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This month’s message from Medjugorje that Our Lady gave to visionary Mirjana Soldo on the
second of the month strongly alludes to an important theological doctrine, so prominent in the
writings of the popes, the saints, and the mystics: that of Mother Mary’s role as the Co-
Redemptrix. Part of the message from Medjugorje, transmitted on March 2, 2018, read:

“Pain lived and offered to God raises up. Did my Son not redeem the world through His
painful sacrifice? As His mother I was with Him in the pain and suffering, as I am with
all of you. My children, I am with you in life, in suffering, in pain, in joy and in love.
Therefore, have hope.”

In this message, Our Lady speaks of the unique sufferings that she shared with Jesus,
suffering with Him at Calvary, and she speaks to the reality that suffering is redemptive when it
is united with the sufferings of her Son. “As His mother I was with Him in the pain and
suffering, as I am with all of you.” These words further show us that not only were Our Lady’s
sufferings united with Jesus in first-century Palestine, but also that mystically, in her Spiritual
Motherhood, she accompanies us, her children, throughout time, during our sufferings on earth
(alongside our times of joy, pain, and love)—the message from Medjugorje, therefore, conveying
both her role as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix, articulating a Mariology that can be read as an
implicit support for the truths underscored in the Fifth Marian Dogma.

The doctrine of the Co-Redemptrix, referring to Mary’s secondary and dependent,
although unique, participation with Jesus in the acquisition of graces for our Redemption, is most
vividly seen at Calvary: in the understanding that Our Lady not only played a unique role in
salvation history through her Immaculate Conception and her role in the Annunciation and the
Incarnation, but also through her sufferings alongside Jesus at the foot of the Cross. Pope St.
John Paul II put it poignantly, once reflecting that, “Mary was spiritually crucified with her
crucified son.”

I have been blessed this semester to teach a graduate course at the Franciscan University
of Steubenville on the Franciscan mystics. One of the mystics we have studied is the late-
medieval Italian poet Jacopone da Todi, the Franciscan who has given us the Marian masterpiece
The Stabat Mater, which speaks of Mary’s sufferings at the foot of the Cross and which is
considered one of the greatest hymns of the Latin Church. Jacopone is also known as the author
of the Lauds, 93 writings – songs, poems, morality plays, and letters – tackling various Christian
themes. He begins the Lauds with a beautiful plea to the Virgin Mary and concludes them with a
Marian writing that speaks to the doctrine of the Co-Redemptrix. Invoking the voice of the
Virgin Mary, he writes from her perspective, as Our Lady is speaking to John the Apostle the
moment after Jesus dies on the Cross:

John, my new son, your brother is dead:
The sword they prophesied has pierced my heart,
They have killed both mother and son,
One cruel death for both,
Embracing each other and their common cross!

Jacopone highlights here something that John Paul II would and that the recent message from
Medjugorje has: the significance of Our Lady’s sufferings alongside Jesus—her spiritual
crucifixion alongside her Son’s crucifixion. It is a common cross that Mother and Son embraced
at Calvary. As His heart was pierced by the lance so was hers by the spiritual sword Simeon
prophesied. This speaks to the reality that since Jesus is the Redeemer and the only mediator
between God and man, Our Lady participates in His mediation in a secondary but unique
manner, for the salvation of souls, being united with His Cross.

-Brother Daniel Maria Klimek, TOR

 Adjunct Professor, Franciscan University of Steubenville

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The Pope of Mary Co-Redemptrix

Published on January 20, 2018 by in Mariology

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In witnessing to most every aspect of the story of Mary Co-redemptrix, John Paul II, the “Totus Tuus” Pope, exceeded all papal predecessors. The quantity of such testimonies is vast; their depth profound; their love inspired.

As if before a wine cellar full of extraordinary wines, we do not have the opportunity to taste and appreciate every teaching of Pope John Paul concerning his Mother Co-redemptrix. (1) Rather, let us offer some of his most exceptional.

John Paul II and Usages of Co-redemptrix

John Paul II’s official and repeated use of the title, Co-redemptrix, quickly remedies the silence at the Second Vatican Council. Within his first years as Christ’s Vicar, the Pope invokes the Immaculate Mother as “Co-redemptrix” on repeated occasions and makes whole again the relationship between the doctrine and the title. The title is legitimate, and the Holy Father expresses his conviction about this.

On September 8, 1982, Feast of the Birth of Mary, within the context of a papal address to the sick (who so much need to know the power of co-redemptive suffering), John Paul calls Mary the “Co-redemptrix of humanity” for the first time: “Mary, though conceived and born without the taint of sin, participated in a marvelous way in the sufferings of her divine Son, in order to be Coredemptrix of humanity.” (2)

As is well known, John Paul didn’t celebrate his own birthday of May 18, but rather his “name day” on November 4, the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, after whom he was named “Karol.” On this day in 1984 the Pope once again calls his Mother the “Co-redemptrix” in a general audience:

To Our Lady—the Coredemptrix—St. Charles turned with singularly revealing accents. Commenting on the loss of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple, he reconstructed the interior dialogue that could have run between the Mother and the Son, and he added, “You will endure much greater sorrows, O blessed Mother, and you will continue to live; but life will be for you a thousand times more bitter than death. You will see your innocent Son handed over into the hands of sinners . . . You will see him brutally crucified between thieves; you will see his holy side pierced by the cruel thrust of a lance; finally, you will see the blood that you gave him spilling. And nevertheless you will not be able to die!” (From the homily delivered in the Cathedral of Milan the Sunday after the Epiphany, 1584). (3)

The next usage of the Co-redemptrix title by John Paul is his most important. At a Marian sanctuary in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on January 31, 1985, he delivers a homily in which he professes the Co-redemptrix title within a penetrating theological commentary of scriptural and conciliar teaching on Coredemption:

Mary goes before us and accompanies us. The silent journey that begins with her Immaculate Conception and passes through the “yes” of Nazareth, which makes her the Mother of God, finds on Calvary a particularly important moment. There also, accepting and assisting at the sacrifice of her son, Mary is the dawn of Redemption; . . . Crucified spiritually with her crucified son (cf. Gal. 2:20), she contemplated with heroic love the death of her God, she “lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth” (Lumen Gentium, 58) . . . .

In fact, at Calvary she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church; her maternal heart shared to the very depths the will of Christ “to gather into one all the dispersed children of God” (Jn. 11:52). Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity . . . .
The Gospels do not tell us of an appearance of the risen Christ to Mary. Nevertheless, as she was in a special way close to the Cross of her Son, she also had to have a privileged experience of his Resurrection. In fact, Mary’s role as Coredemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son. (4)

The Guayaquil homily by Pope John Paul II cannot be dismissed as either marginal or devoid of doctrinal weight. (5) “Spiritually crucified with her crucified son . . .”; “she united herself with the sacrifice of her Son that led to the foundation of the Church . . .”; “her role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son . . .”—all of these declarations constitute sublime confessions to the doctrine of Mary Co-redemptrix. They are packed with doctrinal depth and conviction by the Pope, to whom the believing Catholic heart should assent with obedience, thanksgiving, and awe.

Only a few months later, John Paul confirms once again the legitimacy of Co-redemptrix. On Palm Sunday, during World Youth Day, the he addresses his “favorites,” his beloved youth, and invokes the aid of Mary under the title of “the Co-redemptrix”:

At the Angelus hour on this Palm Sunday, which the Liturgy calls also the Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, our thoughts run to Mary, immersed in the mystery of an immeasurable sorrow.

Mary accompanied her divine Son in the most discreet concealment, pondering everything in the depths of her heart. On Calvary, at the foot of the Cross, in the vastness and in the depth of her maternal sacrifice, she had John, the youngest Apostle, beside her . . . .

May Mary our Protectress, the Co-redemptrix, to whom we offer our prayer with great outpouring, make our desire generously correspond to the desire of the Redeemer. (6)

Again in context of the sick, (this time to volunteers of Lourdes) on March 24, 1990, the Pope calls upon the aid of Mary under the title “Co-redemptrix”: “May Mary most holy, Co-redemptrix of the human race beside her Son, always give you courage and confidence!” (7)

In commemorating the sixth centenary of the canonization of St. Bridget of Sweden (October 6, 1991), the John Paul uses “Co-redemptrix” as a title and role understood by this fourteenth century mystic whose revelations did so much to stimulate the medieval development of the doctrine:

Birgitta looked to Mary as her model and support in the various moments of her life. She spoke energetically about the divine privilege of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. She contemplated her astonishing mission as Mother of the Saviour. She invoked her as the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Sorrows, and Coredemptrix, exalting Mary’s singular role in the history of salvation and the life of the Christian people. (8)

Clearly, the Totus Tuus Pope affirms the authenticity of the Co-redemptrix title within the Church, both in the context of doctrinal treatments and in the order of prayerful invocation by the Church.

John Paul II’s contribution to the doctrinal advancement of Marian Coredemption is no less stellar. During the Marian month of May in 1983, the he highlights the Immaculate Virgin’s association with Christ as the “highest model of cooperation,” which is begun with her “yes” to the work of Redemption at the Annunciation:

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

The “Yes” of the Annunciation constituted not only the acceptance of the offered motherhood, but signified above all Mary’s commitment to service of the mystery of the Redemption. Redemption was the work of her Son; Mary was associated with it on a subordinate level. Nevertheless, her participation was real and demanding. Giving her consent to the angel’s message, Mary agreed to collaborate in the whole work of mankind’s reconciliation with God, just as her Son would accomplish it. (9)

On the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 5, 1983, Pope John Paul II again underlines Our Lady’s active part in the one Redemptive Sacrifice, which is continued in every Mass. In this sacrifice, Mary “offered him and she offered herself to the Father,” and as a result, every Mass puts us in intimate communion “with her, the Mother”:

Born of the Virgin to be a pure, holy and immaculate oblation, Christ offered on the Cross the one perfect Sacrifice which every Mass, in an unbloody manner, renews and makes present. In that one Sacrifice, Mary, the first redeemed, the Mother of the Church, had an active part. She stood near the Crucified, suffering deeply with her Firstborn; with a motherly heart she associated herself with his Sacrifice; with love she consented to his immolation (cf. Lumen Gentium, 58; Marialis Cultus, 20): she offered him and she offered herself to the Father. Every Eucharist is a memorial of that Sacrifice and that Passover that restored life to the world; every Mass puts us in intimate communion with her, the Mother, whose sacrifice “becomes present” just as the Sacrifice of her Son “becomes present” at the words of consecration of the bread and wine pronounced by the priest. (10)

In the same year (December 7, 1983), John Paul II elucidates the crucial pre-requisite for the Mother’s coredemptive mission as her Immaculate Conception (a truth of doctrinal interconnectedness which merits greater contemporary appreciation): “We must above all note that Mary was created immaculate in order to be better able to act on our behalf. The fullness of grace allowed her to fulfill perfectly her mission of collaboration with the work of salvation; it gave the maximum value to her cooperation in the sacrifice. When Mary presented to the Father her Son nailed to the cross, her painful offering was entirely pure.” (11)

In the 1984 Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris (On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering), the Holy Father delivers an extraordinary teaching on the sufferings of Mary at Calvary:

It is especially consoling to note—and also accurate in accordance with the Gospel and history—that at the side of Christ, in the first and most exalted place, there is always His Mother through the exemplary testimony that she bears by her whole life to this particular Gospel of suffering. In her, the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such an interconnected way that they were not only a proof of her unshakable faith but also a contribution to the Redemption of all . . . . It was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the cross together with the beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming death of her Son. (12)

John Paul confirms the participation of the Co-redemptrix not only in the distribution of the graces of Calvary, but also in the obtaining of universal redemptive graces, when he declares that the many and intense sufferings were amassed in such a way that they were a “contribution to the Redemption of all.” (13) Moreover his description that the Mother’s sufferings at Calvary “reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view,” attests to the extreme human limits of suffering for the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who watches and consents to the violent immolation of her innocent son, who is also God, so that humanity may be bought back. Because this unique sharing in the redeeming death of Christ is “supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world,” the Immaculate One willingly suffers in love for all mankind.

