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Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces, in the Papal Magisterium of Pope John Paul II



This article, which looks at the Marian dimension of John Paul II’s pontificate, elucidates his many beautiful and powerful words about Our Lady in her role as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces. We are only now beginning to unravel the great teachings left us by our beloved Holy Father. This article was excerpted from Mary at the Foot of the Cross – VII: Coredemptrix, Therefore Mediatrix of All Graces, Academy of the Immaculate, 2008.– Assistant Ed.


I. Introduction: The Post-Conciliar Situation


Pope Saint John Paul II has left to the Church a huge body of Marian teaching, which, in its quantity alone, is greater than that of all of his predecessors and which, in its quality and consistency, I believe is his greatest single legacy to the Church. While various aspects of this vast output have already been the object of numerous scholarly and popular studies, I would hazard to say that its rich doctrinal content, its inner coherence, and its clarity have barely begun to be appreciated. And perhaps even less appreciated is the fact that this vast and rich corpus of Marian teaching is not just the work of a noted theologian or preacher, but that, 1) when it occurs in a document of major importance, 2) when it can be shown to constitute a consistent and frequently repeated theme, or 3) when it is stated in a deliberate way which unmistakably indicates his intention to teach, it constitutes the ordinary magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff {footnote}Cf. Lumen Gentium #25. Cf. also Arthur Burton Calkins, Totus Tuus: John Paul II’s Program of Marian Consecration and Entrustment (New Bedford, MA: Academy of the Immaculate, 1992) hereafter cited as Totus Tuus 265-270; Totus Tuus: Il Magistero Mariano di Giovanni Paolo II. Scelta antologicee introduzioni di Arthur Burton Calkins (Siena: Cantagalli, 2006) hereafter cited as TTMM 33-35.{/footnote}.


Indeed, on 16 October 2005, the anniversary of the election of John Paul II to the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI stated in an interview granted to Polish Television

Initially, in speaking of the Pope’s legacy, I forgot to mention the many documents that he left us—14 encyclicals, many Pastoral Letters, and others. All this is a rich patrimony that has not yet been assimilated by the Church. My personal mission is not to issue many new documents, but to ensure that his documents are assimilated, because they are a rich treasure; they are the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. We know that the Pope was a man of the Council, that he internalized the spirit and the word of the Council. Through these writings he helps us understand what the Council wanted and what it didn’t. This helps us to be the Church of our times and of the future {footnote}The text of the entire interview was made available on the Internet site of Vatican Radio on the evening of 16 October 2005 in the original Italian, and with translations in English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.


My intention here is precisely to investigate the rich and multifaceted doctrine of John Paul II on the topic of Mary’s role as Mediatrix as it occurred in the course of his ordinary teaching, the greater part of which is not yet well-known and, consequently, has not yet been duly assimilated.


Without any doubt, Our Lady’s mediatorial role was particularly downplayed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council 1) because of the battles which had taken place on the council floor and behind the scenes {footnote}Cf. Ralph M. Wiltgen, SVD, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber: A History of Vatican II (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1985) 90-95, 153-159.{/footnote}, 2) because the Marian title Mediatrix was employed only once in Lumen Gentium in a very relativized context {footnote}Lumen Gentium #62. Cf. Mich ael O’Carroll, CSSp, Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc.; Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1982) cited hereafter as Theotokos 242-245; Idem., “Still Mediatress of All Graces?” in Miles Immaculatae 24 (1988) 114-132; Idem., “Mary’s Mediation: Vatican II and John Paul II” in Ignazio M. Calabuig, OSM (ed.), Virgo Liber Verbi: Miscellanea di Studi in Onore di P. Giuseppe M. Besutti (Rome: Edizioni «Marianum», 1991) 543-559.{/footnote}, and 3) above all, because of the minimalist and one-sided interpretation of the council’s Marian teaching which predominated in the immediate post-conciliar period and continues to do so in many academic centers of mariology {footnote}Cf. TTMM 12-22.{/footnote}. Although he had already made any number of important statements on Marian mediation in the early years of his pontificate and would continue to do so until its very end, with his Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, John Paul II single-handedly re-launched the theological discussion of this topic which many leading mariologists had thought was already successfully superceded {footnote}Cf. Totus Tuus 182-188.{/footnote}. Even quite recently and quite unfortunately, the Pontifical International Marian Academy issued a publication entitled La Madre del Signore on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of 2000 which stated that


