one’s baptismal promises “through the hands of Mary”:

In holy baptism we do not give ourselves to Jesus explicitly through Mary, nor do we give him the value of our good actions. After baptism we remain entirely free either to apply that value to anyone we wish or keep it for ourselves. But by this consecration we give ourselves explicitly to Jesus through Mary’s hands and we include in our consecration the value of all our actions.11

If Louis-Marie had written a special formula of consecration in conjunction with his treatise, True Devotion, it has not thus far come to light. This is because the first and last pages of the manuscript, only discovered in 1842, have never been found. The formula which he has left us in his earlier work, The Love of Eternal Wisdom, clearly highlights the fact that Jesus is the goal of the act of consecration which he proposes while Mary is its intermediary:

Eternal and incarnate Wisdom, most lovable and adorable Jesus, true God and true man, only Son of the eternal Father and of Mary always Virgin, … I dare no longer approach the holiness of your majesty on my own. That is why I turn to the intercession and the mercy of your holy Mother, whom you yourself have given me to mediate with you. Through her I hope to obtain from you contrition and pardon for my sins, and that Wisdom whom I desire to dwell in me always. … O admirable Mother, present me to your dear Son as his slave now and for always, so that he who redeemed me through you, will now receive me through you.12

Thus, while de Montfort readily and very frequently speaks of “consecrating oneself to Mary,” this must always be understood as a shorthand form of “consecrating oneself to Jesus through the hands of Mary.”13 It is precisely in these terms that Pope John Paul II presented him as a proponent of authentic Marian spirituality in Redemptoris Mater.14

Further, that same Pope defended the whole tradition of Marian slavery of which de Montfort is a major exponent-and, as we have seen, is deeply embedded in the whole tradition-in a discourse to his brother Polish bishops on December 17, 1987:

On May 3 of the year of the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland [1966] we were witnesses to the participants in the Act of Consecration proclaimed by Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński at Jasna Góra. The title of the act stimulated reflection, and at the same time it gave rise to certain objections, even protests. Can one speak of giving oneself “as a slave,” even if it is only a question of a “maternal slavery” and the act in question concerns the Mother of God and Queen of Poland?

One could say that the Act of Jasna Góra is itself rooted in the history of that “great paradox” whose first setting is the Gospel itself. Here it is a question not only of verbal paradoxes, but of ontological ones as well. The most profound paradox is perhaps that of life and death, expressed, among other places, in the parable of the seed which must die in order to produce new life. This paradox is definitively confirmed by the Paschal Mystery.

The tradition of a “holy slavery”-that is of a “maternal slavery” which is a “slavery of love”-has grown up on the same soil, and has been passed on by certain figures in the history of Christian spirituality. Suffice it to mention St. Louis de Montfort and our own St. Maximilian. Of course, the primate of the millennium inherited this tradition of Marian spirituality in part from his predecessor in the primatial see as well. It is known that Cardinal Hlond died with these words on his lips: “Victory, if it comes, will be victory through Mary.”

Thus it is that “maternal slavery” must reveal itself as the path towards victory, the price of freedom. For that matter, it is difficult to imagine any being less inclined to “enslave” than a mother, than the Mother of God. And if what we are speaking of is an “enslaving” through love, then from that perspective “slavery” constitutes precisely the revelation of the fullness of freedom. In fact, freedom attains its true meaning, that is, its own fullness, through a true good. Love is synonymous with that attainment. …

If we are speaking of the act of consecration itself “in maternal slavery” to the Mother of God, it is certainly, like every expression of her authentic cult, profoundly Christocentric. It introduces us into the whole mystery of Christ. Furthermore, we have a solid basis for affirming that the experiences of our country (which in a certain sense culminate in the Act of Consecration proclaimed at Jasna Góra) are also very close to the Mariology which found expression in Lumen Gentium: The Mother of God “present in the mystery of Christ and of the Church.”

Although there continue to be those who call into question and criticize the terminology of “maternal slavery,”16 as John Paul II acknowledged, it remains one of those Gospel paradoxes which reflects the fact that the Son of God himself took on the “form of a slave” (Phil. 2:7) and that his followers glory in being “slaves of Christ” (cf. 1 Cor. 7:22; Col. 1:7, 4:7). In recent years Fathers François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D., and Étienne Richer of the Community of the Beatitudes have offered extended reflections on its perennial validity.17

While it is only right to recognize de Montfort’s teaching as the highpoint of the Marian consecration championed by the “French School,” it would be unfair to consider the subsequent history of this phenomenon in the life of the Church simply in terms of denouement. The unfolding of this process continued even in that difficult period after the French Revolution with holy founders such as Bl. William Joseph Chaminade (+1850), who incorporated total consecration to Mary into the Society of Mary which he founded as the object of a special perpetual religious vow.18 The specific influence of de Montfort has been experienced, deepened according to the particular gifts of each and spread directly or indirectly by many other holy persons in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among these are the Ven. Mother Mary Potter (+1913), the Servant of God Frank Duff (+1980), Bl. Edouard Poppe (+1924), Bl. Dina Bélanger (+1929) and the Servant of God Marthe Robin (+1981).

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I believe, however, that in terms of the extent of the influence of de Montfort on his life and teaching and his subsequent diffusion of that teaching in his own unique way no twentieth-century figure can equal the Servant of God Pope John Paul II. He testified to that influence on his formation on many occasions.1 I am convinced that his Marian Magisterium is his greatest single legacy to the Church and that he has not only consolidated the teaching of his predecessors on Marian consecration, but has raised it to a new level by making it such a fundamental feature of his Ordinary Magisterium. (Rome: Edizioni Monfortane, 2005) 798-816; André Frossard,

It should also be noted that there are other approaches to Marian consecration which have come into existence in modern times which are not a direct result of the influence of great saint of Montfort-la-Cane. These are surely not in conflict with de Montfort’s; they simply have had their genesis under different circumstances and are a beautiful example of how the Holy Spirit draws unity out of diversity. It seems that St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe discovered de Montfort’s True Devotion only after he had been led to the necessity of Marian consecration through his immersion in the great Franciscan Marian tradition.2 Maximilian, who was familiar with de Montfort and saw the movement which he founded as a means of fulfilling his prophecy on the latter times,3 was also conscious of standing in the great tradition of Marian slavery. Although he did not employ the word with the frequency of de Montfort, he leaves no doubt about its implications in the following text:

You belong to her as her own property. Let her do with you what she wishes. Do not let her feel herself bound by any restrictions following from the obligations a mother has towards her own son. Be hers, her property; let her make free use of you and dispose of you without any limits, for whatever purpose she wishes.

Let her be your owner, your Lady and absolute Queen. A servant sells his labor; you, on the contrary, offer yours as a gift: your fatigue, your suffering, all that is yours. Beg her not to pay attention to your free will, but to act towards you always and in full liberty as she desires.

Be her son, her servant, her slave of love, in every way and under whatever formulation yet devised or which can be devised now or in the future. In a word, be all hers.

Be her soldier so that others may become ever more perfectly hers, like you yourself, and even more than you; so that all those who live and will live all over the world may work together with her in her struggle against the infernal serpent.

Belong to the Immaculate so that your conscience, becoming ever purer, may be purified still more, become immaculate as she is for Jesus, so that you too may become a mother and conqueror of hearts for her.4

Standing in the great tradition which we have been sketching, Maximilian brings a note of urgency about the battle, Mary’s “struggle against the infernal serpent” (cf. Gen. 3:15) and, hence, the all-consuming goal of his life was to mobilize an army, a militia completely at her disposal. This is clearly illustrated in the official Act of Consecration for the Militia Immaculatae:

O Immaculata, Queen of heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, N … a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.

If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: “She will crush your head,” and, “You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world.” Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.5

Another twentieth century figure who developed an apostolic Marian movement based on total consecration to Our Lady was the Servant of God Joseph Kentenich (+1968). In the process of nurturing what eventually became the Schönstatt family, Father Kentenich formulated a beautiful approach to Marian consecration in richly biblical imagery as a “covenant of love”:

Through a solemn consecration, that is, through a perfect mutual covenant of love, we want to give ourselves to her [Mary] entirely and unreservedly for time and eternity, so that as a perfect covenant partner we may always stand in her presence and grow in holy two-in-oneness with her, and in her with the Triune God. …

The covenant of love not only gives us the right, but even makes it our duty to make proper use of our right to make claims of love on our covenant partner, and to use the power of petition which has been given to us. In other words, just as Our Lady makes claims on and expresses wishes to us, we in turn should do the same with her.6

The Papal Magisterium

If, as we have just seen, Pope John Paul II is the heir of the great ecclesial tradition of Marian consecration, manifested in various ways in the course of the Church’s almost two millennia of history, he might be said to be even more explicitly the inheritor of the legacy of papal consecration to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.7 While space does not permit us to enter into this fascinating history here,8 we wish to indicate the most important high points. On October 31, 1942, the Servant of God, Pope Pius XII, gave a radio broadcast to pilgrims at Fatima celebrating the Silver Jubilee of the last of the 1917 apparitions. Concluding the broadcast, he prayed:

To you and to your Immaculate Heart, we, the common father of the vast Christian family, we, the vicar of him to whom was given “all power in heaven and on earth,” and from whom we have received the care of so many souls redeemed by his blood; to you and to your Immaculate Heart in this tragic hour of human history, we commit, we entrust, we consecrate [confiamos, entregamos, consagramos], not only the Holy Church, the mystical body of your Jesus, which suffers and bleeds in so many places and is afflicted in so many ways, but also the entire world torn by violent discord, scorched in a fire of hate, victim of its own iniquities. … Finally, just as the Church and the entire human race were consecrated to the Heart of your Jesus, because by placing in him every hope, it may be for them a token and pledge of victory and salvation; so, henceforth, may they be perpetually consecrated to you, to your Immaculate Heart [assim desde hoje Vos sejam perpetuamente consagrados também a Vós e ao vosso Coração Imaculado], O our Mother and Queen of the world, in order that your love and protection may hasten the triumph of the Kingdom of God.9

The act of consecration, originally made in Portuguese, was renewed in Italian in St. Peter’s Basilica on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 1942. This was been referred to many times by Pope John Paul II, especially in his own major consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of May 13, 1982, and March 25, 1984.10 Here it should be pointed out that, even though this first consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was carried out in conjunction with celebrations in Fatima, the fundamental impetus for this came not from Sister Lúcia (who had a particular mission calling for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary), but from Bl. Alexandrina da Costa (whose mission was to implore the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary).11

Another important pronouncement of Pius XII may be found in his address to the Jesuit Marian Congregations or Sodalities on January 21, 1945:

Consecration to the Mother of God in the Marian Congregation is total gift of oneself, for life and for eternity; it is not just a mere matter of form nor a gift of mere sentiment, but it is an effective gift, fulfilled in an intensity of Christian and Marian life, in the apostolic life, making the member of the congregation a minister of Mary and, as it were, her hands visible on earth through the spontaneous flow of a superabundant interior life which overflows in all the exterior works of deep devotion, of worship, of charity, of zeal.12

On November 21, 1964, at the end of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, when he solemnly declared Mary Mother of the Church, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wished to commemorate the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pius XII and prayed in these words:

We commit [committimus] the human race, its difficulties and anxieties, its just aspirations and ardent hopes, to the protection of our heavenly Mother.

O Virgin Mother of God, most august Mother of the Church, we commend [commendamus] the whole Church and the Ecumenical Council to you. … We commend [commendamus] the whole human race to your Immaculate Heart, O Virgin Mother of God.13

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A frequently overlooked reference to entrusting oneself to Our Lady is found in the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity: “Everyone should have a genuine devotion to her [Mary] and entrust his life to her motherly care” [Hanc devotissime colant omnes suamque vitam atque apostolatum eius maternæ curæ commendent].1

On May 13, 1967, Pope Paul VI issued his Apostolic Exhortation Signum Magnum to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to the children of Fatima and his own pilgrimage to that shrine. Recalling the great act of consecration of Pius XII in 1942 and his own reaffirmation of it in 1964, he went on to make this appeal.

So now we urge all members of the Church to consecrate [consecrent] themselves once again to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to translate this pious act into concrete action in their daily lives. In this way they will comply ever more closely with God’s will and as imitators of their heavenly Queen, they will truly be recognized as her offspring.2

Bringing with him to the papacy the great heritage of Polish Marian piety and the collective consecrations of Poland to Our Lady (in 1920, 1946, 1956, 1966, 1971, and 1976)3 and his total appropriation of the spirituality of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II promoted Marian consecration and entrustment as no other successor of St. Peter has ever done. Here I can only present a few highlights. His first solemn entrustment of the Church to Our Lady took place at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on December 8, 1978.4

The prototype of great acts of consecration/entrustment was that pronounced by previous recording for Pentecost Sunday, June 7, 1981,5 in conjunction with the celebration of the 1600th anniversary of the First Council of Constantinople and the 1550th anniversary of the Council of Ephesus. The event itself had been planned well in advance by the Pope. The double observance had been the object of a Pontifical Letter, A Concilio Constantinopolitano I, addressed to the bishops of the world,6 in which he spoke of Mary’s divine maternity as establishing a “permanent link with the Church” (perpetuum vinculum maternum cum Ecclesia).7 His more active participation in the festivities marking the observance of these two great councils and culminating on Pentecost Sunday, however, was precluded by an assassin’s bullet. The circumstances of this act of entrustment to Mary which addresses her as “entrusted to the Holy Spirit more than any other human being” and “linked in a profound and maternal way to the Church”8 are particularly poignant, then, and may also be reckoned as the plea of a stricken father on behalf of his family. The very same act was renewed again on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1981 before the icon of the Salus Populi Romani in St. Mary Major’s.9

The above cited act of entrustment became the archetype of two subsequent acts, closely modeled upon it, which gained considerably more public notice. The first of these was made on May 13, 1982, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, in that humble village in Portugal where Our Lady had first appeared 65 years earlier.10 It was also the first anniversary of the near fatal attempt on his life. The second of the acts deriving from that of Pentecost Sunday, 1981, was given more advance publication and correspondingly more emphasis was placed on the collegial nature of the act. It was announced in a pontifical letter to all the bishops of the world dated from the Vatican on December 8, 1983, but only published on February 17, 1984.11 It was intended to be one of the crowning acts of the Holy Year of the Redemption which began on March 25, 1983, and concluded on Easter Day, April 22, 1984. John Paul presented the rationale to his brother bishops in this way:

In the context of the Holy Year of the Redemption, I desire to profess this [infinite salvific] power [of the redemption] together with you and with the whole Church. I desire to profess it through the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God, who in a most particular degree experienced this salvific power. The words of the act of consecration and entrusting which I enclose, correspond, with a few small changes, to those which I pronounced at Fatima on May 13, 1982. I am profoundly convinced that the repetition of this act in the course of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption corresponds to the expectations of many human hearts, which wish to renew to the Virgin Mary the testimony of their devotion and to entrust to her their sorrows at the many different ills of the present time, their fears of the menaces that brood over the future, their preoccupations for peace and justice in the individual nations and in the whole world.

The most fitting date for this common witness seems to be the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord during Lent 1984. I would be grateful if on that day (March 24, on which the Marian Solemnity is liturgically anticipated, or on March 25, the Third Sunday of Lent) you would renew this act together with me, choosing the way which each of you considers most appropriate.12

The act itself was carried out by the Pope on Sunday March 25, 1984, in St. Peter’s Square before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima which ordinarily occupies the site of Mary’s appearances at the Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal, and which was especially flown to the Vatican for this occasion. The act of entrustment13 was recited by the Pope after the Mass commemorating the Jubilee Day of Families. Already the Holy Father has referred to his program of entrustment in his address to the Roman Curia on the Vigil of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 1982:

This year, in a special way, after the attempt on my life which by coincidence occurred on the anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin at Fatima, my conversation with Mary has been, I should like to say, uninterrupted. I have repeatedly entrusted to her the destiny of all peoples: beginning with the act of consecration of December 8, (1981), Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to the consecration to the Virgin of the countries visited: of Nigeria at Kaduna, of Equatorial Guinea at Bata, of Gabon at Libreville, of Argentina at the Sanctuary of Lujan. I remember the visits to the Italian sanctuaries of Our Lady of Montenero in Livorno, and of Our Lady of St. Luke in Bologna; culminating in the pilgrimage to Fatima in Portugal, “Land of St. Mary,” which was a personal act of gratitude to Our Lady, almost the fulfillment of a tacit vow for the protection granted me through the Virgin, and a solemn act of consecration of the whole human race to the Mother of God, in union with the Church through my humble service.14

There was never any veering from the path of this “program of entrustment” from the beginning of the pontificate to its very conclusion.15 Pope Benedict XVI has continued to follow in the footsteps of his venerated predecessor, most frequently using the term entrust. Here is one of his strongest exhortations to date. It occurred in his homily at the canonization of Frei Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão at Campo de Marte, São Paulo, Brazil on May 11, 2007:

In fact, the saint that we are celebrating gave himself irrevocably to the Mother of Jesus from his youth, desiring to belong to her forever and he chose the Virgin Mary to be the Mother and Protector of his spiritual daughters.