To the young pilgrims from Vicenza (reminiscent of Pius XI’s first use of Co-redemptrix to the Vicenza pilgrims in 1933), (14) John Paul elaborates extemporaneously that with the death of Jesus on the cross, Mary’s “very self, her heart, her motherhood,” were likewise “crucified” in the greatest “dark night” of human history: “. . . when Jesus died on the cross, her very self, her heart, her motherhood, all was crucified. When I wrote the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater I compared this moment in Mary’s life to a dark night, darker than all the nights which the souls of mystics have experienced throughout the Church’s history.” (15)

The teaching of John Paul’s ordinary Magisterium in the 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, acknowledges the lifelong “yes” of the Co-redemptrix given at the Annunciation which reaches its fulfillment at Calvary, where Mary “offers Jesus” so as to “receive and beget” his disciples as her spiritual children:

“Standing by the cross of Jesus” (Jn. 19:25), Mary shares in the gift which the Son makes of himself: she offers Jesus, gives him over, and begets him to the end for our sake. The “yes” spoken on the day of the Annunciation reaches full maturity on the day of the Cross, when the time comes for Mary to receive and beget as her children all those who become disciples, pouring out upon them the saving love of her Son: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’” (Jn. 19:26). (16)

Remarkable in its synthesis of the story of Marian Coredemption is John Paul II’s General Audience of October 25, 1995, where the essential historical panorama of the development of Marian Coredemption is papally ratified:

Saying that “the Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honoured as being truly the Mother of God and of the Redeemer” (Lumen Gentium, n. 53), the Council draws attention to the link between Mary’s motherhood and Redemption.

After becoming aware of the maternal role of Mary, who was venerated in the teaching and worship of the first centuries as the virginal Mother of Jesus Christ and therefore as the Mother of God, in the Middle Ages the Church’s piety and theological reflection brought to light her cooperation in the Saviour’s work.

This delay is explained by the fact that the efforts of the Church Fathers and of the early Ecumenical Councils, focused as they were on Christ’s identity, necessarily left other aspects of dogma aside. Only gradually could the revealed truth be unfolded in all its richness. Down the centuries, Mariology would always take its direction from Christology. The divine motherhood of Mary was itself proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus primarily to affirm the oneness of Christ’s person. Similarly, there was a deeper understanding of Mary’s presence in salvation history.

At the end of the second century, St. Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, already pointed out Mary’s contribution to the work of salvation. He understood the value of Mary’s consent at the time of the Annunciation, recognizing in the Virgin of Nazareth’s obedience to and faith in the angel’s message the perfect antithesis of Eve’s disobedience and disbelief, with a beneficial effect on humanity’s destiny. In fact, just as Eve caused death, so Mary, with her “yes,” became “a cause of salvation” for herself and for all mankind (cf. Adv. Haer., III, 22, 4; SC 211, 441). But this affirmation was not developed in a consistent and systematic way by the other Fathers of the Church.

Instead, this doctrine was systematically worked out for the first time at the end of the 10th century in the Life of Mary by a Byzantine monk, John the Geometer. Here Mary is united to Christ in the whole work of Redemption, sharing, according to God’s plan, in the Cross and suffering for our salvation. She remained united to the Son “in every deed, attitude and wish” (cf. Life of Mary, Bol. 196, f. 123 v.).

In the West St. Bernard, who died in 1153, turns to Mary and comments on the presentation of Jesus in the temple: “Offer your Son, sacrosanct Virgin, and present the fruit of your womb to the Lord. For our reconciliation with all, offer the heavenly victim pleasing to God” (Serm. 3 in Purif., 2: PL 183, 370).

A disciple and friend of St. Bernard, Arnold of Chartres, shed light particularly on Mary’s offering in the sacrifice of Calvary. He distinguished in the Cross “two altars: one in Mary’s heart, the other in Christ’s body. Christ sacrificed his flesh, Mary her soul.” Mary sacrificed herself spiritually in deep communion with Christ, and implored the world’s salvation: “What the mother asks, the Son approves and the Father grants” (cf. De septem verbis Domini in cruce, 3: PL 189, 1694).

From this age on other authors explain the doctrine of Mary’s special cooperation in the redemptive sacrifice. (17)

The Woman of Calvary is also the Woman of Revelation. In the papal audience of May 29, 1996, the Pope identifies the suffering woman of the Apocalypse as the Mother at the Cross, who suffers to give mystical birth to the community of disciples:

Identified by her motherhood, the woman “was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for her delivery” (12:2). This note refers to the Mother of Jesus at the Cross (cf. Jn. 19:25), where she shares in anguish for the delivery of the community of disciples with a soul pierced by the sword (cf. Lk. 2:35). Despite her sufferings, she is “clothed with the sun”—that is, she reflects the divine splendor—and appears as a “great sign” of God’s spousal relationship with his people. (18)

In the same address, John Paul reiterates the role of the Immaculate New Eve as the Redeemer’s “faithful Collaborator” in her co-operation in the Redemption:

It was fitting that like Christ, the new Adam, Mary too, the new Eve, did not know sin and was thus capable of co-operating in the Redemption.

Sin, which washes over humanity like a torrent, halts before the Redeemer and his faithful Collaborator. With a substantial difference: Christ is all holy by virtue of the grace that in his humanity derives from the divine person: Mary is all holy by virtue of the grace received by the merits of the Savior. (19)

A landmark catechesis, part of the Pope John Paul II’s seventy catechetical teachings on the Blessed Virgin, (20) was delivered on April 2, 1997. During this General Audience, John Paul puts forth a moving commentary on the Council’s teaching on Coredemption and the Mother’s compassion at Calvary:

With our gaze illumined by the radiance of the resurrection, we pause to reflect on the Mother’s involvement in her Son’s redeeming passion, which was completed by her sharing in his suffering. Let us return again, but now in the perspective of the Resurrection, to the foot of the Cross where the Mother endured “with her only-begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which was born of her.”

With these words, the Council reminds us of “Mary’s compassion”; in her heart reverberates all that Jesus suffers in body and soul, emphasizing her willingness to share in her Son’s redeeming sacrifice and to join her own maternal suffering to his priestly offering.

The Council text also stresses that her consent to Jesus’ immolation is not passive acceptance but a genuine act of love, by which she offers her Son as a “victim” of expiation for the sins of all humanity.

Lastly, Lumen Gentium relates the Blessed Virgin to Christ, who has the lead role in Redemption, making it clear that in associating herself “with his sacrifice” she remains subordinate to her divine Son. (21)

The Holy Father has here penetrated deeply into the compassion of the Mother’s Heart at Calvary. “In her heart reverberates all that Jesus suffers in body and soul,” and thus she “shares in the redeeming sacrifice.” She does not share in the sacrifice formally as “priest,” but subordinately as “mother” in a united offering of the one Sacrifice. She offers her Son as “a victim of expiation” for all of humanity’s sins.

This catechesis is immediately followed by another inspired instruction on the Mother of God’s role as unique “Co-operator” in Redemption on April 9, 1997, which includes the imperative for Christians to participate as “co-redeemers” (22) in the work of distributing the spiritual fruits of Redemption. Only Mary as the Immaculate Co-redemptrix co-operated in the obtaining of graces of Redemption as the New Eve with and under the New Adam on behalf of humanity. The doctrine of Mary Co-redemptrix becomes a crucial “type of the Church” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 63), for the People of God are likewise summoned to partake in the mysterious application of Redemption:

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

The Blessed Virgin’s role as cooperator has its source in her divine motherhood. By giving birth to the One who was destined to achieve man’s redemption, by nourishing him, presenting him in the temple and suffering with him as he died on the Cross, “in a wholly singular way she cooperated . . . in the work of the Savior” (Lumen Gentium, 61). Although God’s call to cooperate in the work of salvation concerns every human being, the participation of the Savior’s Mother in humanity’s Redemption is a unique and unrepeatable fact. (23)

The Mother’s meritorious cooperation in man’s Redemption originates in her role as “Theotokos,” (or God-bearer), for she gave birth to the Redeemer and remains “with Jesus” in salvation’s work unto the Cross. This is why the Mother of the Redeemer’s participation in Redemption is no optional theological speculation, but rather, as the Pontiff declares, a “unique and unrepeatable fact.”

Finally, in the Great Year of Jubilee, the Pope John Paul II compares the sacrifice of Mary with the monumental Old Testament sacrifice of Abraham, Father of Faith. But unlike the sacrifice of Abraham, the full execution of the Mother’s sacrifice of her Son was demanded of her:

Daughter of Abraham in faith as well as in the flesh, Mary personally shared in this experience. Like Abraham, she too accepted the sacrifice of her Son, but while the actual sacrifice of Isaac was not demanded of Abraham, Christ drank the cup of suffering to the last drop. Mary personally took part in her Son’s trial, believing and hoping at the foot of the Cross (cf. Jn. 19:25).