In our opinion such study (of Marian mediation) should not be conducted by re-proposing the presuppositions, the terminology and the metaphors used by many theologians before the Second Vatican Council, but rather according to the lines traced by the Constitution Lumen Gentium. Within this ambit John Paul II has amply considered the cooperation of the Virgin in the Trinitarian work of salvation under the categories of ‘mediation in Christ’ and of ‘maternal mediation,’ that is, as a particular function of the universal motherhood of Mary in the order of grace; to many theologians this way of presenting the question of the mediation of Mary appears more rich, based on a good biblical foundation (cf. Jn 19:25-27), more in conformity with the sensus fidelium, less subject to controversy {footnote}La Madre del Signore. Memoria, Presenza, Speranza. Alcune questioni attuali sulla figura e la missione della b. Vergine Maria (Vatican City: Pontificia Accademia Mariana Internationalis, 2000) hereafter cited as La Madre del Signore 80 (my trans.).{/footnote}.


Here it is necessary to make some very pointed comments. 1) To the uninitiated, at first glance this statement might seem unexceptionable, but, in fact, it not so subtly suggests that the entire millennial Catholic tradition of understanding and elucidating Our Lady’s unique mediatorial role by saints, mystics, and theologians, along with the papal magisterium of Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII, Saint Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, and Pius XII, which has put this matter in ever sharper relief {footnote}Cf. Theotokos 238-242; Gabriele M. Rosch ini, OSM, Maria Santissima nella Storia della Salvezza, Vol. II (Isola del Liri: Tipografia Editrice M. Pisani, 1969) 198-235; Brunero Gherardini, La Madre: Maria in una sintesi sotricoteologica (Frigento: Casa Mariana Editrice, 1989) 287-324; Arthur Burton Calkins, “Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate in the Contemporary Roman Liturgy,” in Mark I. Miravalle, STD, (ed.), Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate, Theological Foundations: Towards a Papal Definition? (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Company, 1995) 68-82.{/footnote}, is to be side-stepped. 2) This statement insinuates that the pre-conciliar methodology employed in exploring this topic is “less rich” than the conciliar treatment found in Lumen Gentium and is based on less solid biblical foundations.


Such a vague statement, of course, simply begs the question. 3) Even more gratuitously and without a shred of supporting evidence, the authors of this communication inform us that their approach is in greater conformity to the sensus fidelium {footnote}Cf. Lumen Gentium #12, 34; Dei Verbum #10; Catechism of the Catholic Church #889; Theotokos 322-323.{/footnote}. 4) They also assure us that their proposed methodology is less subject to controversy, but that is only because, by prescribing the methodology to be used, they have effectively eliminated any opposition. 5) Without stating it in so many words here, the authors are also obviously concerned about avoiding controversy on the ecumenical level, as they clearly indicate elsewhere {footnote}Cf. La Madre del Signore 112-116.{/footnote}.Specifically, they state that students of mariology– should abstain from the will to impose on brethren not in communion with the Catholic Church ‘other obligations beyond those which are indispensable (cf. Acts 15:28),’ that is, doctrinal questions about the Mother of the Lord which are quæstiones disputatæ among Catholic theologians;

– should proceed to a supervised and correct use of terms and formulae (purification of language); the use of formulae and terms which, on the one hand, are not ancient nor accepted by many Catholic theologians and on the other hand provoke grave discomfort in brothers and sisters who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church is certainly not useful for reciprocal understanding; rather it is wise to use a terminology which expresses doctrine with exactness and efficacy, but which does not provide grounds for false interpretations {footnote}La Madre del Signore 115 (my trans.).{/footnote}.


This kind of language is not slightly disturbing. In the name of a deceptive “ecumenical” correctness cleverly camouflaged as “purification of language,” the authors want to impose silence on Catholics about matters which were not fundamentally “quæstiones disputatæ among Catholic theologians” until after the Council. They are concerned about not “provoking grave discomfort in brothers and sisters who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church,” but not among their own Catholic brothers and sisters.