My dearest friends, what a fine example Frei Galvão has left for us to follow! There is a phrase included in the formula of his consecration which sounds remarkably contemporary to us, who live in an age so full of hedonism: “Take away my life before I offend your blessed Son, my Lord!” They are strong words, the words of an impassioned soul, words that should be part of the normal life of every Christian, whether consecrated or not, and they enkindle a desire for fidelity to God in married couples as well as in the unmarried. The world needs transparent lives, clear souls, pure minds that refuse to be perceived as mere objects of pleasure. It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage.

In our day, Our Lady has been given to us as the best defense against the evils that afflict modern life; Marian devotion is the sure guarantee of her maternal protection and safeguard in the hour of temptation. And what an unfailing support is this mysterious presence of the Virgin Most Pure, when we invoke the protection and the help of the Senhora Aparecida! Let us place in her most holy hands the lives of priests and consecrated laypersons, seminarians and all who are called to religious life.16

A Question of Terminology?

In recent years not a few Mariologists have taken the position that not only the terminology of Marian slavery-as we have seen above-but also the concept of Marian consecration itself is no longer acceptable.17 The argument is that consecration pertains to God alone and depends on his sovereign initiative and that our part can only be one of response.18 Further some argue that in a larger passive sense one cannot be consecrated to anyone but God.19 These authors argue that Pope John Paul II fully accepted their perspective and so decided to use the words entrust and entrustment to describe our relationship with Mary, effectively avoiding the “defective and discredited formulas of the past.”

In contrast, Father George Kosicki, C.S.B., has considered at some length the meaning of the Polish word most frequently used by John Paul II, translated into Italian as “affidare” and into English as “entrust.” The word is zawierzać, the same word employed in Cardinal Wyszyński’s various consecrations of Poland.20 Let us allow Father Kosicki to share some of his discoveries about this word:

I continued to wonder about the word “entrust” until I met a priest from Poland, a colleague of the present Pope while at the University of Lublin where Karol Wojtyła taught as bishop of Krakow. I asked him about the word “entrust” and its Polish meaning, mentioning that I was disappointed that he didn’t use the word “consecrate” to Mary in his Letter to All Priests [of April 8, 1979].21 His response was very clear and reassuring. He pointed out that the Polish word “zawierzać” (translated as “entrust”) is a strong word and is used for what we call in English “consecration” to Mary. He went on to say that the Polish word which is the equivalent root word to the English “consecration” (viz. “konsekracia“) is usually reserved for the consecration at Mass. He went further to point out that the word “entrust” was a special word for John Paul II because of the way he has used it in his Polish writings. He added that the motto of John Paul, “Totus Tuus,” (I am) all yours (Mary), means, “I consecrate myself to you, Mary” and is what Pope John Paul has in mind when he uses “zawierzać” (translated into English as “entrust”). In short the Polish “to entrust” means “to consecrate.”22

I have studied the question of consecration to Our Lady vis-à-vis entrustment to her, both in terms of contemporary theological discussion23 as well as John Paul II’s use of the term entrustment,24 and am convinced that he frequently used the words interchangeably along with other words such as dedicate, offer, commend, place in the hands of, etc.25 At the same time I have chosen as the title for this chapter the binomial “consecration and entrustment” because I believe that each word can be justified and offers shades of meaning not conveyed by the other.

(Page 6)

 The Theological Foundations of Consecration/Entrustment

A classical presentation on personal consecration provides us an important approach to the theological questions underlying our presentation:

Strictly speaking, one can consecrate himself only to God, for only God has the right to man’s total dedication and service. Consecration to Christ, to the Sacred Heart, is legitimate because of the hypostatic union. But “consecration” to the Blessed Virgin, or even to St. Joseph or to other saints, is not unknown to Christian piety. In the case of St. Joseph or the other saints, this is to be understood as consecration in a broad sense of the term, and it signifies no more than an act of special homage to one’s heavenly protector. The case of the Blessed Virgin, however, is not the same. The importance of her role in Christian spirituality is such that formulas of dedication to her appear to have more profound meaning. Her position in the economy of salvation is inseparable from that of her Son. Her desires and wants are his, and she is in a unique position to unite Christians fully, quickly, and effectively to Christ, so that dedication to her is in fact dedication to Christ. French spirituality has made much of consecration to Mary. Cardinal Bérulle encouraged the vow of servitude to Jesus and Mary. St. John Eudes propagated the devotion of consecration not only to the Sacred Heart, but to the Heart of Mary as well. But the practice achieved its strongest expression in the Traité de la vraie dévotion à la Sainte Vierge of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. The act of personal consecration according to Montfort, is an act of complete and total consecration. It consists in giving oneself entirely to Mary in order to belong wholly to Jesus through her.1

In effect the author of this article points to a resolution of this problem along two complementary lines. First and, admittedly, only very implicitly he evokes the principle of analogy. Secondly and quite explicitly he points to the unique role of Mary in the mystery of Christ and the economy of our salvation, particularly her mediation.

The Principle of Analogy

In the perspective of the philosophia perennis (perennial philosophy), analogy means a “likeness in difference.” Here are two excerpts from his article on consecration in the Nuovo Dizionario di Mariologia:

The only way to be able to apply a term to God and to a creature is to have recourse to analogy which is based precisely on the likeness in the difference. The analogical use of consecration referred to Mary maintains a sense of “total and perpetual gift” which is required in order to bring this usage in line with the light of revelation and theology. … The gift to her is analogous to that which is made to God since it maintains the significance of the total and perpetual gift, but on the different level proper to a creature.2

Consequently, when one speaks of “consecration to God” and “consecration to Mary” one is effectively speaking in the first place of what the disciples of St. Thomas call the “analogy of attribution.” Gardeil says that

In the analogy of attribution there is always a primary (or principal) analogate (or analogue), in which alone the idea, the formality, signified by the analogous term is intrinsically realized. The other (secondary) analogates have this formality predicated of them by mere extrinsic denomination.3

Following this paradigm, then, “consecration to God” is the primary analogate whereas “consecration to Mary” is a secondary analogate. In other words, the term “consecration” signifies something which is common to both analogates, the recognition of our dependence on them, but since God is our Creator and Mary is a creature that dependence cannot be exactly the same.4

But it can be held as well that such usage of the term “consecration to Mary” is also an instance of the “analogy of proportionality” which Gardeil explains in this way:

It will be remembered that in the analogy of attribution the (secondary) analogates are unified by being referred to a single term, the primary analogue. This marks a basic contrast with the analogy now under consideration, that of proportionality; for here the analogates are unified on a different basis, namely by reason of the proportion they have to each other. Example: in the order of knowledge we say there is an analogy between seeing (bodily vision) and understanding (intellectual vision) because seeing is to the eye as understanding is to the soul.5

Theologians have long recognized that there exists an analogy, a certain “likeness in difference,” between Jesus and Mary, a certain symmetry and complementarity, though not identity, between them.6

Admittedly, today this classical Catholic principle is more and more being called into question, and yet it is a fundamental building block of Catholic theology. Indeed, without it the discipline of theology is impossible and without it there is no understanding of Marian consecration. Even authors whom I have cited, like De Fiores, today distance themselves from it.7 In this regard Father Joaquín Ferrer Arellano has done us a great favor in recent years exposing the weakness of so much modern theology and Mariology8 and clearly indicating the Lutheran/Barthian animus against the principle of analogy.9 Let us have a few examples of how the great masters employ this concept. Here are some very important instances from St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort:

As all perfection consists in our being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus it naturally follows that the most perfect of all devotions is that which conforms, unites, and consecrates us most completely to Jesus. Now of all God’s creatures Mary is the most conformed to Jesus. It therefore follows that, of all devotions, devotion to her makes for the most effective consecration and conformity to him. The more one is consecrated to Mary, the more one is consecrated to Jesus. That is why perfect consecration to Jesus is but a perfect and complete consecration of oneself to the Blessed Virgin, which is the devotion I teach; or in other words, it is the perfect renewal of the vows and promises of holy baptism.10

This devotion consists in giving oneself entirely to Mary in order to belong entirely to Jesus through her.11

It follows that we consecrate ourselves at one and the same time to Mary and to Jesus. We give ourselves to Mary because Jesus chose her as the perfect means to unite himself to us and unite us to him. We give ourselves to Jesus because he is our last end.12

(Page 7)

The Principle of Marian Mediation

The astute reader will recognize that de Montfort’s texts cited above are a marvelous fusion of the principle of analogy and that of Marian mediation. He was, indeed, an extraordinary teacher who knew how to present sound theology to the poor and little ones. It was one of the great achievements of the late Pope John Paul II to re-launch discussion on Mary’s maternal mediation in the third part of his great Marian encyclical, Redemptoris Mater (38-47), at a time when such discourse had been out of favor in most theological and Mariological circles since the time of the Second Vatican Council.1 Perhaps even less noticed are his profound statements about Our Lady in his first encyclical, which speaks about Mary’s mediation without using the word. In Redemptor Hominis 22, he wrote:

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 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 on all the ways for 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.2

In his own unique style he was already reaffirming the Church’s teaching about Mary’s mediation of all graces.3

The teaching about the analogy between Jesus and Mary, between his Heart and her Heart, and her unique role as Mediatrix, he would draw out in many different ways in the course of his pontificate of over 26 years, precisely in his presentation of Marian consecration and entrustment. Here a few examples must suffice. In his homily at Fatima on May 13, 1982, before making his solemn Act of Consecration and Entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, he stated:

On the Cross Christ said: “Woman, behold your son!” With these words he opened in a new way his Mother’s Heart. A little later, the Roman soldier’s spear pierced the side of the Crucified One. That pierced Heart became a sign of the redemption achieved through the death of the Lamb of God.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary opened with the words “Woman, behold, your son!” is spiritually united with the Heart of her Son opened by the soldier’s spear. Mary’s Heart was opened by the same love for man and for the world with which Christ loved man and the world, offering himself for them on the Cross, until the soldier’s spear struck that blow.

Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means drawing near, through the Mother’s intercession, to the very Fountain of life that sprang from Golgotha. This Fountain pours forth unceasingly redemption and grace. In it reparation is made continually for the sins of the world. It is a ceaseless source of new life and holiness.

Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother means returning beneath the Cross of the Son. It means consecrating this world to the pierced Heart of the Savior, bringing it back to the very source of its redemption. Redemption is always greater than man’s sin and the “sin of the world.” The power of the redemption is infinitely superior to the whole range of evil in man and the world.

The Heart of the Mother is aware of this, more than any other heart in the whole universe, visible and invisible.

And so she calls us.

She not only calls us to be converted: she calls us to accept her motherly help to return to the source of redemption.

Consecrating ourselves to Mary means accepting her help to offer ourselves and the whole of mankind to him who is holy, infinitely holy; it means accepting her help-by having recourse to her motherly Heart, which beneath the Cross was opened to love for every human being, for the whole world-in order to offer the world, the individual human being, mankind as a whole, and all the nations to him who is infinitely holy. God’s holiness showed itself in the redemption of man, of the world, of the whole of mankind, and of the nations: a redemption brought about through the sacrifice of the Cross. “For their sake I consecrate myself,” Jesus had said (Jn 17:19).

By the power of the redemption the world and man have been consecrated. They have been consecrated to him who is infinitely holy. They have been offered and entrusted to Love itself, merciful Love.

The Mother of Christ calls us, invites us to join with the Church of the living God in the consecration of the world, in this act of confiding by which the world, mankind as a whole, the nations, and each individual person are presented to the Eternal Father with the power of the redemption won by Christ. They are offered in the Heart of the Redeemer which was pierced on the Cross.4

He sounded very similar notes when he spoke on the last day of 1984 in the Church of the Gesù in Rome, commenting on his Act of Consecration and Entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25 of that same year:

Closely united with the Jubilee Year was the Act of Entrustment to the Immaculate Heart of Mary which I carried out in union with all the bishops of the world.

I had already made such an act of entrustment and consecration on May 13, 1982, during my pilgrimage to Fatima, thus linking myself with the two acts carried out by Pius XII in 1942 and 1952. On March 25 of this year the same act of entrustment and consecration had a collegial character, because it was made simultaneously by all the bishops of the Church: it was carried out in Rome and at the same time all over the world.

This Act of Consecration was a drawing nearer of the world, through the Mother of Christ and our Mother, to the source of life, poured out on Golgotha: It was a bringing back of the world to the same fount of redemption, and at the same time, to have the Madonna’s help to offer men and peoples to him who is infinitely holy (cf. Homily at Fatima, n. 8).

Before the venerated statue of Our Lady of Fatima, brought to Rome for the occasion, I offered the hopes and anxieties of the Church and the world, invoking the aid of Mary in the struggle against evil and in preparation for the third millennium. Now is the hour when every person must make an effort to live faithfully this Act of Consecration to Mary.5

Again on September 22, 1986, the late Holy Father offered yet another synthesis of his great acts of consecration and entrustment:

We see symbolized in the Heart of Mary her maternal love, her singular sanctity and her central role in the redemptive mission of her Son. It is with regard to her special role in her Son’s mission that devotion to Mary’s Heart has prime importance, for through love of her Son and of all humanity she exercises a unique instrumentality in bringing us to him. The act of entrusting to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that I solemnly performed at Fatima on May 13, 1982, and once again on March 25, 1984, at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Holy Year of the Redemption, is based upon this truth about Mary’s maternal love and particular intercessory role. If we turn to Mary’s Immaculate Heart she will surely “help us to conquer the menace of evil, which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today, and whose immeasurable effects already weigh down upon our modern world and seem to block the paths towards the future”

Our act of consecration refers ultimately to the Heart of her Son, for as the Mother of Christ she is wholly united to his redemptive mission. As at the marriage feast of Cana, when she said “Do whatever he tells you,” Mary directs all things to her Son, who answers our prayers and forgives our sins. Thus by dedicating ourselves to the Heart of Mary we discover a sure way to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, symbol of the merciful love of our Savior.

The act of entrusting ourselves to the Heart of Our Lady establishes a relationship of love with her in which we dedicate to her all that we have and are. This consecration is practiced essentially by a life of grace, of purity, of prayer, of penance that is joined to the fulfillment of all the duties of a Christian, and of reparation for our sins and the sins of the world.6

He would draw out the implications of consecration/entrustment to Mary for both individuals and peoples in countless ways in the course of his long pontificate. Perhaps one of his last and greatest gifts to the Church was his teaching in his last encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 57:

“Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19). In the “memorial” of Calvary all that Christ accomplished by his Passion and his death is present. Consequently all that Christ did with regard to his Mother for our sake is also present. To her he gave the beloved disciple and, in him, each of us: “Behold, your son!” To each of us he also says: “Behold your mother!” (cf. Jn 19: 26-27).