This was the epilogue of a long wait. Having been taught to meditate on the prophetic texts, Mary foresaw what awaited her and in praising the mercy of God, faithful to his people from generation to generation, she gave her own consent to his plan of salvation; in particular, she said her “yes” to the central event of this plan, the sacrifice of that Child whom she bore in her womb. Like Abraham, she accepted the sacrifice of her Son. (24)

John Paul’s courageous testimony to Mary Co-redemptrix perseveres indefinitely, meriting for him the singular title of “Pope of the Co-redemptrix.”

 

This article is from the thirteenth chapter of “With Jesus”: The Story of Mary Co-redemptrix, Queenship Publications, 2003. The book is available from Queenship for the price of $3.00 U.S.D.

 

Notes

(1) For a more extended treatment, cf. Calkins, “Pope John Paul II’s Teaching on Marian Coredemption,” pp. 113-147; also “The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium,” Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issue Today, Queenship, 2002, pp. 41-47.

(2) John Paul II, Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1978-, V/3, 1982, 404.

(3) John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, November 12, 1984, p. 1.

(4) Ibid., March 11, 1985, p. 7.

(5) Unfortunately, these were the expressions used to describe the significance of the repeated papal usages of the title of Co-redemptrix by Pope John Paul II, as contained in an unsigned article which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano on June 4, 1997. This article accompanied the brief conclusion of an ad hoc ecumenical committee of theologians (sixteen Catholic and five non-Catholic), who met at the 1996 Czestochowa Marian Conference to study the possibility of a dogmatic definition of Mary as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate (a meeting estimated by the committee members to have lasted less than one hour).

Although the ad hoc committee members later stated that they were not informed that they were in any way acting as an official “papal commission,” their conclusions were nonetheless published some ten months later in L’Osservatore Romano as the conclusions of a “commission established by the Holy See” and released as a “Declaration of the Theological Commission of the Congress of the Pontifical International Marian Academy” (L’Osservatore Romano, June 4, 1997). This publication happened to immediately follow a meeting of some seventy bishops and one hundred theologians and international lay leaders at the Domus Mariae Conference Center in Rome (members of the international Marian movement, Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici), who presented the Holy Father with a votum for the papal definition of Mary as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate, based in part upon the theological foundations of the papal teachings of Pope John Paul II, and containing the petitions of over five-hundred-fifty bishops, including forty-five cardinals, and over six million petitions from the Catholic laity worldwide.

The commission’s statement was published while the Holy Father was on a pastoral visit to Poland. On several points, the conclusions of the commission directly contradict the Pope’s own teaching and practice regarding Marian Coredemption and the legitimate use of the title of Co-redemptrix. For an extended treatment, cf. M. Miravalle, In Continued Dialogue With the Czestochowa Commission, Queenship, 2002.

(6) John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 9, 1985, p. 12.

(7) John Paul II, Inseg., XIII/1, 1990, 743:1.

(8) John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, October 14, 1991, p. 4.

(9) Ibid., May 9, 1983, p. 1

(10) Ibid., June 13, 1983, p. 2.

(11) Ibid., December 12, 1983, p. 1.

(12) John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, 25.

(13) Classic terminology in expressing this participation in the acquisition of redemptive graces of Calvary include “Redemption in actu primo” or participation in “objective Redemption.”

(14) Pius XI, L’Osservatore Romano, December 1, 1933, p. 1.

(15) John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, September 16, 1991, p. 4.

(16) John Paul II, Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, March 25, 1995, 103; AAS 87, 1995, p. 520.

(17) John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, November 1, 1995, p. 11.

(18) Ibid., June 5, 1996, p. 11

(19) Ibid.

(20) From September 1995 to November 1997, John Paul II offered seventy Catechetical teachings of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which have been assembled and published under the title Theotókos: Woman, Mother, Disciple: A Catechesis on Mary, Mother of God, Pauline Books and Media, 2000.

(21) John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 9, 1997, p. 11.

(22) On at least three occasions, John Paul has underscored the call for Christians to become “co-redeemers” in the distribution of the graces of Calvary obtained by Jesus and Mary, and for Christians to participate in “coredemption.” Due to its importance to Mary Co-redemptrix as an authentic model for the Church, we here include the direct references: “Is it necessary to remind all of you, sorely tried by suffering, who are listening to me, that your pain unites you more and more with the Lamb of God, who ‘takes away the sin of the world’ through his Passion (Jn. 1:29)? And that therefore you, too, associated with him in suffering, can be coredeemers of mankind? You know these shining truths. Never tire of offering your sufferings for the Church, that all her children may be consistent with their faith, persevering in prayer and fervent in hope” (addressing the sick at the Hospital of the Brothers of St. John of God (Fatebenefratelli) on Rome’s Tiber Island on April 5, 1981, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 13, 1981, p. 6); “To the sick who are present and to those who are in hospital wards, in nursing homes and in families I say: never feel alone, because the Lord is with you and will never abandon you. Be courageous and strong: unite your pains and sufferings to those of the Crucified and you will become coredeemers of humanity, together with Christ” (spoken while addressing the sick after a general audience given January 13, 1982, Inseg., V/1, 1982, 91); “‘The candidate should be irreproachable’ (Tit. 1:6), Saint Paul admonishes again. Personal spiritual direction should cultivate in them (candidates for the priesthood) an unlimited love for Christ and his Mother, and a great desire to unite themselves closely to the work of coredemption” (addressing the Bishops of Uruguay gathered in Montevideo concerning candidates for the priesthood, May 8, 1988, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, May 30, 1988, p. 4).

(23) John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 16, 1997, p. 11.

(24) Ibid., March 1, 2000, p. 11.

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Note: Mrs. Janie Garza, a visionary from Austin, Texas, has received permission from her last two local ordinaries to continue her ministry in regards to her messages from Jesus, Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Philomena, and several saints and angels, inclusive of the Three Great Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. -Ed.

Message of the Three Archangels – April 5, 2017

St. Michael: Behold, beloved of the Father, we, the Three Archangels, bring you guidance from heaven. Ponder all that we share with you.

Beloved, your Lenten journey has been a difficult one with much suffering through your illnesses. You have embraced your suffering with your all and God is pleased with you. Continue to surrender your all to God as you prepare to enter into Holy Week. During this period, beloved, your suffering for the world will intensify more than ever. The Eternal Father is taking your suffering and helping those souls that live in darkness and those who deny His existence.

Beloved, there is so much suffering in the world. So many souls continue to embrace the ways of the world, and many are on their way to perdition.

Pray and fast unceasingly, especially for the Bride of your Savior throughout the world, for there is much division. The Beast is trying to destroy the Bride of Christ and God’s people throughout the world, but the Beast will be defeated, for you have your heavenly Mother who is the Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. She will crush the head of the Beast.

Keep in mind the power of St. Joseph, for the Beast and his evil forces are much afraid of his powerful intercession, and they flee whenever the name of St Joseph is invoked for assistance.

Beloved, continue your complete surrender, for God is bestowing His mercy upon the world like never before, for the world is in the state of chaos and confusion. Heaven is at your disposal.

Pray your Rosary daily and call upon the Co-Redemptrix to intercede for all her children throughout the world. Peace, beloved, peace.

Note: During Holy Week St. Michael asked Janie to remain quiet and in contemplation for the sins and evil in the world.

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Mary: Co-Redemptrix, Not Co-Equal

Published on February 2, 2017 by in Mariology

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Reprinted from Catholic News
Senior writer LARA PICKFORD-GORDON reports on a talk given by a visiting professor of Theology and Mariology.
Dr Mark Miravalle speaks at the book launch. At right are Prof Courtenay Bartholomew and Kenneth Gordon. Photo: Gerard-Paul Wanliss

Giving Mary the official title of ‘Co-Redemptrix’ may prompt a knee-jerk reaction among some who think this will be “too much” and suggest Mary is equal to Jesus. Dr Mark Miravalle, Professor of Theology and Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, disagrees.
At the December launch of Professor Courtenay Bartholomew’s book, Mary Is the Co-Redemptrix at the Living Water Community, he presented a case to support a fifth dogma of Mary, as Co-Redemptrix.
Dr Miravalle is the president of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, a Catholic movement seeking the solemn papal definition of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Co-Redemptrix (but not co-equal), Mediatrix, and Advocate.
Miravalle made it clear at the start of his presentation the Church has never used co-redemptrix to mean that Mary is equal to Jesus because this would be heresy and blasphemy.
He provided an overview of Church history on Mary as Co-Redemptrix from being the “new Eve”, her participation in giving birth to Jesus and by the end of the first millennium she was seen as sharing in His suffering.
John the Geometer, a Byzantine monk in the 10th century said “Jesus and Mary shared everything in their hearts.” Miravalle said this was the first time the term Redemptrix appeared. St John Paul II said Mary was “spiritually crucified at Calvary and that her role as co-redemptrix does not cease with the glorification of her son”.
According to Miravalle since the 14th century and in doctrinal form since apostolic days, “God has willed that a woman would be intimately involved in the return of grace to the human family”.
Miravalle explained the early Fathers of the Church said God wanted to show his omnipotence over satan by taking three elements which led to loss of grace – a man, a woman and a tree – and using these to restore life. Jesus is the new ‘Adam’; Mary, the new ‘Eve’; and Calvary, the tree.
He made the point that the first example of the term “co-redemptrix” was in the 14th century, and in the 16th century at the Council of Trent, major theological scholar Alphonsus Salmeron “defended the co-redemptive title”.
From the 17th century onwards, Miravalle said there were 300 references to this. “By the 19th century, we have Papal magisterium from Leo XIII to Pope Francis talking about Mary’s unique role as suffering with Jesus.”
There are those who would call Mary just a “physical channel” but he warned against this thinking because “God does not use human beings; God does not use women as physical channels.”

Marian dogmas

There are four dogmas of the Church in relation to Mary: Mary is the Mother of God, Mary’s perpetual virginity, the Immaculate Conception, and the Assumption of Our Lady. Miravalle said a fifth doctrine, Mary as the Mother of man in the order of grace is the only doctrine of Mary that has not been defined.
He said a “good mother” did three fundamental things – suffers for her children, nourishes and forms them, and protects them. Miravalle explained, “What does our Lady do for us? She suffers, that’s her role as Co-Redemptrix; she nourishes, that’s her role as mediatrix of all graces; thirdly, she defends, that’s her role as advocate.”
He questioned if it was blasphemy when popes used “co-redeemer” in Christ to describe the laity. Miravalle paraphrased St Paul’s letter to the Colossians (1:24), which calls on believers “to make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body which is the Church”. This can be done through prayers, offerings and sacrifices made to God. While no one can be as Jesus, the new Adam, or Mary, the new Eve, they can actively participate in the mysterious release of graces and redemption of others.
Miravalle commented, “If we can be called co-redeemers, are we going to deny Mary the ability to be called co-redemptrix? And can we not say Mary did more with Jesus than any other creature? Mary gave Jesus the body that saves us. ”
He contended that two things will happen with acknowledging Mary as co-redemptrix: the focus will go back to the cross, and people will be reminded “human suffering is redemptive…it has supernatural value”.
Miravalle added, “That’s why we can’t accept euthanasia; we can’t accept ending our lives for reason of pain because that can be when we do the most redeeming. Suffering by its very nature is most redemptive when it is united to the heart, sufferings of Jesus, and that is what ‘co-redemptrix’ says.”

