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Ecumenism is the Issue: On Declaring the Dogma of Our Lady as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Grace, and Advocate  Forthwith!

In chapter seven of Pope John Paul II’s, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the Holy Father addresses the question of why the Holy Spirit has permitted so many divisions and enmities among those who claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ. (1) In his answer, Pope John Paul II offers a profound way of viewing things and presents us with a challenge and a hope.

While the historical reasons for our divisions are well known, the Holy Father says we need to ask ourselves if there is what we might call “a metahistorical reason.” (2)  He explains that from a negative view, this would lead us to see our divisions as the “bitter fruit of sins committed by Christians.” (3) However, if we search for a positive view, we will come to see things quite differently.

By trusting in the God Who brings good out of evil and human weakness, we might come to see these divisions as the very path through which “the untold wealth contained in Christ’s Gospel and in redemption itself” is being discovered. (4) The Holy Father goes on to explain his meaning here:

More generally, we can affirm that for human knowledge and action a certain dialectic is present….  It is necessary for humanity to achieve unity through plurality, to learn to come together in the one Church, even while presenting a plurality of ways of thinking and acting, of cultures and civilizations. Wouldn’t such a way of looking at things be, in a certain sense, more consonant with the wisdom of God, with His goodness and providence? (5)

The Holy Father goes on to say, however, that this cannot be a justification for our divisions to deepen.  When he wrote this over fifteen years ago in 1994, the Holy Father said that many believe it is now time for “the love that unites us to be manifested!”

In 2010, these words of Pope John Paul II seem all the more appropriate, prophetic and urgent.  The crisis of truth, especially in the West, the all-pervasiveness of moral relativism, and the deepening crisis of Faith in every branch of the universal Church have proliferated to the point of threatening the stability and even the continued existence of many of the institutions that have built what we once referred to as Christian civilization.  Historians tell us that we are now living in a period that is best characterized as post-Christian and even neo-pagan.  It is now more urgent than ever that we, who are baptized into Christ Jesus, put aside centuries of animosity and allow ourselves to undergo that purification of heart, conscience and memory that Pope John Paul II challenged us to during the Great Jubilee.  The world is in desperate need of our common witness to Jesus Christ, which must be manifested through our love for one another.  For only if we love one another, will the world believe that the Trinitarian God abides in us (1John 4:12) and that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true!

Additionally, we who are baptized into Christ Jesus need to find a way to build bridges to one another, not only for the sake of the world but also for the health of our various households of Faith.  So many of our internal problems could be helped through a respectful and honest exchange of the variety of gifts that the Holy Spirit has developed in each of our households during these years of division, as pointed out by the Pope John Paul II in the quote cited above.  Additionally, our enduring divisions are a scandal and hindrance to evangelizing the next generation, a generation whom so many polls tell us is increasingly skeptical about the trustworthiness of any religious institution, while at the same time longing for a connection with the transcendent.  Our divisions and failure to forgive one another speak so loudly that the young cannot hear the Gospel we proclaim with our lips about the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, given to us so that we might be forgiven, healed from sin by Divine Mercy HimSelf, and brought into communion with the Blessed Trinity.

This brings me to the subject matter of our gathering today, the timeliness and even the urgency of the Successor of St. Peter’s declaring the Dogma of Our Lady’s Coredemption.

If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we must admit that our mere human efforts at undergoing the spiritual purification Pope John Paul II has rightly said will be necessary for our reunion and actually living together as one Body in Christ have not worked!  We seem to take one step backwards for every step forward.  To say that we are in need of divine intervention for the reunion of Christians is an understatement.  I have come to believe that our Divine Savior has already pointed out and appointed for us the only means through which we will receive the Grace of being brought into a unity that is the image of, and indeed a participation in, the very union that He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit, a “perichoretic” union of the Three Persons wherein the Three distinct Persons of the Godhead have been described theologically, with our mere human words, as mutually co-inhering without coalescence.(6)

As with everything else that Our Savior offers us, the union of Christians will have to be “born from above.”  And, in the words of St. Louis de Montfort, “just as in natural and bodily generation there is a father and a mother, so in the supernatural and spiritual generation [of being born from above] there is a father who is God and a mother who is Mary. (7) This is why the Lord’s final words addressed directly to all of us, immediately before He died, as recorded in St. John’s Gospel, were: “Behold, your Mother”(John 19:27).  These words are addressed to us not merely as a suggestion but rather with the weight of a final directive and even a command for us to obey, if we are to be recipients of the new Life of Grace He offers us.  If we look carefully at the wording of chapter 19 in the Gospel of St. John, we notice that only after having given us this directive, through the proxy of the Beloved Disciple, does Our Divine Savior say: “It is finished” (John 19:30).  We must take from this that it is only in our full compliance with His directive to “Behold our Mother,” that the work of the Redemption itself can and will be finished.

