The Mother of God

Published on December 24, 2010 by in General Mariology

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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. 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.
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The Divine Maternity as a Constituent of the “Fundamental Principle” in Mariology

The Virgin Mary … is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth (1).

These words, taken from the Second Vatican Council, show very well the central importance of Mary as the Mother of God. The most relevant Marian dogma, the divine maternity, is essentially linked to the most important Christological dogma, the hypostatic union: in the person, or hypostasis, of the eternal Son of God are united the divine and the human nature of Christ. The definition of the title Theotókos (God-bearer) at the Council of Ephesus (431) underlines the unity of the two natures of Christ in the same personal subject: as Jesus Christ is one person, the Son of God who assumed a human nature from the Virgin Mary, she must be the Mother of God. Obviously Mary does not generate God in his divinity, but she generates the Son of God in his humanity, because he takes his human nature from her. For this reason her dignity is above that of the whole of creation. She is truly “Mother of God.”

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The following is the sixth in a series from Mary, Mediatrix of Grace, Mary’s Universal Mediation of Grace in the Theological and Pastoral Works of Cardinal Mercier, “one of the greatest Church figures of the 20th century” by Father Manfred Hauke. – Asst. Ed.

8.16 Overview of the Initiatives either undertaken or promoted by Mercier in behalf of a Dogmatic Definition of the Universal Mediation of Mary

The foregoing exposition has shown the unfolding of a plethora of initiatives, whose immediate or at least ultimate objective was the dogmatic definition of the universal mediation of Mary. To facilitate an overview we now present an itemized listing of these initiatives:

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8.13 The Spiritual Testament under the Sign of Grignion de Montfort (1924)
The spiritual testament of the Cardinal touching our question is found in the just cited Pastoral with the title: “The Universal Mediation of the All Holy Virgin Mary and ‘True Devotion to Mary’ of Bl. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort”{footnote}mercier, Mediation universelle (note 13) = OP VII 436-471; excerpted in Dem77 f. 82-102.  115; see also giblet (note 5) (1955) 77-85.    laurentin, Mercier (note 5) 521 calls the Pastoral “the principal document of his episcopate”.{/footnote}. The Pastoral is the expanded version of a talk given at the conclusion of a Marian congress on the mediation of Mary in Antwerp, 16 August, 1924{footnote}OP VII 467-471{/footnote}.
At the beginning of the Pastoral the Cardinal reviews earlier activities on behalf of the definition and sets in relief the singular significance of Marian devotion according to Grignion. ” These two forms of piety [veneration of Mary as Mediatress of all Graces ana devotion in the spirit of Grignion] are not novelties in the Church, but the development oftestimonials to the faith, as old as our Faith; they constitute conclusions following from the most essential postulate of Christian piety, namely the sacrifice of our very selves to God through Jesus Christ”{footnote}Ibid., 7 = OP VII 440.{/footnote}. JesusChrist is “our Redeemer and Author of our life of grace… The work of redemption is not brought to fulfillment without the consent of Mary to the virginal conception of the God-man… He would subsequently become the meritorious cause (cause meritoire) of our sharing in a new life, in the life of God himself, but Mary will also be for us the moral cause (cause morale) of our new life through her free consent to the salvific order of divine love”. Next was described in detail how the Son of God associated Mary with His redemptive mission.



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The following  is the fourth in a series from Mary, Mediatrix of Grace, Mary’s Universal Mediation of Grace in the Theological and Pastoral Works of Cardinal Mercier, “one of the greatest Church figures of the 20th century” by  Father Manfred Hauke. – Asst. Ed.

8.11 The Mariological Congress in Brussels (September 1921)

In Mercier’s diocese from 8-11 September, 1921, there was held in Brussels a great Marian National Congress{footnote} The Congress assembled daily at the same time in two different language

groups (Flemish and French): HANDELINGEN I-II (Note258); MEMOIRES ET RAPPORTS I-II (note 49). A summation of the event is found, among others, in K. PRUMM, “Die Frage der Mittlerschaft Marias auf dem Marianischen Kongress im Brussel”: Zeitschrift fur Katholische Theologie 47 (1923) 129-137; CAMPANA, Maria net culto II (note 41) 642-648.{/footnote}. Its occasion was the crowning of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Peace to be carried out by the Cardinal as delegate of Pope Benedict XV. The Church of St. Nicholas, where the statue is found, became during the war a symbol of the survival of Belgium as a nation: suppliants found themselves standing before the statue about which was draped a Belgian flag – much to the displeasure of the German occupation forces. The idea of the crowning and the preceding Congress originated with the pastor of the local parish, but Mercier supported the grand project with all his heart.

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The following  is the third in a series from Mary, Mediatrix of Grace, Mary’s Universal Mediation of Grace in the Theological and Pastoral Works of Cardinal Mercier, “one of the greatest Church figures of the 20th century” by  Father Manfred Hauke. – Asst. Ed.

The Belgian request for a definition of Mary’s universal mediation of grace received, so it seems, no answer. The Pontificate of Pope Benedict XV was totally taken up with the problems of World War I. His efforts in behalf of peace were stamped by the mark of Mary: he placed the peoples under the special protection of the Mother of God and added to the Litany of Loreto the invocation “Queen of peace”. He promoted, like Cardinal Mercier, devotion to Mary according to the model of (the 1888 beatified) Louis Maria Grignion de Montfort. In a decree looking to the canonization of Joan of Arc, 6 April, 1919, Pope Benedict mentioned the remarkable fact that one of the miraculous healings needed for the canonization, had occurred in Lourdes, the great Marian sanctuary. Through Mary, the Pope insisted, “every grace and every blessing comes to us”. Together with the intercession of the saints “one must include the influence of her whom the Holy Fathers (!) greeted with the title, Mediatrix omnium gratiarum”. After this allocution of the Pope Mother Magdalen forwarded to the Holy Father the aforementioned letter (31 May, 1919), asking for a dogmatic definition of Mary’s universal mediation of grace.

Read more: Mary Mediatrix of Grace, Part III

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The following  is the second in a series from Mary, Mediatrix of Grace, Mary’s Universal Mediation of Grace in the Theological and Pastoral Works of Cardinal Mercier, “one of the greatest Church figures of the 20th century by  Father Manfred Hauke. – Asst. Ed.

 The Marian Initiatives of Cardinal Mercier

8.1 Their Anchoring in Belgian Popular Piety and the Influence of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The mariologically significant writings of the Belgian Primate fall completely within that active period of his life running from his appointment as Archbishop on 7 Feb., 1906 to his death on 23 Jan., 1906. They comprise, therefore, documents addressed to a broad public and in no wise are to be treated as scholarly essays.{footnote} DEMOULIN (note 5) 3, correctly describes these as “exposes populaires”. On the theological formation of the Cardinal cf. P. CHARLES, “Le Cardinal Mercier et la theologie”: NRTh 53 (1926) 256-268.{/footnote} Among the collected Marian works, in an anthology of about 120 pages, five pastoral letters are particularly important, which we will examine more closely later on.

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Mary Mediatrix of Grace

Published on April 17, 2010 by in General Mariology

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The following excerpt is the first in a series from Mary, Mediatrix of Grace by Manfred Hauke. – Asst. Ed.

1. Current Relevance of the Theme
Mary’s mediation of grace in Christ stands at the very top of the list of most discussed mariological themes of the last 100 years.{footnote} Cf. H. M. KOSTER, “Die Mariologie im 20. Jahrhundert”: H. VORGRIMLER – R. GUCHT (Eds.), Bilanz der Theo/ogie im 20 Jahrhundert, Vol. Ill (Freiburc 1970) 126-147, here 137; J. L. BASTERO DE ELEIZALDE, Virgen singular.   La r teo/ogica mariana en el siglo XX (Madrid 2001) 232-259 [= “La me materna de Maria”: Scripta Theologica 32 (2000)  135-159].{/footnote}  Currently, mariological issues still in need of theological clarification spark heated discussion.{footnote} Cf. M. I. MIRAVALLE, Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Bart 1993); D. LACOUTURE, Marie Mediatrice de toutes graces (Nouan le Fuzelier I. M. CALABUIG, “Riflessione sulla richiesta della definizione dogmatica d corredentrice, mediatrice, avvocata'”: Marianum 61 (1999) 129-175; M “Maria, Gefahrtin des Erlosers (Lumen Gentium, 61). Die Mitwirkung bei der Erlosung als Forschungsthema”: Series Sapientiae. Mariolo Jahrbuch 6 (2002) 85-121, here 85-89. 100 ss [= “Mary ‘Helpmate Redeemer’. Mary’s Cooperation in Salvation as a Research Theme”: / the Foot of the Cross III (New Bedford MA 2003) 25-53]; L. SCHEFFCZYK Mutter und Gefahrtin Christ/’ (Augsburg 2003) 176-192.{/footnote}  For a fruitful renewal of discussion of this topic historical assessment of the theological results of this generally intense debate in all languages from the onset of the 20th century until Vatican II is of considerable importance. Notwithstanding the broad coverage and countless first-class publications, research in this mare magnum remains in its infancy.{footnote}  This is stressed especially by G. M. BESUTTI, “La mediazione di Maria sect studi di due Commissioni istituite da Pio XI”: Marianum 47 (1985) here 38. A brief evaluation written shortly after the end of Vatican II (v bibliography) may be found in G. M. ROSCHINI, Maria Santissima nella stoi salvezza II/l (Isola del Liri 1969) 198-252. Cf. also J. STOHR, “Zur neuze Theologie der Gnadenmittlerschaft und geistlichen Mutterschaft Me IDEM, Maria, unsere Mutter. Marlo/ogische Studien [Marianische Schrifi IMAK] (Cologne 1991) 23-93.{/footnote}  To date, insufficiently studied in particular are the historical beginnings of the movement for a dogmatic definition of the doctrine of Mary as “Mediatress of all graces”. The central role of the Belgian Cardinal Mercier for the growth of this movement is generally recognized.{footnote} Cf. ROSCHINI, Maria Santissima II/l (note 3) 229; STOHR, (note 3) 47; A. E CABELLO, La cuestion de la mediation mariana en la preparation del Vatk Elementos para una evaluation de los trabajos preconciliares [Biblioteca di Religiose 131]’ (Roma 1997) 20; BASTERO DE ELEIZALDE (note 1) 236.{/footnote}  But up to now not one major scholarly study of this “Initiative” originating in Belgium has appeared.{footnote} Some of the so-far published commentaries on Mercier’s Marian teach contained in hard to locate periodicals, which thanks to a visit to I libraries I was able to consult. Cf. C. CAEJMAEX, “Le cardinal Mercier et de Marie”: La Vie Diocesaine [de Malines]  13 (1926) 87-98 (this ai replete with chronological and topographical errors); J. M. HUPPERTS, “K; Mercier, dienaar en apostel der allerheiligste Maagd”: De Standaard van (1926) 65-74;  M.  PERROY, “Le Cardinal Mercier et Marie mediatrice”: ,