Experiencing the memorial of Christ’s death in the Eucharist also means continually receiving this gift. It means accepting-like John-the one who is given to us anew as our Mother. It also means taking on a commitment to be conformed to Christ, putting ourselves at the school of his Mother and allowing her to accompany us. Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist.7

While an enormous number of further texts could be adduced, it is my sincere hope that those already presented will be an encouragement to take up the exhortation which John Paul II made on December 31, 1984: “Now is the hour when every person must make an effort to live faithfully this act of consecration to Mary.”8

 

Footnotes, Page 1

1. Cf. True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin [= TD] 179, 216, 266 in God Alone: The Collected Writings of St. Louis Marie de Montfort (Bay Shore, NY: Montfort Publications, 1988). In each of these passages the phrase appears with slightly different variations. The Latin formula quoted in TD 216 comes from a work attributed to St. Bonaventure (1221-1274), the Psalterium Majus, Opera Omnia (Vives Ed.), Vol. 14, 221a and 221b.
2. Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, Totus Tuus: John Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment (New Bedford: Academy of the Immaculate, “Studies and Texts,” No. 1, 1992) [= Totus Tuus] 41-74. I hope that within a year a second enlarged and revised edition of this work will appear. On the historical evolution of Marian consecration, cf. also P. Alessandro M. Apollonio, F.I., “La consacrazione a Maria,” Immaculata Mediatrix I: 3 (2001) [Apollonio, Cons] 72-91.
3. Discovered in 1917, a papyrus now kept in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England, contains the text of this Marian prayer which makes it the oldest invocation of the Mother of God which has thus far been found. Cf. Gerard S. Sloyan, “Marian Prayers” in Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M. (ed.) Mariology Vol. 3 (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1961) 64-68; I. Calabuig, O.S.M., “Liturgia” in Stefano De Fiores and Salvatore Meo (eds.) Nuovo Dizionario di Mariologia (Cinisello Balsamo: Edizioni Paoline, 1985) [= NDM] 778-779; Théodore Koehler, S.M., “Maternité Spirituelle, Maternité Mystique,” in Hubert du Manoir (ed.), Maria: Études sur la Sainte Vierge Vol. VI (Paris: Beauchesne et Ses Files, 1961) [= Maria]; Gabriele Giamberardini, O.F.M., Il culto mariano in Egitto, Vol. I: Secoli I-VI (Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1975) 69-97; Achille M. Triacca, “Sub tuum praesidium: nella lex orandi un’anticipata presenza della lex credendi. La teotocologia precede la mariologia?” in La mariologia nella catechesi dei Padri (età prenicena), ed. Sergio Felici (Rome: Libreria Ateneo Salesiano “Biblioteca di Scienza Religiosa” no. 88, 1989) 183-205; R. Iacoangeli, “Sub tuum praesidium. La più antica preghiera mariana: filologia e fede,” ibid. 207-40; Mother M. Francesca Perillo, F.I., “Sub Tuum Praesidium: Incomparable Marian Praeconium” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross – IV: Acts of the Fourth International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2004) [= Perillo] 138-169.
4. Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp., Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1982) [= Theotokos] 336.
5. Theotokos 336.
6. Perillo 168.
7. M. Quéméneur, S.M.M., “Towards a History of Marian Consecration,” trans. Bro. William Fackovec, S.M., Marian Library Studies 122 (March 1966) 4. (This excellent article originally appeared as “La consécration de soi à la Vierge à travers l’histoire,” Cahiers Marials no. 14 [1959] 119-128.
8. Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II [= Inseg] V/2 (1982) 1586, 1587 [L’Osservatore Romano, weekly edition in English (= ORE). First number = cumulative edition number; second number = page] 735:5, 12; Inseg ORE 828:9, 10].
9. Cf. Totus Tuus 44-45.
10. Theotokos 107.
11. Stefano de Fiores, “Consacrazione” in NDMMaria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza Vol. IV (Isola del Liri: Tipografia Editrice M. Pisani, 1969) 97-98.
12. Cf. the excellent study by Théodore Koehler, S.M., in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité Ascétique et Mystique [= DSp] 14:730-745.
13. Cf. Patrick J. Gaffney, S.M.M., “The Holy Slavery of Love,” in Juniper B. Carol, O.F.M. (ed.), Mariology 3:143-146; Roschini, Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza IV:85-86.
14. Inseg V/3 (1982) 1179-1180 [trans. by Debra Duncan].

Footnotes, Page 2

1. Cited in Valentine Albert Mitchell, S.M., The Mariology of Saint John Damascene (Kirkwood, MO: Maryhurst Normal Press, 1930) 76; cf. also 214.
2. Patroligia Graeca 96, 720C-D, 721A-B; Sources Chrétiennes 80, 118 (my trans. made with reference to Theotokos 199 and Georges Gharib et al (ed.), Testi Mariani del Primo Millennio Vol. 2: Padri e altri autori bizantini (Rome: Città Nuova Editrice, 1989) 519-520); my emphasis.
3. P. José María Canal, C.M.F., “La Consagración a la Virgen y a Su Corazon Inmaculado,” Virgo Immaculata Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani Romae anno MCMLIV (Rome: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 1956) XII:234-235.
4. J.A. Jungmann, S.J., Pastoral Liturgy (NY: Herder and Herder, 1962) 298.
5. Henri Barré, C.S.Sp., Prières Anciennes de l’Occident à la Mère du Sauveur: Des origines à saint Anselme (Paris: Lethielleux,, 1963) 159 (my trans.).
6. Quéméneur 6.
7. Barré, Prières Anciennes, 147 (my trans).
8. Cf. S. Salaville, A.A., “Marie dans la Liturgie Byzantine ou Gréco-Slave,” in Maria I:280; cf. also Quéméneur 4 and Redemptoris Mater 33.
9. Jungmann 300; cf. also Theotokos 93-94.
10. I. Bengoechea, O.C.D., “Un precursor de la consagración a María en el siglo XV: Arnoldo Bostio (1445-1499),” Estudios Marianos 51 (1986) 218; cf. also Redemptus M. Valabek, O.Carm., Mary, Mother of Carmel: Our Lady and the Saints of Carmel, Vol. I (Rome: Institutum Carmelitanum, 1987) 74.
11. Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [= AAS] 42 (1950) 390-391; Our Lady: Papal Teachings (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961) [= OL] 452-454.
12. Bengoechea 224-225; Valabek 76.
13. Inseg XXIV/1 (2001) 600 [ORE 1687:5].
14. Cf. E. Villaret, S.J., “Marie et la Compagnie de Jésus” in Maria 2:962-968.
15. Jungmann 303.
16. Quéméneur 8.
17. Jungmann 304.
18. Villaret 968.
19. Gaffney 146; Canal 250 and especially J. Ordoñez Marquez, “La Cofradía de la Esclavitud en las Concepcionistas de Alcalá,” Estudios Marianos 51 (1986) 231-248.
20. Gaffney 146; Canal 252-53; Gaspar Calvo Moralejo, O.F.M., “Fray Melchor de Cetina, O.F.M., el primer teólogo de la ‘Esclavitud Mariana’ (1618),” Estudios Marianos 51 (1986) 249-271; Juan de los Angeles – Melchior de Cetina, Esortazione alla devozione della Vergine Madre di Dio: Alle origini della “schiavitù mariana” Introduzione, traduzione e note di Stefano Cecchin, O.F.M., (Vatican City: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 2003).

Footnotes, Page 3

1. Cf. Juan Pujana, “Simón de Rojas,” DSp 14:877-884; Gaffney 147; Canal 253-254.
2. Cf. Quirino Fernandez, “Los Rios y Alarcón (Bartolomé de)” DSp 9:1013-1018.
3. TD 160; Gaffney 255-259.
4. Raymond Deville, P.S.S., L’école française de spiritualité, n. 11 de la “Bibliothèque d’Histoire du Christianisme (Paris: Desclée, 1987) 29.
5. A. Molien, “Bérulle,” DSp 1:1547.
6. Opuscule de piété, 93, 1103 quoted in Paul Cochois, Bérulle et l’École française, n. 31 de “Maîtres Spirituels” (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1963) 105. Cf. also William M. Thompson (ed.), Bérulle and the French School: Selected Writings (NY: Paulist Press, 1989) 14-16; 41-50; Théodore Koehler, S.M., “Servitude (saint esclavage),” DSp 14:738-741.
7. Quoted in Cochois 105.
8. Theotokos 80.
9. Henri Brémond, Histoire littéraire du sentiment religieux en France, IX, (Paris: Librairie Bloud et Gay, 1932) 272. This appellation is also cited in Deville 139.
10. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, L’Amour de Jésus en Marie: Le Traité de la vraie dévotion, Le Secret de Marie, Nouvelle édition établie et présentée par François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D., I: Présentation Générale (Geneva: Ad Solem, 2000) 23-24 (my trans.). Cf. also Ibid., “La Maternité de Marie dans le mystère de l’Incarnation et de notre divinisation selon saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort et le Cardinal de Bérulle” in François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D, Théologie de l’Amour de Jésus: Écrits sur la théologie des saints (Venasque: Éditions du Carmel, 1996) 105-138.
11. TD 126 (in God Alone 329).
12. Love of Eternal Wisdom 223, 226 (in God Alone 112, 113). Léthel points out in L’Amour de Jésus en Marie, II: Textes, pp. 198-201, that in 66-69 of the Secret of Mary [= SM] three prayers addressed to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit and to Mary effectively constitute a renewal of this consecration.
13. Cf. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Mother of the Saviour and Our Interior Life trans. by Bernard J. Kelley, C.S.Sp., (St. Louis: B. Herder Book, Co., 1957) 256, note 19.
14. Redemptoris Mater 48.
15. Inseg ORE 1022:11.
16. Here, for example, is the critique of E. Schillebeeckx, O.P.: “Let us take one example of antiquated terminology in this context, the phrase ‘slave of Mary.’ It is quite obvious, both from the cultural and from the religious point of view, that this term cannot hope to make a favorable impact or produce the right effect nowadays. In the past this phrase may well have concealed a deep religious reality. Today it is absolutely unacceptable, and its use can only lead to total misunderstanding. The reader should not impute pride to this condemnation-the very opposite is true. It is simply that the present-day Christian is incapable of embodying in his life the idea of total loving surrender if this is presented to him in the form of ‘loving slavery.’ The greatest tribute which could be paid to St. Louis Grignion de Montfort would be to free his profound vision from its now out-of-date terminology, which today hinders rather than promotes devotion to the Blessed Virgin.” Mary Mother of the Redemption trans. by N.D. Smith (NY: Sheed and Ward, 1964) 139.
17. Cf. François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D., “La Maternité de Marie dans le mystère de l’Incarnation et de notre divinisation selon saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort et le Cardinal de Bérulle” in François-Marie Léthel, O.C.D, Théologie de l’Amour de Jésus: Écrits sur la théologie des saints (Venasque: Éditions du Carmel, 1996) 127-133; Ibid., L’Amour de Jésus en Marie, I: Présentation Générale I:81-119; Étienne Richer, La pédagogie de sainteté de saint Louis-Marie de Montfort (Paris: Pierre Téqui, éditeur, 2003) 179-188; Ibid., Suivre Jésus avec Marie: Un secret de sainteté de Grignion de Montfort à Jean-Paul II (Nouan-le-Fuzelier: Éditions des Béatitudes, 2006) 267-281.
18. Cf. Henri Lebon, S.M., “Chaminade (Guillaume-Joseph),” DSp 2:454-59; Peter A. Resch, S.M., “Filial Piety” in Mariology 3:162-167.

Footnotes, Page 4

1. Cf. Alberto Rum, S.M.M., “Montfort e Giovanni Paolo II: Due Testimoni e Maestri di Spiritualità Mariana,” Fragmenta Monfortana 3 (Rome: Edizioni Monfortane, 1999) 107-142; Ibid., “Giovanni Paolo II” in Dizionario di Spiritualità Monfortana”Be Not Afraid!” trans. by J.R. Foster (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1984) 125-127; Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope edited by Vittorio Messori and trans. by Jenny and Martha McPhee (London: Jonathan Cape, 1994) 212-215; Ibid., Gift and Mystery: On the 50th Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1996) 41-43.
2. Cf. Alessandro Maria Apollonio, F.I., Mariologia Francescana: Da san Francesco d’Assisi ai Francescani dell’Immacolata. Dissertationes ad Lauream in Pontificia Facultate Theologica «Marianum» 71, Estratto (Rome, 1997) [= Apollonio, MF].
3. Cf. TD 35, 46-59; Scritti di Massimiliano Kolbe (Rome: Editrice Nazionale Milizia dell’Immacolata, 1997) 1129 [Anselm W. Romb, O.F.M. Conv., The Kolbe Reader (Libertyville, IL: Franciscan Marytown Press, 1987) 36-39].
4. Scritti 1334 [Romb 194].
5. Scritti 37, 1331 [English version from Marytown, Libertyville, IL]. On the consecration proposed by St. Maximilian cf. Apollonio, MF 192-195; Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, Martyr of Charity, Pneumatologist: His Theology of the Holy Spirit (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2004) 143-145.
6. Joseph Kentenich, Schoenstatt’s Covenant Spirituality ed. and trans. Jonathan Niehaus (Waukesha, WI: Schoenstatt Fathers) 28, 57.
7. Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “The Cultus of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the Papal Magisterium from Pius IX to Pius XII” in Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani Internationalis in Sanctuario Mariano Kevelaer (Germania) Anno 1987 Celebrati II: De Cultu Mariano Saeculis XIX et XX usque ad Concilium Vaticanum II Studia Indolis Generalioris (Rome: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 1991) 355-392; Ibid., “The Hearts of Jesus and Mary in the Magisterium of Pope John Paul II” Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani Internationalis in Civitate Onubensi (Huelva – Hispania) Anno 1992 Celebrati IV: De Cultu Mariano Saeculo XX a Concilio Vaticano II usque ad Nostros Dies (Vatican City: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 1999) 147-167.
8. Cf. Totus Tuus 75-98.
9. AAS 34 (1942) 318-19, 324-25; Our Lady: Papal Teachings (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961] [= OL] 374, 380 [alt.]. Cf. AAS 34 (1942) 313‑25 for the text of the radio message and the Act of Consecration in both Portuguese and Italian. For a commentary on this act, cf. Totus Tuus 99-102.
10. December 8, 1981, Inseg IV/2 (1981) 869, 873 [ORE 714:2, 12]; May 13, 1982, Inseg V/2 (1982) 1574-75, 1586 [ORE 735:5]; May 19, 1982, Inseg V/2 (1982) 1759 [Portugal: Message of Fatima (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1983) 200]; March 25, 1984, Inseg VII/1 (1984) 775 [ORE 828:9]; December 31, 1984, Inseg VII/2 (1984) 1684 [ORE 869:4]; September 22, 1986, Inseg IX/2 (1986) 699; October 16, 1988, Inseg XI/3 (1988) 1240 [ORE 161:1].
11. Cf. Totus Tuus 96-98; Umberto M. Pasquale, S.D.B., Messaggera di Gesù per la Consacrazione del Mondo al Cuore Immacolato (Rome: Postulazione Casa Generalizia Salesiana, n.d.).
12. Discorsi e radiomessaggi di sua Santità Pio XII, Vol. VI (Vatican City: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1951) 281 [OL 389].
13. AAS 56 (1964) 1017‑18 [The Pope Speaks (= TPS) Vol. 10:140‑141]. Cf. Totus Tuus 106-108.