And surely, my brothers and sisters, the completion of the work of Redemption will and must include nothing less than the reconciliation and unity of Christians, a reconciliation and unity that our Divine Savior prayed for the night before He died (John 17:20-21) and even a reconciliation that will be required for the full number of Gentiles to brought into the New Covenant of Grace, so that Israel itself will be saved by being grafted back into their own olive tree, as St. Paul tells us (Rom. 11:25-29).  And how could we ever imagine or propose that any of these miraculous events would happen unless we truly follow the Savior’s command to “Behold our Mother?”  In fact, these events simply will not happen otherwise.  Let us explore why this is true.

It is none other than the ontological Reality of Grace indwelling our souls that makes us truly adopted sons and daughters of God, as well as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Because of the Incarnation, all human persons are now united with God the Son through the natural bonds of our common humanity that God the Son has united to His Divine Person.  Confessing Christians are united to Him even more profoundly through the supernatural Life of the Divine Indwelling that we have traditionally called Sanctifying Grace.   Furthermore, all Christians, regardless of which household of faith they live in, have received this totally free and undeserved Gift of Divine Mercy and Grace in Jesus Christ by one means and one means only.  It is mediated to us through the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, i.e., through the material means of a human nature united to the Divine Person of God the Son.  In Jesus Christ, the material reality of our very human flesh and blood, united to His Divine Person, becomes divinized in the fullest sense and provides us with the only way to union with the entire Trinity, and one another, in this life and the next.  That is exactly why He tells us in John 6:53, “unless you eat of the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have Life within you.”

And, this Sacred Humanity has only one ontological source, by Divine Design.  It is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, who gives God the Son flesh and blood, by the Power of the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, this sublime gift on the part of our Mother occurs only with her free and full consent, a consent that the entire Blessed Trinity and heaven itself sought and waited upon.   It is in the Mystery of the Divine Maternity and the very Incarnation of God the Son from her own humanity that the Blessed Virgin’s Maternal role in salvation history as Coredemptrix and our consequent communion with one another, as her spiritual children, are rooted.

The more we “Behold” the Mystery of Our Lady’s Divine Maternity of God the Son and ponder its meaning, the more we come to understand that the Blessed Virgin is Mother to all who are brothers and sisters “in Christ,” by virtue of His Divine Life in our souls, mediated to us only by His Sacred Humanity taken from her.  She is also the Mother of all people because humanity itself, through the Second Adam’s Incarnation from her “side,” has now been brought into a mysterious union with the Triune God.  In short, just as Jesus directed us to say, “Our Father,” He is also directing and even commanding us to say, “Our Mother,” as the decisive act on our part that is required for His work of Redemption to be “finished” (John 19:30).

And, here’s the clincher.  Because of the ontological Reality of Grace, the Blessed Virgin Mary is our common Mother, whether we understand each other or not, whether we completely agree with each other in all the fine details of theology or not, and even whether we like each other or not.  And, we are, consequently, really and truly, brother and sister to one another, which is what makes our divisions so scandalous!

On the natural level, it is usually the mother that enables siblings who would rather disagree and wrangle with each other to come together, in love, to form a family.  It is also usually the mother who helps the children of a family learn mutual respect for one another because they come to see their mother’s love for a brother or a sister and model it.

If we take the basic rationale of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body a step further, we have to say that mothers are able to work such miracles in the family because, biologically and physiologically speaking, it is the role of the mother to bring unity out of diversity.  In the very act of procreation, the womb of the mother is where the diverse realities of sperm and ovum become an entirely new and single person.  If these things are true in the natural order, how much more true they are on the higher levels of grace and even glory!