The dossier published in Marianum regarding the request for the dogmatic definition of Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate takes the very same line as what has just been quoted above, with even more specific indications about terminology, which it says that the Second Vatican Council wished to avoid. This is quite evidently because the same persons were involved in the redaction of these documents. In that dossier, the late Father Ignazio Calabuig, OSM, the principal redactor, goes on to state that the Council consciously and deliberately renounced


– using the title Coredemptrix and the term coredemptio with reference to the Blessed Virgin; to the latter the Council preferred cooperatio and this because since it has an ecclesial point of reference with a biblical foundation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9), it could effectively designate the collaboration given by Mary, in faith, obedience and love, to the formation both of the body of Christ in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and of his mystical body, the Church, which is indissolubly linked to Christ the Head and from whose life she herself lives;


– making use of a terminology of Western scholastic coinage: objective and subjective, mediate and immediate redemption, merit de congruo and de condigno, terms alien to the theological tradition of the East; such terminology could certainly have continued to be used in theological research, but it was unthinkable that an ecumenical council would make its own these terms which of themselves recall the disputes of the schools;– defining in conceptual terms the association of Mary in the redemptive work of Christ, preferring to have recourse to the category of salvation history: thus describing the acts which, from the Incarnation all the way to the death on the cross, show the Mother intimately united to the redemptive work of the Son (cf. LG, #61);


– using the term mediatio with reference to the Virgin, employing in its place expressions like ‘maternal function’ (munus maternum) and ‘saving influence’ (salutaris influxus) or words like ‘cooperation’ (cooperatio), in passages in which it was legitimate to expect the word ‘mediation’ to be used with regard to the requirements of parallelism (cf. LG, #61, 63).


– configuring the ‘mediatorial action’ of Mary in geometric or spatial terms or in symbolic terms like ladder or neck, as if between Christ and the faithful there were a rampart which they could only surmount by means of the mediatorial intervention of the Virgin.


– the use of any expressions like that of ‘Mediatrix of all graces’ which, although recurring in papal documents previous to the Council, were the object of dispute among theologians; and the use of expressions such as ‘Mediatrix with the Mediator,’ ‘Christ and Mary’ in contexts which could produce the impression that the grace of the redemption is attributable, almost at the same level, to Christ and to the Virgin of Nazareth {footnote}Ignazio M. Calabuig, OSM, “Riflessione sulla richiesta della definizione dogmatica di ‘Maria corredentrice, mediatrice, avvocata’ ” in Marianum LXI (1999) hereafter cited as Calabuig 154-155 (my trans.)..


The underlying principle in all of this discussion about what is to be avoided, is precisely the idea that a general council of the Church can simply renounce the Church’s patrimony and banish the use of any terminology which was not used in the Council documents and thus comes to be regarded as “ecumenically” incorrect.


Indeed, it is the doctrine taught by the Council which is of ultimate importance. The study of the background from which the document emerged is also of value, precisely insofar as it indicates how and why matters were treated in a particular way. Thus a study like Ermanno Toniolo’s {footnote}Ermanno M. Toniolo, OSM, La Beata Maria Vergine nel Concilio Vaticano II: Cronistoria del capitolo VIII della Constituzione Dogmatica “Lumen Gentium” e sinossi di tutte le redazioni (Rome: Centro di Cultura Mariana «Madre della Chiesa», 2004).{/footnote}, which furnishes a great deal of background information on how chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium arrived at its final form, is of great value, but the methodology followed in establishing the final form of chapter 8 need not become ipso facto the methodology which must be followed by all who work in the field of mariology. This will to impose a particular approach and methodology and to effectively rule out the employment of terminology and systems of thought that have developed in the Church in the course of centuries and even millennia, is a fundamental component of what I refer to as “Vatican II triumphalism” {footnote}Cf. TTMM 15-22.{/footnote}.


“Vatican II triumphalism” is a partial and one-sided interpretation of the documents of the council which favors positions sustained by certain parties at the time of the council while carefully avoiding mention of every affirmation in the council documents which could counterbalance the “favored” position. In the case of chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium on “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church,” the “favored” position gives great prominence to the role of Mary as model of the Church. This reflects the rediscovered approach of ecclesiotypical mariology which highlights the analogy between Mary and the Church, a theme which was emerging again at the time of the Council and is certainly valid in itself. At the same time the practitioners of this interpretation largely ignore the elements of cristotypical mariology, which underscores the analogy between Christ and Mary in chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium, and prefer to dismiss these elements as deductive and “privilege-centered” {footnote}Cf. the comments of Fathers George F. Kirwin, OMI and Thomas Thompson, S.M. in Donald W. Buggert, O.Carm., Louis P. Rogge, O.Carm., Michael J. Wastag, O.Carm. (eds.), Mother, Behold Your Son: Essays in Honor of Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm. (Washington, DC: The Carmelite Institute, 2001), 17, 202.{/footnote}.