revue d’enseignement catholique… 5 (1931) 425-430; J. COPPENS, “L’enseignement et I’oeuvre theologique de M. le Chanoine J. Bittremieux”: Epheremides Theo/ogicae Lovanienses 23 (1947) 329-357, here 343-348 [ = Miscellanea J. Bittremieux (Louvain 1947) 1-29, here 15-20]; R. LAURENTIN, “En marge de la definition du dogme de I’Assomption. Intuitions du cardinal Mercier”: La Vie Splrituelle 84 (1951) 518-522; J. LEBON, “A propos des textes liturgiques de la fete de Marie Mediatrice”: Marianum 14 (1952) 122-128); J. GIBLET, “Les vues mariales du cardinal Mercier”: Apostolus. Bulletin de la Fraternite sacerdotale des amis de Jesus Nr. 54 (1954) 55-61; Nr. 55 (1955) 16-22; Nr. 56 (1955) 54-58; Nr. 57 (1955) 77-85; K. WITTKEMPER, “Mercier”: Marienlexikon 4 (1992) 422 f.; M. O’CARROU, “Mercier”: IDEM, Theotokos. A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Eugene OR 2000) (1982 -1st ed), 245 f.. The most important work with some commentary accompanied by a quasi massive anthology of marian texts is that of A. DEMOULIN (ed.), Cardinal Mercier. La sainte Vierge Marie. Pages choisies (Liege, no date [1945]) [for citations of Mercier abbreviated thus: Dem]. Therein are found precise references to primary sources, especially D. MERCIER, Oeuvres pastorales 7 vols. (Brussels-Louvain-Paris 1911-1926) [abbreviated OP]. For more recent literature on Mercier in general cf. especially the work with archival (!) material by A. SIMON, Le Cardinal Mercier (Brussels 1960), as well as the overview in D. A. BOILEAU, Cardinal Mercier: A Memoir (Louvain 1996).{/footnote}
The present study aims at exploring a new field of investigation, without in any way pretending to be an exhaustive treatment.{footnote} Consulted also (within the limited time at the author’s disposal) were the Archdiocesan Archives, section Mercier, in Mechelen B-2800 (Malines), Diocesaan Pastoraal Centrum, Varkensstraat 6. Citations are to the source material stored there according to Carton and Document, e.g., MERCIER (= Mercier Archives) IX (= Carton), 33 (= Document). Awaiting presentation is a doctoral dissertation at the University of Dayton (USA) on the mariology of Cardinal Mercier by Gloria Falcao Dodd (according to a communication of the authoress).{/footnote}

