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Saint Alphonsus Liguori - Mary Is Our Advocate, Able to Save All

Updated: May 29, 2020

So great is the authority that mothers possess over their sons, that even if they are monarchs, and have absolute dominion over every person in their kingdom, yet never can mothers become the subjects of their sons. It is true that Jesus now in heaven sits at the right hand of the Father, that is, as Saint Thomas (1) explains it, even as man, on account of the hypostatical union with the Person of the Divine Word. He has supreme dominion over all, and also over Mary; it will nevertheless be always true that for a time, when He was living in this world, He was pleased to humble Himself and to be subject to Mary, as we are told by St. Luke: “And He was subject to them.” (2) And still more, says Saint Ambrose, Jesus Christ having deigned to make Mary His Mother, inasmuch as He was her Son, He was truly obliged to obey her. And for this reason, says Richard of Saint Lawrence, “of other Saints we say that they are with God; but of Mary alone can it be said that she was so far favored as to be not only herself submissive to the will of God, but even that God was subject to her will.” (3) And whereas of all other virgins, remarks the same author, we must say that “they follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (4) of the Blessed Virgin Mary we can say that the Lamb followed her, having become subject to her. (5)

And here we say, that although Mary, now in heaven, can no longer command her Son, nevertheless her prayers are always the prayers of a Mother, and consequently most powerful to obtain whatever she asks. “Mary,” says Saint Bonaventure, ” has this great privilege, that with her Son she above all the Saints is most powerful to obtain whatever she wills.” (6) And why? Precisely for the reason on which we have already touched, and which we shall later on again examine at greater length, because they are the prayers of a mother. And therefore, says Saint Peter Damian, the Blessed Virgin can do whatever she pleases both in heaven and on earth. She is able to raise even those who are in despair to confidence, and he addresses her in these words: “All power is given to you in heaven and on earth, and nothing is impossible to you, who can raise those who are in despair to the hope of salvation.” (7) And then he adds that “when the Mother goes to seek a favor for us from Jesus Christ” (whom the Saint calls the golden altar of mercy, at which sinners obtain pardon), “her Son esteems her prayers so greatly, and is so desirous to satisfy her, that when she prays, it seems as if she rather commanded than prayed, and was rather a queen than a handmaid.” (8) Jesus is pleased thus to honor His beloved Mother, who honored Him so much during her life, by immediately granting all that she asks or desires. This is beautifully confirmed by Saint Germanus, who addressing our Blessed Lady says: “You are the Mother of God, and all-powerful to save sinners, and with God you need no other recommendation; for you are the Mother of true life.” (9)

“At the command of Mary, all obey, even God.” Saint Bernardine fears not to utter this sentence; meaning, indeed, to say that God grants the prayers of Mary as if they were commands. (10) And hence Saint Anselm addressing Mary says: “Our Lord, O most holy Virgin, has exalted you to such a degree, that by His favor all things that are possible to Him should be possible to you.” (11) “For your protection is omnipotent, O Mary,” says Cosmas of Jerusalem. (12) “Yes, Mary is omnipotent,” repeats Richard of Saint Lawrence; “for the queen by every law enjoys the same privileges as the king. And as,” he adds, “the power of the son and that of the mother is the same, a mother is made omnipotent by an omnipotent son.” (13) “And thus,” says Saint Antoninus, “God has placed the whole Church, not only under the patronage, but even under the dominion of Mary.” (14)