Footnotes, Page 5

1. Apostolicam Actuositatem 4. Cf. Totus Tuus 73, 108.
2. AAS 59 (1967) 475 [TPS 12:286].
3. Cf. Totus Tuus 113-137.
4. Inseg I (1978) 313-314 [Talks of John Paul II (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1979) 423-424].
5. Inseg IV/1 (1981) 1241-1247 [ORE 688:7, 10].
6. Inseg IV/1 (1981) 815-828 [ORE 678:6-8].
7. Inseg IV/1 (1981) 824 [ORE 678:7].
8. Inseg IV/1 (1981) 1245 [ORE 688:10].
9. Inseg IV/2 (1981) 876-879 [ORE 714:12].
10. Inseg V/2 (1982) 1586-1590 [ORE 735:5, 12].
11. Inseg VII/1 (1984) 416-418 [ORE 823:2].
12. Inseg VII/1 (1984) 417-418 [ORE 823:2].
13. Inseg VII/1 (1984) 774-77; ORE 828:9-10. The text is exactly the same as that earlier transmitted to all the bishops of the Church in Inseg VII/1 (1984) 418-21 [ORE 823:2, 12], with the exception that the Pope inserted between the two sentences of the last paragraph of number 2 these additional words when he recited it in St. Peter’s Square: Illumina specialmente i popoli di cui tu aspetti la nostra consacrazione e il nostro affidamento “Enlighten especially the peoples whose consecration and entrustment by us you are awaiting.” Inseg ORE 828:10].
14. Inseg V/1 (1982) 2442-2443 [ORE 744:6].
15. My book Totus Tuus takes up the major documentation on this matter until 1991. I hope to conclude the documentation in the second enlarged edition.
16. L’Osservatore Romano [= OR] 24 maggio 2007, pp. VI-VII [ORE 1994:14].
17. Thus René Laurentin wrote: “Our votive formulas of consecration to God need to recognize more clearly the place God has accorded to Mary. We need to ensure that our vocabularies and terminologies in this regard always rise above some of the ambiguous and discredited formulas of the past; these defective formulas have sometimes served to discredit the great modern spiritual movement of consecrations through Mary.” René Laurentin, The Meaning of Consecration Today: A Marian Model for a Secularized Age trans. by Kenneth D. Whitehead (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992) 165. Cf. my review of this book in Divinitas XXXVII (1993, fasc. III) 304-308.
18. Cf. Stefano De Fiores, S.M.M., Maria: Nuovissimo Dizionario, Vol. 1 (Bologna: Centro editoriale dehoniano, 2006) 8.
19. Cf. Laurentin, The Meaning of Consecration Today 98-99.
20. George W. Kosicki, C.S.B., Born of Mary: Testimonies, Teachings, Tensions (Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 1985) 64.
21. Inseg II/1 (1979) 860-861 [ORE 577:9].
22. Kosicki 66-67.
23. Cf. Totus Tuus 143-151.
24. Cf. Totus Tuus 171-178.
25. Cf. Totus Tuus 143-144; Apollonio, Cons 87.

Footnotes, Page 6

1. N. Lohkamp, “Consecration, Personal” in New Catholic Encyclopedia 4 (NY: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1967) 209; cf. also Joseph de Finance, S.J., “Consécration” in DSp 2:1579-1582.
2. NDM 409, 412 (my trans.).
3. H.D. Gardeil, O.P., Introduction to the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas IV: Metaphysics trans. by John A. Otto (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1967) 53.
4. Cf. J. Bittremieux, “Consecratio Mundi Immaculato Cordi B. Mariae Virginis,” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 20 (1943) 102.
5. Gardeil 54.
6. On the principle of analogy as it pertains to Mariology, cf. José M. Bover, S.J., “El Principio Mariologico de Analogia,” Alma Socia Christi: Acta Congressus Mariologici-Mariani Romæ Anno Sancto MCML Celebrati (Rome: Pontificia Academia Mariana Internationalis, 1953) I:1-13; Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., Dizionario di Mariologia (Roma: Editrice Studium, 1961) 30-31; Roschini, Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza I: Introduzione Generale (Isola del Liri: Tipografia Editrice M. Pisani, 1969) 171-77; Brunero Gherardini, La Madre: Maria in una sintesi storico-teologica (Frigento: Casa Mariana Editrice, 2006) 309-10; Emile Neubert, S.M., Mary in Doctrine (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1954) 5-8.
7. Maria: Nuovissimo Dizionario I:383-386. A fundamental premise of Laurentin’s The Meaning of Consecration Today is the unacceptablity of the use of the concept of analogy and thus of the term “consecration to Mary.” His revision of the entire history of Marian consecration is most unfortunate and is outside the Tradition.
8. Cf. Totus Tuus 162-178.
9. Joaquín Ferrer Arellano, “Marian Coredemption in the Light of Christian Philosophy” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross II (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2002) 122-124, 135-139; Ibid., “La mediación materna de María a la luz de la Filosofía Cristiana. Perspectivas ecuménicas” in Maria: “Unica Cooperatrice alla Redenzione” (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 2005) 485-491.
10. TD 120.
11. TD 121.
12. TD 125.

Footnotes, Page 7

1. Cf. Theotokos 242-245, 351-356; Ibid., “Still Mediatress of All Graces?”, Miles Immaculatæ 24 (1988) 122-125.
2. Inseg II/1 (1979) 607-608 [U.S.C.C. Edition 97, 98].
3. Cf. Father Alessandro Apollonio’s treatment of this topic in this book. Cf. also my article “Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, in the Papal Magisterium of Pope John Paul II” to appear in Mary at the Foot of the Cross, VII.
4. Inseg V/2 (1982) 1573-1574; Portugal: Message of Fatima (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1983) 79-81. Emphasis my own.
5. Inseg VII/2 (1984) 1683‑84 [ORE 869:4]. Emphasis my own.
6. Inseg IX/2 (1986) 699-700; ORE 959:12‑13.
7. Inseg XXVI/1 (2003) 508 [ORE 1790:IX-X]. The teaching about accepting/welcoming Mary into our lives is another aspect of Marian entrustment which the Pope developed over the course of the years. Cf. Totus Tuus 240-248.
8. Inseg VII/2 (1984) 1683‑84 [ORE 869:4].

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In her interesting article “Reproductive Science and the Incarnation” (Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 4, Fall 2002, 11-25) Dr. Catherine Brown Tkacz offers a number of interesting correlations between the discoveries of reproductive science and the Church’s belief in the mystery of the Incarnation. Just as the Holy Spirit has continued to bring forth deeper insights into the meaning of this mystery (cf. Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, #8), so also the data of biological science, evaluated in the light of Scripture and Tradition, can help us to marvel at the inexhaustible richness of the mystery. The point is, of course, that the mystery can never be simply explained either by theology or by modern science. At the end of her essay Dr. Tkacz appropriately comments that “the mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation remains ineluctable and eternal” (p. 22).

Without taking away from the valuable insights which her article provides, I would nonetheless take issue with Dr. Tkacz’s treatment of Mary’s virginity in giving birth to Christ (commonly referred to as the virginitas in partu) on p. 21 and in endnotes #76 and #78 on p. 25. It must be admitted that the datum of the faith that Mary gave birth as a virgin, unfortunately, receives virtually no attention in contemporary catechesis or preaching.

Indeed, who can remember having heard of the “virgin birth” of Jesus, and not of his “virginal conception” or of his Mother’s “life-long virginity,” in a homily in the last forty years?

I. Datum of the Tradition

The fact is that the mystery of Mary’s virginity in giving birth to the Savior was preached and taught consistently by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. One finds beautiful expositions of it in the homilies and catecheses of St. Gregory of Nyssa (+ c. 394), (1) St. Ambrose (+ 397), (2) St. John Chrysostom (+ 407), (3) St. Proclus of Constantinople (+ 446), (4) Theodotus of Ancyra (+ before 446), (5) St. Peter Chrysologus (+ 450), (6) Pope St. Leo the Great (+ 461), (7) Severus of Antioch (+ 538), (8) St. Romanos the Melodist (+ c. 560), (9) St. Venantius Fortunatus (+ c. 600), (10) and Pope St. Gregory the Great (+ 604) (11).

This preaching and teaching was not a mere matter of pious fantasizing, but rather it was a careful “handing on” of what had been received. The miraculous birth of Jesus in time was seen as a reflection of the mystery of his eternal generation by the Father. (12) As with all of the most important data which touched on the person of the Son of God, it became progressively clarified by the magisterium. Already during the pontificate of Pope St. Siricius (384-399) this matter was dealt with in the Plenary Council of Capua (392) and in the Synods of Rome and Milan in 393 (13) with St. Ambrose’s teaching on Mary’s “incorruption” in giving birth emerging as authoritative. (14)

In his De institutione virginum St. Ambrose introduced this mystery by quoting the beginning of the forty-fourth chapter of Ezekiel:

“Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, facing the east; but it was closed. He said to me: ‘This gate is to remain closed; it is not to be opened for anyone to enter by it; since the Lord, the God of Israel, has entered by it, it shall remain closed.'” … Who is this gate, if not Mary? Is it not closed because she is a virgin? Mary is the gate through which Christ entered this world, when he was brought forth in the virginal birth and the manner of His birth did not break the seals of virginity (quando virginali fusus est partu, et genitalia virginitatis claustra non solvit). (15) … There is a gate of the womb, although it is not always closed; indeed only one was able to remain closed, that through which the One born of the Virgin came forth without the loss of genital intactness (per quam sine dispendio claustrorum genitalium virginis partus exivit). (16)

St. Ambrose’ defense of the “virgin birth,” especially in this treatise, is so definitive that those who have subsequently sought to “re-interpret” the doctrine in the light of the criticism of Dr. Albert Mitterer (17) have found it necessary to take him on. (18)

II. The Magisterium

In 649 the Roman Synod which convened at the Lateran, whose teaching was approved as authoritative by Pope St. Martin I, anathematized anyone who would deny that Mary “gave birth to (God the Word) without corruption.” (19) In his Constitution Cum quorumdam hominum condemning the errors of Unitarianism Pope Paul IV admonished all those who deny that the Blessed Virgin Mary “did not retain her virginity intact before the birth, in the birth, and perpetually after the birth.” (20) The Roman Catechism also known as The Catechism of the Council of Trent followed suit with this clear teaching:

For in a way wonderful beyond expression or conception, he is born of his Mother without any diminution of her maternal virginity. As he afterwards went forth from the sepulcher while it was closed and sealed, and entered the room in which his disciples were assembled, although “the doors were closed” (Jn. 20:19), or, not to depart from natural events which we witness every day, as the rays of the sun penetrate the substance of glass without breaking or injuring it in the least: so, but in a more incomprehensible manner, did Jesus Christ come forth from his mother’s womb without injury to her maternal virginity. …

To Eve it was said: “In pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16). Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate, she brought forth Jesus the Son of God, without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain. (21)

The Second Vatican Council presented this mystery succinctly by speaking of “the birth of Our Lord, who did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it” (22) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church repeats that statement after clarifying that

The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. (23)

Those who would say that these recent professions of the mystery are minimal and non-binding need only examine the footnotes appended to each of them to discover that they are based on previous major declarations of the magisterium which have been considered definitive since the Patristic era. The text of Lumen Gentium cites the Lateran Synod of 649, the Tome of St. Leo the Great to Flavian (24) and the De institutione virginum of St. Ambrose. The Catechism gives two citations to the Tome to Flavian, (25) as well as citing the Second Council of Constantinople, (26) the Letter of Pope Pelagius I to Childebertus, (27) the Lateran Synod of 649, the Profession of Faith of the Synod of Toledo of 693 (28) and Pope Paul IV’s Constitution Cum quorumdam hominum.

III. Dr. Tkacz’ Comments

A. The Miraculous Nature of Christ’s Birth

Now back to Dr. Tkacz. She states that:

He (Christ) chose to traverse the birth canal. … He passed through her (Mary’s) cervix. Its strength had kept him securely in the uterus throughout gestation and now it widened to deliver him to wider life. He passed through the vagina, the organ with which every wife knows her husband. Jesus emerged through the labia, the vulva (21).

The good doctor reports as if she were an eye-witness, precisely on the assumption that there was nothing miraculous in the birth process of the Son of God. On the other hand Father Peter Damian Fehlner makes this very trenchant comment:

But on this question, viz. whether the virginity of our Lady in childbirth involves miraculous elements distinct from the virginal conception, there is an even more basic consideration. The Church has always insisted on this, antecedently to any theological reflection on the point. Belief precedes analysis; indeed sets very severe limits on our intellectual curiosity about the details of this singular birth. (29)

In this he is in fact echoing a major address which Pope John Paul II gave on 24 May, 1992, in Capua where he had gone to address a Mariological Congress organized to commemorate the 16th Centenary of the Plenary Council of Capua which had dealt specifically with Mary’s virginity in childbirth. On that occasion the Pope stated:

The theologian must approach the mystery of Mary’s fruitful virginity with a deep sense of veneration for God’s free, holy and sovereign action. …

The theologian, however, who approaches the mystery of Mary’s virginity with a heart full of faith and adoring respect, does not thereby forego the duty of studying the data of Revelation and showing their harmony and interrelationship; rather, following the Spirit, … he puts himself in the great and fruitful theological tradition of fides quærens intellectum.

When theological reflection becomes a moment of doxology and latria, the mystery of Mary’s virginity is disclosed, allowing one to catch a glimpse of other aspects and other depths. (30)

B. The Patristic Testimony

In Dr. Tkacz’ endnote #76 she rather lightly dismisses an article by Father Stanley Jaki on the virgin birth because he does not cite any Patristic texts in making his case. She opines that the miraculous nature of the birth of Christ “seems to me essentially modern, based on a pietistic thought that to honor Jesus one must dissociate him from human birth, as if birth were indecent” (p. 25). I trust that by now the reader will recognize that this doctrine is clearly taught by the Fathers (for reasons of space we must forego discussion of the Scriptural bases of the doctrine). Further, the miraculous nature of Jesus’ birth is not an indictment of human birth as being “indecent,” but rather fully congruent with the saving purposes of the Incarnation. As Pope St. Leo the Great preached:

The Lord Jesus Christ came to take away our maladies, not to contract them; to bring a remedy to our vices, not to succumb to them. … That is why it was necessary for Him to be born in new conditions (propter quod oportuit ut novo nasceretur ordine). … It was necessary that the integrity of the One being born preserve the pristine virginity of the one who gave birth. (31)

John Saward’s excellent study, Cradle of Redeeming Love, provides several illuminating pages on the fittingness of the miraculous nature of Jesus’ birth. (32)

C. The Seal of Virginity

In endnote #78 Dr. Tkacz states “Legend attributes an intact hymen to the Theotokos” and then goes on to quote from Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary that the “rupture or absence (of the hymen) is not evidence of loss of virginity.” While a certain sense of delicacy, inspired by the 1960 Monitum of the Holy Office of 1960, (33) makes me hesitate a moment before taking issue with this statement, it needs to be dealt with. On this matter the late Father Juniper Carol, O.F.M. summarized quite clearly how the approach of the Fathers and the magisterium had come to be understood:

At the appropriate time, Our Blessed Lord left the womb of His Mother through the natural channels but in a miraculous way, that is, without in any manner opening any part of Mary’s body. In other words, there was no dilatation of the normal passage, no opening of the vagina, no breaking of the virginal hymen. (34)

In less specific biological language the Holy Father treated this issue in his discourse at Capua in 1992. He stated:

It is a well-known fact that some Church Fathers set up a significant parallel between the begetting of Christ ex intacta Virgine
(from the untouched Virgin) and his resurrection ex intacto sepulcro (from the intact sepulchre). In the parallelism relative to the begetting of Christ, some Fathers put the emphasis on the virginal conception, others on the virgin birth, others on the subsequent perpetual virginity of the Mother, but they all testify to the conviction that between the two saving events—the generation-birth of Christ and his resurrection from the dead—there exists an intrinsic connection which corresponds to a precise plan of God: a connection which the Church, led by the Spirit, has discovered, not created. (35)

With regard to Dr. Tkacz’ specific insistence, John Saward provides clarification from the Angelic Doctor:

St. Thomas says that the hymen pertains to virginity only per accidens, and that its rupture by any means other than sexual pleasure is no more destructive of virginity than the loss of a hand or foot (cf. ST 2a2æ q. 152, a. I, ad 3). However, he also holds that bodily integrity belongs to the perfection of virginity (see Quæstiones quodlibetales 6, q. 10, prol). (36)

Could we expect that God would do less for His Virgin Mother?

IV. Virginity of Flesh—Virginity of Heart

What does this doctrine mean? It certainly shouldn’t be taken in any way as lessening “the value and dignity of marriage” (37) asserts the Holy Father. Rather, he insists, it should be seen as pointing to the fact that the bodily integrity of Mary is a physical sign of her total spiritual virginity, that the virginity of her flesh is an indication of the virginity of her heart:

Therefore, she fulfils in herself the ideal of perfect adherence to God’s plan, without compromise and without the defilement of falsehood or pride; the ideal of faithful fulfillment of the covenant, the violation of which on the part of Israel is compared to adultery by the prophets; the ideal of sincere acceptance of the Gospel message, in which the single-hearted are called blest (cf. (cf. Mt. 5:8) and virginity for the kingdom is extolled (cf. Mt. 19:12); the ideal of rightly understanding the mystery of Christ—the Truth par excellence (cf. Jn. 14:6)—and his doctrine, because of which the Church is also called a virgin since she preserves the deposit of faith whole and incorrupt. (38)

While remaining a mystery, the Virgin Birth is also a sign. It points back to the mystery of the eternal generation of the Son in the bosom of the Father and forward to the mystery of his Resurrection. It is a datum which it is beyond the capacity of science to explain, but it also underscores the profound truth of what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council stated about Our Lady: “Having entered deeply into the history of salvation, Mary, in a way, unites in her person and re-echoes the most important doctrines of the faith” (Lumen Gentium 65). Where a truth about her is denied—deliberately or not—the fullness of Redemption is not proclaimed, God is deprived of the glory that belongs to him and the most perfect work of his creation, who is meant to be “a sure sign of hope and solace to the pilgrim people of God” (Lumen Gentium 68) is demeaned.

