It is no secret that Catholic theology and devotion have produced many excellent works on the Blessed Virgin Mary and likewise on the spiritual life; however, it seems that there are very few who treat these two subjects together. (1) One is an expert in Mariology while another in Mystical Theology, yet all too often they fail to show the complementary, or better, the essential unity between Marian devotion and union of the soul with God. (2) St. Bonaventure draws our attention to this indissoluble union between Our Lady and spiritual perfection when he observes: “I have never read of any Saint who did not have a special devotion to the glorious Virgin.” (3) This fact alone causes us to ask, “Why is it that the glorious Virgin has played such a special role in the spiritual life of all the Saints?” And further, “What is her role in the soul’s journey towards perfect union with God?”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “through Mary the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the object of God’s merciful love into communion with Christ.” (4) It is through Our Blessed Lady that the Holy Spirit brings us into communion with Jesus. Just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her at Nazareth to form Jesus Christ in her most pure womb, so also the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin operate together to mystically form Jesus Christ in the world (behold the Church) and in souls (behold the Saints). (5) “The Holy Spirit,” writes St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, “does not act, except through the Immaculate, His Spouse. Hence she is the Mediatrix of all the graces of the most Holy Spirit…” (6) It is precisely this union of being and operating between the Holy Spirit and the Immaculate which places Mary at the heart of the spiritual life. The Divine Spirit sanctifies souls through, with and in the Virgin Mary. Hence Venerable Fr. Michael of St. Augustine states, “No one, in whatever state or condition, can obtain any grace and have any hope of the divine life or Christian perfection except by means of Mary, by means of communication through this amiable Mother.” (7)
Mama! Mary is my Mother, my spiritual Mother. This is the touching reality which explains both why she is so important for my spiritual life and what her function is. She is always “our Mother,” our most amiable Mother. (8) “In a word,” writes Fr. Severino Ragazzini, “souls thirsting for Marian spirituality (a thing which is in demand nowadays) want their Mother; above all else they desire their Mother; and since they pine from within for this sweet victory, they deeply desire that theology and mysticism give exhaustive reasons (and in a fully accessible manner) for this sensation that is among the most beautiful sensations that one could have.” (9)
The Blessed Virgin of Nazareth is not only the Mother of Christ the Head, but of His Mystical Body as well. Mary becomes Mother of the whole Christ, Head and members, immediately after she utters her fiat to be the Virgin Mother of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. (10) What Jesus is by nature, namely the Son of God and the Son of Mary, we are by grace. We have become true children of God and true children of Mary. Hence we cry out, “Abba, Father!” and “Mama, Mother!” by the Spirit of the Son (cf. Rm 8:15; Gal 4:6). Jesus, while He is by nature the Only-Begotten Son (cf. Jn 1:14, 18), is also the “Firstborn amongst many brethren” (Rm 8:29). Through grace God is our Father, Mary is our Mother, and Jesus is our Divine Brother.
The Second Vatican Council maintains that Our Blessed Lady is our “Mother in the order of grace” (11) and our “Mediatrix.” (12) Maternal Mediation; (13) this is the key to understanding our topic. In fact, St. Maximilian writes: “… every grace received each day, hour, and moment of our life is her grace, flowing from her motherly Heart that loves us”; (14) he is simply reechoing Pope Leo XIII who wrote: “It can be affirmed that, by divine disposition, nothing can be communicated to us from the immense treasury of grace… except by means of Mary.” (15) They could not have summed up the doctrine of Mary’s mediation more concisely or simply: all divine graces, without exception, come to us from her “motherly Heart that loves us.” And we shall observe, in particular, how the grace of our personal sanctification and spiritual life flows from the Most Holy Trinity through her Immaculate Heart. (16)
The work of sanctification is a work ad extra of the entire Blessed Trinity; however, it has always been attributed in a special way to the operation of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Holy Virgin Mary, as “the Spouse of the Holy Spirit,” works together with the Paraclete in sanctifying souls. (17) Venerable Fr. Gabriel Mary Allegra expresses this beautifully when he writes: “Between the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate there exists more than a strong and intimate union; there exists a mystical identity: the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit is united to the action of Mary; where there is the Spirit, there is Mary; where the Spirit operates, there operates Mary. This maternal act