Since the Mother, then, should have the same power as the Son, rightly has Jesus, who is omnipotent, made Mary also omnipotent; though, of course, it is always true that where the Son is omnipotent by nature, the Mother is only so by grace. But that she is so is evident from the fact, that whatever the Mother asks for, the Son never denies her; and this was revealed to Saint Bridget, (15) who one day heard Jesus talking with Mary, and thus address her: “Ask of Me what you will, for no petition of yours can be void.” As if He had said, “My Mother, you know how much I love you; therefore ask all that you will of Me; for it is not possible that I should refuse you anything.” And the reason that He gave for this was beautiful: “Because you never denied Me anything on earth, I will deny you nothing in heaven. (16) My Mother, when you were in the world, you never refused to do anything for the love of Me; and now that I am in heaven, it is right that I should deny you nothing that you ask. Mary, then, is called omnipotent in the sense in which it can be understood of a creature who is incapable of a divine attribute. She is omnipotent, because by her prayers she obtains whatever she wills. With good reason, then, O great Advocate, does Saint Bernard say, “you will, and all things are done.” (17) And Saint Anselm: “Whatever you, O Virgin, will can never be otherwise than accomplished.” (18) You will, and all is done. If you are pleased to raise a sinner from the lowest abyss of misery to the highest degree of sanctity, you can do it. Blessed Albert the Great, on this subject, makes Mary say: “I have to be asked that I may will; for if I will a thing, it is necessarily done.” (19) And thus Saint Peter Damian, reflecting on the great power of Mary, and begging her to take compassion on us, addresses her, saying: “O, let your nature move you, let your power move you; for the more you are powerful, the greater should your mercy be.”


O Mary, our own beloved advocate, since you have so compassionate a heart, that you cannot even see the wretched without being moved to pity; and since, at the same time, you have so great power with God, that you can save all whom you protect—disdain not to undertake the cause of us poor miserable creatures who place all our hope in you. If our prayers cannot move you, at least let your own benign heart do so; or, at least, let your power do so, since God has enriched you with such great power, in order that the richer you are in power to help us, the more merciful you may be in the will to assist us. But St. Bernard reassures us on this point; for he says that Mary is as immensely rich in mercy as she is in power; and that, as her charity is most powerful, so also it is most clement and compassionate, and its effects continually prove it to be so. He thus expresses himself: “The most powerful and merciful charity of the Mother of God abounds in tender compassion and in effectual succor: it is equally rich in both.” (21)

From the time that Mary came into the world, her only thought, after seeking the glory of God, was to succor the miserable. And even then she enjoyed the privilege of obtaining whatever she asked. This we know from what occurred at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee. When the wine failed, the most Blessed Virgin, being moved to compassion at the sight of the affliction and shame of the bride and bridegroom, asked her Son to relieve it by a miracle, telling Him that “they had no wine.” Jesus answered: “Woman, what is that to you and Me? My hour is not yet come.” (22) And here remark, that although our Lord seemed to refuse His Mother the favor she asked, and said, “What is it to you, O woman, and to Me, if the wine has failed? This is not the time for Me to work a miracle; the time will be when I begin to preach, and when miracles will be required to confirm My doctrines.” And yet Mary, as if the favor had already been granted, desired those in attendance to fill the jars with water, for they would be immediately satisfied. And so it was; for Jesus, to content His Mother, changed the water into the best wine. But how was this? As the time for working miracles was that of the public life of our Lord, how could it be that, contrary to the Divine decrees, this miracle was worked? No; in this there was nothing contrary to the decrees of God; for though, generally speaking, the time for miracles was not come, yet from all eternity God had determined by another decree that nothing that she asked should ever be refused to the Divine Mother. And therefore Mary, who well knew her privilege, although her Son seemed to have refused her the favor, yet told them to fill the jars with water, as if her request had already been granted. That is the sense in which Saint John Chrysostom understood it; for, explaining these words of our Lord, “Woman, what is it to you and Me?” he says, that “though Jesus answered thus, yet in honor of His Mother He obeyed her wish.” (23) This is confirmed by Saint Thomas, who says that by the words, “My hour is not yet come,” Jesus Christ intended to show, that had the request come from any other, He would not then have complied with it; but because it was addressed to Him by His Mother, He could not refuse it. (24) Saint Cyril and Saint Jerome, quoted by Barradus, (25) say the same thing. Also Gandavensis, on the above passage of Saint John, says, that “to honor His Mother, our Lord anticipated the time for working miracles.” (26)

