At the core of our Christian Faith lies a mystery which at once manifests the extraordinary generosity of Christ the Redeemer, and at the same time calls all of his disciples to a profound supernatural mission alongside their Redeemer. This mystery is referred to in the words of St. Paul to the Colossians, in which he calls all followers of the Crucified to “complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of his body which is the Church” (Col. 1:24).
Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer because He alone is the divine and human Mediator between God and men (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). He has, however, willed to bring into partnership in his work of redemption all those who have been redeemed by him, in order that the glory and mercy of his work may shine forth in the heavens and on earth in a greater and more wondrous manner. Thus, redeemed humanity can cooperate with the Redeemer in virtue of our mystical union with Jesus, a union so sublime that we, the People of God, form his very Body. We not only receive but should also participate in the distribution of the infinite graces merited by the Redeemer once for all at Calvary. In light of this partnership desired by the Savior for all his faithful, John Paul II rightly designates the People of God as “co-redeemers” (1).
Our Lady is the perfect model for the Christian’s mission to participate in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. In virtue of her Immaculate Conception, she is prepared by the Eternal Father to cooperate without compromise, in union with the Redeemer, in buying backing humanity from the bondage of the Evil One (cf. Gen. 3:15). In light of her divine maternity, she possesses the greatest conceivable union of body and spirit with Jesus, the Incarnate Savior. Her presence at Calvary, prophesied by Simeon (cf. Lk. 2:35), speaks through action of the Redeemer’s desire that his Mother share entirely in all of his sufferings of passion and death in order to ransom the lost children of the first Adam and Eve (cf. Jn. 19:25-27).
It is true that the Sorrowful Mother constitutes in her wondrously beautiful person the optimum witness to the essential Christian revelation that human suffering is intended by God to be supernaturally redemptive. Still, the quality and degree of the Immaculate Co-redemptrix’s participation in the mystery of salvation extends incomparably beyond that of any other creature, human or angelic. Our Lady alone participated with her divine Son in the acquisition of the graces of Calvary due to her exclusive role as the New Eve. She fought the spiritual battle with Christ against the infernal adversary for the rest of humanity, indeed for the ransom of all creation, with an intensity and at the cost of suffering almost humanly unimaginable (2), but which was supernaturally fruitful for the entire human race.
Thus, as the perfect companion with the Redeemer, she embodies the title and heavenly honor of Co-redemptrix with a magnitude and efficacy far beyond any other creaturely participation in redemption.
The Coredemptive Call of Fatima
The three young Portuguese visionaries made the coredemptive call of Our Lady of Fatima a firm Marian foundation for their own paths to Christian sanctity. From the outset of the 1916 angelic apparitions which prepared the way for Our Lady’s visits the following year, the call of coredemption through the offering of daily sacrifices and sufferings comprises a pillar of the Fatima message and mission.
During the first 1916 apparition, the “Angel of Peace” (3) instructs the children to offer prayers of reparation for those who do not believe, adore, trust or love God (4). This is soon followed in the next angelic apparition by the heavenly call to “Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High” (5). When the young Lucia asks how they are to make sacrifices, the Guardian Angel of Portugal (6) instructs: “Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners…above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you” (7). Reparation is indeed a mode of coredemption, whereby a member of Christ’s Body voluntarily offers an act of prayer or penance on behalf of others, which then effects the mysterious release of the redemptive graces of Jesus for the spiritual fruits of atonement to God for sin and for the spiritual conversion and salvation of other members of humanity.
Our Lady re-echoes the call of coredemption initiated by the Angel of Peace during her first apparition. On May 13, 1917, Our Lady of the Rosary invites the young seers to accept a life vocation of redemptive suffering and offering for the salvation of poor sinners: “Are you willing to offer yourselves to God and bear all the suffering He wills to send you, as an act of reparation for poor sinners?” Lucia responds, “Yes, we are willing.” Then Our Lady confirms: “Then you are going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your comfort” (8). On July 13, she further directs the children: “Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: ‘O Jesus, it is for love of you, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary'” (9).
We also see the Fatima mission for Christian coredemption revealed in the invitation of the Child Jesus and his Mother on December 10, 1925, to offer the four revealed components of the First Saturday Communions of Reparation with the specific intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart, a maternal heart which mysteriously and mystically continues to suffer. The Christ Child testifies to the ongoing moment by moment piercing of the Immaculate Heart due to the sins and ingratitude of mankind: “Have compassion on the Heart of your most holy Mother, covered with thorns, with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment, and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them” (10). The Immaculate Heart herself confirms: “Look, my daughter, at my Heart, surrounded by thorns with which ungrateful men pierce me at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude” (11). The Fatima call to coredemption and reparation unveils the request to offer consolation directly to Mary’s most Immaculate Heart in atonement for the present pains inflicted on that maternal heart by the daily offenses of humanity. A mother’s heart shares in the suf