2. The “Iniatation” of the Movement for a Dogmatic Definition of Mary’s Universal Mediation of Grace
Almost immediately upon the publication, by the Congregation of Rites, of Pope Benedict XV’s approval, 12 Jan., 1921, of formularies for a Mass and Office in honor of “the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatress of all Graces”, there occurred, literally, an explosion of theological literature on Mary’s mediation of grace. Permission to use these formularies was available not only to the Dioceses of Belgium, but also to all Dioceses (and Religious Orders) in the world, which via a request submitted to the Congregation expressed the wish to adopt the new liturgical texts. May 31 was assigned as date of the feast in the liturgical calendar.{footnote} Cf. D. MERCIER, Letter to all Archbishops relative to the Approval of the Liturgical Cult of Mary Mediatress by the Holy Father (April 1921) (OP VI 470-472); printed under the title Letter to all Catholic Bishops (April 1921): Revue d’Ascetique et de Mystique 2 (1921) 304 f..{/footnote}  The approval was the answer to a more wide ranging, long-standing desire of the Belgian Church, formulated thus,    Cardinal Mercier in a pastoral letter:
In the first days of the catastrophe which bathed the world in blood and shook us to the point of collapse ( the First World War) the Belgian Episcopate, together with the Provinces of Religious Orders in our land, with the Theological Faculty of the Catholic University of Louvain, with the Cathedral Chapter and the entire clergy of our Diocese, humbly submitted to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XV, the desire – in so far as it pleased divine Providence – to see proclaimed as Dogma the traditional and general belief of the Christian people in the universal intercessory mediation of Mary with the one Mediator of justice, Christ Jesus.{footnote} Pastoral Letter of 8 Sept., 1918 (OP V 593 = Demoulin 49). On 4 Aug., 1914, the German attack on Belgium began. Pope Pius X died on 20 Aug.; in the following conclave on 3 Sept. Benedict XV was elected Pope (cf. BOILEAU [note 5] 188-191). A few days later Cardinal Mercier journeyed back to his homeland devastated by the flames of war.{/footnote}
This formal request of the Belgian Church was the decisive impulse launching the worldwide movement for a dogmatic definition of the Mary’s universal mediation of grace. The driving force behind this movement was Cardinal Mercier. After the approval of the Feast of Mary Mediatress of all Graces he addressed a letter to all the bishops of the world (April 1921). Therein he expressed his great hope: that the universal mediation of grace by the All Blessed Virgin might become a dogma of the Church.{footnote} Cf. MERCIER, Letter (note 7) = OP VI 471 f.{/footnote}
The available indications left by Mercier for determining the precise date of this petition are contradictory. In the letter to the Bishops of the world reference is made to a 1913 (therefore before the start of World War I) petition of the clergy of Malines, the Belgian superiors of religious orders, the Theological Faculty of Louvain and the entire Belgian episcopate addressed to the Holy Father and asking a dogmatic definition of Mary’s universal mediation.{footnote} “In 1913, the clergy of the Diocese of Malines, followed by the Provincials of all religious congregations resident in Belgium, further the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University of Louvain and finally, the entire Belgian episcopate addressed a petition to the Supreme Pontiff seeking from His Holiness the dogmatic definition of the universal mediation of the Blessed Virgin”. (OP VI 470).{/footnote} So, too, the Pastoral Letter of 15 May, 1921: even before the painful war years the aforesaid group had in mutual accord presented written requests (plural) to the Holy See for the stated wish.{footnote} OP VI 488.{/footnote}  But the already cited Pastoral Letter from 8 Sept., 1918, indicates the start of World War I as date.{footnote} OP V 593 (Dem 49).{/footnote} The most important Pastoral dealing with the theme, that of 1 Nov., 1924, also to the contrary, links joint support of the project via agreed petitions to some vague time “during the war”.{footnote} D. MERCIER, La Mediation universel/e de la Tres Sainte Vierge et la “Vrai Devotion a Marie” se/on le Bx L.-M. Grignion de Montfort (Louvain 1924) 5 = OP VII 438.{/footnote} Which set of assertions is correct?
Effectively, what in fact transpired is clarified in a letter of Mercier from 1915, just before the release of the Pastoral Letter of 15 May, 1915. This Pastoral is the first written, published information which Catholics of the Archdiocese of Malines had concerning the Cardinal’s desire for a dogmatic definition of Mary’s universal mediation: {footnote} OP V 160 f.{/footnote}
You have heard that the Provincials of our religious orders and congregations, the Cathedral Chapter and the clergy of Diocese of Malines have already sent petitions to the Holy Father. I am hoping on a common petition of the Belgian Episcopate… {footnote} Letter to Fr. Godts, CSsR: M. DE MEUUEMESTER, Le R. P. Godts redemptoriste (Louvain 1929) 72.{/footnote}
This earlier information contradicts the 1921 comments of the Cardinal, which would date the first petitions around 1913. Doubts concerning a dating before the onset of the first world war are confirmed by a check of the published documents. The undated petition of the Cathedral Chapter and of the clergy of the Diocese of Malines (obviously because of the attached signatures bearing different dates) whose origin is in connection with the Pastoral of 25 April, 1915, are found in the chronologically ordered edition of Mercier’s pastoral writings among the documents listed between 5 Dec., 1915 and 11 Jan., 1916. {footnote} OP V 267-269.{/footnote} The petition of the Theological Faculty is dated 9 Nov., 1915. {footnote} Petition de la Faculte de Theologie de I’Universite de Louvain au sujet de la definition dogmatique de la mediation universelle: Annuaire de I’Universite Catholique de Louvain 79 (1915-1919) (Louvain  1924) 242-258.{/footnote} The petition of the religious superiors is first found in writing during February of 1916, {footnote} The complete text is cited in P. VILLADA, “Por la definicion dogmatica de la mediacion universal de la Santisima Virgen”: Razon y fe Nr. 45 (1916) 169-183; Nr. 46 (1916) 63-81. 439-458; Nr. 47 (1917) 162-177; Nr. 48 (1917) 5-22. 319-430, here Nr. 45 (1916) 170 f., note 1; Nr. 46 (1916) 440-443; Nr. 48 (1917) 319, note 3. The articles of Villada appeared as a monograph (Madrid 1917){/footnote} but had already reached Pope Benedict XV during the summer of 1915.{footnote} This emerges from Mercier’s letter to Pope Benedict XV, 27 Aug., 1915.    Of this
date only the petitions of the Belgian religious superiors had reached him, although other were expected (“Other petitions with the same intent have been announced and will follow”) (MERCIER XXV, 21).{/footnote}  It appears that the petition (rather the petitions) of the six Belgian Bishoprics was not printed. {footnote} Such a written petition is not included in the official Publications of the Diocese
of Malines: Co/lectio episto/arum, decretorum, al/orumque documentorum ab… Cardinal/ Mercier…editum, 5 vols. (Malines 1910 f.) Perhaps it is found verbally in the above cited Pastoral of 8 Sept., 1918; an identical formulation was used in 1920 by a French mariologist as the petition “of the Belgian Bishops”: “that the traditional and general belief of the Christian people in Mary’s universal mediation and intercession with the one Mediator of justice, Christ Jesus, be proclaimed a dogma”. F. GIRERD, “Marie mere des hommes ou Marie mere de grace”: Revue du C/erge Francais 102 (1920) 161-171. 241-254. 359-370, here 370.{/footnote} A forma petition of Mercier for a dogmatic definition of “the universal mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary” is first found in a letter to the Holy Father of 27 Aug., 1915. {footnote} MERCIER XXV, 21.{/footnote} The forwarding of written petitions to the Holy See, therefore, began not in 1913{footnote} Thus subsequently CAEYMAEX (note 5) 93, and LAURENTIN, Mercier (note 5) 518.   In
a more recent work Laurentin dates Mercier’s initiative as beginning in 1921. This claim is also false: R. LAURENTIN, “Le probleme de la mediation de Marie dans son developpement historique et son incidence aujourd’hui”: AA. VV, // ruolo di Maria nell’oggi del/a Chiesa e del mondo (Rome 1979) 9-33, here 9 f.{/footnote} as so often affirmed in more recent literature, but during the first year of World War I, namely in 1915.{footnote} This is the year also given by SIMON in his archival documented work (note 5)105.{/footnote}  According to a letter of Mercier to Pope Benedict XV the aforementioned petitions had been presented to the Pope during February of 1916. {footnote} Mercier’s letter to Benedict XV, 8 April, 1920 (petition for concession of the Feast and Mass of Mary Mediatress of all graces): “…already, February of 1916, with filial trust we placed in the august hands of your Holiness petitions signed by the Chapter and Deans of the Diocese, by the Provincials of the Orders, by the Theological Faculty of the University of Louvain and by the Episcopate, with a view to obtaining public recognition of the universal mediation of Mary” (Archives of the Congregation of Rites; receipt of the letter, 18 April, 1920).{/footnote}
The worldwide diffusion of Mercier’s mistaken chronology can be explained not only by the passage of time, but also in view of a desire (conscious or unconscious) after the end of the war not to tie the petition for the dogma too tightly to wartime experiences. Later we will examine more closely the content and historical context of the different petitions. Mention of the year 1913 is perhaps to be related to a conference{footnote} DEMOULIN suggests this as probable (note 5) 49 f., note 1. In the same year, so claims Demoulin without further reference, there was established in the Seminary a prayer and penitential association to promote the new dogma (ibid,). The statutes of this association, however, were only approved by Mercier on 21 Nov., 1915: MERCIER, Mediation universel/e (note 12) 27-29.{/footnote}  to which Mercier in his Pastoral of 25 April, 1915 refers. In that conference held during a retreat for his priests he asked them “through their sacrifices and prayers to hasten the day on which according to the provisions of divine providence the belief already object of the piety of the faithful, namely that Mary, Mother of the Church, is the universal Mediatress of the human race, might be raised to the status of dogmatic definition”.{footnote} OP V 160.{/footnote}
This retreat course in any case was delivered before the start of World War I. The Cardinal already mentions this in the text of the outline of a sermon prepared for September of 1914. The annual clergy retreat in question may have been held in July of the summer of 1914 (before the outbreak of war in August) or could have been the annual retreat of 1913.{footnote} For this information my thanks to Roger Aubert (letter to Manfred Hauke, 8 Sept., 2003). The reference in the sermon, undelivered on account of the onset of the war, is as follows: “In the depths of my heart there is a holy desire which I have shared with our priests during the course of the annual retreat. The common belief of the Church is that all graces of God come to us through Mary. But I would like to work in honor of our dear Mother for the recognition of her prerogrative of universal Mediatress of Christian society. Your devotion will help me to realize this goal”.{/footnote} In a sense, then, the Archbishop was right, when he indicated the start of his initiative to be in the period preceding the outbreak of war.
 3.
The Spiritual Preparation consequent on the Dogmatic Definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854
How did Cardinal Mercier come to be so energetically engaged on behalf of the new dogma? The efforts of the Archbishop of Malines must be situated in a broad and complex context. Through the dogmatic definition of Mary’s preservation from original sin in 1854 by Pius IX a centuries-long spiritual circle was completed via the solemn exercise of papal infallibility. As early as the First Vatican Council, which clarified the teaching authority of the Pope, voices were raised on behalf of further dogmatic definitions in the field of mariology. {footnote} Cf. G. SOLL, Mariologie (Handbuch der Dogmengeschichte HI/4) (Freiburg in Br.1978) 215-217; K. SCHATZ, Vaticanum I 1869-1870, Vol. MI (Paderborn 1992-93) I 207 f. 238-240; II 130. The first petition for the definition of the Assumption of Mary dates from the year 1763. When Pius IX in 1849 sent his questionnaire to the Bishops concerning the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, two bishops petitioned the Holy Father also to proclaim the Assumption of Mary to heaven as a dogma: a Spanish bishop and the Archbishop of Malines, Cardinal Engelbert Sterckx, a predecessor of Mercier (as Archbishop 1832-1867). On the petition see S. CECCHIN, “L’assunzione di Maria nella scuola mariologica francescana”: G. CALVO MORALEJO – S. CECCHIN (eds.), L’Assunzione di Maria Madre di D/o (Vatican City 2001) 585-646, here 633-637.{/footnote} A significant number of bishops at that time desired the corporal Assumption of Mary into heaven to be solemnly declared the belief of the Church. {footnote} Cf. SCHATZ II (note 28) 130, who counts 192 names with a reference to Mansi 53,481-520. “Only the episcopate of the former Kingdoms of Naples and of Belgium (!) together with the Latin prelates in Greek regions constitute the larger number of signatories. In addition are prelates of the Papal States, uniate Bishops of the Armenian and Maronite rites, a few Spaniards and considerably more Latin Americans. No signature appears from Germany or Austria-Hungary” (ibid.).{/footnote} To this group of bishops belonged the Archbishop of Malines and later Cardinal, Victor-August Dechamps (1810-1883). This primate of the Kingdom of Belgium, who ordained Mercier priest in 1874, had composed a widely circulated book with the title: “The New Eve or the Mother of the Living”. The Redemptorist Dechamps conceived his work as an introduction to ” The Glories of Mary’ by the founder of his Order, St. Alphonse Mary de Liguori. Resting on that Saint’s authority the Cardinal expressly spoke of Mary’s universal mediation. {footnote} V.-A. DECHAMPS, Le nouvelle Eve ou la Mere de la vie (Tournai 1862) 135 (cf. Oeuvres completes, vol. 5) [Eng. Tr.: The Second Eve; or, the Mother of Life. Recollections and Prayers for the Month of Mary (London 1866)]; cf. M. DE MEULEMEESTER, “Dechamps”: DSp 3 (1957) 54-57, here 56.{/footnote} In this study of the Mother of God, which later Mercier would highly recommend to his faithful and clergy, {footnote} Cf. DE MEULEMEESTER, Godts (note 15) 57; OP V 587, note 1 (8 Sept., 1918):”we cannot recommend enough for the meditation of the clergy and faithful the beautiful book of Cardinal Dechamps…”.{/footnote}  Dechamps showed how the “fundamental idea” of mariology is the relation of Mary as “New Eve” to Christ as “New Adam”: Mary’s yes to the Incarnation also included consent to the suffering and death of her Son. With Him she bore the burden of the Redemption.  Because of this cooperation in bringing salvation to pass Mary is the “intercessory Mediatress of all graces” (“mediatrice universelle d’intercession”){footnote} OP V 588 f. (Dem 48). Cf. M. BECQUE, Le Cardinal Dechamps, 2 vols. (Louvain 1956), N. HOFFMANN – 0. BECKER, “Dechamps”: Mar/en/ex/ton 2 (1989) 156 f. BOILEAU (note 5) 16 writes: “The Marian piety of Cardinal Dechamps will find its completion in Cardinal Mercier’s efforts to develop and promote the doctrine of Mary Mediatrix of all Graces”.{/footnote}  – a formulary later to be taken over by Cardinal Mercier and to be found as well in works of theology. {footnote} In particular, J.-V.  BAINVEL, Marie, Mere de Dieu, intercession universelle (Paris 1919).    Cf. F. COURTH – O. STEGMULLER, “Bainvel”: Mar/en/ex/ton 1 (1988) 335.{/footnote}  Cardinal Dechamps composed the invocation: “Hail, universal Mediatress of Grace, at the side of Christ, the one Mediator of Justice” (“Ave, universalis Mediatrix gratiae, apud unicum iustitiae Mediatorem Christum”).{footnote} Cf. DEMOULIN (note 5) 49, note 1; CAEYMAEX (note 5) 91.{/footnote}   Mary’s mediation in the distribution of grace was understood as intercession.   At the same time, especially after the beginning of the 20th century, a discussion began of the possibility of the so-called “physical mediation” (causalitas physica), a theory in which Mary’s power is likened to the physical instrumental causality of the Sacraments, {footnote}  Cf. on this E. HUGON, La causalite instrumental en theologie (Paris 1907 – 2nd ed. 1924) 196-204 (positive); B.H. MERKELBACH, “Quid senserit S. Thomas de mediatione Beatae Mariae Virginis?”: Xenia Thomistica II (Rome 1925) 505-530, here 510-514; IDEM, Mariologia (Paris 1939) 367-371 (negative); J. BITTREMIEUX, De Mediatione un/versali B. M. Virginis quoad gratias (Bruges 1926) 276-283 (cautiously negative); M.-B. LAVAUD, “De la causalite instrumentale de Marie Mediatrice de toute grace”: Revue Thomiste 10 (1927) 423-45 (positive); L. LELOIR, La mediation mariale dans la theologie contemporaine (Bruges 1933) 32. 131-134 (overview); ROSCHINI, Maria Santissima II/l (note 3) 229-232 (positive).{/footnote}    The Redemptorist Godts, an influential theological adviser of Mercier, as late as 1904 acknowledged only intercession as the means of mediating actual grace. {footnote} Cf. F. X. GODTS, De definibilitate mediationis universalis Deiparae.,. (Brussels 1904) 90.{/footnote}