 

Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins is an official of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” in Rome, a contributing member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy and the author of Totus Tuus. He is internationally known for his numerous articles on Our Lady and for his scholarly work in the fields of dogmatic and spiritual theology.

 

Notes

(1) Luigi Gambero, S.M., Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought trans. Thomas Buffer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999) 154-156, 158-159.

(2) Gambero 192.

(3) John Saward, Cradle of Redeeming Love: The Theology of the Christmas Mystery (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002) 209.

(4) Gambero 252-253.

(5) Gambero 265.

(6) Gambero 294-295.

(7) Gambero 304-309.

(8) Gambero 314.

(9) Gambero 331-332.

(10) Gambero 364.

(11) Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., Virgin Mother The Great Sign (Washington, NJ: AMI Press, 1993) 13.

(12) Cf. John Saward, Cradle of Redeeming Love: The Theology of the Christmas Mystery (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002) 212-213.

(13) Cf. Fehlner, Virgin Mother 6-9.

(14) Cf. Fehlner, Virgin Mother 8-11.

(15) Domenico Casagrande, Enchiridion Marianum Biblicum Patristicum (Rome: Figlie della Chiesa, 1974) 368 (W. A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2 (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1979) 172 (#1327)).

(16) Casagrande 369, Fehlner, Virgin Mother 9 (trans. slightly altered).

(17) Cf. Fehlner, Virgin Mother 1.

(18) Cf. Karl Rahner, S.J., “Virginitas in Partu: A contribution to the problem of the development of dogma and of tradition” in Theological Investigations 4 (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1966) 134 ff. and the response by James T. O’Connor, “Ambrose and Karl Rahner: Reflections on the “Virginitas in Partu” in Mater Fidei et Fidelium: Collected Essays to Honor Theodore Koehler on His 80th Birthday (Marian Library Studies) (n.s.) Vol. 17-23 (1985-1991) 726-731; John R. Meyer, “Ambrose’s exegesis of Luke 2, 22-24 and Mary’s virginitas in partu” Marianum 62 (2000) 169-192 and the response by Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., “Virginitas in Partu” in Immaculata Mediatrix 2 (2002) 241-246.

(19) Heinrich Denzinger, S.I., Enchiridion Symbolorum Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum: Edizione Bilingue (XXXVII) a cura di Peter Hünermann (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 2000) #503 (henceforth referred to as D-H); J. Neuner, S.J. & J. Dupuis, S.J. (eds.), The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church Sixth Revised and Enlarged Edition edited by Jacques Dupuis (NY: Alba House, 1998) #703 (henceforth referred to as TCF). For commentary, cf. Fehlner, Virgin Mother 14-16.

(20) D-H #1880; TCF #707.

(21) Robert I. Bradley, S.J. and Eugene Kevane (eds.), The Roman Catechism (Boston, MA: St. Paul Editions, 1985) 49-50.

(22) Lumen Gentium #57.

(23) Catechism of the Catholic Church #499.

(24) D-H #294; TCF #612.

(25) D-H #291; TCF #609; D-H #294; TCF #612.

(26) D-H #427; TCF #620/6.

(27) D-H #442.

(28) D-H #571.

(29) Fehlner, Virgin Mother 4.

(30) Acta Apostolicæ Sedis (henceforth referred to as AAS) 85 (1993) 664, L’Osservatore Romano (English edition, henceforth referred to as ORE) 10 June 1992, p. 13.

(31) In nativitate Domini, sermo 2, no. 2. Enchiridion Marianum 924, English translation in Saward 213, n. 133.

(32) Cf. Saward 212-217.

(33) Cf. Ephemerides Mariologicæ 11 (1961) 137-138, René Laurentin, A Short Treatise on the Virgin Mary trans. Charles Neumann, S.M. (Washington, NJ: AMI Press, 1991) 328-329, and commentary in Fehlner, Virgin Mother 19-21.

(34) Homiletic & Pastoral Review 54 (1954) 446.

(35) AAS 85 (1993) 665, ORE 10 June 1992, p. 13.

(36) Saward 212, n. 128.

(37) AAS 85 (1993) 669, ORE 10 June 1992, p. 14.

(38) AAS 85 (1993) 668-669, ORE 10 June 1992, p. 14.

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In her interesting article “Reproductive Science and the Incarnation” (Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly Vol. 25, No. 4, Fall 2002, 11-25) Dr. Catherine Brown Tkacz offers a number of interesting correlations between the discoveries of reproductive science and the Church’s belief in the mystery of the Incarnation. Just as the Holy Spirit has continued to bring forth deeper insights into the meaning of this mystery (cf. Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, #8), so also the data of biological science, evaluated in the light of Scripture and Tradition, can help us to marvel at the inexhaustible richness of the mystery. The point is, of course, that the mystery can never be simply explained either by theology or by modern science. At the end of her essay Dr. Tkacz appropriately comments that “the mystery of Jesus’ Incarnation remains ineluctable and eternal” (p. 22).

Without taking away from the valuable insights which her article provides, I would nonetheless take issue with Dr. Tkacz’s treatment of Mary’s virginity in giving birth to Christ (commonly referred to as the virginitas in partu) on p. 21 and in endnotes #76 and #78 on p. 25. It must be admitted that the datum of the faith that Mary gave birth as a virgin, unfortunately, receives virtually no attention in contemporary catechesis or preaching.

Indeed, who can remember having heard of the “virgin birth” of Jesus, and not of his “virginal conception” or of his Mother’s “life-long virginity,” in a homily in the last forty years?

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In simple, yet poetic and profound language the third chapter of the Book of Genesis narrates the story of the fall of man. Three creatures play the major roles in this momentous drama: the serpent, the woman and the man. The serpent beguiles. The woman who was given to the man as his helpmate lets herself be beguiled and the man follows suit. The story seems deceptively simple, but it has monumental implications. The man, Adam, is the progenitor and head of the human family. The woman, Eve, is his companion. As partners they are equal, but they have different roles. He is the head of his wife and the head of the human family. “The whole human race is in Adam ‘as one body of one man.’ By this ‘unity of the human race’ all men are implicated in Adam’s sin” (1).

At the same time it must be noted that the role of the woman given to the man as his helpmate was far from negligible. Let us note how it is described by the Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman:

Eve had a definite, essential position in the First Covenant. The fate of the human race lay with Adam; he it was who represented us. It was in Adam that we fell; though Eve had fallen, still, if Adam had stood, we should not have lost those supernatural privileges which were bestowed upon him as our first father. …but further, as she thus had her own general relation to the human race, so again had she her own special place as regards its trial and its fall in Adam. In those primeval events, Eve had an integral share. … She co-operated, not as an irresponsible instrument, but intimately and personally in the sin; she brought it about. As the history stands, she was a sine-qua-non, a positive, active, cause of it. And she had her share in its punishment; in the sentence pronounced on her, she was recognized as a real agent in the temptation and its issue, and she suffered accordingly (2).

In simple, yet poetic and profound language the third chapter of the Book of Genesis narrates the story of the fall of man. Three creatures play the major roles in this momentous drama: the serpent, the woman and the man. The serpent beguiles. The woman who was given to the man as his helpmate lets herself be beguiled and the man follows suit. The story seems deceptively simple, but it has monumental implications. The man, Adam, is the progenitor and head of the human family. The woman, Eve, is his companion. As partners they are equal, but they have different roles. He is the head of his wife and the head of the human family. “The whole human race is in Adam ‘as one body of one man.’ By this ‘unity of the human race’ all men are implicated in Adam’s sin” (1).

At the same time it must be noted that the role of the woman given to the man as his helpmate was far from negligible. Let us note how it is described by the Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman:

Eve had a definite, essential position in the First Covenant. The fate of the human race lay with Adam; he it was who represented us. It was in Adam that we fell; though Eve had fallen, still, if Adam had stood, we should not have lost those supernatural privileges which were bestowed upon him as our first father. …but further, as she thus had her own general relation to the human race, so again had she her own special place as regards its trial and its fall in Adam. In those primeval events, Eve had an integral share. … She co-operated, not as an irresponsible instrument, but intimately and personally in the sin; she brought it about. As the history stands, she was a sine-qua-non, a positive, active, cause of it. And she had her share in its punishment; in the sentence pronounced on her, she was recognized as a real agent in the temptation and its issue, and she suffered accordingly (2).

God metes out punishment first to the serpent (Gen. 3:14-15), then to the woman (Gen. 3:16) and finally to the man (Gen. 3:17-19). What is particularly striking, however, is that already the sentence passed upon the serpent heralds the reversal of the fall. The Lord says: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; she shall crush your head, while you lie in wait for her heel” (Gen. 3:15) (3). This text has become famous as the Protoevangelium, the “first gospel,” and the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains why:

The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross,” makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience of Adam. Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the “Protoevangelium” as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve” (4).

In fact, the Church’s magisterium (teaching authority) has grown ever more convinced of the soundness of this insight of the Fathers and Doctors over the centuries and has come to see the Protoevangelium as a revelation of the indissoluble bond between Jesus and Mary in the work of our salvation. The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, provides explicit corroboration of such an association by stating that Mary “is inseparably linked to her Son’s saving work” (indissolubili nexu cum Filii sui opere salutari coniungitur) (#103) (5). This follows logically from a principle of capital importance enunciated by Blessed Pope Pius IX in his Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December 1854, namely that “God, by one and the same decree, had established the origin of Mary and the Incarnation of Divine Wisdom” (6).

I. The Mystery of Mediation

An attentive study of God’s revelation to us, in both the old dispensation and the new, discloses that God chooses to deal with his people through certain persons whom he designates to act as his representatives to them, and as their representatives before him. This may be truly described as the “mystery of mediation.” After the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:6) the first exercises of mediation which we hear about are the offerings of Abel and Cain (Gen. 4:3-5). These offerings comprised an act of worship or sacrifice to God.

What is a sacrifice? Sacrifice, which constitutes the supreme act of external and public worship, may be defined as the offering and immolation to God of something sensible (fruits, liquids, animals) in order to recognize his absolute lordship, and in order to atone for sin. Sacrifice, consequently, has two aspects: one material and sensible because it is an external and public act; the other internal and spiritual, because in order to have an effective moral value it must be motivated by a spiritual and intimate content. The offering especially of something living such as fruits and, even more, animals, and then the consequent immolation or destruction of these offerings is the counterbalance to the creative act of God. As God has given life to all things, man symbolically restores life back to him. Particularly in the immolation to God of a victim such as a lamb, a goat, a calf or a bull through the mediation of a priest, man expresses his total dependence and dedication to God. The ultimate end of the sacrifice is the mystical union of man with his God (7). In those early days of the human race, even before the establishment of the priesthood of Aaron, Cain and Abel acted as mediators before God.

While we are not explicitly informed about why the sacrifice of Cain was not acceptable, we may well assume that it had to do with the lack of a proper spiritual disposition on his part. From Cain’s slaying of his brother Abel (Gen. 4:8), the sin of our first parents has been subsequently multiplied billions of times over by the personal sins of all their descendants. Consequently the Old Testament shows us numerous instances in which a representative is designated by God himself to intercede on behalf of his people in order that his wrath, stirred up on account of their sins, might be turned away from them and that his people may receive instead his blessings.

The priests, prophets and kings of the Old Testament, each according to his particular office, all shared in this role of mediation. In varied circumstances and with an ever clearer manifestation of God’s plan, these chosen mediators reveal to us both 1) the divine dispensation of mediation which God established in order to show mercy to his people, and 2) at the same time the provisional role of this mediation.

While it was clear that God required an acceptable reparation in order to restore man to his friendship, it also became clear that no mere man could ever definitively “breach the chasm” which sin had caused between God and his creatures. As the inspired author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us:

Since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? If the worshipers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins (Heb. 10:1-4).

Sin, an offense against the infinite God, in effect required a reparation which man, left to his own devices, remained incapable of making. No mere human creature could really succeed in mediating between God and his people except in incomplete and partial ways which could, at best, foreshadow the full, complete and definitive mediation which was needed.

II. Jesus the Perfect Mediator

At the very heart of the mystery of our redemption is the fact that Jesus Christ is the “one mediator between God and men … who gave himself as a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:5-6). Why is Jesus the unique and perfect mediator? This affirmation from the new Catechism provides us with the fundamental elements needed to formulate a response:

No man, not even the holiest, was ever able to take on himself the sins of all men and offer himself as a sacrifice for all. The existence in Christ of the divine person of the Son, who at once surpasses and embraces all human persons, and constitutes himself as the Head of all mankind, makes possible his redemptive sacrifice for all (8).

One with God in his divinity, Jesus is at the same time one with man in his humanity (9). In his divine person he unites the two natures of the two parties who had become separated by man’s sin: he represents God to man and man to God. As the Word who is one with the Father from all eternity, the Son is not a mediator, but he becomes one from the moment he begins to take flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the inspired author of the Letter to the Hebrews would come to grasp that, even though he was not sprung from the priestly tribe of Levi and never referred to himself explicitly as a priest, Jesus was the perfect high priest who succeeded in bridging the gap between God and his people in a way that no other priest ever could (cf. Heb. 4:14-10:18). He did so by offering the sacrifice of himself on the cross (10).

III. Collaboration in Jesus’ Mediation

Now while there can be no dispute that Jesus is the priest and victim of that sacrifice by which we are saved, and that he alone by virtue of his death and resurrection (the paschal mystery) is the Redeemer of the world, the Catholic Church also holds that

because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men. … In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering (11).

Here is the careful résumé of the Church’s teaching on this matter which Pope John Paul II gave in a general audience address of 9 April, 1997:

Down the centuries the Church has reflected on Mary’s cooperation in the work of salvation, deepening the analysis of her association with Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. St. Augustine already gave the Blessed Virgin the title “cooperator” in the Redemption (cf. De Sancta Virginitate, 6; PL 40, 399), a title which emphasizes Mary’s joint but subordinate action with Christ the Redeemer.

Reflection has developed along these lines, particularly since the fifteenth century. Some feared there might be a desire to put Mary on the same level as Christ. Actually the Church’s teaching makes a clear distinction between the Mother and the Son in the work of salvation, explaining the Blessed Virgin’s subordination, as cooperator, to the one Redeemer.

Moreover, when the Apostle Paul says: “For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9), he maintains the real possibility for man to cooperate with God. The collaboration of believers, which obviously excludes any equality with him, is expressed in the proclamation of the Gospel and in their personal contribution to its taking root in human hearts.

However, applied to Mary, the term “cooperator” acquires a specific meaning. The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary, instead, cooperated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her cooperation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity (12).

Both of these texts carefully point out that 1) it is possible for creatures to be “associated with Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice” or to be “cooperators in the work of salvation,” and 2) that Mary was associated, or cooperated more intimately than any other person, in the mystery of Jesus’ redemptive suffering. Pope John Paul II makes two further and very important points: 1) Mary’s cooperation differs from ours because it took place “during the Calvary event itself,” and 2) her totally unique collaboration in the work of our salvation is “subordinate” to that of Christ and “in submission to him.”

Now it must be candidly acknowledged that the Catholic Church’s teaching on man’s cooperation in the work of salvation became a rock of stumbling for Martin Luther (1483-1546), and subsequently for practically all of the ecclesial bodies that derive from the Protestant reformation. The Catholic Church, however, is convinced that this teaching is rooted in the New Testament and has consistently asserted it, most solemnly at the Council of Trent (13), more recently in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (14). Saint Augustine (354-430) may be taken as a major exponent of this doctrine. He said: “He who made you without your cooperation will not save you without it” (15). In the course of 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity found it necessary to uphold this teaching in responding to the Joint Declaration of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the Doctrine of Justification. The response asserted that

The Catholic Church maintains, moreover, that the good works of the justified are always the fruit of grace. But at the same time, and without in any way diminishing the totally divine initiative, they are also the fruit of man, justified and interiorly transformed. We can therefore say that eternal life is, at one and the same time, grace and the reward given by God for good works and merits (16).

