Mother of All Peoples is pleased to present this classic treatment on Our Lady’s role as Mediatrix of all Graces by Fr. Armand J. Robichaud, in which the Church’s traditional understanding of the Blessed Mother’s function in the distribution of all graces is well captured. – Ed.
When Our Blessed Lord uttered His Consummatum est on the cross, the bloody immolation of His mortal life drew to its dramatic close. It was then and there that His sacrificial act, embodying the infinite merits and satisfactions of His whole earthly career, definitively sealed what Catholic theologians are wont to call the “objective Redemption” of mankind. Yet the Consummatum est referred only to the first act of the divine drama representing the whole economy of the world’s salvation. The second act would be the enduring process in which the treasury of graces, merited by the Savior through His life and death, is made available and is actually communicated to individual souls to enable them to attain to their supernatural goal.
Our discussion at present centers exclusively on Our Blessed Lady’s active share in the second phase of Christ’s salvific economy, namely, her unique prerogative as Dispensatrix (or Mediatrix) of all graces. (1)
Before endeavoring to establish the fact of Mary’s prerogative, it is well to explain briefly its exact meaning. When we assert that Our Lady is the Dispensatrix of all graces we mean that she actually obtains them for us, through some true causality on her part, the nature of which will be discussed later. By “all graces” we mean sanctifying grace, the infused theological and moral virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, all actual graces, the charismatic gifts, and even temporal favors having a bearing on our supernatural end. In brief, everything which produces, conserves, increases, or perfects the supernatural life of man. This universally extends likewise to the beneficiaries of Mary’s mission, for it affects all human beings of all times, including the souls in purgatory. Those who lived before Mary’s time received their graces in view of her future merits; those living after her, particularly after her Assumption into heaven, receive all graces through her actual intercession, or even, according to some, through her physical instrumental causality. Moreover, the doctrine does not mean that Our Lady’s intercession must be invoked as a prerequisite for the reception of graces. Whether we address our petitions to her, or directly to Christ or to some other saint, the favor will be granted in every instance through Mary’s causality.
The doctrine of Mary’s actual share in the dispensation of every single grace has met with unqualified support in Catholic quarters particularly since the seventeenth century. The exceptions to this remarkable consensus are relatively few and far between. To recall the most important: Theophilus Raynaud, S.J. (+ 1663), who claimed that our thesis was only a pious opinion lacking solid foundation in the sources. For him, Our Lady was the “channel of all graces” in the sense that she gave birth to Christ, the Author of all graces. (2) Again, in the eighteenth century, the otherwise learned L. A. Muratori (+ 1751) referred to this teaching as “a sheer exaggeration” and ”an error.” (3) When St. Alphonsus Liguori undertook to defend Mary’s prerogative, he was answered by Muratori’s nephew who, in turn, drew an excellent rebuttal from the Saint entitled Risposta ad un anonimo… (4) More recently, Prof. John Ude, (5) Anton Fischer, (6) and Jean Guitton (7) have expressed similar views on the subject, provoking vigorous protests in certain quarters.
Our treatment, of this question will be divided into two parts, namely: I. the fact of Our Lady’s role as Dispensatrix of all graces; and II. the nature of that office. Our conclusion will contain a brief discussion concerning the theological note to be attached to this thesis, and also its definability.
I. The Fact of Mary’s Role as Dispensatrix of All Graces
Since the truth of our thesis rests completely on the free will of God, the first duty of the theologian is to inquire into the sources of revelation (both proximate and remote) in order to ascertain what God Himself has deigned to disclose to us in this connection. Once we have established the thesis by means of positive theology, we shall endeavor to corroborate it by means of speculative theology. Hence the subdivision of this first part into the following sections: A. The Ecclesiastical Magisterium; B. The Sacred Liturgy, reflecting the mind of the Magisterium; C. Sacred Scripture; D. Tradition; and E. Theological Reasoning.