Obviously there were many theological insights which had come to the fore in the period preceding the Council due largely to scholarly research which had begun in the nineteenth century in the area of biblical, liturgical, patristic, and ecclesiological studies. Many of these found expression in the documents of the Council and specifically in the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium. All too often, however, an exaggerated emphasis on some of these insights on the part of the majority of the commentators, along with the total exclusion of balancing insights has, in fact, led to a “low mariology” which focuses almost exclusively on Mary as “woman of faith,” “disciple,” “sister” and “model” while largely ignoring her role as “spiritual mother,” “associate of the Redeemer” in the work of our salvation, “Mediatrix” and intercessor and, thus, tends to minimize the importance of the papal magisterium of the past two centuries. All too often, the virtually exclusive emphasis on ecclesiotypical mariology is accompanied by a whole-hearted acceptance of the historical-critical method of biblical exegesis and “lowest common denominator” of ecumenism {footnote}An excellent example of this approach is to be found in Raymond E. Brown, Karl P. Donfried, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and John Reumann (eds.), Mary in the New Testament:

A Collaborative Assessment by Protestant and Roman Catholic Scholars (Philadelphia: Fortress Press; New York: Paulist Press, 1978).{/footnote}. The practitioners of this methodology are almost always devoid of that reverential fear before the mystery of Mary which comes instinctively to “little ones” who faithfully echo the sensus fidelium (conviction of the faithful).


Happily in his address to the Roman Curia of 22 December 2005, Pope Benedict XVI dealt a significant blow to “Vatican II triumphalism.” He stated:


The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?


Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or—as we would say today—on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church {footnote}L’Osservatore Romano cited hereafter as OR 23 dicembre 2005, p. 5; L’Osservatore Romano, English edition cited hereafter as ORE 1925:5 (first number = cumulative edition number; second number = page).{/footnote}.


I believe that these incisive words of the Pope speak for themselves and offer a trenchant critique of “Vatican II triumphalism,” at least as it pertains to its mariological practitioners.


Finally, it should be noted that the authority of Pope John Paul II is invoked by the authors of La Madre del Signore as providing definitive approval of their approach to the study of Marian mediation. My specific object in the presentation of this paper is to demonstrate that John Paul II’s approach to this topic does not conform to their dictates, but exhibits a remarkable richness which, at once, faithfully reflects the Church’s millennial tradition, while at the same time developing it and expressing it with remarkably synthetic insights.


II. The Terminology of Coredemption/Mediation


From at least the beginning of the twentieth century, authors have consistently treated Marian coredemption and mediation together under the general title of “mediation” {footnote}Cf. the classic work of E. Druwé, S.J., “La Médiation universelle de Marie,” in Hubert du Manoir, S.J. (ed.), Maria: Études sur la Sainte Vierge (Paris: Beauchesne et Ses Fils, 1949) Vol. I in which the first part of the study (427-537) deals with the doctrine of Mary’s collaboration in the work of redemption and the second part (538-568) treats of Our Lady’s mediation or distribution of grace.{/footnote}.The founder of the Marianum, Father Gabriele M. Roschini, OSM, for instance, stated that some mariologists restrict the title of “Mediatrix” to the second phase of mediation (to the cooperation of Mary in the distribution of grace), reserving the title “Coredemptrix” to the first phase, that of her active and immediate cooperation in the work of the redemption; but even this first phase, he argues, is a true and proper mediation since it is a participation in the mediatorial work of Christ {footnote}Gabriele M. Roschini, OSM, Dizionario di Mariologia (Rome: Editrice Studium, 1961) 323.{/footnote}.This follows logically from the fact that both of these phases may be seen as subdivisions of the broad category of “Marian mediation” or what the late Father Giuseppe Besutti had consistently described in his Bibliografia Mariana since 1968 as “Mary in salvation history” (historia salutis) {footnote}Cf. Giusepp e M. Besutti, OSM, Bibliografia Mariana 1958-1966 (Roma: Edizioni Marianum, 1968) 194-205; Bibliografia Mariana 1967-1972 (1974) 164-167; Bibliografia Mariana 1973-1977 (1980) 155-158; Bibliografia Mariana 1978-1984 (1988) 256-259; Bibliografia Mariana 1985-1989 (1993) 328-333. In Bibliografia Mariana, Vol. IX—1990-1993 (1998) 329-330 Ermanno M. Toniolo changed the name of the category to “Cooperazione” and in Bibliografia Mariana, Vol. X—1994-1998 (2005) 207-212 Silvano M. Danieli changed the name of the category to “Maria: Nuova Eva—Mediatrice— Corredentrice”.{/footnote}. These two phases of the redemption are often differentiated as “objective” and “subjective,” as well as by other distinctions {footnote}These distinctions are carefully delineated in Juniper B. Carol, OFM, “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” in Juniper B. Carol, OFM (ed.), Mariology, Vol. 2 (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1957) 380-381.{/footnote} which Father Roschini’s successor as President of the Theological Faculty of the Marianum, Father Ignazio M. Calabuig, would have us eschew. Indeed, many papal documents may be cited which clearly teach that Our Lady’s cooperation in the distribution of grace flows directly from her coredemptive role. For this reason, we will find that not a few of the papal texts which can be cited in support of Marian coredemption, may also be cited in support of Mary’s role in the distribution of the graces of the redemption.