Cardinal Dechamps was not promoting as such a dogmatic definition of Mary’s universal mediation of grace. Nonetheless, this teaching bore significant fruit everywhere. This is true of other contemporary theological works. A good example is the well known four volume work of the French Jesuit, Jean-Baptiste Terrien, “The Mother of God and the Mother of Men”. The third volume of this scholarly, yet widely circulated and appreciated study dealt with Mary’s mediation of grace. {footnote} J.-B. TERRIEN, Le Mere de Dieu et le Mere des hommes, 4 vols. (Paris 1900-1902) (the two last volumes appeared in 1902) [Eng. Tr.: selections from the 4 volumes were published at Columbus, OH in 1956 under the title The Mother of Cod and the Mother of Mankind: according to trie Fathers and Theologians. Mariology Notes compiled and translated by Louis J. Pun/]. Cf. the evaluations of 3.-V. BAINVEL, “Marie VI. Intercession universelle”: A.D’ALES (ed.), Dictionnaire Apologetique de la Foi Catholique III (Paris 1916) 285-302, here 285; C. PESCH, Die selige Jungfrau Maria die Vermitterin aller Gnaden. Eine theologische Untersuchung (Freiburg in Br. 1923) VII; LELOIR, (note 35) 47 f.; M. O’CARROLL, “Terrien”: IDEM, Theotokos (note 5) 387.{/footnote}  Earlier Carlo Passaglia, SJ, who played an important role in the theological preparation for the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception, published in a three volume work testimonies linked to that now defined truth of faith.  Over 100 pages of these testimonies also contain sources concerning Maria Mediatrix in her relation to Christus mediator. {footnote} C. PASSAGLIA, De immaculate Deiparae semper Virginis conceptu Commentaries III(Naples 1855) 828-943 (p. Ill, cap. 3-4); cf. PESCH (note 37) VII. See also P. WALTER, “Passaglia”: Marienlexikon 5 (1993) 106 f.; M. O’CARROLL, “Passaglia”: IDEM, Theotokos (note 5) 279.{/footnote} Among the students of Passaglia in the Roman College was the most famous 19th century German mariologist, Matthias Joseph Scheeben.   The exceptionally rich mariological section of his Dogmatik treats introductory questions (such as the “personal character” of the Mother of God), her three most important privileges (freedom from sin, fullness of grace, assumption into heaven) and the highpoint of his treatise, Mary’s cooperation in the work of redemption as well as her “maternal relation and activity vis-a-vis the redeemed and her continuing mediation”.{footnote} M. 3. SCHEEBEN, Handbuch der Katholischen    Dogmatik III (Freiburg in Br. 1883)
455-629 (V. Buch, 5. Hauptstuck); 1010 (Gliederung) [Eng. Tr.: Mariology, 2 vols. (St. Louis 1946-47)]. One should consult the literature cited by Scheeben (p. 592, # 282b). Cf. L. SCHEFFCZYK, “Scheeben”: Marienlexikon 5 (1993) 700 f.; M. O’CARROLL, “Scheeben”: IDEM, Theotokos (note 5) 318-320.{/footnote} After Scheeben Mary’s universal mediation of grace came to be seen as the logical consequence of the special role of the Mother of God in the Church. In any case the examples cited show that in mariological studies at the end of the 19th century Mary’s mediation of grace is included among the themes of fundamental importance.
Since the end of the 19th century theological interest has increased in her universal mediation of grace, a theme more and more emerging as a distinct thesis. {footnote} A brief assessment of the 19th century can be found in R. M. DE LA BROISE, “La S.
Vierge dans la pensee et le culte catholiques au dix-neuvieme siecle”: Etudes 83 (1900) 289-311, here 302; BAINVEL, Intercession universelle (note 37 (1916) 301 f.; VILLADA (note 18) (1917) 176 f.; LELOIR (note 35) 46-48;
E. CAMPANA, Maria nel dogma cattolico I (Torino-Roma, 4 ed. 1936) 292 f.; ESCUDERO CABELLO (note 4) 17 f. An exceptionally rich exposition, along with the already cited work of Terrien, is the study of R. M. De LA BROISE, “Sur cette proposition: Toutes les graces nous viennent par la Sainte Vierge”: Etudes 68 (Paris 1896) 5-31; with minor modifications reprinted in IDEM – J. V. BAINVEL, Marie Mere de grace (Paris 1921) 1-45.{/footnote}  This was particularly noticeable in the studies prepared for the first mariological congresses, especially in those of international scope such as Fribourg 1902, Rome 1904, Einsiedeln 1906 and Trier 1912. {footnote}  Cf. PESCH (note 37) 93; on the first congresses see E. CAMPANA, Maria nel cu/to cattolico II (Torino, 2 ed. 1945) 487-652; F. COURTH, “Kongresse”: Marien/exikon 3 (1991) 609 ss.; G. M. BESUTTI, “I Congress! Mariani ed i relativi ‘Atti’ dall fine del cec. XIX al 1950”: Marian Library Studies 17-23 (1985-1991) 345-364.{/footnote}  At a regional congress in Britanny, 1913, all fourteen conferences treated the theme “Mary, Mother of Grace”. They were published almost simultaneously with the first Belgian petition for a definition of the universal mediation of grace.{footnote} Quatrieme Congres Maria/ breton tenu au Fo/goat en /’honneur de Marie, Mere de grace, 4-6. Sept. 1913 (Quimper 1915), a work of about 500 pages; see BAINVEL, Intercession universel/e (note 37) 301 f.; CAMPANA, Cu/to II (note 41) 638-640. For a systematic articulation the most important essay is that of the Spiritan, J. Le ROHELLEC, “Marie dispensatrice des graces divines”, op. cit., 55-107. Le Rohellec expressed a desire for a definition of Mary’s corporal assumption to heaven as well as for the universal mediation of grace. The theology of Grignion de Montfort, a native Breton, exercized a significant influence on the essays published in this volume. Remarkable (for 1913!) is the depth and role of the biblical foundation, which in the various studies is linked to Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation, to the sanctification of John the Baptist through the visit of Mary with the Child Jesus in her womb, to the intercession of the Mother of God at the wedding feast of Cana, to her presence by the Cross and to her prayer in the scene at Pentecost (op. cit., 139-230).{/footnote}
A Jesuit theologian (R.-M. de la Broise) had already, in studies from the years 1896 and 1900, referred to the “many” voices hoping for a dogmatic definition of Mary’s universal mediation of grace (as well as of the Assumption).{footnote} DE LA BROISE, Toutes les graces (note 35) 30 f.; IDEM, La S. Vierge (note 35) 302 (“Beaucoup I’esperent…”).{/footnote}  J.-V. Bainvel, a Jesuit professor in Paris, at the mariological Congress in Fribourg, 1902, declared himself in favor of this and found many attentive ears. {footnote} See BAINVEL, Intercession universe/le (note 37) 289. The here cited Encyclopedia article of 1916 is the reworked version of the original conference: J.-V. BAINVEL, “Marie, mere de grace”: Du 18 au 21 aout 1902 a FRIBOURG en Suisse. Congres marial. Compte Rendu I (Blois 1903) 256-281 (Recommendation for the preparation of a dogmatic definition and a complementary liturgical Office, “Our Blessed Lady of Grace” for the entire Church: 281). In favor of Mary’s universal mediation of grace was a conference in the German section (without however touching the proposal of a dogmatic definition): F. X. FUCHS, “Ueber die Vermittlung aller Gnaden durch Maria”: Vom 18 bis 21 August 1902 zu Freiburg In der Schweiz. Internationa/er Marianischer Kongress. CONGRESS-BERICHT (Fribourg 1903) 121-168.{/footnote}  A few years later he highlighted the basic motive for this desire, namely the clarification of the Mary’s maternal role in relation to the men redeemed by Christ: “Everything which should be said of Mary has not been said merely by completing a study of the divine maternity. One has still to study Mary in her spiritual motherhood, as mother of mankind, as mother of grace. These two motherhoods must never be separated one from another”.{footnote} BAINVEL, Intercession universe/le (note 37) 285.{/footnote}  The Fribourg Congress of 1902 did not officially formulate a resolution in favor of a dogmatic definition,{footnote} This impression was given by N.N., “La Madre di Dio universale med.iatrice di grazia”: La Civilta Cattolica (1924) II 208-2187. 324-335, here 209; CAMPANA, Cu/to II (note 41) 639. This topic is not included among the generally adopted resolutions: see FRIBOURG (note 44) 537-539. Noteworthy surely is the first resolution: That the Holy Father solemnly proclaim Mary Queen of the universe and make the 31st May the feastday with proper Mass and Office (op. cit., 537). Later (1921) on proposal by Cardinal Mercier May 31st would be chosen as date for the liturgical feast of Mary Mediatress of all Graces.{/footnote}  but did provide an influential platform for such a request. {footnote} The same applies to the International Congress in Einsiedeln, 1906: Bericht uber den internationalen Marianischen Congres gehalten in Einsiedeln (Schweiz) vom 17 bis 21 August 1906, 2 vols. (Fribourg 1907) 98 (Resolution of the Spanish-American section); J. BENZIGER (OSB Einsiedeln), “Maria aquaeductus gratiae”, op. cit., II, 1-13.{/footnote}  The aforementioned great Breton Congress in September, 1913, did formulate such a resolution (modeled on that of the Fribourg Congress) addressed to the Holy Father in favor of a definition of Mary, Mother of Grace (la maternite de grace) as a truth of faith. {footnote} Quatrieme Congres Marial breton (note 37) XVII f.{/footnote}