World peace

In 1915, Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Cardinal Mercier (1851–1926) started a movement to solemnly define the fifth doctrine of Mary as Spiritual Mother, Co-Redemptrix, and Mediatrix of all graces.
By 1918, he got support from 300 bishops and hundreds of thousands of petitions asking for the definition. On December 1, 1950, the world’s leading mariologists gathered for a meeting and petitioned Pope Pius XII for the dogma.
Miravalle said the message of Fatima provided “a whole message of reparation and co-redemption” and 28 years later, in 1945, Our Lady appeared in Amsterdam as Our Lady of All Nations.
He read a passage from her message on May 31, 1954 in which she said only when she is proclaimed as co-redemptrix will there be world peace.
“The question can be asked, ‘Why do you need a dogma for world peace?’ and the answer is Jesus likes to acknowledge the truth about his mother and he wants us to acknowledge the truth,” Miravalle said. He encouraged Catholics to do their part in praying and petitioning for world peace.
Miravalle said Dr Bartholomew’s “outstanding” book contained elements not mentioned by other mariologists because the author “brought a scientific eye to an area of theology. It is extremely beneficial”.
Using a “research mind with a Marian heart,” he said the book examines “how private revelation can indeed confirm and in some way inspire a proper development of doctrine but always remaining humble, inferior to public revelation as definitively articulated by the magisterium of the Church.” He told attendees he would recommend Mary Is the Co-Redemptrix as required reading for his students at the university.
President Anthony Carmona attended the launch. The opening prayer was given by Fr Thomas Lawson OP, prior of the House of Immaculate Conception, St Finbar’s and the Moderator of the St Ann’s/St Martin’s/Holy Rosary/St Francis cluster; and Kenneth Gordon gave the vote of thanks and launched the book.

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Mary,

The Most Powerful Woman in the World…

4 Dogmas in 20 Centuries, and a 5th to be Defined?

 

It was more than 25 years ago when Dr. Mark Miravalle, Theologian, Mariologist, and president of Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici, invited me to participate in his Marian Apostolate, the goal of which is to work for the proclamation of a 5th Marian dogma. Honestly, I was both puzzled and surprised at the invitation. Surprised, because I work as a consultant on social and environmental issues, and am not accustomed to invitations of the religious nature.  Puzzled, because I was ignorant of Marian dogmas in general when I learned that the Catholic Church already had proclaimed four of them during the last twenty centuries! In light of these dogmas, “Mary, the Most Powerful Woman in the World” —the National Geographic piece that inspired my writing of this series of articles— presents a topic of even greater and lasting significance than I would have previously imagined. It concerns matters of great depth to be both explored and shared.

 

To begin with, I acknowledge my ignorance on the topic of Marian dogmas. I know that many Catholics, and even non-Catholics, are already well aware of them and their history. Therefore, I will present what I believe is most relevant with regard to the dogmas, since so much information can be obtained from the many books, articles, symposiums, and conferences, dedicated to the four Marian dogmas, simply by making use of the sources available on the Internet.

 

Before I go on, I would like to offer some reflections on the “Magnificat” (Lk. 1:46-55), which, as I mentioned in the previous article, is perhaps the most challenging self-prophetic statement declared by any human being at a given time. Twenty centuries later, it would have its perfect and verifiable fulfillment. It is my hope all would read and pray with it, striving to delve into the meaning of every word especially, “…from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (49-50).

 

  • I can say with certainty that in this very moment, all over the world, just as in generations past, there are hundreds of thousands of people greeting Our Lady, remembering her, and seeking her intercession through hundreds of different prayers and devotions, especially through the “Hail Mary” and the Rosary.

 

  • The words “all generations” and “generation to generation,” assure us that, as it has always been it will continue to be, despite whatever crises the world might face and even the Catholic Church herself.

 

  • What does Our Lady mean by the “great deeds” the Lord has done for her? The answer is itself related to the four Marian dogmas. No other woman in the history of mankind has received such great titles, proclaimed in such a solemn manner. Titles which have been confirmed in her apparitions, miracles, and extraordinary interventions, some of which are presented in Moureen Orth’s National Geographic

 

  • It is amazing to reflect on the fact that the words spoken by a simple young girl in a little town in Israel were remembered and passed on by her cousin, Elizabeth, so that 20 centuries later we are able to read them in Luke’s Gospel! This is a simple historic yet extraordinary fact naturally grabs our attention because it transcends the human and is only comprehensible through the eyes of faith. Indeed, Moureen, there cannot be an explanation under the light of the sole human reasoning. Faith is necessary to reach an understanding of the truth of so many facts that are extraordinary as well as inexplicable purely through science.

 

Synthesizing those “great deeds the Almighty has done for Her”, we can consider the following solemn proclamations:

 

  1. Mother of God –the Theotókos– Declared by Pope Celestine I in 431 at the Council of Ephesus…This dogma confirmed that Mary is truly the Mother of God, as she bore the flesh and body of Jesus Christ.

 

  1. Perpetual Virgin –before, during, and after the birth of Christ– Declared in 649 by Pope Saint Martin I at the Lateran Council, the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity confirmed that as Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb without man, Our Lady’s kept her virginity before His birth. She also retained her virginity after His birth, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Isaiah 7:14), pronounced seven centuries before this event.

 

  1. Immaculate Conception: Declared in December of 1854 by Pope Pio IX twelve years after the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity by way of the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus. It affirmed “the blessed Virgin Mary was preserved immune of any stain from the original sin, right from the very instant of her conception by the unique grace and privilege of Almighty God, corresponding to the merits of Jesus Christ Savior of the humankind.”

 

  1. Assumption into Heaven: Declared in 1950 by Pope Pio XII, the dogma of the assumption affirms that, after her death –or the Virgin’s transit– Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, perpetual Virgin, “once her earthly life was completed, she was taken to the celestial glory in body and soul,” sharing with her Son the glorification of her body that did not know corruption.

 

Nonetheless, one still might ask, “What is a dogma?” And, is there a need for a new solemn proclamation regarding the Holy Virgin Mary?

 

In order to move toward a deeper understanding, here are some points to consider:

  • The Church has defined some truths as dogmas of faith. That is not to say that before these dogmas were proclaimed, they were untrue. Raising a doctrine to the level of dogma makes belief has started to be mandatory upon their definition.
  • It is not the invention of a doctrine that defines it as such, but the authoritative Divine Revelation of God Himself.
  • Sometimes the emergence of new misunderstandings of the foundations of the faith has prompted the Church to define and declare again what has always been true because the circumstances at the time required clarification.
  • Dogmas are not arbitrarily declared by the Church. They are objective truths illuminated by the light of the Holy Spirit, given to the Church through Pentecost. They are not walls to limit our intelligence but rather to give clarity and to dissipate the darkness of error.
  • Just as there are immutable and absolute truths in the sciences, so it is in the realm of faith. In both instances, denying such truths would result in moving backwards and losing fundamental principles. What has been defined by the Church’s educational practice cannot and must not be changed since it would deny the objective truth. Hence, Mary is the Mother of God and Catholics worldwide accept this and believe it in communion with the pope.
  • Although it is not mandatory for non-Catholics to accept these dogmas, they still might wish to know what “wonders” God has done for her. The extraordinary power she has demonstrated throughout the centuries certainly gives us all reasons enough to learn about Mary, regardless of the obligatory nature of the dogmas.

 

…Still, one might pose the question of necessity regarding a 5th Marian dogma since four have already been defined.

 

As it was explained to me, the four existing dogmas are about Our Lady herself.  However, since the beginning of the last century, there has been an increase in research regarding the Mother’s relationship with us, ‘her spiritual children.’ From the cross, Jesus gave his Mother to us through John, His beloved disciple, a gift that synthesizes the relevance of a 5th dogma that will declare Mary as Spiritual Mother of Mankind.

 

  1. More than 100 years ago, Cardinal François-Joseph Mercier started a campaign to respectfully request the Pope to define the universal mediation of Mary.
  2. In the 1920’s Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe was already asking for Mary to be proclaimed as Co-redeemer and Mediator of all graces.
  3. Just five years after the dogma of the Assumption of Mary–in 1955– the Mexican Bishops sent a petition signed by all –a total of 42– to Pope Pio XII respectfully requesting him for the solemn proclamation of Her as “Our Mother in the Order of the Grace”.
  4. Four years later, the majority of those bishops, and some new ones, sent a second request with a total of 38 signatures, confirming their petition now addressed to Pope John XXIII, who was at the time, Cardinal José Garibi Rivera, the first Mexican Cardinal.
  5. From 1994 to date, 82 Mexican Pastors have contacted the Popes John Paul VI, Benedict XVI, and Francis to ask again for that dogmatic proclamation, promoted by Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici – being the only case in the history of the Church that in the last 60 years is requested in humbleness and obedience, in three occasions and by the majority at the time–.
  6. To date, this amounts to 576 Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops of 79 countries around the world that have petitioned. The movement has been supported by more than 4,200 Contemplative Sisters, and nearly 70 million of baptized believers that have asked verbally or in writing.
  7. It is furthermore stated that The Lady of All Nations asked for the dogma to be proclaimed on no less than 39 occasions in 56 messages through 15 years of apparitions. These messages have been deemed to be of divine nature on May 31st of 2002 by the Ordinary Bishop (local) José María Punt, in a new dogmatic proclamation under the title of Co-redeemer, Mediator, and Advocate.
  8. Since its approval, the image and the prayer dictated by Our Lady to Ida Peerdeman has already been translated into 70 languages, has been given official authorization (imprimatur) from more than 60 Bishops. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed it while Pope Emeritus Benedicto XVI acted as its Prefect, placing only the concept of Advocate in the prayer.