Here I will offer just three examples. The first comes from Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Adiutricem Populi of 5 September 1895:


From her heavenly abode, she began, by God’s decree, to watch over the Church, to assist and befriend us as our Mother; so that she who was so intimately associated with the mystery of human salvation is just as closely associated with the distribution of the graces which for all time will flow from the Redemption {footnote}Acta Sanctæ Sedis hereafter cited as ASS 28 (1895-1896) 130 (Our Lady: Papal Teachings trans. Daughters of St. Paul (Boston: St. Paul Editions, 1961) hereafter cited as OL #169 (alt.)). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.


The next example comes from Saint Pius X’s great Marian Encyclical Ad Diem Illum of 2 February 1904:


Hence the ever united life and labors of the Son and the Mother which permit the application to both of the words of the Psalmist: ‘My life is wasted with grief and my years in sighs.’ When the supreme hour of the Son came, beside the cross of Jesus there stood Mary, His Mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind; and so entirely participating in His Passion that, if it had been possible ‘she would have gladly borne all the torments that her Son underwent.’


From this community of will and suffering between Christ and Mary ‘she merited to become most worthily the reparatrix of the lost world’ (Eadmer, De Excellentia Virg. Mariæ, c. 9) and dispensatrix of all the gifts that our Savior purchased for us by his death and by his blood {footnote}ASS 36 (1903-1904) 453-454 (OL #232-233).{/footnote}.


Our third instance comes from the Servant of God Pius XII’s Radio Message of 13 May 1946 on the occasion of the crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima:


He, the Son of God, gave His heavenly Mother a share in His glory, His majesty, His kingship; because, associated as Mother and Minister to the King of martyrs in the ineffable work of man’s Redemption, she is likewise associated with Him forever, with power so to speak infinite, in the distribution of the graces which flow from the Redemption {footnote}Acta Apostolicæ Sedis hereafter cited as AAS 38 (1946) 266 (OL #413 (alt.)). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.


These texts should be seen as illuminating the following statements in Lumen Gentium #60 and 62 which are reciprocally illuminated by them.


In the words of the apostle there is but one mediator: ‘for there is but one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all’ (1 Tim 2:5-6). But Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin’s salutary influence on men originates not in any inner necessity but in the disposition of God. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. It does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it …


This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. This, however, is so understood that it neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator.


No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.


The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary, which it constantly experiences and recommends to the heartfelt attention of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer {footnote}Here I have used the translation of Austin Flannery, O.P., Vatican Council II: The Post Conciliar Documents (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1975) 418-419.{/footnote}.


When these papal texts and these two paragraphs from Lumen Gentium are read as complementary and mutually illuminating, they give us a balanced presentation of the Catholic doctrine on Mary’s unique participation in the mediation of Christ. When these texts of Lumen Gentium, however are read according to the exegesis of “Vatican II triumphalists,” they lead to a diminution of the Catholic doctrine on Our Lady. In #5 of his Encyclical Redemptoris Missio of 7 December 1990 {footnote}Inseg XIII/2 (1990) 1403 (ORE 1175:6).{/footnote}, John Paul II gives us a concise commentary on Christ as the unique Mediator between God and man and concludes the encyclical in #92:


To ‘Mary’s mediation, wholly oriented towards Christ and tending to the revelation of his salvific power,’ I entrust the Church and, in particular, those who commit themselves to carrying out the missionary mandate in today’s world {footnote}Inseg XIII/2 (1990) 1486 (ORE 1175:19).{/footnote}.