The first monograph to treat this theme is the 450 page, heavily documented work of the Belgian Redemptorist, Francois Xavier Godts, published in 1904: “On the definability of the universal mediation of the Mother of God”. Godts published this extraordinarily rich collection of source material in homage to the Rome Congress celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Definition of the Immaculate Conception. In this work he rests heavily on the authority of St. Alphonse Mary de Liguori, who among the saints of modern times, together with St. Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort, most strongly promoted the doctrine of Mary’s universal mediation of grace among the Christian people. {footnote} F-. X. GODTS, De definibilitate med/ationis universalis Deiparae. Disquisitio theologies iuxta doctrinam S. Alphonsi, occasione iubi/aei semisecularia definitionis immaculati Beatae Virginis conceptus edita ac congressui mariali de urbe humiliter dedicata (Brussels 1904). On Alphonse cf. the standard work of C. DILLENSCHNEIDER, La Mariologie de S. Alphonse de Liguori. Son influence sur le renouveau des doctrines mariales de de la piete catholique apres la tourmente du protestantisme et dujansen/sme (Fribourg-Paris 1931); IDEM, La Mariologie de S. A/phonse de Liguori. Sources et synthese doctrinale (Fribourg-Paderborn-Paris 1934), especially 107-209. For Mercian’s time see also E. THEYSKENS, “S. Alphonse et la mediation universelle de Marie”: MEMOIRES ET RAPPORTS du congres Marial tenu a Bruxe/les, 8-11 septembre 1921, Vol. I (Brussels 1922) 100-120.{/footnote}  The material assembled by Godts dates back to his time as professor of dogmatic theology in the scholasticate of his Order in Wittem (The Netherlands, Province of Limbourg) from 1865 to 1875. Hence, he was perfectly aware of his debt to the already mentioned work of Cardinal Dechamps (1862) on Mary as “New Eve”, who under the Cross brings forth the fruit of life. {footnote} Cf. M. BECQUE, “Godts”: Dict/onnaire d’Histoire et de Geographie eccleslastique 21(1986) 438-440,  here 439.{/footnote}  Also worthy of note in the same year 1904 is the oft-cited conference of the well known Servite theologian and later Cardinal, Alexis-Henri-Marie Lepicier, for the same Rome Jubilee, a conference which brought the title of “Coredemptress” to the attention of theologians. {footnote} A.-H.-M. LEPICIER, L’Immacu/ee Mere de Dieu, coredemptrice du genre humain (Turnhout1906).{/footnote}  This conference is the first monograph on the theme. {footnote} Cf. G. M. ROSCHINI, “Pio XII e la Corredenzione Mariana”: Triprice omaggio a SS. Pio XII offerto dalle Pontifice Accademie di S. Tommaso e di Religions Cattolica di Archeologia e dei Virtuosi al Pantheon, Vol. I (Vatican City 1958) 39-78, here 40. On Lepicier see also G. M. ROSCHINI, // Card. Alessio Enrico M. Lepicier O.S.M.nel XXV de/la morte (Rome 1962); M. SEYBALD, “Lepicier”: Marienlexikon 4 (1992) 104; A. M. TENTORI, “Mary Coredemptress in the Writings of Cardinal Alexis Henry Mary Lepicier, O.S.M.”: Mary at the Foot of the Cross II. Acts of the Second International Symposium on Marian Coredemption (New Bedford MA 2002) 361-379; M. HAUKE, “La questione del ‘primo principle’ e I’indole della cooperazione di Maria all’opera redentrice del Figlio: due temi rilevanti nella mariologia di Gabriele M. Roschini”: Marianum 64 (2002) 569-597, here 576-578.{/footnote}  Subsequently in 1920, Godts (1839-1928) published a worthwhile work on the “coredemption”, notwithstanding its support of some rather extreme positions. Among the eccentric theses there proposed was the following, viz., that Mary had actively merited the grace of her own redemption (and hence her preservation from original sin). {footnote} F. X. GODTS, La Coredemptrice (Brussels 1920)  165; IDEM, “La Coredemptrice”:
MEMOIRES ET RAPPORTS I (note 49) 154-170, here 157 f. See also critical assessments by ROSCHINI, Pio XII (note 52) 43; B. GHERARDINI, La Corredentrice ne/ mistero di Cristo e della Chiesa (Rome 1998) 67 f. Also opposed to this hypothesis (but without mention of Godts by name) is J. LEBON, “La bienheureuse Vierge Marie Mediatrice de toutes les graces”: La Vie diocesaine 10 (1921) 257-267; 431-444, here 442; N.N. (note 46) (1924) 215.{/footnote}   The Redemptorist “possessed a considerable erudition and a superlative memory, but not having undergone a university formation he lacked, tragically, a sense of scholarly discernment”.{footnote} BECQUE, Godts (note 50) 438.    A complete list of Godts works can be found in M. DE MEULEMEESTER, Biblographie generate des ecrivains redemptoristes II (Louvain 1935) 165-167.{/footnote}   The talents of this deeply pious religious were fortunately well deployed in his fruitful conferences and in the pastoral ministry. His friendship with Mercier began with his spiritual conferences in the Priest-seminary “Leo XIII” founded by Mercier while Louvain professor. {footnote} See F. X. GODTS, “Quelques souvenirs de mes relations avec le Cardinal Mercier”:La Voix du Redempteur Nr. 65 (1926) 90-105, here 90.{/footnote}
After World War I (in September 1919) Godts wrote an article in support of the new dogma for the review of the Redemptorist Order.{footnote} La Voix du Redempteur, Sept. 1919.{/footnote}   Mercier knew about this article and welcomed it. {footnote} See DE MEULEMEESTER, Godts (note 15) 75 f.{/footnote}  The Cardinal included Fr. Godts among the members of theological commission set up to promote the dogma, which met for the first time on 18 April, 1921. {footnote} See GODTS, Souvenirs (note 55) 100 f.; J. LEBON, “Lettre preface”: DE  MEULEMEESTER,Godts (note 15) 5-10, here 6 f.; DE MEULEMEESTER, Godts (note 15) 78-80.{/footnote}  Godts participated at some sessions of the diocesan commission for promoting Mary’s mediation of grace. Thus he came to know the Louvain patrologist Lebon, the chairman of the commission. Lebon remained his friend and after the death of the Redemptorist wrote the foreword to his first biography. {footnote} LEBON, Lettre preface (note 58).{/footnote}  Godts died two years after Mercier on a Marian day (Saturday, 7 July, 1928). The controversial Redemptorist nonetheless belonged to Cardinal Mercier’s small inner circle of theological confidants. When for the preparation of the liturgical office of Mary’s universal mediation of grace the homily of a Saint was needed for the reading from Jn. 19, 25-27,{footnote} Cf. Mercier’s letter,  12 Oct., 1920: GODTS, Souvenirs (note 55) 95. 97; DEMEULEMEESTER, Godts (note 15) 77.{/footnote}  Godts was chosen to find such. {footnote} Cf. GODTS, Souvenirs (note 55) 97; LEBON, Marie Mediatrice (note 5) 126; Lebonstresses: “Cardinal Mercier always honored him [Godts] with his esteem and confidence” (125).{/footnote}  Was the thought of Mercier to formulate a dogma in this sense shaped by this disciple of St. Alphonse? {footnote} See COPPENS, Bittremieux (note 5) 344, note 36: “Some have claimed that Fr. Godts directly exercised a great influence on Cardinal Mercier in matters of Marian doctrine, and that in large part it was due to his influence that the Cardinal was inflamed with zeal for the cause of mediation”.{/footnote}  Or, at the very least, did the impulse for this definition originate with the Redemptorist? {footnote} This is the claim of the retired Bishop and acquaintance of Dom Beauduin, Msgr. Jadot(1994): “This was theological romanticism.    It was hardly a glorious aspect ofCardinal Mercier’s thought. He had been pressured by the Redemptorists” (R. LOONBEEK-J. MORTIAU, Unpionier. DomLambertBeauduin[1873-1960]. LiturgieetUnite des Chretiens, 2 vols. [Louvain-la-IMeuve – Chevetogne 2001] vol. II, 1387, note 250). In fact Mercier’s contacts with the Redemptorists were very close: A. VAN BIERVLIET, “Le Cardinal et la Congregation du T. S. Redempteur”: IDEM, et al., Cardinal Mercier. Souvenirs intimes (Esschen, without year [1926]) 5-26. On the activity of the Order cf. TOURNAY, “Action mariale de la Congregation du T. S. Redempteur in Belgique”: MEMOIRES ET RAPPORTS II (Note 49}  322-333.{/footnote}  Against an affirmative stands the almost incredible fact that Godts’ mammoth work from 1904 on the definability of Mary’s universal mediation was still unknown to the Cardinal at the time of the publication of his first Marian Pastoral, 25 April, 1915, the Letter which first informed his diocesans of his desires concerning the new dogma. When after that publication Godts sent the Cardinal a copy of his great work, the Cardinal became embarassingly aware of his ignorance and movingly thanked him. {footnote} See Mercier’s letter to Godts (12 Oct.,  1920) in GODTS, Souvenirs (note 55) 95f.; DE MEULEMEESTER, Godts (note 15) 71 f.{/footnote}