This is a principle of fundamental importance in Catholic theology as well as in the spiritual life.

IV. Mary’s Collaboration in Jesus’ Mediation

With wonderful perspicacity the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught that “Mary, having entered intimately into the history of salvation, somehow unites in her person and re-echoes the most fundamental doctrines of the faith” (17). Hence we should not be surprised that these same Fathers recognized Mary as the perfect model of human collaboration with God’s grace “in subordination to Christ and with him in the service of the mystery of redemption” (18). They pointed out that the “union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is apparent from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death” (19), and they further specified that

The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully maintained her union with her Son even to the cross where she stood in conformity with the divine plan. There she endured with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering and united herself to his sacrifice in her motherly heart, lovingly consenting to the immolation of the victim born of her (20).

Let it be well noted that, according to the consistent teaching of the Church, Mary’s collaboration in the work of the redemption spans the entire earthly life of the God-man from the Annunciation to Calvary, but that it reaches its summit on Golgotha where Mary is involved in two simultaneous offerings: the offering of her Son and the offering of herself. This has been repeatedly taught by all of the Pontiffs of the twentieth century. Here is a classic expression of the first offering by the Servant of God Pius XII in his Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis of 29 June 1943, to which the above text of Lumen Gentium makes explicit reference:

She (Mary) it was who, immune from all sin, personal or inherited, and ever most closely united with her Son, offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and motherly love, like a new Eve, for all the children of Adam contaminated through this unhappy fall … (21).

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Signum Magnum, of 13 May, 1967, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI emphasized the second offering by emphasizing Our Lady’s

charity, strong and constant in the fulfillment of her mission to the point of sacrificing herself, in full communion of sentiments with her Son who immolated Himself on the Cross to give men a new life (22).

Both of these offerings are magnificently summarized in Pope Benedict XV’s Letter Inter Sodalicia of 22 March, 1918, which has become justly famous:

According to the common teaching of the Doctors it was God’s design that the Blessed Virgin Mary, apparently absent from the public life of Jesus, should assist Him when He was dying nailed to the Cross. Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind she renounced her mother’s rights and, as far as it depended on her, offered her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that she with Christ redeemed mankind (23).

Benedict speaks clearly here of our redemption as a joint effort. This, of course, takes nothing away from the fact that Jesus’ merits were all-sufficient for our redemption or that Mary, as a human creature, could never equal her divine Son. Rather he recognizes that Mary’s presence on Calvary was “according to God’s design,” that it was willed by God as flowing from the indissoluble bond between Jesus and Mary in the work of our salvation which was already pointed to in the Protoevangelium.

V. Mary Coredemptrix

The fact that Mary together with Christ redeemed the human race quite naturally led the faithful who continued to meditate on this fact to coin the word Coredemptrix, in order to describe her role. The first use of this word of which we are presently aware dates from the fourteenth or fifteenth century (24). The term Coredemptrix usually requires some initial explanation in the English language, because often the prefix “co” immediately conjures up visions of complete equality. For instance a co-signer of a check or a co-owner of a house is considered a co-equal with the other signer or owner. Thus the first fear of many is that describing Our Lady as Coredemptrix puts her on the same level as her Divine Son and implies that she is “Redeemer” in the same way that he is, thus reducing Jesus “to being half of a team of redeemers” (25). In the Latin language from which the term Coredemptrix comes, however, the meaning is always that Mary’s cooperation or collaboration in the redemption is secondary, subordinate, dependent on that of Christ—and yet for all that—something that God “freely wished to accept … as constituting an unneeded, but yet wonderfully pleasing part of that one great price” (26) paid by His Son for world’s redemption. As Dr. Mark Miravalle points out:

The prefix “co” does not mean equal, but comes from the Latin word, “cum” which means “with.” The title of Coredemptrix applied to the Mother of Jesus never places Mary on a level of equality with Jesus Christ, the divine Lord of all, in the saving process of humanity’s redemption. Rather, it denotes Mary’s singular and unique sharing with her Son in the saving work of redemption for the human family. The Mother of Jesus participates in the redemptive work of her Savior Son, who alone could reconcile humanity with the Father in his glorious divinity and humanity (27).

From theological usage the word has passed into the vocabulary of the magisterium. It was first used in official documents issued by Roman Congregations at the beginning of the twentieth century (28), and subsequently by Pope Pius XI in allocutions to pilgrims (29) and in a radio message on 28 April, 1935, for the closing of the Holy Year at Lourdes (30). Although the doctrine of Mary’s unique collaboration in our redemption was clearly taught by the Second Vatican Council, as we have seen, the word Coredemptrix was not used out of “ecumenical sensitivity” (31). What is even more significant, however, is that after a period of artificial suppression Pope John Paul II used the word “Coredemptrix” or “coredemptive” at least six times to describe Mary’s intimate cooperation in the work of our Redemption (32).

Now I would like to highlight what I believe to be the most significant instance of Pope John Paul’s teaching on Mary Coredemptrix. It comes from a homily which he gave at the Marian shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Alborada (Our Lady of the Dawn) in Guayaquil, Ecuador on 31 January 1985.

On that occasion he said:

Mary goes before us and accompanies us. The silent journey that begins with her Immaculate Conception and passes through the “yes” of Nazareth, which makes her the Mother of God, finds on Calvary a particularly important moment.

There also, accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her son, Mary is the dawn of Redemption; … Crucified spiritually with her crucified son (cf. Gal. 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she “lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” (Lumen Gentium, 58)….

In fact, at Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ “to gather into one all the dispersed children of God” (Jn. 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity….

The Gospels do not tell us of an appearance of the risen Christ to Mary. Nevertheless, as she was in a special way close to the Cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his Resurrection. In fact, Mary’s role as Coredemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son (33).

This excerpt of John Paul II’s homily constitutes a magnificent catechesis on the various ways in which Mary collaborated in the work of our redemption. Let us note how carefully the he develops this theme.

1. First he underscores that Mary’s cooperation with God’s plan for our salvation actually began with Mary’s Immaculate Conception. He created her full of grace precisely in view of the role which he had predestined for her. This gift of being totally transformed by grace from the first moment of her existence in her mother’s womb was so that her cooperation with God’s designs would be unimpeded by the pull of the flesh.

2. Next he points out that her collaboration becomes deliberate and explicit in her response to the angel: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38). As Father Richard Foley, S.J., puts it: “Our Lady’s consent to God’s initiative was the indispensable condition for his redemptive plan to go into operation” (34).

3. Then the Pope delineates Mary’s interior dispositions on Calvary. He describes her as “accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her son” and cites here the important text of the Second Vatican Council about how Mary “lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” (Lumen Gentium, 58).

4. Integral to her offering of Jesus as victim to the Father is her offering of herself in union with him. John Paul II stresses that Mary “united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church.” Thus he underscores the fact that, though secondary and subordinate to Jesus’ all-sufficient sacrifice, Mary’s sacrifice cannot be separated from that of her son.

5. Precisely because Mary is a co-offerer of the sacrifice of Calvary, John Paul II describes her as “crucified spiritually with her crucified son.” This may at first seem to be a shocking assertion, even an exaggeration until the Pope provides us with his point of reference, Saint Paul’s bold declaration to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ” (2:20). If the Apostle of the Gentiles can say this of himself and invite us to be imitators of him (cf. I Cor. 4:16; Phil. 3:17), how much more can this be attributed to Mary, the “New Eve,” she who is Jesus’ most intimate associate in the work of the redemption?

VI. Mary Mediatrix of All Graces

According to the consistent teaching of the papal magisterium during the past hundred years it is precisely from Mary’s role as Coredemptrix that her function in the distribution of graces proceeds. Here is how Pope Leo XIII described this in his Encyclical Letter Adiutricem Populi of 5 September 1895:

It is impossible to measure the power and scope of her (Mary’s) offices since the day she was taken up to that height of heavenly glory in the company of her Son, to which the dignity and luster of her merits entitle her. From her heavenly abode, she began, by God’s decree, to watch over the Church, to assist and befriend us as our Mother; so that she who was so intimately associated with the mystery of human salvation is just as closely associated with the distribution of the graces which from all time will flow from the Redemption (35).

In this text Pope Leo XIII highlights Mary’s role as Mediatrix of all graces. As in the case of our understanding of Mary’s coredemptive role, we must always recognize Mary’s mediation as secondary and subordinate to and dependent upon that of Christ himself. Indeed, in Lumen Gentium #60 the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council emphasized that

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 (36).

Yet at the same time it must also be asserted that, precisely by the disposition of God, no other human being collaborated as intimately in the Redemption of mankind as Mary did. As the Pope put in his general audience address of 9 April 1997, which has already been cited above, Mary’s

co-operation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity (37).

To put it simply: because Mary is the Coredemptrix, she is also the Mediatrix of all graces.

Another very important principle should be noted in the text cited above: it speaks of Mary’s union with Jesus in redeeming mankind. This is not to say that Jesus is not all-sufficient as Redeemer or that Mary can ever be thought of as his equal, but rather that by God’s will she was indissolubly united with him in the work of redemption and is consequently inseparably united with him in dispensing the fruits of the redemption. This has been the consistent teaching of the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let us listen to how beautifully Pope St. Pius X elucidates this doctrine in his Encyclical Letter Ad Diem Illum of 2 February 1904:

It is because of this community of pain and will between Mary and Christ that “she merited to become in a most worthy manner the Reparatrix of the lost world” and, therefore, the Dispenser of the totality of gifts which Jesus by his death and blood has acquired for us.

Now surely we do not deny that the distribution of these gifts belongs by strict right to Christ personally, after all they have been acquired for us by His death alone, and He is in His own right the Mediator between God and men. And yet, out of regard for that community of pain and suffering between Mother and Son already mentioned, the august Virgin was privileged to be “the most powerful Mediatrix and advocate of the whole world, with her Divine Son” (38).

The mystery of Mary’s indissoluble union with Jesus in the work of our redemption is already prophetically proclaimed in Genesis 3:15 and described in the Gospels of Luke and John (39). Further, chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation shows us how Mary’s maternal relationship with Jesus is extended to “the rest of her offspring” (Rev. 12:17) (40). Indeed, there is no other divine-human union to compare with this unique relationship between Jesus and Mary which exists precisely “for us men and for our salvation.” Because of the uniqueness of this bond Father Stefano Manelli could make this striking claim about Mary’s mediation:

The fundamental difference between the maternal Mediation of Mary and every other participated mediation on the part of other creatures, heavenly and earthly, consists in the fact that while all other mediations are limited in time and space, the Mediation of Mary instead extends to all creation, heavenly and earthly, and touches all ages, until the final end of creation (41).

Father Manelli’s statement is striking because it underscores the extension of Mary’s mediation, but not because it departs from the teaching of the Church. In fact he is only echoing the Servant of God Pope Pius XII who declared on 13 May, 1946, in his radio message to Fatima, that the Son of God

gave His heavenly Mother a share in His glory, His majesty, His kingship; because, associated as Mother and Minister to the King of martyrs in the ineffable work of man’s Redemption, she is likewise associated with Him forever, with power so to speak infinite, in the distribution of the graces which flow from Redemption (42).

VII. Mary Advocate

In the wonderfully rich homily which Pope John Paul II gave in Guayaquil, Ecuador on 31 January 1985, and which we have cited above, he said that “Mary’s role as Coredemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son,” and then he went on to explain that

The Church believes that the Most Holy Virgin, assumed into heaven, is near Christ, forever living to make intercession for us (cf. Heb. 7:25), and that to her Son’s Divine mediation there is joined the incessant supplication of his Mother on behalf of men, her sons and daughters.

Mary is the dawn, and the dawn unfailingly announces the arrival of the sun. Therefore I recommend to all of you, brothers and sisters of Ecuador, that you honour with profound love and have recourse to the Mother of Christ and the Church the “all-powerful suppliant” (omnipotentia supplex), that she will bring us ever closer to Christ, her Son and our Mediator (43).

There are at least two salient points to be drawn from this doctrinally rich statement. The first is that Mary participates in the priestly intercession of the glorified Christ who is now seated at the right hand of the Father, where he ceaselessly intercedes for us. In union with Jesus she, too, is our Advocate. The second is a further precision of Mary’s intercessory role: she is omnipotentia supplex, an almost untranslatable phrase which indicates that she is at the same time both a suppliant as well as all-powerful. The Pope has used this paradoxical expression to describe Our Lady’s intercession on a number of occasions (44). Perhaps one of the best explanations of this terminology comes from Saint Alphonsus Maria De Liguori:

Since the Mother, then, should have the same power as the Son, Jesus, who is omnipotent, has also made Mary omnipotent; though, of course, it is always true that, while Jesus is omnipotent by nature, Mary is omnipotent only by grace. But that she is so appears from the fact that, whatever the Mother asks for, the Son never denies her. … Mary, then, is called omnipotent in the sense in which such a term can be applied to a creature who is incapable of a divine attribute; that is, she is omnipotent because she obtains by her prayers whatever she wishes (45).

As Mary is Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces, she is also our most perfect human Advocate before the Blessed Trinity. This title has profound roots in the Catholic tradition going all the way back to Saint Irenaeus in the second century. It occurs in the Hail, Holy Queen where we pray: “turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us.” The word Advocate is predicated of Mary literally hundreds of times in the papal magisterium and reference to her intercession is a constantly recurring theme. Indeed, the great Marian document of the Second Vatican Council readily recognized that Mary is rightly invoked as Advocate (46).

Linking together the titles Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate enables us to grasp Mary’s role in our salvation in a logical and coherent way: it is precisely because of Our Lady’s unique and intimate participation in the work of the redemption (as Coredemptrix) that she is able to be the distributor (Mediatrix) of all graces and the great intercessor (Advocate) for her children after Jesus himself (cf. Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1), and the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) (47). Indeed, each of these terms brings out another facet of how Mary shares in an unparalleled way in the unique priestly mediation of Jesus: she participates in the work of our redemption; she distributes the graces of the redemption; she lives to make intercession for us.

These three themes are beautifully interwoven in the conclusion of Miserentissimus Redemptor, Pius XI’s great Encyclical Letter on reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

May the most gracious Mother of God, who gave us Jesus as Redeemer, who reared Him, and at the foot of the Cross offered Him as Victim, who by her mysterious union with Christ and by her matchless grace rightly merits the name Reparatrix, deign to smile upon Our wishes and Our undertakings. Trusting in her intercession with Christ our Lord, who though sole Mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5), wished however to make His Mother the advocate for sinners and the dispenser and mediatrix of His grace, from the bottom of Our heart as a token of heavenly favor and of Our fatherly solicitude We heartily impart to you and to all the faithful entrusted to your care Our Apostolic Benediction (48).

VIII. Some Questions

This essay has been written to show the internal logic and coherence of proposing a solemn papal definition of Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. I have chosen to do so largely on the grounds of the teachings of recent popes. It is entirely possible to make a case for a definition in terms of the scriptural evidence or of the indications given in the Church’s liturgical life or on the basis of the testimony of saints and theologians. A number of such studies have been done (49), and continue to be produced in various languages.

I have chosen to present this little introduction to the question primarily on the basis of the teaching authority of the modern popes, precisely because they reflect and synthesize the belief of the Church in a way that is readily comprehensible to the faithful, and which does not require an extensive background in scriptural studies, the history of theology, the lives of the saints, etc. Further, this approach manifests that the content of the proposed definition is already a part of the ordinary (as opposed to extraordinary) magisterium of the Church. The titles are not novelties, but have been consistently used by the popes of the last century and a half to describe Mary’s unique role in the lives of the faithful. I had to choose citations carefully in order to represent the hundreds more which space would not allow me to present, and which would have weighed this short study down unduly. The point is that those who want to contest what I have presented above are not arguing with me or my theories, but with the Successor of Peter carrying out his official teaching office (50).