III. Mary’s Mediating Presence in the Mystery of Christ


Before proceeding further in a more specific analysis of John Paul II’s teaching on Mary’s unique participation in the mediation of Christ, I would like to present the way in which he situates Mary in the mystery of Christ. In #22 of his programmatic first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis of 4 March 1979, John Paul II had already sketched Mary’s presence in the mystery of the Redemption and in Christian life in broad strokes which were, at the same time, pregnant with meaning to be further developed, effectively insisting that her mediation is absolutely unique and that consequently she “must be in all the ways of the Church’s daily life”:


For if we feel a special need, in this difficult and responsible phase of the history of the Church and of mankind, to turn to Christ, who is Lord of the Church and Lord of man’s history on account of the mystery of the Redemption, we believe that nobody else can bring us as Mary can into the divine and human dimension of this mystery. Nobody has been brought into it by God himself as Mary has. It is in this that the exceptional character of the grace of the divine Motherhood consists. Not only is the dignity of this Motherhood unique and unrepeatable in the history of the human race, but Mary’s participation, due to this Maternity, in God’s plan for man’s salvation through the mystery of the Redemption is also unique in profundity and range of action…


The special characteristic of the motherly love that the Mother of God inserts in the mystery of the Redemption and the life of the Church finds expression in its exceptional closeness to man and all that happens to him. It is in this that the mystery of the Mother consists. The Church, which looks to her with altogether special love and hope, wishes to make this mystery her own in an ever deeper manner. For in this the Church also recognizes the way for her daily life, which is each person.


The Father’s eternal love, which has been manifested in the history of mankind through the Son whom the Father gave, ‘that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,’ comes close to each of us through this Mother and thus takes on tokens that are of more easy understanding and access by each person. Consequently, Mary must be in all the ways of the Church’s daily life. Through her maternal presence the Church acquires certainty that she is truly living the life of her Master and Lord and that she is living the mystery of the Redemption in all its life-giving profundity and fullness {footnote}Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II (Rome: Liberaria Editrice Vaticana) hereafter cited as Inseg II/1 (1979) 607-608 (U.S.C.C. Edition 97, 98). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.


While the Pope does not speak explicitly here of Mary’s mediation in Christ, he lays a solid foundation for understanding it which I would summarize in the following points: 1) In accord with the great tradition, he emphasizes the uniqueness of Our Lady’s divine maternity and her participation in the mystery of the Redemption. 2) He declares that the eternal love of the Father, manifested through the Son, comes close to us through the Mother. He presents it as axiomatic that “no one can bring us into the divine and human mystery of the Redemption as Mary can” precisely because “nobody has been brought into it by God himself as Mary has.” Although he would draw out the nature of this maternal mediation and its mode of operation at much greater length in the third part of his Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater (#38-47) {footnote}For an excellent study on Marian mediation in Redemptoris Mater, cf. Manfred Hauke, “La Mediazione materna di Maria secondo papa Giovanni Paolo II,” Maria Corredentrice: Storia e Teologia VII (Frigento: Casa Mariana Editrice, 2005) hereafter cited as Hauke 35-91, esp. 42-45.{/footnote} and in many other instances, as we shall see, the foundation already appears here: “Mary’s participation … in God’s plan for man’s salvation … is … unique in profundity and range of action.” 3) Thus he concludes that Mary must be in all the ways of the Church’s daily life. Without using the classical terminology, the Pope had gracefully sketched Marian coredemption and mediation of grace in this magnificent text.


