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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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