1. Why the title Coredemptrix?

 

My first response is “Why not”? It is true that the word can be misleading to those who don’t know its etymology, i.e., that “with” does not mean “equal to.” But the use of this term by the popes as well as the consistent doctrine of the Church make it abundantly clear that there is no intention to make Mary an equal Redeemer with Jesus. On the other hand, what titles would better indicate the altogether unique position occupied by Mary in the economy of grace? Cooperator, collaborator, co-worker, co-sufferer, participant? But these terms could and should be used of us all. They don’t indicate the uniqueness of Mary’s role. The great English convert and spiritual writer, Father Frederick William Faber, argued in favor of the anglicized form of the word, “co-redemptress” already in 1857, in his classic work The Foot of the Cross:

In fact, there is no other single word in which the truth could be expressed; and, far off from His sole and sufficient redemption as Mary’s cooperation lies, her cooperation stands alone and aloof from all the cooperation of the elect of God. … But neither the Immaculate Conception nor the Assumption will give us a higher idea of Mary’s exaltation than this title of co-redemptress, when we have theologically ascertained its significance (51).

2. Why propose a papal definition?

 

It has been noted that there are already four dogmas about Mary. They are that she is 1) the Mother of God (Theotokos) (52); 2) ever-virgin (53); that she was 3) immaculately conceived (54) and 4) assumed body and soul into heaven (55). All of these truths of the faith pertain to the person of Mary, but thus far the Church has not yet proposed to the faithful in the most solemn manner the truth about Mary’s role in their lives.

But why should this be done when so many other matters in the Church appear to be much more important and much more urgent? There is, indeed, indisputable evidence that there is now at least a large part of two generations of Catholics who do not know their faith or take it very seriously. This didn’t happen by accident. There are many who, with good intentions or not, seized the moment toward the end of the Second Vatican Council to commandeer Catholic catechesis and education, and have contributed mightily to the chaos which has ensued. They have not been simply unseated by the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nor will any simply legislative act be capable of doing this.

The moral turpitude and permissiveness of the world in which we live daily becomes more apparent and more appalling—and it seeps into the Church. Contraception, abortion, the breakup of families, blatant pornography in the media, the attempted justification of homosexuality, militant feminism, the confusion of the roles of man and woman, the promotion of a society without values—all of these plague the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II have not hesitated to stand up to these myriad errors with courage, providing clear guidelines and admonishing the faithful to be converted and follow the way of the Gospel. Thirty years after Humanæ Vitæ the prophetic wisdom of Paul VI is far more apparent than it was in 1968, but has the tide changed?

In many places careless, insensitive and imprudent innovations have been introduced into the Church’s worship. A new form of iconoclasm has caused the wanton destruction of many Catholic sanctuaries. Further, there is a notable tendency at work on various levels to shift the orientation of the liturgy from being God-centered to being more man-centered. The language of the “holy sacrifice of the Mass” is slowly disappearing from our vocabulary. Even more, there is an attempt on the part of some highly placed strategists to de-construct the present Roman liturgy and render it less recognizable. All of this has led to massive disorientation on the part of priests, religious and laity, resulting in many defections and apostasy. Can we reasonably expect that more directives on the right application of the Church’s liturgical norms will dramatically alter the present situation?

Now, of course, I do not wish to minimize the many hopeful signs on the horizon or the often heroic work being done on many levels to re-establish Catholic practice in faith, morals and worship where this is needed. But I am convinced that a papal definition of Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate for the People of God could have incalculable positive effects, both direct and indirect, in all of these areas that will come in no other way. This is because

Mary, present in the Church as the Mother of the Redeemer, takes part, as a mother, in that “monumental struggle against the powers of darkness” which continues throughout human history (56).

She is not only the “Woman” of the Protoevangelium (Gen. 3.15), but also the triumphant “Woman” of the Apocalypse (Rev. 12). The more that the Church recognizes her role in our salvation, proclaims it and celebrates it, the more Satan will be vanquished and the more Jesus will reign. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council already gave voice to this intuition when they stated in Lumen Gentium #65 that

when she (Mary) is being preached and venerated, she summons the faithful to her Son and His sacrifice, and to love for the Father. Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her exalted model, and continually progresses in faith, hope, and charity, searching out and doing the will of God in all things (57).

3. Wouldn’t a definition cause ecumenical problems?

 

This is an objection which has been consistently seized upon by those who oppose a definition. My question back to them is “Why should a more explicit proclamation of the truth cause problems?” The Church found it necessary to reassert the impossibility of the ordination of women (58), even though it recognized that there would be repercussions in those ecclesial bodies which have women ministers. As we have seen above, in 1998 it was compelled to uphold the Church’s unbroken tradition on man’s collaboration in the work of his redemption.

We must be perfectly clear on this fundamental principle of Catholic ecumenism enunciated by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council:

It is, of course, essential that doctrine be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its assured genuine meaning.

At the same time, Catholic belief needs to be explained more profoundly and precisely, in ways and in terminology which our separated brethren too can really understand.

Furthermore, Catholic theologians engaged in ecumenical dialogue, while standing fast by the teaching of the Church and searching together with separated brethren into the divine mysteries, should act with love for truth, with charity, and with humility (59).

These same Fathers were

aware that among them (separated Churches and Ecclesial Bodies in the West) views are held considerably different from the doctrine of the Catholic Church even concerning Christ, God’s Word made flesh, and the work of redemption, and thus concerning the mystery and ministry of the Church and the role of Mary in the work of salvation (60).

They obviously didn’t think that Mary’s role should be passed over in silence in ecumenical dialogue. In fact, they concluded the master document of the Council, Lumen Gentium, with these words:

Let the entire body of the faithful pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men. Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints. May she do so until all the peoples of the human family, whether they are honored with the name of Christian or whether they still do not know their Savior, are happily gathered together in peace and harmony into the one People of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity (61).

Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins is an official of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” in Rome, a contributing member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy and the author of Totus Tuus. He is internationally known for his numerous articles on Our Lady and for his scholarly work in the fields of dogmatic and spiritual theology. This article was originally published in Contemporary Insights on a Fifth Marian Dogma: Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations III, Queenship, 2000. Notes

Notes

(1) CCC #404.

(2) John Henry Newman, Mary—The Second Eve compiled by Sr. Eileen Breen, F.M.A. (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1982) 2.

(3) I have followed here the Douay-Rheims version which is a translation of St. Jerome’s Vulgate. For a discussion on whether the pronoun in the second part of the verse should be translated as he or she (favored in the Catholic tradition for well over a millennium) cf. Thomas Mary Sennott, The Woman of Genesis (Cambridge, MA: The Ravengate Press, 1984) 37-60. For a discussion of whether the verb should be translated as “bruise” or “crush,” cf. Sennott 61-80. For an overall treatment of the text cf. Stefano M. Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed: Biblical Mariology trans. Peter Damian Fehlner (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 1995) 21-33.

(4) CCC #411.

(5) One already finds the description of the “bond” between Jesus and Mary in the work of our salvation as “intimate and indissoluble” (arctissimo et indissolubili vinculo) in the Venerable Pius IX’s Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December 1954, Pii IX Pontificis Maximi Acta (Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsanstelt, 1971) I:607; OL, trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961; henceforth OL) #46. Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium uses the same language in #53 when it speaks of Mary’s being united to Jesus “by a close and indissoluble tie” (arcto et indissolubili vinculo unita). Likewise Paul VI’s speaks of the “close and indissoluble bond” which joined Mary “to the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption” (Arcto et indissolubili vinculo mysterio Incarnationis et Redemptionis) in his Professio Fidei or “Credo of the People of God” of 30 June 1968, AAS 60 (1968) 438-439; TPS 13:278.

(6) Pii IX Pontificis Maximi Acta I:599; OL #34. This principle was repeated by Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus, AAS 42 (1950) 768; OL #520, LG #61, Paul VI in Marialis Cultus #25, AAS 66 (1974) 136, and by John Paul II in Redemptoris Mater #8-9, Inseg X/1 (1987) 687; St. Paul Editions.

(7) Antonio Piolanti, Dio Uomo (Pontificia Accademia Teologica Romana: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1995) 575-577.

(8) CCC #616.

(9) Cf. D-H #301; TCF #613.

(10) Cf. CCC #606-618.

(11) CCC #618.

(12) Inseg XX/1 (1997) 621-622; ORE 1487:7; MCat 185-186.

(13) Cf. D-H #1545-1546, 1548, 1554, 1559, 1574, 1576, 1581-1582; TCF #1946-1947, 1948, 1954, 1959, 1974, 1976, 1981-1982.

(14) CCC #2006-2010, 2025, 2017.

(15) Sermo 169, 11, 13 PL 38, 293. Cf. Brunero Gherardini, “Qui Fecit Te Sine Te Non Te Iustificat Sine Te,” Divinitas XL (1998) 3-18.

(16) OR 4 luglio 1998, p. 4 (n.3); ORE 1549:2.

(17) LG #65.

(18) LG #56.

(19) LG #57.

(20) LG #58.

(21) AAS 35 (1943) 247-248; OL #383. Pius XII quoted this text again in his Encyclical Letter Ad Cæli Reginam of 11 October 1954, AAS 46 (1954) 635; OL #705.

(22) AAS 59 (1967) 470, St. Paul Editions, NCWC trans., 6.

(23) AAS 10 (1918) 182; OL #267.

(24) René Laurentin, “Le Titre de Corédemptrice. Étude historique,” Marianum 13 (1951) 399-402.

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

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

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

(28) AAS 1 (1908) 409; 5 (1913) 364; 6 (1914) 108.

(29) Domenico Bertetto, S.D.B., ed., Discorsi di Pio XI 2:1013; OR 25 marzo 1934, p. 1.

(30) OR 29-30 aprile 1935, p. 1.

(31) Cf. my article, “The Case for New Marian Titles,” Soul 49 (January-February 1998) 20-21, 27.

(32) The specific instances may be found in Inseg V/3 (1982) 404; VII/2 (1984) 1151, ORE 860:1; VIII/1 (1985) 318-319, ORE 876:7; 889-890, ORE 880:12; XIII/1 (1990) 743:1; XIV/2 (1991) 756, ORE 1211:4. Cf. Arthur Burton Calkins, “Pope John Paul II’s Teaching on Marian Coredemption” in Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997) 113-147.

(33) Inseg VIII/1 (1985) 318-319, ORE 876:7; emphasis my own.

(34) Richard Foley, S.J., Mary and the Eucharist (Newtonsville, OH: Hope of Saint Monica, 1997) 13.

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

(36) Flannery, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents 418.

(37) Inseg XX/1 (1997) 621-622, ORE 1487:7; MCat 186.

(38) ASS 36 (1903-1904) 453-454, translation from Paul Palmer, S.J., Mary in the Documents of the Church (London: Burns Oates, 1953) 95 alt.

(39) Cf. Stefano Maria Manelli, F.I., “Mary Coredemptrix in Sacred Scripture,” in Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997) 71-99.

(40) Cf. Manelli 99-103.

(41) Manelli 70.

(42) AAS 38 (1946) 266, OL #413.

(43) Inseg VIII/1 (1985) 321, ORE 876:7.

(44) Inseg II/1 (1979) 1034, ORE 580:1; Inseg II/2 (1979) 816, 818, ORE 610:3; Inseg VI/2 (1983) 558.

(45) St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Part I trans. Charles G. Fehrenbach, C.SS.R. et al. (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1962) 113, Opere Ascetiche di S. Alfonso M. De Liguori Vol. VI (Roma, 1936) 205-206.

(46) Cf. LG #62.

(47) These texts in John’s gospel all refer to the Greek word Parakletos which is sometimes left in the Greek form “Paraclete” and variously translated as “Counselor” and “Advocate.” It refers to one who intercedes and pleads the cause of another.

(48) AAS 20 (1928) 178, OL #287.

(49) Cf. Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1993); Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations: Towards a Papal Definition? (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1995); Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D., (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations II: Papal, Pneumatological, Ecumenical (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1997).

(50) Cf. LG #25.

(51) Frederick William Faber, The Foot of the Cross or the Sorrows of Mary (Philadelphia: The Peter Reilly Co., 1956) 377.

(52) Defined by the Council of Ephesus in 431. Cf. D-H #252, TCF #606/1.

(53) By the time of the Council of Ephesus belief in Mary’s virginity before, during and after birth was in possession and was explicitly defined at the Lateran Council of 649 convoked by Pope St. Martin I. Cf. D-H #503, TCF #703.

(54) Defined by Blessed Pius IX on 8 December 1854. Cf. D-H #2803, TCF #709.

(55) Defined by the Servant of God Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950. Cf. D-H #3903, TCF #715.

(56) Redemptoris Mater #47, Inseg X/1 (1987) 738; St. Paul Editions 67.

(57) Walter M. Abbott, S.J. (gen. ed.), The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Herder and Herder, Association Press, 1966) 93.

(58) Cf. Apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis of 22 May 1994: AAS LXXXVI (1994) 545-548; Inseg XVII/1 (1994) 1104-1108, ORE 1343:1-2.

(59) UR #11 (Abbott trans. 354).

(60) UR #20 (Abbott trans. 362).

(61) LG #68 (Abbott trans. 96).

Abbreviations

AAS: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis (1909 – ).

ASS: Acta Sanctæ Sedis (1865-1908).

CCC: Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994).

D-H: Heinrich Denzinger, S.I., Enchiridion Symbolorum Definitionum et Declarationum de Rebus Fidei et Morum: Edizione Bilingue (XXXVII) a cura di Peter Hünermann (Bologna: Edizioni Dehoniane, 2000).

Inseg: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, I (1978 – )(Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979 – ).

LG: Lumen Gentium, Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (21 November 1964).

MCat: Pope John Paul II, Theotókos – Woman, Mother, Disciple: A Catechesis on Mary, Mother of God with a Foreword by Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm., S.T.D. (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2000).

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

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

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

TCF: J. Neuner, S.J. and J. Dupuis, S.J. (eds.), The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church (New York: Alba House, sixth revised ed., 1996).

TPS: The Pope Speaks, 1 – (1954 – ).

UR: Unitatis Redintegratio, Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (21 November 1964).

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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}.

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Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins is an official of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” in Rome, a contributing member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy, is the author of Totus Tuus and of numerous scholarly studies and popular articles on Our Lady and dogmatic and spiritual theology. –Assistant Ed. 



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The following  selection is taken from “Mary at the Foot of the Cross – IX, Mary: Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Coredemptrix, and Mother of the Church.”  Parts V – VI will be published in the next issue. – Asst. Ed.

III. Lumen Gentium (November 21,1964)
Up to now, I have tried to delineate what I consider to be some of the major developments of the preconciliar papal magisterium on Our Lady’s relationship to the Church. This rich patrimony has dealt almost exclusively with Mary’s spiritual Motherhood of the Church and her intimately related roles as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces. We did note a certain juxtaposition in Blessed Pius IX’s Ineffabilis Deus of the figures of the “most holy Virgin” and “Our Holy Mother the Catholic Church” with the latter clearly subordinate to the former.



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The following selection is taken from Mary at the Foot of the Cross – IX, Mary: Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Coredemptrix, and Mother of the Church. Parts III – VI will be published in upcoming issues. – Asst. Ed.

Part I. Preliminary Considerations

The topic which has been assigned to me is a rather daunting one, precisely because of its vast scope. The modern papal magisterium is usually considered to begin with Pope Benedict XIV whose papacy extended from 1740 to 1758. Hence, we are looking at a period of over 220 years before the Council and almost 45 years since its conclusion. Further, this period is beyond doubt the most fruitful which the Church has ever experienced in the ongoing penetration into the mystery of the Mother of God and of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Roman Church.