In #9 of his next Encyclical, Dives in Misericordia of 30 November 1980, the Pope presented Mary as the Mother of Mercy, underscoring that she was uniquely called to bring people close to the mystery of mercy:


Mary is also the one who obtained mercy in a particular and exceptional way, as no other person has. At the same time, still in an exceptional way, she made possible with the sacrifice of her heart her own sharing in revealing God’s mercy. This sacrifice is intimately linked with the cross of her Son, at the foot of which she was to stand on Calvary. Her sacrifice is a unique sharing in the revelation of mercy, that is, a sharing in the absolute fidelity of God to His own love, to the covenant that He willed from eternity and that He entered into in time with man, with the people, with humanity; it is a sharing in that revelation that was definitively fulfilled through the cross. No one has experienced, to the same degree as the Mother of the crucified One, the mystery of the cross, the overwhelming encounter of divine transcendent justice with love: that ‘kiss’ given by mercy to justice. No one has received into his heart, as much as Mary did, that mystery, that truly divine dimension of the redemption effected on Calvary by means of the death of the Son, together with the sacrifice of her maternal heart, together with her definitive ‘fiat.’ Mary, then, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the Mother of mercy: Our Lady of mercy, or Mother of divine mercy; in each one of these titles there is a deep theological meaning, for they express the special preparation of her soul, of her whole personality, so that she was able to perceive, through the complex events, first of Israel, then of every individual and of the whole of humanity, that mercy of which ‘from generation to generation’ people become sharers according to the eternal design of the most Holy Trinity.


The above titles which we attribute to the Mother of God speak of her principally, however, as the Mother of the crucified and risen One; as the One who, having obtained mercy in an exceptional way, in an equally exceptional way ‘merits’ that mercy throughout her earthly life and, particularly, at the foot of the cross of her Son; and finally as the One who, through her hidden and at the same time incomparable sharing in the messianic mission of her Son, was called in a special way to bring close to people that love which He had come to reveal {footnote}Inseg III/2 (1980) 1510-1511 (St. Paul Edition 30-31). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.


With a few bold strokes, the Pope sketches once again Mary’s insertion in the mystery of Christ and her unique role in the work of our redemption. 1) He begins by stating that she “obtained mercy in a particular and exceptional way, as no other person has,” thus alluding to the preservative redemption of her Immaculate Conception. 2) Then he states that “the sacrifice of her heart” … “is a unique sharing in the revelation of mercy,” thus alluding to her intimate union with Jesus in the offering of his perfect sacrifice on Calvary {footnote}“The Heart of Mary as Coredemptrix in the Magisterium of Pope John Paul II” in S. Tommaso Teologo: Ricerche in occasione dei due centenari accademici (Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana “Studi Tomistici” #59, 1995) 320-335.{/footnote}. 3) “No one” he insists “has experienced, to the same degree as the Mother of the crucified One, the mystery of the cross,” hence “she knows its price” ({footnote}On Our Lady’s knowledge of the price (pretium) of the redemption, cf. St. Bonaventure, Collationes de septem donis Spiritus Sancti, 6 in Doctoris seraphici S. Bonaventuræ … Opera Omnia, vol 5, ed PP. Collegii a S. Bonaventura (Ad Claras Aquas (Quaracchi): Ex Typographia Collegii S. Bonaventuræ, 1891) p. 486.{/footnote}4) “Having obtained mercy in an exceptional way, in an equally exceptional way” the Mother of mercy “‘merits’ (‘meretur’) that mercy throughout her earthly life and, particularly, at the foot of the cross of her Son” {footnote}Cf. St. Pius X’s Encyclical Ad Diem Illum of 2 February 1904 in which he speaks of how Mary merited («promeruit») to become the reparatrix of the lost world and how she merits (promeret) de congruo what Christ merits de condigno (Acta Sanctæ Sedis hereafter cited as AAS 36 (1903-1904) 453-454 (OL #233-234). For a discussion of this terminology cf. Juniper B. Carol, OFM, “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” in Mariology 2:383, 409-411.5) Thus Mary “was called in a special way” to bring to people that love which Jesus “had come to reveal” {footnote}This seems to parallel without the use of more technical language St. Pius X’s conclusion about Mary as princeps largiendarum gratiarum ministra in Ad Diem Illum. Cf. ASS 36 (1903-1904) 454 (OL #234).{/footnote}Without exaggerating or stretching the point, we are surely not mistaken in seeing Mary’s unique participation in the work of redemption and her mediation of grace in this graceful yet dense exposition.