 

Without a doubt, all that has been stated above provides reason enough to regard Mary –that humble, young Nazarene girl, now glorified with 4 dogmas of faith solemnly proclaimed– as the Most Powerful Woman in the World. This goes well beyond the human phenomenon presented in the article of National Geographic. It is sustained through two millennia of active and constant presence, particularly during the last two centuries. The vast number of miracles, scientifically inexplicable, attributed to her extraordinary and verifiable interventions, gives us a glimpse with increasing clarity that this is a worldwide phenomenon that goes beyond the ‘breaking news’ scenarios. This takes us to another undeniable dimension: this is, indeed, about a human-spiritual reality that the faith requires, and it is supported for all men and women of good will and open spirit –believers and non-believers from all over the world. We are prompted to listen and to be moved by the Mother whose concern is for her children, when we see tears of blood flowing from her images and statues (101 verified events), because, if the world keeps on its current path, we will be facing the serious danger of an unprecedented punishment, as she herself has warned.

 

We all yearn for peace. We all seek happiness and prosperity in a more inhabitable world where we respect one another regardless of our differences. This is not a utopian ideal, for when truth, justice and peace reign again, acknowledging that we all have a common origin as passengers on this blue spacecraft that has been navigating for millennia, by an act of love of one God that is Love, and to Him we reach. Mary, the Mother of the One that was crucified, and from Whom radiates all the power she reveals to the favor of her spiritual children, by participating in the redemption in a unique manner, invites us to return to Him, God, as the safest way for universal coexistence and fraternity.

 

Her image and her prayer are the tools she gives us in order that we may participate in this mission of peace. We must also persist in petitioning Pope Francis to proclaim her as our Mother Co-redeemer, Mediator, and Advocate, so that her wish is fulfilled: “With this title She will save the world”. (20/3/53)

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The Paradox of God’s Predilection

By Jonathan Fleischmann

 

Recently, Pope Francis, like so many of his predecessors in the Chair of St. Peter, has emphasized God’s special predilection for sinners. Indeed, not on one occasion only, but on many occasions, our Pontiff has taken great pains to make the fact of God’s particular love for sinners abundantly clear, as for example when he said that “the ability to acknowledge our own sins, to acknowledge our misery, to acknowledge what we are and what we are capable of doing or have done, is the very door that opens us to the Lord’s caress, his forgiveness.”[1] On another occasion, he said, “Only one who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy truly knows the Lord. The privileged place of encounter is the caress of Jesus’ mercy regarding my sin. This is why you may have heard me say, several times, that the place for this, the privileged place of the encounter with Jesus Christ, is my sin.”[2]

 

It is precisely this acknowledgement of personal sin—this caress and encounter—which are exemplified by the woman, Mary Magdalene, who washed Christ’s feet with her tears, and caressed and dried them with her hair.[3] And it is precisely the self-emptying and self-accusing humility of this woman that the Pope has contrasted on numerous occasions to the self-referential and self-congratulatory pride of the Pharisees, one of whom was Jesus’ host when the woman approached Him. The Pope observed that this Pharisee “cannot understand the simple gesture [of Mary Magdalene]: the simple gestures of the people. Perhaps this man had forgotten how to caress a baby, how to console a grandmother.”[4]

 

Significantly, Jesus does not rebuke the Pharisee in a harsh way for his lack of understanding, but rather He gently explains the woman’s actions to him by means of the following parable: “‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.’ And he said to him, ‘You have judged rightly’” (Lk 7:41-43). Thus, Jesus, in His own words, seems to tell us that the one who has sinned more, and subsequently been forgiven by the Heavenly Father, like the prodigal son (cf. Lk 15:11-32), will of necessity love God more than the one who, like the elder brother, has sinned less, and so has less need of the Father’s forgiveness. “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Lk 7:47).

 

This familiar and beautiful passage of Scripture has enormous implications for us, and for the whole Church. It means, quite simply, that we have cause for hope, for who among us is without sin? (cf. Jn 8:7). Who among us does not long to hear the words of Christ, our Judge, addressed to Satan, very likely even as he lays his hands on us to drag us down to hell: “Leave her alone!” (Jn 12:7). “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much!” (Lk 7:47). It is precisely on account of this hope that the Church cries out in exultation, “O felix culpa! O happy fault!”[5] In the words of Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet:[6]

 

There is nothing more touching in the Gospel than the way God treats his reconciled enemies—that is, converted sinners. He is not content to wipe away the stain of their sins. It is easy for his infinite goodness to prevent our sins from hurting us; he also wants them to profit us. He brings forth so much good from them that we are constrained to bless our faults and to cry out with the Church, “O happy fault! O felix culpa!” His graces struggle against our sins for the mastery, and it pleases him, as St. Paul said, that his “grace abound” in excess of our malice (cf. Rom 5:20).[7]

 

If we meditate on this truth of our Faith with complete honesty for very long, however, we must admit a seemingly unresolvable paradox. If God is pure Goodness, how can he prefer sin to preserved innocence? One may reply that “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner,” just as we are called to do in his image. However, this does not solve the difficulty, because one could still point out that the existence of “the sinner” presupposes “the sin” that has already been committed, and if God actually preferred that we would be sinners (so that we could love him more), then it would necessarily follow that he would prefer that we sin, rather than preserve our innocence.

 

Strange, and almost blasphemous, as this may seem, it is a tremendously important and recurrent topic of theological discussion, particularly within the Protestant denominations of Christianity. This very question, and the answer provided by Martin Luther,[8] is arguably, for better or for worse, the basis of Protestantism. One must not deny that there is much at stake in the answer to this question. Is it possible that God has “set us up” to sin, without any possibility of retaining the purity of soul that we had at the moment of our baptism, just so that He could make our sins profit us by forgiving them, by making us love him more than we would have if we had not sinned? Luther pondered this question, and he insisted (naïvely) on the following answer:

 

Here, then, is something fundamentally necessary and salutary for a Christian, to know that God foreknows nothing contingently, but that he foresees and purposes and does all things by his immutable, eternal, and infallible will. Here is a thunderbolt by which free choice is completely prostrated and shattered… From this it follows irrefutably that everything we do, everything that happens, even if it seems to us to happen mutably and contingently, happens in fact nonetheless necessarily and immutably, if you have regard to the will of God… This is the highest degree of faith, to believe him merciful when he saves so few and damns so many, and to believe him righteous when by his own will he makes us necessarily damnable, so that he seems, according to Erasmus, to delight in the torments of the wretched and to be worthy of hatred rather than of love.[9]

 

Here, Luther can perhaps be given credit for asking an honest question. His answer, however, that it is the highest degree of faith to believe at one and the same time that (1) God “saves so few and damns so many” necessarily by an arbitrary choice of his divine will, with no regard for their own freedom or ability to choose goodness over sin, or their own personal merit; and (2) God is worthy of love rather than hatred, seems more like lunacy than piety. For one thing, it makes a mockery of the familiar invocation of the Lord’s Prayer: “lead us not into temptation” (Mt 6:13). Indeed, with his view in mind, it is no surprise that Luther advised his disciples to “sin boldly”! What can be said in reply to this proposition of Luther’s? To answer Luther adequately, we must enter the theological realm of grace and merit, which is notoriously thorny and “dangerous” territory, as Fr. John Hardon affirms:

 

The theology of grace is not simple, as may be seen from the sequence of errors strewn along the path of the Church’s history. The complexity of the subject is due as much to its intrinsically mysterious character, since it deals with nothing less than the life of God shared by his creatures, as to our natural proneness to rationalize and explain everything in this-worldly terms. Yet a clear grasp of the basic principles is useful and may at times be indispensable, for directing oneself and others on the road to salvation. It is no coincidence that the great heresies on grace, like Pelagianism and Jansenism, had a profound influence on the morals and spiritual life of those who professed these errors; and that influence is still exerted centuries after the original aberrations arose.[10]

 

Despite the complexity of the theology of grace and merit, God has provided his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church with the answer key: the Holy Mother of God. It is no coincidence that Mary has been called from time immemorial The Destroyer of All Heresies. It is also no coincidence that the so-called great heresies of grace, including Pelagianism, Jansenism, and Protestantism in general, are overwhelmingly hostile to the Marian doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic Church, especially the unique grace of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. According to the Pelagians, Mary’s Immaculate Conception is unnecessary, because they believe that human nature is untainted by original sin, and therefore able to obtain salvation by its own power, without the necessity of grace. According to the Jansenists, Mary’s Immaculate Conception is impossible (a “pious exaggeration” at best, or “Mariolotry” at worst), because they believe that human depravity is absolute and irrevocable after the fall and, therefore, incompatible with any form of personal merit based on preserved innocence or freedom from sin.

 

For the Catholic, Mary provides a strikingly simple—humble—answer regarding the question of God’s preference: Does God prefer the repentant sinner or the one who has never sinned? While this would be a moot question for most of us, the question takes on concrete meaning and importance in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, in the words of Pope Francis, “by unique privilege, was preserved from original sin from the very moment of her conception. Even living in a world marked by sin, she was not touched by it: Mary is our sister in suffering, but not in evil or in sin. Instead, evil was conquered in her even before deflowering her, because God had filled her with grace (cf. Lk 1:28). The Immaculate Conception signifies that Mary is the first one to be saved by the infinite mercy of the Father, which is the first fruit of salvation which God wills to give to every man and woman in Christ. For this reason, the Immaculate One has become the sublime icon of the divine mercy which conquered sin.”[11]

 

It is not possible to imagine that Jesus Christ could love any creature more than His sinless Mother, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, on whom Eternal Wisdom chose to bestow His unchangeable predilection before the creation of the world; and this is the complete answer to our question! Once again, in the words of Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet:

 

If this is the case, then should we say that repentant sinners are more worthy than those who have not sinned, or justice reestablished is preferable to innocence preserved? No, we must not doubt that innocence is always best…

 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is holiness itself, and although He is pleased to see at His feet the sinner who has returned to the path of righteousness, He nevertheless loves with a stronger love the innocent one who has never strayed. The innocent one approaches nearer to Him and imitates Him more perfectly, and so He honors him with a closer familiarity. However much beauty His eyes may see in the tears of a penitent, it can never equal the chaste attraction of an ever-faithful holiness. These are the sentiments of Jesus according to His divine nature, but He took on other ones for the love of us when He became our Savior. God prefers the innocent, but let us rejoice: the merciful Savior came to seek out the guilty. He lives only for sinners, because it is to sinners that He was sent…

 

And so this good Doctor, as Son of God prefers the innocent, but as Savior seeks out the guilty. Here is the mystery illuminated by a holy and evangelical doctrine. It is full of consolation for sinners such as we are, but it also honors the holy and perpetual innocence of Mary.[12]

 