If it was the Blessed Virgin’s Role in the economy of salvation to effect the union of Divinity and humanity in the Incarnation of God the Son, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, during her earthly life, how certain we can be that in her life of glory it is the Blessed Virgin’s prerogative and divinely ordained role to reconcile all her spiritual children into one body and bring us together in the fullness of Grace and Truth, a fullness that is her Divine Son, Himself.  It is only through, with and in the Blessed Virgin, who is not only “Our Mother” but also the Mother of the Redemption itself, that we will be given the Grace to forgive, perceive and love one another with the mutual respect that an authentic ecumenism will require.  And, let us not fear that our justifiable theological concerns and debates with one another will cease to be a concern in such a reunion.  Afterall, Our Mother is the woman whom God has put at enmity with the devil (Gen. 3:15)!  Thus, it is also her role to defend and protect her children against all lies and heresy even in bringing us together.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is the hope and prayer of this Anglican that the Successor of St. Peter will soon find a defining way to speak about and “Behold” Our Mother’s Role in Redemption as Coredemptrix.  The dogmatic declaration of the Mystery of Our Mother’s Coredemption is nothing less than the necessary instrumental cause needed to unite Christians, rather than as some fear, divide us.  Furthermore, because the Bishop of Rome is the Successor of St. Peter, even in our separated condition, we need the Bishop of Rome to define and declare the dogma on Our Mother’s Coredemption on behalf of all Christians and even on behalf of all people everywhere.

Such a dogmatic definition will be our human way of giving a public and formal fiat to the Mystery of Our Mother’s work in Redemption, as Coredemptrix, so that the Power of our Mother’s role in Redemption might be unlocked among us by this formal and public correspondence of our minds and hearts on earth, to what is already true in heaven, and, therefore, in Reality.

In this time of great moral laxness, when so many Christians in all of our households of Faith have disregarded their Baptismal promises and completely lost their way, we need nothing less than the intervention and mediation of the Immaculate Conception Herself, the only one who can receive Jesus Christ, the Divine Redeemer, into and on behalf of all humanity, perfectly.

The declaration of the dogma is needed now, even if all Christians don’t yet understand the meaning or significance of the dogma and even if some within the household of the Roman Catholic Church itself do not understand the dogma’s necessity.

The dogmatic declaration of Our Lady’s Coredemption, which is what Our Lady’s Spiritual Motherhood is all about, will affirm that the Blessed Virgin Mary is not just a disciple, a model, a subject of religious piety, or even a type of the Church, as she has sometimes been incorrectly reduced to, by both Catholic and Protestant Christians alike, and, sadly, even by many theologians in our day. The dogma will allow us to reiterate, definitively, with St. Irenaeus, and centuries of saints, doctors, fathers and mothers of the Faith, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is a co-cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race, alongside her Divine Son. (8) The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The loss of sanctifying grace and spiritual death that the virgin Eve had condemned us to through unbelief, the Blessed Virgin Mary has set us free from, through her faith (9) and cooperation with her Divine Son in the work of Redemption, “in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve [and her offspring].  And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued (salvatur) by the means of a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience.” (10)

The Blessed Virgin Mary is nothing less than the Mother of the Redeemer, the Mother of Grace, and the Mother of Redemption itself.  We are redeemed by the Pierced Hearts of both Jesus and Mary in an ineffable Union that we mere humans will be spending all eternity contemplating.  In the words of St. Louis de Montfort, “[t]he salvation of the world began through Mary and through her it must be accomplished.” (11)

Is it any wonder, my friends, that the Blessed Virgin Mary told the three children of Fatima, Portugal, during her apparition on July 13, 1917, in speaking about the Blessed Trinity’s desire to establish devotion to her Immaculate Heart at this point in salvation history, that “only She can help you”? (12) Let us pray and work that the Blessed Trinity’s desire in this regard will soon be fulfilled through the declaration of the Dogma that the Mother of God is the Coredemptrix, Mediatrix of All Grace and Advocate.

 

Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D.

March 25, 2010
Feast of the Annunciation to Mary and the Incarnation of God the Son from Mary
Inside the Vatican Day of Dialogue on the Proclamation of the Fifth Dogma
Rome, Italy

 

Footnotes

(1) John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, ed. Vitorrio Messori, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994) 152.

(2) John Paul II 153

(3) John Paul II 153.

(4) John Paul II 153

(5) John Paul II 153

(6) John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 1979) 186

(7) St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin 30

(8) St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk 3, ch 22, para 4

(9) St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk 3, ch 22, para 4.

(10) St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk 5, ch 19, para 1

(11) St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin 49

(12) Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words: Sister Lucia’s Memoirs, ed. Fr. Louis Kondor, S.V.D., trans. Dominican Nuns of Perpetual Rosary, 11th edition (Fatima: Secretariado Dos Pastorihnos, 2000) 168

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In his classic work on heaven and hell, The Great Divorce, my famous Anglican confrere, C.S. Lewis, provides a vivid depiction of what hell is like. He describes it as a town where all the inhabitants are quarrelsome. Their quarrels with one another are so constant that they are continually moving from house to house and from street to street to get away from one another. This moving away from one another has been going on for so long that no one would think seriously about turning around and going back to the center from which they each came. All of the inhabitants have built houses that please them individually without ever realizing that they have needs that only living in proximity with others can fulfill (1). In Lewis’ words, “The trouble is they have no needs. You get everything you want just by imagining it. That’s why it never costs any trouble to move to another street or build another house” (2). They have no use for or need for what Lewis calls “real things” (3).