 

4. The Spiritual Impulse of Mother Magdalen (Palmyre Ryckaert)

4.1 An Astonishing Account
Mariological research for quite some time overlooked an important fact, first brought to the attention of the world of scholarship in the 1960   archival studies of the Cathedral Canon of Malines, A. Simon: the spiritual impulse for Mercier’s efforts.   Mother Magdalen of Jesus, Prioress of the Carmel of Uccle, “once during   prayer came to realize that God intensely desired this glorification of Mary [namely, the dogmatic definition of Mary’s universal mediation of grace].   This above all astounded Mercier: A dogma! Oh, you poor child, that is something else again…. do you know what that is?   For this the Holy Father must call all the Bishops to Rome.   Nonetheless I will think about it…’ The insistent requests of this nun, the deepening of his own personal Marian piety and the need of support during the war led him to forward the 1915 petition to the Pope”.{footnote} SIMON (note 5) 105.  The fact was subsequently mentioned by G. MICHIELS, “Mercier”:{/footnote} 

4.2 Curriculum Vitae of Mother Magdalen

Fuller biographical information can be found in the life by Cyrille van Overbergh, a Belgian statesman and spiritual son of the Carmelites, who for more than 46 years was a friend of this nun. {footnote} C. VAN OVERBERGH, Carmelite d’adjourd hui (1862-1946) (Brussels 1947) 11. Paralleling the events narrated in this work are those (enriched by a number of details) found in the typewritten account of personal experiences by Sr. Raphael-Marie, last surviving Carmelite of the Monastery from the time of Mother Magdalen: Les Merveil/es de Dieu (Carmel d’Argenteuil [Waterloo], 1 Oct. 2001) 19 pp. (therein also an extract from the written testimony of Mother Marie-Therese, the successor of Mother Magdalen: pp. 13-18). For access to the here cited source material and other important information we are indebted to the present Prioress of the Carmel of Argenteuil, Mother Elizabeth of the Trinity (Elisabeth de la Trinite), to whom my heartfelt thanks.{/footnote}  Palmyre Ryckaert was born in Brussels in 1862, daughter of a business man. Her mother wished to be a nun, but abandoned this desire on the advice of her confessor. Six of thirteen children died shortly after birth. Of the survivors five were daughters, all of whom eventually entered religious life. The family was distinguished by an interior piety, joined with a marked practical sense, helpful in so many straightened circumstances. The second eldest daughter, Palmyre, against the advice of her parents, chose the strictest order known to her: the Carmelite. In childhood Palmyre was already known to enjoy mystical graces and led a genuinely holy life, early proven in the experience of severe trials. In 1881 she entered the Carmel of Brussels. Eight years later (1889) she was transferred to the newly founded Carmel of Uccle (near Brussels), where in view of her human and spiritual gifts she was, despite her youth of 28 years, elected Prioress. Outstanding in particular was her role in the extremely difficult monastery reconstruction project. Very quickly the Carmel of Uccle became a spiritual center, attracting countless men seeking God. When a new housing development came to be built in the area surrounding the Carmel, the sisters in 1928 moved their monastery to Argenteuil in the present township of Waterloo. Witness to the exceptional qualities of Palmyre Ryckaert is the fact that her sisters for over 40 years (1890-1930) repeatedly elected her Prioress, surely for the Carmelite Order a most singular record. She remained in office until 1941, when sickness compelled her resignation. Mother Magdalen went home to God, 12 Nov., 1946.
4.3 The Vow for the Sanctification of Priests and the Link with Marmion
Overbergh’s biography cites many impressive testimonials to the exceptionally holy life of this nun.   Seen by many as a new Teresa of Avila, she had many mystical experiences, which under obedience she recorded in writing.{footnote} On this VAN OVERBERGH (note 60) 11. 192-194.   These involve seven handwritten notebooks and a book with the title “Goutez et voyez ou la gloire de Dieu vengee sur la montagne de Sion”. Another work was intended for the instruction of novices: “Manuel du Noviciat”; on these see VAN OVERBERGH [note 66] 194-201 (the writings may have been duplicated for private use, but so far I have been unable to find any entry in library catalogues).   After the death of Mother Magdalen the Prioress, Mother Marie-Therese, at the insistence of Fr. A. VAN BIERVLIET, CSsR, gave the seven notebooks to Fr. Marie-Michel PHILIPON, OP, for eventual publication.   Philipon abandoned this project on account of the difficulty of verifying each of the numerous citations which Mother Magdalen ordinarily left unidentified.    According to the opinion of the Dominican the notebooks also included much “natural mysticism”.   See the letter of Mother Elizabeth of the Trinity to Manfred Hauke,  11 Sept., 2003.    Philipon (*1898-1972), a student of Garrigou-Lagrange (infra 9. 1. 2), is also the author of a work on the spiritual theology of Marmion ( infra 8. 10).    Before his involvement with the notebooks of Mother Magdalen he had already achieved a certain fame, not least through his writings on the spiritual theology of the Carmelites Therese of Lisieux and Elizabeth of the Trinity: M.-M. PHILIPON, La doctrine spirituelle de soeur Elisabeth de la Trinite (Bruges 1938) [Eng. Tr.: The Spiritual Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity (Westminster MD 1948)]; IDEM, Le message de Therese de Lisieux (Paris 1946) [Eng. Tr.: The Message of Therese of Lisieux (Westminster MD 1950)].    What happened subsequently to the notebooks is unknown.   According to a communication from P. Longo OP ( Historical Archives of the Dominicans, Angelicum, Rome) Fr. Philipon, a member of the Dominican Province of Toulouse, died on 20 March, 1972, in Mexico City.{/footnote}  Mother Magdalen was in contact with Bl. Dom Columba Marmion, the spiritual director of Cardinal Mercier.   With his approval in writing, on Holy Thursday of 1904, the nun renewed a vow first made in 1889, the “Vow of Immolation” (voeu d’immolation), wherein she offered to Jesus Christ “through the immaculate hands of Mary”   her life “for the coming of His Eucharistic kingdom in souls; for the sanctification of the 100,000 who die daily; for the sanctification of priestly souls and for the fruit of their labors; in a word for the triumph of Holy Church”.{footnote} Cited in VAN OVERBERGH (note 66) 103-105.   The vow, originating with a desire of Christ himself (18 April, 1889), is aimed especially at the sanctification of priests: ibid., 81.{/footnote} 