In fine, it is certain that no creature can obtain so many mercies for us as this tender advocate, who is thus honored by God, not only as His beloved handmaid, but also as His true Mother. And this, William of Paris says, addressing her, “No creature can obtain so many and such great favors as you obtain for poor sinners; and thus without doubt God honors you not only as a handmaid, but as His most true Mother.” (27) Mary has only to speak, and her Son executes all. Our Lord, conversing with the spouse in the sacred Canticles—that is Mary—says, “You that dwell in the gardens, the friends hearken; make me hear your voice.” (28) The Saints are the friends, and they, when they seek a favor for their clients, wait for their Queen to ask and obtain it; for, as we said…, “no grace is granted otherwise than at the prayer of Mary.” And how does Mary obtain favors? She has only to let her voice be heard—”make me hear your voice.” She has only to speak, and her Son immediately grants her prayer. Listen to the Abbot William explaining, in this sense, the above text. In it he introduces the Son addressing Mary: “You who dwell in the heavenly gardens, intercede with confidence for whoever you will; for it is not possible that I should so far forget that I am your Son as to deny anything to you, My Mother. Only let your voice be heard; for to be heard by a son is to be obeyed.” (29) The Abbot Godfridus says, “that although Mary obtains favors by asking, yet she asks with a certain maternal authority, and therefore we ought to feel confident that she obtains all she desires and asks for us.” (30)

Valerius Maximus (31) relates that when Coriolanus was besieging Rome, the prayers of his friends and all the citizens were insufficient to make him desist; but as soon as he beheld his mother Veturia imploring him, he could no longer refuse, and immediately raised the siege. But the prayers of Mary with Jesus are as much more powerful than those of Veturia as the love and gratitude of this Son for His most dear Mother are greater. Father Justin Micoviensis says that “a single sigh of the most Blessed Mary can do more than the united suffrages of all the saints.” (32) And this was acknowledged by the devil himself to Saint Dominic, who, as it is related by Father Pacciuchelli, (33) obliged him to speak by the mouth of a possessed person; and he said that “a single sigh from Mary was worth more before God than the united suffrages of all the Saints.”

Saint Antoninus says that “the prayers of the Blessed Virgin, being the prayers of a Mother, have in them something of a command; so that it is impossible that she should not obtain what she asks.” (34) Saint Germanus, encouraging sinners who recommend themselves to this advocate, thus addresses her: “As you have, O Mary, the authority of a Mother with God, you obtain pardon for the most enormous sinners; since that Lord in all things acknowledges you as His true and spotless Mother, He cannot do otherwise than grant what you ask.” (35) And so it was that Saint Bridget heard the Saints in heaven addressing our Blessed Lady: “O most blessed Queen, what is there that you cannot do? You have only to will, and it is accomplished.” (36) And this corresponds with that celebrated saying, “That which God can do by His power, that can you do by prayer, O sacred Virgin.” (37) “And perchance,” says an ancient and pious writer,” it is unworthy of the benignity of that Lord to be thus jealous of the honor of His Mother, who declares that He came into the world, not to break, but to observe the law; but this law commands us to honor our parents.” (38)

Saint George, Archbishop of Nicomedia, says that Jesus Christ, even as it were to satisfy an obligation under which He placed Himself towards His Mother, when she consented to give Him His human nature, grants all she asks: “the Son, as if paying a debt, grants all your petitions.” (39) And on this the holy martyr Saint Methodius exclaims: “Rejoice, rejoice, O Mary, for you have that Son your debtor, who gives to all and receives from none. We are all God’s debtors for all that we possess, for all is His gift; but God has been pleased to become your debtor in taking flesh from you and becoming man.” (40) And therefore another ancient writer says, “that Mary, having merited to give flesh to the Divine Word, and thus supply the price of our redemption, that we might be delivered from eternal death; therefore is she more powerful than all others to help us to gain eternal life.” (41) Saint Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, in the time of St. Jerome, left in writing the following words: “The prayers of His Mother are a pleasure to the Son, because He desires to grant all that is granted on her account, and thus recompense her for the favor she did Him in giving Him His body.” (42) Saint John Damascene, addressing the Blessed Virgin, says, “You, O Mary, being Mother of the most high God, can save all by your prayers, which are increased in value by the maternal authority.” (43)

Let us conclude with Saint Bonaventure, who, considering the great benefit conferred on us by our Lord in giving us Mary for our advocate, thus addresses her: “O truly immense and admirable goodness of our God, which has been pleased to grant you, O sovereign Mother, to us miserable sinners for our advocate, in order that you, by your powerful intercession, may obtain all that you please for us.” (44) “O wonderful mercy of our God,” continues the same Saint, “who, in order that we might not fly on account of the sentence that might be pronounced against us, has given us His own Mother and the patroness of graces to be our advocate.” (45)

This article was excerpted from The Glories of Mary, Tan, 1982.