Contrast this image of hell with the image we have of the first Christian community as it awaited the outpouring of the Holy Spirit after the Lord’s Ascension. The Acts of the Apostles describes this community as one where the apostles and other disciples of the Lord, including the women who had followed Jesus from Galilee, are gathered together and devoted “with one accord” to prayer. St. Luke also tells us that in the midst of this community is “Mary, the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:13-14). In both books of the New Testament attributed to St. Luke, whenever the Holy Spirit intervenes directly in human history in a salvific way, Mary is present and prominent. We know she is the key to the action of the Holy Spirit when God the Son becomes incarnate from her very flesh in her womb. And, since St. Luke mentions Mary the Mother of Jesus in this scene in the upper room at Pentecost, we are left to ponder just how she is likewise the key when the Holy Spirit empowers a motley, frightened ban of men and women to become the Lord’s witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). St. Luke tells us that by the Power of the Holy Spirit, Joel’s prophecy that both the sons and daughters of Israel would prophesy actually begins to happen (Acts 2:17). In an event that begins to reverse the curse of Babel, tongues of fire fall upon each of the men and women gathered in the upper room and they begin witnessing to Jesus Christ, proclaiming that He is both Lord and Messiah in all the languages of the earth, in a way that all the peoples of the earth could hear. The Acts of the Apostles records that many people of “good will” received the Gospel just as promised by the angels upon the Birth of Jesus Christ. Many were saved and countless lives were changed by the Grace and Mercy of God poured out on the whole world in Jesus Christ.

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August 15, 2010 – August 15, 2011

Today is the day when many wonderfully generous Catholics throughout the world are beginning a year long Rosary Crusade for the Fifth Marian Dogma. Please join us, as the effect of this Rosary crusade prayed by so many throughout the world could be the final element necessary to bring forth the solemn definition of the Fifth Marian Dogma  and thereupon the definite initiation of the Triumph of Our Mother’s Most Immaculate  Heart as prophesized at Fatima (July 13, 1917). – Ed. 

At times of grave crisis for the Church and for the world, Rosary crusades have changed the course of human history.

From the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 which saved Catholic faith and culture in Europe, to the Philippine Revolution in 1986, which prevented the potential slaughter of great numbers of Catholic faithful, the power of the Rosary prayed in unity can truly bring forth historic fruit for the Church and for humanity. From Leo XIII to Benedict XVI, the popes of the last two centuries have exhorted the faithful to daily pray the Rosary for the serious needs of humanity.


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Last summer, I had the privilege of presenting a paper to the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the United Kingdom on the most recent Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission’s document on Our Lady, entitled Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ. I was very critical of the negative tone that document takes toward Our Lady’s mediation, both historically and presently. Tragically, this document even goes so far as to blame the English Reformation on an excess of Marian devotion.

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Without surveying the whole life of Therese, which is replete with Our Lady’s presence, we will draw forth the more significant aspects of St. Therese’s consecratory stance to Mary. The love Our Lady had for St. Therese of the child Jesus and the Holy Face was miraculous. As a newborn babe, the Martin couple named this new daughter after Our Lady, calling her Marie-Francoise-Therese. Except in the case of their first daughter, whom they called “Marie”, they maintained this custom of naming their children after Mary, while they called each of them by their latter names. You might call this act of the Martin couple, something of an act of consecration of their children to the Holy Mother of God.

Read more: St. Therese and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Consecration and Oblation

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First of all, let me say it is a great joy for this paper to be presented at the site of Our Lady’s apparitions to St. Bernadette in 1858, wherein she revealed herself to be the Immaculate Conception. It is especially fitting since the basic premise of this paper on Our Lady’s coredemption in the three apparitions of Guadalupe, Lourdes and Fatima is that these apparitions reveal that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Motherhood of God the Son, and of us, is not meant to be construed by us as a mere sentimental abstraction. Rather, heaven wishes to convey to us in these apparitions that Mary’s Motherhood of God and her spiritual Motherhood of us are at the very heart of the Blessed Trinity’s work of redemption of the entire created order. In other words, the Divine Maternity of God the Son and the spiritual maternity of you and me are, in their very nature and essence, coredemptive. Our Lady is Co-redemptrix because she is Mother of God the Son, the Divine Redeemer of the entire created order. She is likewise Co-redemptrix because she is the true Mother of all the living because Jesus Christ, her Divine Son, is Life himself and the Divine Savior of all humanity.