Indeed, not only does this holy and evangelical (and, if we may reiterate, simple, and eminently humble) doctrine honor the holy and perpetual innocence of Mary, it also provides the fundamental argument in support of the dogma of her Immaculate Conception, which was first stated by the Franciscan theologian Bl. John Duns Scotus in his famous disputation with the Dominican theologians at the University of Paris in 1306 (or 1307).[13] In effect, there must be at least one perfect creature after the fall of Adam and Eve—with perfect innocence, perfectly redeemed from the moment of her creation—or else we must admit that Christ is not a perfect redeemer. This argument is essentially reiterated by Bossuet as follows:

 

For if it is true that the Son of God loves innocence so well, could it be that He would find none at all upon the earth? Shall He not have the satisfaction of seeing someone like unto Himself, or who at least approaches His purity from afar? Must Jesus, the Innocent One, be always among sinners, without ever having the consolation of meeting an unstained soul? And who would that be, if not His holy Mother? Yes, let this merciful Savior, who has taken upon Himself all of our guilt, spend His life running after sinners; let Him go and seek them in every corner of Palestine; but let Him find in His own home and under His own roof what will satisfy His eyes with the steady and lasting beauty of incorruptible holiness!…

 

He chose Peter, Matthew, and Paul for us, but He chose Mary for Himself. For us: “Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas… all are yours” (cf. 1 Cor 3:22); for Himself: “My beloved is mine,” and I am hers (cf. Song 2:16). Those whom He called for others, He drew forth from sin, so that they might the better proclaim His mercy. His plan was to give hope to those souls beaten down by sin. Who could more effectively preach divine mercy than those who were themselves its illustrious examples?…

 

Yet if He treated in this way those whom He called for the sake of us sinners, we must not think that He did the same for the dear creature, the extraordinary creature, the unique and privileged creature whom He made for Himself, whom He chose to be His Mother. In His apostles and ministers, He brought about what would be most useful for the salvation of all, but in His holy Mother, He did what was sweetest, most glorious, and most satisfying for Himself, and, consequently, He made Mary to be innocent. “My beloved is mine,” and I am hers…

 

We must not persuade ourselves that to distinguish Mary from Jesus we must take away her innocence and leave it to her Son alone… To distinguish Mary from Jesus, there is no need to put sin into the mix. It suffices that her innocence be a weaker light. That light belongs to Jesus by right, but to Mary by privilege; to Jesus by nature, to Mary by grace and favor. We honor the source in Jesus, and in Mary a flowing forth from the source… The innocence of Jesus is the life and salvation of sinners, and so the innocence of the Blessed Virgin serves to obtain pardon for sinners. Let us look upon this holy and innocent creature as the sure support for our misery and go and wash our sins in the bright light of her incorruptible purity.[14]

 

According to Bl. John Duns Scotus, “grace is the sole root of merit.”[15] However, besides the conditions for merit (de condigno) that are intrinsic to the act (such as “goodness, righteousness, conformity with reason, intensity of charity, etc.”) and intrinsic to the person performing the act (such as the conditions that the person must be “in the state of pilgrimage” and in the state of sanctifying grace), Bl. John Duns Scotus adds, “I believe that there is one other condition, to be verified as actual in fact, namely, the acceptability of such merit to God: not only in virtue of that common acceptance, whereby God accepts every creature… but in virtue of a special acceptance, which is the ordaining of this act by the divine will to eternal life, as condign merit worthy of reward.”[16]

 

The fact that merit depends on divine acceptance means essentially that merit, like grace, is not deterministic from our point of view as creatures, because merit, like grace, ultimately depends on the divine will—ergo, the demise of all forms of causal or natural determinism (such as Pelagianism).  The divine will, however, is not arbitrary, because once he has chosen, God contracts certain “responsibilities” consistent with who he is, such as his “duty” to honor his Mother—ergo, the demise of all forms of “theistic” or supernatural determinism (such as Jansenism, Calvinism, and Lutheranism), as well as Gnosticism, and all its “practical” variants (such as nominalism and voluntarism).  God cannot contradict himself—and this is no limitation on his omnipotence, but rather an expression of His infinitude, or limitlessness, since a contradiction is in fact a limitation—and so he cannot act in a way that is inconsistent with who he is. This fact is at the heart of the mystery of “why God has preferences,”[17] which is spoken of at some length by St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Doctor of the Little Way, at the beginning of her autobiography:

 

Before taking up my pen, I knelt before a statue of Mary (the one that has given so many proofs of the maternal preferences of heaven’s Queen for our family), and I begged her to guide my hand that it trace no line displeasing to her. Then opening the Holy Gospels my eyes fell on these words: “And going up a mountain, he called to him men of his own choosing, and they came to him” (Mk 3:13). This is the mystery of my vocation, my whole life, and especially the mystery of the privileges Jesus showered on my soul. He does not call those who are worthy but those whom He pleases, or as St. Paul says: “God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will show pity to whom he will show pity. So then there is question not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy” (Rom 9:15).[18]

 

In his monumental work, the Mariology of Blessed John Duns Scotus, Fr. Ruggero Rosini explains:

 

Once it is understood that merit depends upon divine acceptance, merit by its very nature is then intrinsically the same for everyone [that is, the term “merit” can be used univocally for everyone, though the degree of merit is not the same]: Christ, Mary and the just. The difference lies in its extension. Scotus explains this by the fact that merit, not consisting in the personal act alone, is in some way also constituted by the circumstances in which the person accomplishes the meritorious act; hence God, in accepting the act, also accepts the circumstances of the one who performs the meritorious work…

 

We saw that Christ merited for all [by His redemptive sacrifice on the Cross], Mary included; by virtue of His divine Person He was able to merit in an infinite manner. In Mary, of course, we do not have an infinite person; however, in her case there is a circumstance which intimately links her to the very Person of the Word; and it is her divine Maternity. And if one participates in Christ’s perfections according to one’s degree of closeness to Him, certainly nobody was nor ever shall be characterized by a more rigorous union with Christ Himself than Mary.[19]

 

It is precisely in her alliance with Christ that Mary is unique, chosen by Christ for Himself, set apart by eternal decree in the divine intention of God the Father before the creation of the world to be the Immaculate Mother of his Son; and at the same time it is precisely in her alliance with Christ that Mary is like us. Once again, Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet eloquently explains:

 

Theology teaches us that the differences we see in things are a result of Divine Wisdom. As Wisdom establishes order in things, it must also bring about the differences without which there can be no order…

 

Thus, the Blessed Virgin was set apart, and in her separation she possesses something in common with all men and something all her own. To understand this, we must realize that we have been set apart from the rest of men and women because we belong to Jesus and have an alliance with Him. But Jesus made two alliances with the Blessed Virgin: one as Savior and another as Son. The alliance with Jesus as Savior means that she must be set apart like the other faithful; the special alliance with Jesus as her Son means that she must be set apart in an extraordinary fashion.

 

Divine Wisdom, in the beginning you separated the elements out of the original confusion; here too there is confusion to dispel. Here is the whole of guilty mankind from which one creature must be set apart so that she may become the Mother of her Creator. If the other faithful are delivered from evil, she must be preserved from it. And how? By a special communication of the privileges of her Son. He is exempt from sin, and Mary must also be exempt. O Wisdom, you have set her apart from the other faithful, but do not mix her together with her Son, because she must be infinitely beneath Him. How shall we distinguish her from Him, if they are both exempt from sin? Jesus was by nature, and Mary by grace; Jesus by right, and Mary by privilege and indulgence. See her thus set apart: “he who is mighty has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49).[20]

 

On a theological level, if one wishes to argue that God would prefer sin to innocence, even if the sin that he would prefer is only a “means to an end” to make us love him more, then one has no choice but to postulate a change in the very essence of the eternal Godhead. Rather than the divine nature being goodness, pure and simple, the divine nature would need to include at least some admixture of sin or evil, even if this “evil” is understood only as a privation of the objective “goods” of beauty, truth, love, etc. That is, one would have no choice but to understand the words of St. Paul—“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21)—to be taken in the literal sense, and to apply to the divinity of Christ as well as to His humanity.

 

We know that Christ suffered in His humanity. Indeed, we know that Christ’s merit in His suffering was infinite, in virtue of His Infinite Person, which His human nature shares with His divine nature (two natures, one person). However, if we claim that Christ’s suffering extended beyond His human nature to His divine nature, then we are actually claiming that a contradiction exists in the eternal Triune Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is one of the basic tenets of the heresy called Patripassianism, since if the Son suffered with His divine nature as well as with His human nature, then it must follow that the Holy Spirit and the eternal Father (Patri-) suffered (passio) with Him.

 

But here’s the rub: by definition, suffering is a privation of the objective goods of health and happiness, just as death is the privation of the objective good of life. Thus, in a formal sense, suffering is an evil. If one claims that the divine nature can admit any kind of suffering, then one must admit the existence of evil in God. This was effectively the position of Martin Luther, and it continues to hold an attraction, even among Catholic theologians of our own time (such as Karl Rahner).

 

Anyone who has loved another person deeply knows what it means to “love the faults” of another person. This means that one sees in the beloved person (perhaps in his or her physical appearance or in his or her behavior) unique traits that one considers truly beautiful and desirable, despite the fact that others who do not love that person may consider the same traits ugly and undesirable. This in no way means that we love things in our beloved that are objectively unlovable or evil! Indeed, unless we are disordered or selfish in our desires (in which case we cannot speak of love) then those special traits that we see and love in our beloved, and that the world may call faults, are undoubtedly objectively lovable, since the world rarely appreciates what is truly beautiful. God, above all, sees and loves the true goodness in every person he has created—more so than any human lover could.

 

Perhaps it is a misguided sort of romanticism, or a mistaken analogy between the true form of “loving the faults” of a person, which is really just another form of loving a person’s goodness, and a false notion of “loving the sin” of a person, that has led some theologians (ancient and modern) to try to force a love for sin on God, thereby embracing some form of Patripassianism. Be that as it may, it was for this reason that Bl. John Duns Scotus was reluctant to affirm that Christ’s suffering was infinite in itself, even though the merit of Christ’s suffering was infinite in value because of divine acceptance.