(1) De Human. I. C. a. 23.

(2) Et erat subditus illis.—Luc. ii. 51.

(3) Cum enim de ominibus caeteris sanctis dicatur et magnum sit, eis esse cum Domino… Maria majus aliquid caeteris hominibus sanctis sortita est: ut non solum ipsa subjiceretur voluntati Domini, sed etiam Dominus voluntati ipsius.—De Laud. V. lib. i. cap. 5.

(4) Sequuntur agnum quocumque ierit.—Apoc. xiv. 4.

(5) De ista autem (Virgine Maria) potest secure dici, quod agnus sequebatur eam, quocunque ivit unde.—Luc. ii. “Descendit cum eis, et venit Nazareth, et erat subditus illis.”—De Laud. V. lib. i. cap. 5.

(6) Grande privilegium est, quod ipsa prae omnibus sanctis apud Deum potentissima est.—Spec. B.M.V. lect. vi.

(7) Data est tibi omnis potestas in coelo et in terra… nil tibi impossibile, cui possibile est, desperatos in spem beatitudinis relevare.—Serm. 1, de Nat. B. Virg.

(8) Accedis enim ante illud aureum humanae reconciliationis altare, non solum rogans, sed imperans: Domina, non ancilla … nam et Filius nihil rogans, honorat te.—Ib.

(9) Plurimum igitur auxilium tuum pollet, O Virgo, ad salutem consequendam, nec apud Deum commendatitia alterius cujuspiam indiget ope: tu enim revera es verae vitas mater.—In Dorm. B. V. Orat. ii.

(10) Imperio virginis omnia famulantur, et Deus.—Serm. de Nat. B.M.V. cap. vi.

(11) Te, Domina… pius et omnipotens Deus sic exaltavit, et omnia tibi secum possibilia esse donavit.—De Excel. Virg. cap. xii.

(12) Omnipotens auxilium tuum.—Hymn. vi. in Depr. ad Deiparam.

(13) Eisdem privilegiis secundum leges gaudent rex et regina. Cum autem eadem sit potestas et communis matris et filii, quae ab omnipotente filio omnipotens est effecta.—Lib. iv. de Laud. Virg. cap. 29.

(14) Et secundum hoc tantum fuit meritum virginis, ut ecclesia sit “sub pedibus ejus,” sub protectione; unde ipsa ait Ecclesiastici xxiv.: “In Jerusalem potestas mea,” id est ecclesia.—Cap. xx Be. Grat. Priv. B. Mariae.

(15) Pete ergo quod vis, non enim inanis potest esse charitas et petitio tua.—Rev. lib. vi. cap. 23.

(16) Quia tu mihi nihil negasti in terra, ideo ego tibi nihil negabo in coelo.—Rev. lib. i. cap. 24.

(17) Velis tu, et omnia fient.

(18) Velis salutem nostram, et vere nequaquam salvi esse non poterimus.—Exc. Virg. cap. xii.

(19) Roganda sum, ut velim; quia, si volo, necesse est fieri.—De Laud. B.M. l. 2, c. 1.

(20) Moveat te natura, potentia moveat; quia quanto potentior, tanto misericordior esse debebis.—Serm. i. de Nat. B. Virg.

(21) Potentissima et piissima charitas matris Dei et affectu compatiendi et subveniendi abundat effectu: aeque locuples in utroque.—Serm. iv. de Assump.

(22) Vinum non habent. Et dicit ei Jesus: Quid mihi et tibi est, mulier? nondum venit hora mea.—Joan. ii. 3, 4.