IV. Mary’s Maternal Mediation in Christ in Redemptoris Mater


In his Marian Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, John Paul would deal explicitly and at length with the concept of Mary’s mediation in Christ. He would do so using and maximizing the very texts of Lumen Gentiumchapter 8 which Vatican II triumphalists like to use to minimize and neutralize Mary’s role. Without explicit reference to the magisterium of his predecessors on this matter, his detailed analysis of chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium in the third part of Redemptoris Mater was a real tour de force and brought the topic of Mary’s mediation to the fore once again after the Marian “eclipse” which began in the immediate post-conciliar period and which, at least in part, is directly attributable to the minimalist interpretations which were all too readily accepted in the theological community and among pastors as providing the authoritative explanation of the conciliar doctrine. This encyclical might be described in every sense as a document issued motu proprio, that is on the Pope’s own initiative.


While it might be seen as developing from the brilliant Marian passages developed in the first two Trinitarian encyclicals, Redemptor Hominis of 4 March 1979, and Dives in Misericordia of 30 November 1980, as we have seen above, there is further ample evidence that it was very much the fruit of the Pope’s own reflection and prayer. In his general audience address of 25 March 1987, he stated:


I announced it (the encyclical) on the first of January and it is being published in preparation for the Marian Year.


I have been thinking of it for a long time. I have pondered it at length in my heart. Now I thank the Lord for having granted me to offer this service to the sons and daughters of the Church, in answer to the expectations signaled to me from various quarters.


This Encyclical is essentially a meditation on the revelation of the mystery of salvation, which was communicated to Mary at the dawn of Redemption, and in which she was called to participate and collaborate in a completely exceptional and extraordinary way.


It is a meditation which reviews and in part carefully examines the teaching of the Second Vatican Council as contained in the eighth chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, entitled ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and of the Church.’ …


The Encyclical expresses the universality of Christ’s Redemption and the universality of the Virgin Mary’s motherhood {footnote}Inseg X/1 (1987) 807-809 (ORE 981:23). Emphasis my own.{/footnote}.


On the Pope’s very explicit authorship of Redemptoris Mater, we have the further corroboration of René Laurentin:


The Holy Father personally wrote this encyclical in Polish. He submitted the Italian translation (of the draft document) to representatives of a number of Roman congregations or offices (Faith, Christian Unity, Evangelization) as well as the Roman universities (Marianum, Gregorian) and so on. However, he incorporated only a few suggestions and steadfastly maintained the direction and coherence of the document {footnote}Rene Laurentin, A Year of Grace with Mary trans. Michael J. Wrenn (Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1987) 150.{/footnote}.


I can personally testify to the dissatisfaction of a member of one of the faculties mentioned above, who stated to me that Redemptoris Mater would have been a far better document if the Pope had followed the advice of his faculty. So much for the frustration of Vatican II triumphalists and their unwillingness to heed the Pope’s authoritative elucidation of the Marian teaching of Vatican II!


I will not attempt here a lengthy exegesis of the third part of Redemptoris Mater, which deals explicitly with “Maternal Mediation,” but for the purposes of this study I would like to signal these highly significant passages in #38 and 39:


The teaching of the Second Vatican Council presents the truth of Mary’s mediation as ‘a sharing in the one unique source that is the mediation of Christ himself .’ Thus we read: ‘The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. She experiences it continuously and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that, encouraged by this maternal help, they may more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer’ (Lumen Gentium, #62). This role is at the same time special and extraordinary. It flows from her divine motherhood and can be understood and lived in faith only on the basis of the full truth of this motherhood. Since by virtue of divine election Mary is the earthly Mother of the Father’s consubstantial Son and his ‘generous companion’ in the work of redemption ‘she is a mother to us in the order of grace’ (Lumen Gentium, #61). This role constitutes a real dimension of her presence in the saving mystery of Christ and the Church …


For it must be recognized that before anyone else it was God himself, the Eternal Father, who entrusted himself to the Virgin of Nazareth, giving her his own Son in the mystery of the Incarnation. Her election to the supreme office and dignity of Mother of the Son of God refers, on the ontological level, to the very reality of the union of the two natures in the person of the Word (hypostatic union). This basic fact of being the Mother of the Son of God is from the very beginning a complete openness to the person of Christ, to his whole work, to his whole mission …


Mary entered, in a way all her own, into the one mediation ‘between God and men’ which is the mediation of the man Christ Jesus. If she was the first to experience within herself the supernatural consequences of this one mediation—in the Annunciation she had been greeted as ‘full of grace’—then we must say that through this fullness of grace and supernatural life she was especially predisposed to cooperation with Christ, the one Mediator of human salvation. And such cooperationis precisely this mediation subordinated to the mediation of Christ.