 

Ultimately, what is at stake here is the distinction of the human will of Jesus Christ and the divine will of the Eternal Word, which are not identical. Indeed, the heresy of Monotheletism, which claims that the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ have only one shared will, was condemned in the Lateran Council of 649, which was summoned by Pope St. Martin I (d. 655) expressly to deal with this heresy. The summoning of this council was one of Pope St. Martin I’s first official acts as Pope, and it resulted in his almost immediate exile and martyrdom, since the heresy had the support of the reigning Byzantine emperor Constans II. The heresy of Monotheletism, which at first sight may seem of little consequence (though Pope St. Martin literally gave his life to fight against it), is a serious error, because if Jesus has no free human will of His own, then His temptations in the desert (cf. Mt 4:1-11) can only be considered “symbolic.” And if the Master’s confrontation with and victory over temptation were merely symbolic, then where does that leave the Master’s servant when he or she is faced with temptation, except in a state of utter despair and subsequent abandonment to sin? (Hence, Luther’s advice to his disciples to “sin boldly.”) Moreover, historically, the heresy of Monotheletism leads quickly to another heresy, called Monophysitism, which claims that Jesus Christ has only one nature (divine), and not two natures (divine and human). This heresy was condemned in the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681.

 

According to Bl. John Duns Scotus, divine acceptance is a manifestation of the divine will (free, but not arbitrary); and, thus, the ordering of the “relative infinities” of both Jesus and Mary, which include their glories, graces, and merits, is ultimately a manifestation of divine love. In the words of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner:

 

The human love of Christ, all perfect and sinless: viz., maximal, nonetheless remains formally and objectively finite. To claim otherwise is to confuse the human will of Christ with the divine (Monotheletism, ultimately leading to Monophysitism and some form of Patripassianism or suffering on the part of the divine nature to explain the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus, a position subsequently, effectively embraced by Luther and seemingly by Rahner in our times.[21]

 

It is by divine acceptance that Mary can merit grace with Christ, because of the unique intimacy of her union with Him. This Scotistic understanding of merit forms the theological foundation for the Catholic doctrine (not yet dogma) of Marian Coredemption with Christ. What may seem like an esoteric doctrine to Catholics who do not understand its importance, Marian Coredemption (which is necessarily related to Mary’s mediation of all graces) is actually a critical doctrine for a correct understanding of the God-Man Jesus Christ, in all His mystery and incarnate reality. Just as the Marian title “Theotókos” and the ascription of divine Maternity to Mary at the Council of Ephesus safeguarded the divine Personhood of Jesus Christ against the heresy of Nestorianism, which claims that the God-Man Jesus Christ and the Eternal Word are separate persons (or that Jesus Christ is two persons with two natures, rather than one person with two natures), so the Marian title “Coredemptrix” and the ascription of merit de condigno to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the work of the objective Redemption, on the basis of personal sanctity and divine acceptance, safeguard the human nature and free human will of Jesus Christ against the errors of Monophysitism and Monotheletism, which lead to the rejection of the possibility of merit for any human being, and consequently despair and abandonment of morality. In the words of Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner:

 

Either Mary is Mediatrix of all graces because She is Coredemptrix, or there is no fruitful mediation: magisterial, pastoral, sacramental, charismatic, by anyone in the Church.  In rejecting the maternal mediation of Mary in the Church and her invocation (not merely her veneration) in time of trouble and the practice of true devotion to her, the Protestant reformation logically also rejected the mediation of the Church, in particular priestly-sacramental. With this, it becomes clear that the slogan [of Luther], Christus solus, is simply a modern western version of the ancient Monophysitism and Monotheletism: a radical denial of the very possibility of creaturely, free cooperation (merit and good works above all) in the work of redemption, beginning with the divine Maternity and effecting of the Incarnation. The mystery of Mary as Mediatrix, whether affirmed or denied, becomes the center of a controversy over grace and justification, faith and good works, above all over the mission of the Holy Spirit and of life in the Spirit in the realization of the plan of salvation. The reason is this: at the center of the working of the Spirit is the maternal mediation of the Virgin Mother.[22]

 

Stephen Ray insightfully likens the Marian doctrines of the Catholic Church to the moat around a castle: they are there to help define and defend the doctrines of Christ.[23] Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) goes even further:

 

Conversely: only when it touches Mary and becomes Mariology is Christology itself as radical as the faith of the Church requires. The appearance of a truly Marian awareness serves as the touchstone indicating whether or not the Christological substance is fully present. Nestorianism involves the fabrication of a Christology from which the nativity and the Mother are removed, a Christology without Mariological consequences. Precisely this operation, which surgically removes God so far from man that nativity and maternity—all of corporeality—remain in a different sphere, indicated unambiguously to the Christian consciousness that the discussion no longer concerned the Incarnation (becoming flesh), that the center of Christ’s mystery was endangered, if not already destroyed. Thus, in Mariology, Christology was defended. Far from belittling Christology, it signifies the comprehensive triumph of a confession of faith in Christ which has achieved authenticity.[24]

 

When discussing merit and grace, “safety” is found precisely in the arms of Our Mother, the Destroyer of All Heresies. Indeed, it is precisely by giving us His Mother as an example that God has provided us with an infallible “answer key” to the subtle problems of grace and merit, guiding the Barque of St. Peter with a sure rudder to the true “Catholic Middle-Ground” between “the two shoals of despairing of man’s native powers because of the fall, or ignoring original sin and so exalting human nature that nothing is supposed to be impossible to man.”[25]

 

Thus, while we rejoice ceaselessly that Christ came “not to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners” (Lk 5:32), we rejoice equally that it was the Holy Innocence of the Blessed Virgin Mary that pleased the Eye of the Thrice Holy Trinity, as does the same innocence in those who are most perfectly conformed to the pure image of the beloved Daughter, Spouse, and Mother of God. That is why, within the hagiography of the Catholic Church, for every penitent Augustine, there is a pure Agnes; for every convert Paul, there is a constant Pio. Great is Mary Magdalene, but infinitely greater is Mary, the Mother of God, and the Mother of us. For, in the words of Charles Péguy:

 

They say they’re full of experience; they gain from experience.

[D]ay by day they pile up their experience. Some treasure! says God.

A treasure of emptiness and of dearth…

A treasure of wrinkles and worries.

The treasure of the lean years…

 

What you call experience, your experience, I call dissipation, diminishment, decrease, the loss of innocence.

It’s a perpetual degradation.

No, it is innocence that is full and experience that is empty.

It is innocence that wins and experience that loses.

It is innocence that is young and experience that is old.

It is innocence that increases and experience that decreases.

It is innocence that is born and experience that dies.

It is innocence that knows and experience that does not know.

It is the child who is full and the man who is empty.

Like an empty gourd, like an empty beer-barrel.

So, then, says God, that’s what I think of your “experience.”[26]

 

 

 

 

This article originally appeared in the Marian catechetical review magazine Missio Immaculatae International, vol. 12, no. 5 (September/October 2016), pp. 7-15.  For more information, visit  http://www.marymediatrix.com/what-we-do/missio-immaculatae-magazine/.

 

[1] Pope Francis, Homily, Sept 18, 2014.

[2] Pope Francis, Address to the Communion and Liberation Movement, March 7, 2015.

[3] Cf. Lk 7:36-50, Mt 26:6-13, Mk 14:3-9, Jn 11:2 and 12:3. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The Greek Fathers, as a whole, distinguish the three persons: the sinner of Luke 7:36-50; the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Luke 10:38-42 and John 11; and Mary Magdalene. On the other hand, most of the Latins hold that these three were one and the same.” Indeed, St. John leaves us little choice but to identify the first two as one and the same woman, when he clearly tells us that Bethany was the name of “the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill” (Jn 11:1-2).

[4] Pope Francis, Homily, Sept 18, 2014.

[5] From the Exultet, or Easter Proclamation, sung at the Easter Vigil Mass.

[6] Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (d. 1704) was a French bishop and theologian. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Bossuet was one of the greatest orators of all time, “the greatest, perhaps, who has ever appeared in the Christian pulpit—greater than Chrysostom and greater than Augustine; the only man whose name can be compared in eloquence with those of Cicero and of Demosthenes (1617-70).”

[7] Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Meditations on Mary, edited and translated by Christopher Blum, Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, NH, 2015, p. 23.

[8] Martin Luther (d. 1546) initiated the Protestant reformation with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517.

[9] Martin Luther, On the Bondage of the Will, from Luther’s Works vol. 33, pp. 37-63.

[10] John Hardon, SJ, History and Theology of Grace, Sapientia Press, Ave Maria, FL, 2002, pp. xiii-xiv.

[11] Pope Francis, Angelus for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8, 2015.

[12] Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Meditations on Mary, edited and translated by Christopher Blum, Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, NH, 2015, pp. 24-25.

[13] Cf. Stefano Manelli, FI, Blessed John Duns Scotus: Marian Doctor, Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2011.

[14] Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Meditations on Mary, edited and translated by Christopher Blum, Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, NH, 2015, pp. 25-27.

[15] Ruggero Rosini, OFM, Mariology of Blessed John Duns Scotus, translated by Peter Damian Fehlner, FI, Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2008, p. 173.

[16] Bl. John Duns Scotus, Ordinatio, I, d. 17, pars 1, q. 1-2, n. 129, in ibid., p. 167, footnote 77.

[17] St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, Third Edition, Translated from the Original Manuscripts by John Clarke, OCD, ICS Publications, Washington, DC, 1996, p. 13.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ruggero Rosini, OFM, Mariology of Blessed John Duns Scotus, translated by Peter Damian Fehlner, FI, Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2008, pp. 173-175.

[20] Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Meditations on Mary, edited and translated by Christopher Blum, Sophia Institute Press, Manchester, NH, 2015, pp. 12-14.

[21] Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., “Coredemption and the Assumption in the Franciscan School of Mariology: The ‘Franciscan Thesis’ as Key” in Mariological Studies in Honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe—I, Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2013, p. 207.

[22] Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., “Opening Address” in Mary at the Foot of the Cross—VII: Coredemptrix, therefore Mediatrix of All Graces. Acts of the Seventh International Symposium on Marian Coredemption, Academy of the Immaculate, New Bedford, MA, 2008, p. 3.

[23] Cf. Stephen Ray, “Mary, the Mother of God” in The Footprints of God video documentary series, Ignatius Press, Ft. Collins, CO, 2003.

[24] Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), Daughter Zion: Meditations on the Church’s Marian Belief, translated by John McDermott, S.J., Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA, 1983, pp. 35-36.

[25] John Hardon, S.J., History and Theology of Grace, Sapientia Press, Ave Maria, FL, 2002, p. 76.

[26] Charles Péguy, “Le Mystère des Saints Innocents” in Oeuvres poétiques complètes, Paris, 1957, p. 787f, as quoted by John Saward, The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty: Art, Sanctity, and the Truth of Catholicism, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA, 1997, p. 83.