Let us begin by considering what is now commonly meant among orthodox Catholics by Marian coredemption and the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary is Co-redemptrix. The literal meaning of the word coredemption is that there is redeeming activity at work "alongside" or "with" that of the Redeemer in the mystery of our redemption. The title, Co-redemptrix, specifically signifies that the one operating alongside the Redeemer is a woman. We know from Gen. 3:15 that this woman is the promised Woman whose seed will crush Satan and his effects in the created order. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (1). The woman whose seed was destined to crush the head of Satan from all eternity can be none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, the very Mother who conceived and gave birth to God the Son as Incarnate, virginally.

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Fatima and Peace

I count myself blessed to have been in Fatima the last two summers in conjunction with the Annual International Symposium on Marian Coredemption, sponsored by the Franciscans of the Immaculate. During both summers, I was there for the celebrations that occur during the 12th and 13th days of the months in which Our Lady actually appeared. Words cannot convey the blessing that it is—actually to be in Fatima—if you go open to the truth that Fatima is all about.

People who know I’ve been to Fatima always ask me if I saw a lot of persons get miraculously healed while I was there. While Fatima certainly can be a place where people receive physical healings, the primary healing that goes on at Fatima is spiritual healing. By this, I mean that Fatima is a place where many are given the grace of a deeper conversion of heart. The Immaculate Heart of Mary is tangibly present and active in Fatima. One can sense this. She is providing her children with the grace to be brought into deeper union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, her divine Son.

The significance of Fatima for our times is clearly the resounding truth contained in both the messages Our Lady, herself, gave at Fatima and the messages the Angel of Portugal gave to the children in preparation for their encounter with Our Lady. Both sets of messages are all about how we, living in a world that often seems very dark and distant from God because of the choices we are making that are contrary to God’s will, can move from darkness to light and from war to peace. […]

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The following paper was presented by the Rev. Judith Marie Gentle, Ph.D., to the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the U.K. and Ireland on August 18, 2006, during their meeting at the Aylesford Carmelite Priory in England. While it will be printed by the ESBVM at a later date, it is being presented here, with the permission of Rev. Gentle, as a follow-up to her earlier paper Regarding Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, ARCIC Document, contained in the November 19, 2005, edition of Mother of All Peoples. Dr. Gentle is a Professor of Theology at Duquesne University and an ordained minister in the Anglican Communion. – Ed.

Dear friends in Our Lady, it’s a joy to be with you tonight and offer some reflections regarding the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) document on Our Lady. I want to begin by taking a moment to say a few pertinent things, as an Anglican, as we gather in this historic spot of Aylesford Priory.

At the close of the last Millennium, Pope John Paul II took the important step of asking forgiveness from other Christians for any suffering caused by Rome. In so doing, the Pope made what he called an ecclesial “examination of conscience” for the sake of furthering the ecumenical movement through what he called the “purification of memory.” (1) In the words of Pope John Paul II, “Only the courageous acknowledgment of faults and omissions, for which Christians have in some way been responsible, as well as the generous intention to remedy them with the help of God, can give an effective impetus to the new evangelization and make the path to unity easier” (Extraordinary Consistory, St. Peter’s, June 13, 1994). (2) […]

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We are pleased to present this outstanding talk given recently by Reverend Doctor Judith Gentle at Franciscan University of Steubenville on the recent Joint Statement by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission entitled Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, and the fifth Marian dogma. Dr. Gentle is a Professor of Theology at Duquesne University and an ordained minister in the Anglican Communion. – Ed.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what a great honor to be here with you tonight to talk about our Mother, the most Blessed Virgin Mary, and this latest ecumenical document entitled, Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ. It is my great hope that the Holy Spirit will use this document to pave the way for Anglicans, who so desire, to be brought into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. I’d like to begin by putting our time together tonight in Our Lady’s hands. So, will you join me in praying the Hail Mary as we begin?

As an Anglican who firmly believes that Anglicans need to be brought into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church for their own salvation, I’m constantly reminded of the Lord’s prayer the night before He died as recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 17, verse 21—namely, that all of us who are Christian through belief in the apostolic witness to Jesus Christ may be one, so that the world, which means non-believers, may know Who Jesus Christ really is and that the Father really sent Him. In this same prayer, the Lord held up His own relationship with the Father as the model and Source for our unity. Specifically, our Divine Savior prayed that we might all be one, as He and the Father are One. […]

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