4.4 The Spiritual Union with Cardinal Mercier

Mercier on returning to his homeland from Rome after elevation to the cardinalate (1907) desired his multi-faceted pastoral activities to be supported in a special way by some holy nun who would night and day intercede with God for him.{footnote} For the following  cf.  VAN OVERBERGH  (note 66)  113-136  (“Le Cardinal et lacarmelite”).{/footnote}   After speaking with Dom Marmion he consulted with the prioresses of the Carmelite monasteries in his bishopric: Louvain, Malines, Brussels and Uccle.   His choice fell on Mother Magdalen of Jesus.  On Holy Thursday, 1907, the birthday of St. Teresa of Avila, Mother Magdalen took a solemn vow of obedience to Cardinal Mercier.   Thereby she promised   to offer all her actions and suffering for the intentions of the Archbishop, “so that his Eminence might enjoy the possibility of making his initiatives for the salvation of souls in his immense Diocese   fruitful, for the sanctification of his clergy and for every need of Holy Church”.  This vow, sealed with her own blood, would be approved expressly by Pope Pius X in the following words (dated 24 April, 1907):
With all our heart we grant our beloved daughter, Sr. Magdalen of Jesus, our Apostolic Blessing and beg the heavenly bridegroom to hear her many requests. {footnote} VAN OVERBERGH (note 66) 114 f.{/footnote}  With this solemn profession began a twenty year spiritual cooperation between the Cardinal and the Carmelite. Mercier himself undertook the spiritual direction of the nun{footnote} Cf. VAN OVERBERGH (note 66) 8.{/footnote} and assisted her community in the years of famine during World War I.{footnote} In connection with this Mother Magdalen recounts a miracle of multiplication: “It was truly amazing that the sack of flour, which the Cardinal one day sent to the community, throughout the entire time of the war never diminished” (VAN OVERBERGH [note 66] 119).{/footnote}


 

4.5 The first Petition for the Dogma in the time of Pius X (May 1906)
A first petition for the new Dogma had already been submitted during the time of Pius X. When Mercier before a journey to Rome (1-15 May, 1906) visited the Carmel of Uccle, hence just after his consecration as Bishop (25 March, 1906), Mother Magdalen revealed to him a special request, of which the Divine Master had for a long time already spoken to her during prayer. This request dealt with Mary’s mediation, more precisely with the dogmatic definition of the universal mediation of the Mother of God. Might it please the Archbishop to broach the matter to the Pope, which in the course of events did in fact occur. Subsequently, whatever his initial doubts, Mercier became a major promoter of the request spoken of by the Carmelite. {footnote} Cf. VAN OVERBERGH (note 66) 120 f.   The conversation between Mercier and Pius X is also mentioned in the letter of Mother Magdalen to the Carmelite Prior General (end of 1942): op. at., 130. The date of the Rome trip (1-15 May, 1906) is taken from the appointment calendar of the Archbishop (MERCIER I, 7).{/footnote}  According to the testimony of the Carmelite herself the date of the first petition for the new dogma fell within the year 1906, hence still in the period before the nomination of the Archbishop as Cardinal. {footnote} [P. RYCKAERT =]   Mere Madeleine, Letter to Pius XI, circa Feb./March 1926; IDEM,Quelques notes historiques sur la Mediation de la Tres-Sainte Vierge (no date; prepared under the fresh impressions of the Mariological Congresses of Brussels in September, 1921: see on this infra 8. 11), p. 21 f. (pagination according to the handwritten copy) (MERCIER IV s. v. Mere Madeleine de Jesus [Carmel d’Uccle]).{/footnote}  Pius X is the Pope with whom Mercier could most speak personally and in great detail on various matters. {footnote} His appointment calendar shows further Rome trips for 1907 (14 April. Private audience in connection with elevation to cardinalate; 16-31 Oct.), 1909 (7-24 March), 1910 (2-28 Feb.), 1912 (27 Feb.-17 March) and 1913 (25 Jan.-21 Feb.).{/footnote}  The Marian doctrine of Pius X is found above all in his Encyclical for the 50th anniversary of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception, Ad diem illum (1904). Mary appears there in her role in the work of redemption as “Reparatrix of fallen mankind”, who merits congruently or de congruo what Christ merits out of justice or de condigno. By her sharing in the suffering of Christ she became “Dispensatrix of all graces”.{footnote} Cf. R. GRABER – A. ZIEGENAUS (eds.), Die Marianischen We/trundschreiben der Papste von Pius IX bis Johannes Paul II (Regensburg, 3rd ed. 1997) nr. 143 f.; infra 8. 13.{/footnote}  Pius X stands as a classic witness to the teaching on the “Coredemption” (a term which under his pontificate entered the official vocabulary of the Church) and the Marian mediation of all graces. {footnote} Cf. J. B. CAROL, De corredemptione Beatae Virginis Marias. Disquisitio positive (Vatican City 1950) 517-524; L. PILLET, La corredenzione mariana nei magistero del beato Pio X (Torino 1951); A. RIVERA, “La mediacion de las gracias en el magistero pontificio”: Ephemerides Mariologicae 11 (1961) 471.489, here 481 f.; S. M. Miorro, “La voci dei Santi et la ‘Corredentrice” : AA. VV., Maria Corredentrice III (Frigento 2000) 192-223, here 200-203; S. M. MANELLI, “La Corredenzione mariana. IMell’agiografia del ventesimo secolo”: AA. VV., Maria Corredentrice IV (Frigento 2001) 119-199, here 129-133 (= IDEM, “Marian Coredemption in the Hagiography of the 20th Century”: Mary at the Foot of the Cross II (New Bedford MA 2001) 173-235, here 182-185).{/footnote}  On 4 August, 1914, Mother Magdalen, deeply under the influence of an interior inspiration, composed a letter to Pius X about the aforesaid petition. She spoke of the (already completed) letter with Cardinal Mercier, then fully occupied with the cares ensuing on the outbreak of World War I: on that 4 August German troops crossed the frontier into Belgium.{footnote} Cf. BOILEAU (note 5) 188 f.{/footnote}  In the midst of such confusion the Cardinal still found time to review the composition of the nun and ponder how the letter might be sent to Rome. The death of Pius X (20 August) dispensed him from further concern over this.{footnote} Cf. RYCKAERT, Quelques notes historiques (note 74) 24 f.{/footnote}
4.6 The petition to Benedict XV (31 May, 1919)
After the end of World War I, during prayer the nun felt strongly moved by Christ himself to make a direct appeal to Pope Benedict XV on behalf of the dogmatic definition. The Cardinal approved and considered the moment opportune for such a move. Indeed, for the Pope, in connection with the canonization of Joan of Arc (6 April, 1919), had just made a significant pronouncement about Marian mediation. Mother Magdalen’s letter to the Holy Father bears the date of 31 May, 1919.{footnote} Cited in VAN OVERBERGH (note 66)  122-126.    See also RYCKAERT, Quelques notes historiques (note 74)  33-41.{/footnote}   Among other things she states therein:
Many years ago (Depuis bien des annees) our Lord granted me an inner understanding of Mary’s mediation. He enabled me to realize how all graces of union and love which I receive in prayer and at Holy Communion come through the maternal intercession of the Queen of heaven. Even more, our Lord showed me that all the prayers of the faithful via the canal which is Mary are transported and offered and placed before her divine Son. So important, so oft proclaimed, so clear, so significant, so overwhelming to my soul is this truth, that I would willingly underwrite it with my blood.
One day the all holy Virgin in all the brilliance of her queenly majesty and maternal kindness deigned to appear to me. She drew close to me, opening the eyes of my soul and appearing visibly seated on a throne of clouds. She brought the divine Child to sinful mankind…When I had come to myself and was striving to discover the underlying meaning of this apparition, I realized that Virgin Mary had communicated to me the proper, real and full meaning of her universal mediation.
This mystical experience occurred at that time during the war when the Cardinal was composing a Pastoral Letter to his Diocese. The nun’s citation from the Rosary Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Octobri mense, appears in the Pastoral of 25 April, 1915, which despite wartime confusion managed to reach the Pope.{footnote} Cf. VAN OVERBERGH (note 66) 121.   For the Pastoral cf. infra 8. 2.{/footnote}  For several months the Lord has occasionally asked me, above all on feasts of the All Holy Virgin, to write to Your Holiness, to beseech (conjurer) You to proclaim under inspiration of the Holy Spirit the doctrine of the universal mediation of the Virgin Mary and to define this as a dogma of our holy Faith.
Of this I have spoken to no one, not even once to His Eminence, who has been so good as to undertake the guidance of my soul in the ways of God. I have ever the fulfillment of an obligation, in view of which for various easy to understand grounds I have experienced a living and deep stress, later prolonged from then to the end of Lent of this year 1919, the feast of the Seven Dolors of Our Lady, when I was unexpectedly taken ill.
The physicians were unable to help her, and on Holy Saturday evening Mother Magdalen appeared close to death. She remembered the letter to the Pope so much desired by Jesus. In exchange for not dying she asked Mary for her “sudden and full cure from the illness so as to turn her every energy to the realization of Jesus’ wish…” The next morning (Easter Sunday) the Carmelite nun was found fully healed and found the strength to write the Holy Father.
If Your Holiness should place this gem on the virginal forehead of Mary so as to embellish her queenly crown – what glory would redound on You and how many graces and blessings would come upon the Church and the world!
Europe is very sick. It needs new help and especially light, so that in the present crisis it does not go under. This dogma of Marian mediation – would it not be the crown of all the truths of our holy Faith (le couronnement de tous ceux de Notre Sainte Foi), O Holy Father?
In virtue of the insistence of our Lord I beg Your Holiness in childlike submission to bestow a new brilliance on the glory of Mary (de donner un nouvel eclat a la gloire de Marie). O, how powerful an Advocate have we in her who is near Jesus! Two weeks later Cardinal Gasparri, the papal Secretary of State, acknowledged receipt of the letter.{footnote} Cf. ibid., 126.{/footnote}