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What do St. Padre Pio, St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Leopold Mandic, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Jose Maria Escrivà, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Servant of God, John Paul II, and Sr. Lucia of Fatima all have in common (beyond their eminent sanctity as witnessed by the twentieth century)? They all repeatedly invoked Our Lady as the “Co-redemptrix” and taught the doctrine of Marian coredemption concerning Mary’s unparalleled role with and under Jesus Christ in the Redemption of the human family.

One of the greatest examples of Catholic development of doctrine is visible with the historical unfolding of Marian dogma. Like a small acorn which grows over years into a towering oak tree, the divinely planted seeds of Scripture regarding Mary have grown under the nurturing of the Holy Spirit into solemnly declared dogmas of faith, which constitute the highest form of recognized Catholic truth.

In 431, the Council of Ephesus solemnly declares Mary the Mother of God, or literally the “God-bearer” (Theotokos) in the midst of the Nestorian controversy over the nature and person of Christ.[1] Two centuries later (649), Pope Martin I declares the “Perpetual Virginity” of Our Lady, that she was virginal before, during, and after the birth of Jesus Christ.[2]

A span of over a thousand years passes before the next Marian dogma is proclaimed with the solemn papal definition of the Immaculate Conception (1854) by Bl. Pope Pius IX, whereby the Holy Father exercises the charism of papal infallibility to pronounce that from the moment of Mary’s conception, she is free from original sin and full of grace.[3] A century later, Venerable Pope Pius XII again exercises papal infallibility by solemnly defining the Assumption of Mary (1950), that at the end of earthly life, the Mother of Jesus was taken body and soul into heavenly glory.[4]

The present four Marian dogmas identify the principal prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin Mary during her earthly life and in relation to her Divine Son. But the sublime tasks assigned by the Holy Trinity to the Virgin Mother do not cease there. Mary received a fifth role with specific relation to the human race, which was declared first by her Crucified Son as his final gift to humanity before his redemptive death: “Woman, behold your Son!…Behold, your Mother!” (Jn. 19:25-27).

Not only is Mary Mother of God made man, the Perpetual Virgin of Virgins, the Immaculate Conception, and the Assumed One, she is also the Spiritual Mother of all peoples and all nations. As the Second Vatican Council teaches: “Taken up into heaven, she did not lay aside this saving office, but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation… Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” (Lumen Gentium, 62).

As Spiritual Mother of all humanity, Our Lady exercises three maternal functions on behalf of her earthly children. She is a “Mother suffering” or “Co-redemptrix.” The prefix “co” does not mean equal but “with,” as exemplified in St. Paul’s call for all Christians to be “co-workers with God” (1 Cor. 3:9). Mary cooperated “with Jesus” in ways unlike any other human or angelic creature, by her shared suffering with Him in the work of redemption. Vatican II again reminds us that the Blessed Virgin “faithfully persevered in union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which was born of her” (LG 58). John Paul II of happy memory called Mary the “Co-redemptrix” on six occasions.[5]

Her second motherly function for humanity is as a “Mother nourishing” or “Mediatrix of all graces.” As the fathers, doctors, saints, and popes teach us, every grace that we receive from the redemption of Jesus Christ comes to us through the intercession of Mary. Cana makes clear the Mother’s ability to release the graces and miracles of her Son for the needs of humanity (Jn. 2:1-10). The late great John Paul called Mary the “Mediatrix of all graces” on seven occasions.[6]

Her third maternal function is as a “Mother pleading” or “Advocate.” There is no greater intercessor to the throne of her Kingly Son than that of the Queen Mother. As King Solomon could deny his mother the Queen nothing, (cf. 1 Kings 2:19) so too, Christ the King denies his Queen Mother nothing.

Since Our Lady’s Spiritual Motherhood under its three aspects of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate is already part of the authoritative doctrinal teachings of the Papal Magisterium, why the need for a papal definition of these three titles? From where did the movement for a papal definition of Our Lady’s universal mediation derive?

Apart from certain misunderstandings that the movement for a fifth Marian dogma has its origins in private revelation, the actual historical beginnings of this international Church drive date back to the first two decades of the twentieth century with the efforts of the renowned Belgian cardinal, Cardinal Mercier and the enthusiastic support of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

By the end of 1915, Pope Benedict had received numerous petitions for the dogmatic definition of Our Lady’s universal mediation from Cardinal Mercier, fellow bishops, religious superiors, and clergy.[7] Cardinal Mercier issued a pastoral letter calling for the dogma of Our Lady’s mediation, which specifically included the concept of Coredemption as an integral part of her mediation, in 1918.[8] With the papal approval by Pope Benedict XV for the mass and office of “Mary, Mediatrix of all graces” at the request of Mercier and others in 1921, the worldwide movement for the solemn papal definition of Mary’s universal mediation of grace was launched in a letter from Cardinal Mercier to all the bishops of the world (April, 1921), wherein he expressed his deepest hope for this dogmatic crowning of Our Lady’s mediation.[9]

The illustrious Belgian cardinal continued his advocacy for the dogma with Pius XI on the very day of his papal election (Feb. 6, 1922).[10] The newly elected pontiff responded immediately to the petition for the dogma by ordering the establishment of three theological commissions to study the question in 1922. The Belgian and Spanish commissions concluded strongly in favor of the papal definition, while the conclusion of the Roman commission was never released.[11]

From that time to the present, great numbers of petitions have continued to flood the Holy See for the papal definition of Our Lady’s universal mediation. Petitions for a new Marian dogma from only the last ten years (approx. 1994-2004) number over six million from over 165 countries, and include over 550 bishops and 45 cardinals.[12] Although these numbers do not include the hundreds of bishop petitions, along with the multitudinous number of clergy and lay petitions submitted to the Holy See by Cardinals Mercier,[13] Gagnon, and others prelates from 1930 to 1994, the recent petition campaign of the last decade for this fifth Marian dogma represents the largest per annum petition drive in the history of the Church.

But the question of “why” must again be addressed. If the Magisterium already teaches the truth of Marian mediation in its three components of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate, then where is the need for a solemn papal definition of the same truth in the form of a dogma?

Historic graces and world peace. With every new Marian dogma proclaimed by the successor of Peter, bearer of the keys of the kingdom, a new ocean of graces descends upon the Church and the world. For Our Lady to exercise fully the motherly roles granted her by God, humanity must exercise its free will in accepting her roles that they may be activated on our behalf. God never forces his sanctifying grace upon us, but awaits our free “yes” before bestowing them.

Humanity’s “yes” as spoken by the Holy Father in a papal proclamation of our full acceptance of Our Lady’s Spiritual Motherhood would release extraordinary graces of peace and redemption to a world where internal wars of abortion, child abuse, pornography, divorce, drugs, depression, loneliness, and external conflicts of terrorism, poverty, famine, pestilence and natural disasters are threatening most every family, country, and society throughout the world.

The proclamation of the dogma would allow the Mother to have her chance to intercede for a new peace and grace for our world. The Holy Father would be declaring our acknowledgement, on the highest level of Catholic truth, that She truly is our universal Spiritual Mother, our Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate, and that we humbly and trustingly beseech our Heavenly Queen and Mother for the interior peace of Christ in the hearts of humanity that is necessary for any authentic and perduring global peace.

The succinct but profound words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta most eloquently summarize the heart and the imperative of the contemporary call for the fifth Marian Dogma:

Mary is our Coredemptrix with Jesus. She gave Jesus his body and suffered with him at the foot of the cross.
Mary is the Mediatrix of all grace. She gave Jesus to us, and as our Mother she obtains for us all his graces.
Mary is our Advocate who prays to Jesus for us. It is only through the Heart of Mary that we come to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.
The papal definition of Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate will bring great graces to the Church.
All for Jesus through Mary.
God bless you
Mother Teresa, MC[14]

Dr. Miravalle is Professor of Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

________________________________________

[1] Council of Ephesus, 431 A.D., as cited from Henricus Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, Definitionum et Declarationum De Rebus Fidei et Morum, Barcelona, ed. Herder, 1946, n. 113.

[2] Martin I, Lateran Council, 649 A.D., Denzinger 256.

[3] Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854, Denzinger 1641.

[4] Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950.

[5] John Paul II, Greetings to the Sick Following General Audience (Sept. 8, 1982); Angelus Address (Nov.
4, 1984), L’Osservatore Romano, 860: 1; Palm Sunday Address at Alborada, Guayaquil, Ecuador (Jan.
31, 1985), L’Osservatore Romano, 876: 7; Palm Sunday and World Youth Day Address (March 31,
1985), L’Osservatore Romano, 880: 12; Address to Federated Alliance of Transportation of Sick to
Lourdes (March 24, 1990); Address Commemorating Sixth Centenary of Canonization of St. Bridget of
Sweden (Oct. 6, 1991), L’Osservatore Romano, 1211: 4.

[6] John Paul II, Address to the General Council, Provincial Superiors and Directors of the Italian Institutes of the Congregation of St. Joseph (Dec. 1, 1978), n. 3; Address to Young People at Our Lady’s Shrine on Mount Roio (Aug. 30, 1980) n. 3; Angelus Address (Jan. 17, 1988) n. 2; Homily for Octave of Easter in the Roman Parish of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer (April 10, 1988) n. 7; Reflection Made at the Shrine of Our Lady of Graces in Benevento (July 2, 1990) n. 1; Angelus Address in Lecce (Sept. 18, 1994) nn. 1, 3; Address to the General Chapter of the Mercedarian Sisters of Charity (June 28, 1996) n. 4.

[7] Cf. Cardinal Mercier, Pastoral Letter (Sept. 8, 1918), as found in Manfred Hauke, Mary, Mediatress of Grace, Mary at the Foot of the Cross IV: Supplement, Academy of the Immaculate, 2004, p. 3; cf. Mercier, Oeuvres pastorales V, 160, as found in Hauke, Mary, Mediatress, p. 6; Mercier, in the Archdiocesan Archives, Carton XXV, Document 21, as found in Hauke, Mary, Mediatress, p. 95.

[8] Mercier, Pastoral Letter (Sept. 8, 1918), as found in Manfred Hauke, Mary, Mediatress, p. 3.

[9] Mercier, Letter (note 7), in Oeuvres pastorales VI, 471f, as found in Hauke, Mary, Mediatress, p. 3.

[10] Hauke, Mary, Mediatress, p. 96

[11] Ibid.

[12] Vox Populi Mariae Mediatrici Petition Center Archives, PO Box 220, Goleta, CA 93116.

[13] Cf. J. M. Hupperts, “Kardinaal Mercier, dienaar en apostel der allerheiligste Maagd” in De Standaard van Maria 6, 1926, p. 68, note 5, as found in Hauke Mary, Mediatress, p. 93.

[14] Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Letter of August 14, 1993

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