 

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The following article is an excerpt from the recently published Marian anthology, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Seat of Wisdom Books, A Division of Queenship, 2008. Fifteen international Mariology experts contributed to the text. The book features a foreword by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke and has 17 chapters divided into four parts: 1. Mary in Scripture and the Early Church; 2. Marian Dogma; 3. Marian Doctrine; and 4. Marian Liturgy and Devotion. The book is now available from Queenship Publications. To obtain a copy, visit queenship.org. Visit books.google.com and search on “Mariology: A Guide” to view the book in its entirety, or simply click here.
Asst. Ed
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The mystery of the Incarnation is inseparable in the eternal plans of God from the virginal conception of the Son of God in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While God could have brought about the enfleshment of the Word in any way that he chose, he concretely willed that the Word should become flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary (Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine). This fact transmitted to us in the gospels of St. Luke (1:26-38) and St. John (1:14) has been an integral part of the Church’s creed from the earliest days of her existence (1), and was solemnly ratified by the First Council of Constantinople in 381 to express, within the limits of human language, the mystery which the Church received, believes and transmits about the Incarnation of the Son of God (2). It is the Catholic Church’s perennial belief in the three facets of this mystery which immediately touch upon the role of Our Lady that is the specific object of this study: the fact that she was a virgin before (ante partum), during (in partu) and after the birth of Christ (post partum). The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses this truth succinctly by stating that “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man” (3).

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

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While one might readily think of Fatima and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the idea of associating Fatima with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary might seem much more forced – but, in fact, that is not so. From its very beginnings the phenomenon of Fatima bears the imprint of the two Hearts. From a strictly theological perspective this must necessarily be true because one can only understand the theology and the cultus of the Heart of Mary with reference to the Heart of Jesus – and this is consistently verified in all that is associated with Fatima.

The primary witness of the events of Fatima, of course, is Sister Lucia of Jesus and of the Immaculate Heart dos Santos, O.C.D. who lived from 30 March 1907 to 13 February 2005, dying at the advanced age of 97 and whose cause for beatification has now been opened with the special permission of Pope Benedict XVI. (1) Hers is the third such cause in recent times to be opened by special papal concession prior to the five-year waiting period after the death of a servant of God. Her little cousins, Francisco Marto (11 June 1908-4 April 1919) and Jacinta Marto (10 June 1910-20 February 1920) both died illiterate at a very young age and were beatified at Fatima by Pope John Paul II on 13 May 2000. (2) Thus all of the testimony about Fatima comes from Sister Lucia who has left us six memoirs, (3) letters (4) and what we might call a final memoir (5) which she wrote in her final years and which summarizes her experiences and her meditations of a lifetime on those profound experiences. It is of particular significance that this latter volume was explicitly “authorized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”.

The Framework of the Apparitions

Sister Lucia began her very first Memoir, written at the request of Dom José Alves Correia da Silva (1872-1957) before Christmas of 1935, in this way:

Having implored the protection of the most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, our tender Mother, and sought light and grace at the foot of the Tabernacle, so as to write nothing that would not be solely and exclusively for the glory of Jesus and of the most Blessed Virgin, I now take up this work, in spite of the repugnance I feel, since I can say almost nothing about Jacinta without speaking either directly or indirectly about my miserable self. I obey, nevertheless, the will of Your Excellency, which, for me is the expression of the will of our good God. I begin this task, then asking the most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary to deign to bless it, and to make use of this act of obedience to obtain the conversion of poor sinners, for whom Jacinta so generously sacrificed herself. (6) […]

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The following article is the second part of an excerpt from a chapter in the recently published Marian anthology, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Seat of Wisdom Books, A Division of Queenship, 2008. Fifteen international Mariology experts contributed to the text. The book features a foreword by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke and has 17 chapters divided into four parts: 1. Mary in Scripture and the Early Church; 2. Marian Dogma; 3. Marian Doctrine; and 4. Marian Liturgy and Devotion. The book will be available from Queenship Publications in mid-February.–Asst. Ed.

The Situation on the Eve of the Second Vatican Council

First, it must be remembered that the Second Vatican Council was convoked just at a time when Marian doctrine and piety had reached an apex (98), which had been building on a popular level since the apparition of Our Lady to St. Catherine Labouré in 1830 (99) and on the magisterial level since the time of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854 (100). This Marian orientation had accelerated notably during the 19-year reign of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) with the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 31, 1942 (101), the dogmatic definition of the Assumption of Our Lady on November 1, 1950 (102), the establishment of the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1944 (103) and of the Queenship of Mary in the Marian Year of 1954 (104).

Secondly, and as a consequence of this comprehensive “Marian movement,” much study, discussion and debate had been devoted to Mary’s role in salvation history, specifically to the topics of coredemption and mediation. These scholarly deliberations were largely occasioned by the initiatives undertaken by Cardinal Désiré Joseph Mercier (1851-1926) in favor of the proclamation of Our Lady as Mediatrix of all graces (105), and continued until the International Mariological Congress held at Lourdes in 1958. These disputes are carefully chronicled and analyzed in Juniper Carol’s masterful study on “Our Lady’s Coredemption” which appears in the three-volume Mariology (106). Major adversaries were Professors Werner Goosens and Heinrich Lennerz, S.J. Goosens argued against the incompatibility of secondary mediators and redeemers with Christ as the “One Mediator” according to 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (107), a matter which had already been addressed and clarified by St. Thomas Aquinas (108) and Pope Leo XIII in his Encyclical Letter Fidentem Piumque of September 20, 1896 (109).

Lennerz, on the other hand, presented what Carol considered to be “the gravest speculative difficulty” to the doctrine of Marian coredemption. If Mary was herself redeemed by the Precious Blood of Christ, how could she at one and the same time cooperate in the redemption of others (110)? Carol had already carefully summarized a response on the basis of the competent scholarship at the time that he wrote (111), which is in full harmony with what I now present in ways that may be less technical for the modern reader. Let us begin with these observations by the biblical and patristic scholar, Father Lino Cignelli, O.F.M.: […]

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The following article is an excerpt from a chapter in the recently published Marian anthology, Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, Seat of Wisdom Books, A Division of Queenship, 2008. Fifteen international Mariology experts contributed to the text. The book features a foreword by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke and has 17 chapters divided into four parts: 1. Mary in Scripture and the Early Church; 2. Marian Dogma; 3. Marian Doctrine; and 4. Marian Liturgy and Devotion. The book will be available from Queenship Publications in mid-February.
Asst. Ed.

Even though the explicit treatment of Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption has appeared in ever-sharper relief in the Papal Magisterium only within the past two centuries, there is well-founded reason to say that it is part and parcel of the Tradition that has come down to us from the apostles and makes progress in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (cf. Dei Verbum 8). The indissoluble link between the “woman” and “her seed,” the Messiah, is already presented to us in the Protoevangelium (Gen 3:15) (1), where the first adumbrations of God’s saving plan pierce through the darkness caused by man’s sin.  The identification of the “woman” with Mary is already implicit in the second and nineteenth chapters of the Gospel of St. John where Jesus addresses his mother as “woman” (2) and in the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation (3). […]

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Early on in my priestly ministry a woman who is a very good friend of mine confided to me about her state of frustration and annoyance when she discovered that she was pregnant with one of the “middle number” of her six children. Being a good Catholic, she never entertained the thought of abortion and surely never deliberately “rejected” this new life in her womb. Her attitude seems to have been characterized by that Stoicism which many of us try to pass off as “abandonment to Divine Providence,” but which, in reality, represents a rejection of God’s will for us together with those people or situations which He has brought into our lives without our permission.

The invitation to say with Mary “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38) was not readily accepted. Rather, she “resigned” herself to the presence of a child whose “timing” did not coincide with her’s or her husband’s. It may seem a bit harsh to describe her stance as one of rejection, but at base that is what it was: an unwillingness to accept God’s plan and this new life. On the other hand, with three little ones already “under foot” and vying for her attention along with her husband, her attitude was quite understandable. No doubt the rejection was not a conscious refusal, but for all of that it was nonetheless real.

Surely one of the great contributions of modern psychology to child-rearing in our century has been to highlight the importance of the relationship of the mother with the child in her womb from the very time when she becomes conscious of its existence. No doubt mothers have always grasped this intuitively. Still, it is one of the merits the nascent disciplines of psychology and psychiatry in our times to have underscored with ever greater clarity the inestimable importance of the mother/child bonding process which begins in the womb. […]

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The terminology of the “alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary” comes from an Angelus address given by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II on 15 September 1985, but the concept itself is as ancient as Christianity itself which began with the Redemptive Incarnation. It is another way of speaking about the “indissoluble bond” between Jesus and Mary, about their “joint predestination.” What do I mean? Let us go back to the very beginning, to the Garden of Eden. There we find “the man,” Adam, and his wife and helpmate, Eve. We know the story, but it is necessary to keep averting to it in order to penetrate ever more deeply into God’s eternal plan.

I. The Mystery of Iniquity

In simple, yet poetic and profound language the third chapter of the Book of Genesis narrates the story of the fall of man. Three creatures play the major roles in this momentous drama: the serpent, the woman and the man. The serpent beguiles. The woman who was given to the man as his helpmate lets herself be beguiled and the man follows suit. The story seems deceptively simple, but it has monumental implications. The man, Adam, is the progenitor and head of the human family. The woman, Eve, is his companion. As partners they are equal, but they have different roles. He is the head of his wife and the head of the human family. “The whole human race is in Adam ‘as one body of one man.’ By this ‘unity of the human race’ all men are implicated in Adam’s sin.” (1)

At the same time it must be noted that the role of the woman given to the man as his helpmate was far from negligible. Let us note how it is described by the Venerable Cardinal John Henry Newman: […]

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Frederick William Faber was born in Calverly in the English County of Yorkshire on the 28th of June 1814. He was born in the vicarage of his grandfather, who was the Anglican Vicar of Calverly, (1) and his early formation was strongly marked by the ethos of the Church of England. Another significant influence on his developing personality was the Lake District where his early education continued. (2) It awakened his strong poetic orientation and equipped him to appreciate the works of the Lake poets, especially William Wordsworth (1770-1850). (3) He continued his education at Harrow, subsequently matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford in 1832 and became a fellow of University College there in 1837. (4) His practice of Anglicanism had first a Calvinist and subsequently an Evangelical orientation. Preceding and after his ordination as priest of the Church of England in Oxford in 1839 he became successively more involved in the Tractarian Party which came to be known as the Oxford Movement. (5)

It was during these years that he came under the influence of John Henry Newman (1801-1890), one of the principals of the Oxford Movement, and eventually followed him into the Roman Catholic Church in 1845. He was ordained a Catholic priest by Nicholas Wiseman in 1847 and together with the majority of a little community which he had founded called Brothers of the Will of God he joined the Birmingham Oratory, of which Newman was superior, in 1848. (6) In 1849 he founded the London Oratory and the following year it became independent of Newman’s Oratory in Birmingham. (7) […]

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While the Church’s inchoate belief in Mary’s motherhood of all believers reaches back beyond its conscious articulation, the chronicling of this belief provides an interesting instance of the development of doctrine which is thus described in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum:

The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church, with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts (cf. Luke 2.19 and 51). It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth. Thus, as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her. (1) […]

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

Along with mediating the graces of redemption from God to the human family, Mary also acts as the intercessory advocate for the People of God in their return to God. Mary not only mediates the graces of God to humanity as Mediatrix, but she also mediates the petitions of the human family back to God, in humble service of both. Mary intercedes to God the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit on behalf of humanity as our Advocate, especially in times of danger and difficulties. (1)

In stating himself in this way Dr. Miravalle also acknowledges that he is following a thought process traced by St. Maximilian-Maria Kolbe. (2) In lecture notes dated 5-20 August 1940 Maximilian speaks of the union between Mary and the Holy Spirit. […]

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I. Introduction

“Reparation” is a term which has been largely and unfortunately ignored in theological circles since the Second Vatican Council. It has been all too often relegated to the category of “pious devotions” by some activists who claim that it has been rightly replaced by the “option for the poor” and by no few religious communities which were originally founded with reparation as one of their fundamental ends. It is nonetheless, I am convinced, a topic which calls for the attention of Catholics who are serious about the spiritual life and apostolic activity. I also believe that it is of particular relevance to those involved in the pro-life movement in this era which seems more contemptuous of human life than any previous period in history.

No doubt this is precisely because our world has almost entirely lost “the sense of sin,” a prophetic declaration which was first sounded by Pius XII in a radio message delivered to a Catechetical Congress held in Boston on 26 October, 1946 (1) and echoed many times since by the present Pontiff. (2) Indeed, we will have no real sense of sin until we recognize what our sins did to Christ. As both the Roman Catechism and now also the Catechism of the Catholic Church put it: “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.” (3) I would like to sketch here briefly a theological outline of reparation to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary with specific reference to the burning pro-life issues of our day. […]

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Shortly before the visit of Pope John Paul II to France in October of 1986 a very perceptive article by the distinguished Jesuit Sacred Heart scholar, Édouard Glotin, appeared in Nouvelle Revue Théologique, entitled “John Paul II at Paray-le-Monial or Why the ‘Heart’?” (1) It is a provocative question which many of the faithful may rightly ask today with regard to devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary: Why Mary’s Heart? Why should we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary the day after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? What we will see in attempting even a brief response to this query is that we can never speak of the Heart of Mary without reference to the Heart of Jesus.
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The theme of Mary as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix, that is, of the Mother of God as the most intimate human collaborator in the work of our redemption and as the chief dispenser of the grace of the redemption after Jesus himself, has occupied theologians from the very dawn of the twentieth century. Indeed, it seems that the first English writer to use and defend the term Coredemptrix was Father Frederick William Faber in the last chapter of his classic work The Foot of the Cross, first published in 1858. Further, prior to the Second Vatican Council not a few Bishops expressed a desire for the Council to make a declaration—some even wished a definition—about Our Lady as Coredemptrix and/or Mediatrix. In his general audience address of 13 December 1995, Pope John Paul II made a graceful reference to the Council Fathers who “wished further to enrich Marian doctrine with other statements on Mary’s role in the work of salvation” without criticizing them in any way. He simply commented that “The particular context in which Vatican II’s Mariological debate took place did not allow these wishes, although substantial and widespread, to be accepted.”

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For many years I have been fascinated and edified by the writings of Professor John Saward. He is a convert from Anglicanism in whose every page one can see that he has passed over into the fullness of Catholicism. Indeed, he is a man who is so profoundly steeped in the Catholic Tradition that he is able to draw with ease from virtually all of the major eras of its two thousand years of development.

Precisely for this reason I was delighted to learn of his latest book which he intends as a sequel to Redeemer in the Womb. That first volume, he tells us,

was an Advent book, a study of the nine months that God-made-man spent in His Blessed Mother’s womb. The second goes on to consider the Nativity and Epiphany of the Lord; it is a systematic theology of the Christmas mystery, the first to be written in many years. …I make no claim to originality. Self-consciously original theology tends always to be heretical theology. Orthodox theology has, by contrast, a blessed familiarity, for it does no more than assist the faithful in understanding what they already believe; its surprises are the outcome not of human ingenuity but of divine infinitude, the sign of a Truth that is ever ancient and ever new. My intention is to draw on the Christmas doctrine of the saints … (p. 14). In effect, with his new book Professor Saward has given us a veritable encyclopedia on the Christmas mystery which could be used as a textbook as well as for meditation.

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As this year the Catholic world commemorates the sesquicentenary of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Blessed Pius IX, there is special reason to reflect on this dogma as a mystery of faith and to consider some of the more recent theological insights that may help us to penetrate more deeply into it.

I. The Mystery

In his brilliant book, Cradle of Redeeming Love, John Saward states that

The human birth of the Son of God is a mystery in the strict theological sense: a divinely revealed reality that little ones can understand but not even learned ones can comprehend. Theological mysteries are truth and therefore light for the mind, but the truth is so vast, the light of such intensity, that the mind is dazzled and amazed. When a man meets a mystery of faith, he finds not a deficiency but an excess of intelligibility: there is just too much to understand. (1)

While Saward’s topic was specifically the “Christmas mystery,” his words are not at all inappropriately applied to the “mystery of the Immaculate,” the creature most intimately linked to the Redemptive Incarnation. […]

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I. Apocryphal Reference of the Feast

The liturgical memorial of the Presentation of Our Lady raises interesting questions. It does not commemorate an event which is recorded in the Scriptures, but rather harkens back to a story recorded in the apocryphal Gospel of James, a document valuable for our understanding of some of the sentiments of the early Christian community from which it originated, but never accepted by the Church as one of the four canonical Gospels. With regard to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council, states:

Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy maintained and continues to maintain, that the four Gospels just named, whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up (cf. Acts 1:1-2). (1) […]

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