(23) Cum… id respondisset quod volebat mater effecit.—hom. in Joan.

(24) Per illa verba, “nondum venit hora mea,” ostendit se dilaturum fuisse miraculum, si alius rogasset; quia tamen rogabat mater, fecit.—S. Thom. apud Defens. Cultus Mariani, auctore B. P. Henr. de Cerf. p. 129.

(25) T. 2, 1. 3, c. 1.

(26) Quo matrem honoraret, praevenit tempos miracula faciendi.—In Conc. Ev. C. 18.

(27) Nulla… creatura, et tot, et tanta, et talia impetrare posset apud benedictum Filium tuum miseris, quanta tu apud ipsum impetras eisdem. In quo proculdubio non tamquam ancillam suam, quae indubitanter es, sed tamquam matrem verissimam te honorat.—De Rhet. Div. cap. xviii.

(28) Quae habitas in hortis, amici auscultant: fac me audire vocem tuam.— Cant. viii. 13.

(29) Quae habitas in hortis coelestibus, fiducialiter pro quibus volueris intercede; non enim possum me oblivisci filium tuum, ut matri quidpiam denegandum putem. Tantum in vocem proferas, quia a filio audiri, exaudiri est.

(30) Honorabilis virgo Maria, si illum ex eo quod Deus et Dominus est, ex orare merito creditur, ex eo tamen quod homo est, et natus ex ea, quasi quodam matris imperio, apud ipsum impetrare quicquid voluerit pia fide non dubitatur.—Serm, viii. de B.V.M.

(31) Ex mir. 1. 5, c. 4.

(32) Unum Beatae Virginis suspirium plus potest apud Filium, quam omnium sanctorum simul suffragium.—In lit. B. V. verbo Virg. pot.

(33) In Sal. Ang. exc. 3.

(34) Oratio ejus erat nobilissimus modus orandi, tum quia habebat rationem jussionis et imperii, tum quia impossibile erat eam non exaudiri.—P. iv. tit. 15, c. 17.

(35) Tu vero materna qua polles apud Deum auctoritate, ad quantumvis enormia lapsis peccata, superabundantem impetras veniam: neque enim unquam datur te non exauditam dimitti, cui per omnia, et propter omnia, et in omnibus, ut verae et intemeratae matri suae obsequitur Deus.—In Dorm. B.V. Orat. ii.

(36) O Domina benedicta… quid est quod non poteris? Quod enim tu vis, hoc factum est—Rev. lib. iv. cap. 74.

(37) Quod Deus imperio, tu prece Virgo potes.

(38) Numquid non pertinet ad benignitatem Domini, Matris servare honorem, qui legem non solvere venerat, sed adimplere? Lib. de. Assump. B.V. int. op. S. August.

(39) Eaque, tanquam Filius exaltans, postulata ceu debitor implet.—Or. de. Ingressu B.V.

(40) Euge, euge, Dei Mater ancillaque. Euge, is qui omnium creditor est, debitor fit. Omnes namque Deo debemus, tibique ille debitor est.—De Simeone et Anna.

(41) Neque enim dubium qua meruit pro liberandis proferre pretium, posse plus sanctis omnibus liberatis impendere suffragium.—Serm. de Sanctis… S. August. Serm. de Assump. B.M.

(42) Salazar. in Prov. viii. 18.

(43) Potes quidem omnes salvare, ut Dei altissimi Mater, precibus materna auctoritate pollentibus.—Men. Graec. 20 Jan. ad Mat.

(44) O certe Dei nostri mira benignitas, qui suis reis te dominam tribuit advocatam, ut a Filio tuo inter nos et ipsum judicem constituta, quod volueris pro nobis valeas impetrare!—In Salv. Reg.

(45) O mirabilis erga nos misericordia Dei nostri, qui, ne alias fugeremus pro sententia, non solum dignatus est communicare se nobis in judicem, ut esset Deus et homo Jesus Christus, a quo debet sententia promulgari, sed voluit ipse sua viscera misericordiae matrem suam dominam gratiae, nostram instituare advocatam.—In Salv. Reg.

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