4.7 Later Initiatives

After the death of Mercier Mother Magdalen continued to work on behalf of the new Dogma. Immediately after his passing she sent, around February or March of 1926, a letter via the Cardinal Secretary of State to Pius XL Gasparri also received shortly thereafter a brief historial account of Mother Magdalen (according to her record) concerning Mary’s mediation{footnote} RYCKAERT, Quelques notes historiques (note 74).{/footnote}  via the Louvain professor J. Havet, who had been asked to convey the document to the Pope personally. In a letter of 7 May, 1926 (as it seems to the Vicar General and successor of Mercier, van Roey) she requested an official acknowledgment of receipt of the two documents by the Holy Father.{footnote} Mere Madeleine, Letter of 7 May, 1926 (MERCIER IV s. v. “Mere Madeleine de Jesus [Carmel d’Uccle]). {/footnote}  Via the Papal Nuntio in Brussels she sent a further letter to Pope Pius XII (1 May, 1942). On 12 June, 1942, the Papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Maglione, replied. The Holy Father had received her letter and taken note of its contents. He thanked her and rejoiced at the childlike devotion to the Holy Virgin so apparent therein. “It would appear, however, that the question proposed therein pertains to those still in need of deeper study, as it would seem after a first reading. At the present moment it does not seem your pious desire can be granted”.{footnote} VAN OVERBERGH (note 66) 129.{/footnote}  At the end of 1942 Mother Magdalen sent a pressing letter to the General of the Carmelites, wherein she stressed the special duty of the Carmelite Order toward the Mother of God. It is the Carmel, which “through the instrumentality of Cardinal Mercier sent the first petition to the Holy See in favor of the proclamation of the dogma”. The General should take the initiative to persuade Pope Pius XII to appoint theologians of his choice to study and deepen the difficult question. The time to act had arrived: never had the world so great a need of help. May Mary obtain forgiveness for a sinful world, allow our holy religion once more to flourish and renew the face of the earth! {footnote} Op. cit., 129-131.{/footnote}  Doubtless it would be desirable to have a profounder historical study of Mother Magdalen’s personality and of her spiritual relation to Cardinal Mercier. Especially, and not least valuable for this would be the nearly twenty-year correspondence with the Archbishop, comprising about 500 letters{footnote} Cf. op. cit, 153{/footnote}  and presently in considerable part found in the Archdiocesan Archives in Malines under Mercier. {footnote} {/footnote}  Also to be researched are the signs of holiness and eventual responses to prayer after her death.{footnote} In regard to the power of intercession of Mother Magdalen (and of her community)during her lifetime there are many exstant testimonials in the aforementioned sources in VAN OVERBERGH (note 66), Sr. Raphael-Marie and Mother Marie-Therese, the successor of Mother Magdalen (associated with her since 1912) (note 66).{/footnote}  This important task far exceeds the limits of the present study. Let the affirmation of the present Prioress of the Carmel in Argenteuil (Waterloo) founded by Mother Magdalen be pondered here: “I am not aware of any ecclesiastical investigation having ever been initiated. I have never heard of any special graces having been received after her death. She had only lived an extraordinarily strong interior life”.{footnote} Letter of Mere Elisabeth de la Trinite to Manfred Hauke, 11 Sept., 2003.{/footnote}

4 8 The Effect of the Carmelite’s Influence
Probably some of Mercier’s formulations bearing on the blessings to flow from the new dogma are only fully intelligible in view of the inspirations of the nun received in prayer. This applies also for the Letter to Pius XI in which the Cardinal stresses:
For years I have been of the conviction that Mary, felix caeli porta, has been reserved as a special help for the Church and for the Vicar of Christ on the day when the privilege of her universal mediation, already inscribed in Christian belief, will be authoritatively taught and promoted{footnote}Letter of 14 Nov., 1922, cited by R. AUBERT, Le cardinal Mercier (1851-1926).   Un preiat d’avant-garde (Louvain 1994) 433; cf. infra 8. 12. 1.{/footnote}.
The impulse stemming from the Carmelite and first setting Mercier’s initiative in motion does not, however, by itself explain his motivations. Important, too, is the painful experience of World War I. Together with the spiritual experience of the nun this induced a readiness to favor the dogmatic definition of Mary’s universal mediation of grace then being ever more clearly articulated in theology. Projection of the request for this definition against the historical theological background makes it significantly clear that this request was hardly a spontaneous reaction provoked by the German attack on Belgium. The proposal is bound up with the witness to faith (sensus fidet) of the Christian people, cultivated via theological discussion consequent on the definition of the Immaculate Conception.

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1. Introduction

A systematic study of Redemption begins with Anselm of Canterbury in his famous treatise, Cur Deus homo. Nevertheless, the theologians of the ancient Church already furnish a great abundance of affirmations about the saving work of Christ which develop the treasure of the Holy Scripture. The Swiss Benedictine, Basil Studer, author of the best, recent monograph about Redemption in the Patristic Tradition, holds that the theology of the Fathers, “is fundamentally nothing other than soteriology: a doctrine about the salvation by God in Jesus Christ.”{footnote}B. Studer, Soteriologie. In der Schrift und Patristik (Handbuch der Dogmengeschichte III/2a), Freiburg i. Br. 1978, 224.{/footnote}

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The first part of this article appeared in the previous Mother of All Peoples bi-monthly edition.

Ecumenical Aspects

The Council of Ephesus, at least in a general sense, contributes to a global consensus between the great Christian denominations. This is evident for the Catholic Church, but also for the Orthodox Churches, which count Ephesus as the third ecumenical council. Ephesus is also accepted by the Coptic churches (Egypt, Ethiopia), which very much honor the tradition of St. Cyril of Alexandria, even if they have been separated from the universal Church since the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

The title Theotókos, on the other hand, is not used by the spiritual heirs of the Antiochene tradition, who did not accept the Council of Ephesus and today constitute the Assyrian Church of the Orient, a group that has become very small (about 400,000 members). They call Mary "Mother of the Lord" and "Mother of Christ" (92). On November 11, 1994, the Assyrian Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV and Pope John Paul II signed a Joint Christological Declaration which affirms that Catholic and Assyrians "today are united in the profession of the same faith in the Son of God." The document uses the Christological formulations of Chalcedon: "his divinity and his humanity are united in one person, without mixture and without separation." The Assyrians venerate Mary as "Mother of Christ, our God and Savior." "In the light of the same faith, the Catholic Tradition is calling the Virgin Mary ‘Mother of God’ and ‘Mother of Christ’. We both recognize the justification and correctness of these manifestations of the same faith" (93). In other words: the "ex-Nestorians" now also recognize the Catholic doctrine concerning the Mother of God, even if their liturgical tradition does not use the title Theotókos.

In Protestantism (especially among traditional Lutherans), we encounter the reference to the "consensus of the first five centuries" (consensus quinquesaecularis), which recognizes the Trinitarian and Christological councils of the Ancient Church. The theologians of the Reformation accepted the title Theotókos because it manifests the Christological dogma of the hypostatic union (and of the communication of idioms). Luther, for instance, insisted on the importance of Mary’s divine maternity:

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The Mother of God, Part I

Published on September 20, 2008 by in General Mariology

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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. 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.
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The Divine Maternity as a Constituent of the "Fundamental Principle" in Mariology

The Virgin Mary … is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth (1).

These words, taken from the Second Vatican Council, show very well the central importance of Mary as the Mother of God. The most relevant Marian dogma, the divine maternity, is essentially linked to the most important Christological dogma, the hypostatic union: in the person, or hypostasis, of the eternal Son of God are united the divine and the human nature of Christ. The definition of the title Theotókos (God-bearer) at the Council of Ephesus (431) underlines the unity of the two natures of Christ in the same personal subject: as Jesus Christ is one person, the Son of God who assumed a human nature from the Virgin Mary, she must be the Mother of God. Obviously Mary does not generate God in his divinity, but she generates the Son of God in his humanity, because he takes his human nature from her. For this reason her dignity is above that of the whole of creation. She is truly "Mother of God."

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