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.
A. The Ecclesiastical Magisterium
By “ecclesiastical magisterium” we mean the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff and of the bishops under him and with him. Since this constitutes “the proximate and universal criterion of truth for all theologians,” (8) its paramount importance hardly calls for emphasis here. The solemn and extraordinary magisterium having made no decision as yet on our subject, we shall limit ourselves to the consideration of the ordinary magisterium as exercised by the Popes only. (9)
It is particularly within the past century that the Popes have made repeated and very explicit references to Our Lady’s role as Dispensatrix of all graces. However, even in centuries past, we discover occasional indications of an implicit belief in this doctrine as conveyed by titles and expressions such as Mother of grace, Mother of the Church, Mother of men, our Mother, and the like. (10) Thus, for example, Sixtus IV (1471-1484) speaks of Our Lady as the “Mother of grace . . . sedulous and constant intercessor before the King,” and of her “merits and intercession of divine grace.” (11) Again, Benedict XIV (1740-1758) states that Mary is “like a celestial stream through which the flow of all graces and gifts reach the soul of all wretched mortals.” (12) And Pius VII (1800-1823) condenses the whole truth in the significant expression “Dispensatrix of all graces.” (13)
With Pius IX (1846-1878) a new era begins in the field of Mariology. This is particularly so as regards the Marian prerogative we are now discussing. In his encyclical Ubi primum (1849) the Pope of the Immaculate Conception writes: “The foundation of all Our confidence, as you know well, Venerable Brethren, is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is His will, that we obtain everything through Mary.” (14)
Again, in his Ineffabilis Deus (1854), Pius alludes to our doctrine in these words:
… since she has been appointed by God to be the Queen of heaven and earth, and is exalted above the choirs of angels and saints, and even stands at the right hand of her only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, she presents our petitions in a most efficacious manner. What she petitions, she obtains. Her pleas can never be unheard. (15)
In Leo XIII (1878-1903), whose contributions to Mariology in general are well known, we find a frequent and vigorous exponent of the thesis that Mary is the channel of absolutely every grace. Our references will be limited to only a few of his most outstanding utterances. In the very first of his memorable Rosary encyclicals, Supremi apostolatus (1883), he styles Our Lady “the guardian of our peace and the dispensatrix of heavenly graces.” (16) A year later, in his Superiore anno, he speaks of the prayers presented to God “through her whom He has chosen to be the dispenser of all heavenly graces.” (17) And a little further: “to her we must fly, to her whom the Church rightly and justly calls the dispenser of salvation, the helper and the deliverer….” (18)
But it is in his encyclical Octobri mense (1891) that Pope Leo has left us his most striking pronouncement of this subject. Having recalled that the eternal Son of God did not wish to accomplish the mystical union between Himself and mankind at the time of the Incarnation without first seeking the free consent of Our Lady as representative of the whole human race, the Pope adds:
With equal truth can it be affirmed that, by the will of God, nothing of the immense treasure of every grace which the Lord has accumulated, comes to us except through Mary. . . . How great are the wisdom and mercy revealed in this design of God. . . . Mary is our glorious intermediary; she is the powerful Mother of the omnipotent God.
. . . This design of such dear mercy realized by God in Mary and confirmed by the testament of Christ (Jn. 19:26-27), was understood from the beginning and accepted with the utmost joy by the holy Apostles and the earliest believers. It was also the belief and teaching of the venerable Fathers of the Church. All the Christian peoples of every age accepted it unanimously. . . . There is no other reason for this than a divine faith. (19)
In connection with this remarkable passage we would like to make the following observations:
1. The truth proposed by Pope Leo is: the will of God is that we obtain absolutely everything through Mary.
2. The encyclical is addressed to the whole Church.
3. The Pope appeals to the universal belief of the Church from the Apostles to our own day, thereby officially interpreting tradition. This unanimous consensus of the Ecclesia docens with the Ecclesia discensin a matter that could not be learned except through revelation is a guarantee that God did reveal it.
4. Pope Leo gives us to understand that God implied this truth in the Annunciation pericope (Lk. 1:26-38), and also in the proclamation of Christ from the cross, as narrated in St. John’s Gospel (19:26-27). Therefore, the doctrine is based on the written word of God.
Inspired, no doubt, by the teaching of his predecessor, St. Pius X (1903-1914) found occasion to add the weight of his own authority to the same belief. It is well known that before writing his encyclical Ad diem illum (1904), to commemorate the golden jubilee of the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, he desired to reread in its entirety the treatise on The True Devotion by St. Louis M. Grignion de Montfort. Little wonder, then, that his admirable encyclical is thoroughly impregnated with the doctrine of Mary’s universal Mediation. For our specific purpose, the most important section of the encyclical reads as follows:
By this union of will and suffering between Christ and Mary, “she merited to become in a most worthy manner the Reparatrix of the lost world” (20) and, consequently, the Dispensatrix of all the gifts which Jesus acquired for us through His death and blood. Indeed, we do not deny that the distribution of these gifts belongs by strict and proper right to Christ… Yet … it was granted to the august Virgin to be together with her Only-begotten Son the most powerful Mediatrix and Conciliatrix of the whole world. So Christ is the source…. Mary, however, as St. Bernard justly remarks, is the channel, or she is the neck by which the Body is united to the Head, and the Head sends power and strength through the Body. For she is the neck of our Head, through which all spiritual gifts are communicated to His Body. (21)
While the above passage with its complete context has occasioned endless discussions and a variety of opinions as to its bearing on Mary’s role as Coredemptrix, nevertheless, its clear enunciation of the dispensatrix thesis has been frankly admitted by all. (22)
Benedict XV (1914-1922) continued the trend of his predecessors, and also added contributions of his own to our doctrine. For example, he re-echoes Leo XIII in statements such as:
…since all the graces that the Author of all good deigns to bestow upon the poor descendants of Adam are, by favorable design of divine Providence, dispensed through the hands of the most holy Virgin…, (23)
In his Apostolic Letter Inter sodalicia (1918) the Pope tells us that the reason we receive all graces through Mary is because she had previously redeemed the world together with Christ. (24)
Objections have at times been raised against the universality of Mary’s mediation on the grounds that we receive many favors through the intercession of other saints too. Benedict XV made an important pronouncement on this point in an allocution after the solemn reading of the decree approving the two miracles for the canonization of Joan of Arc. The promoter of the faith had objected that one of the two miracles had been worked at Lourdes, and thus should be attributed to Mary, not to Joan of Arc. To which the Pope answers:
If in every miracle we must recognize the mediation of Mary, through whom, according to God’s will, every grace and blessing comes to us, it must be admitted that in the case of one of these miracles the mediation of the Blessed Virgin manifested itself in a very special way. We believe that God so disposed the matter in order to remind the faithful that the remembrance of Mary must never be excluded, even when it may seem that a miracle is to be attributed to the intercession or the mediation of one of the blessed or one of the saints. (25)
It is also worth mentioning here that it was Benedict XV who, upon request of Cardinal Mercier, granted to the dioceses of Belgium, and to all the Ordinaries who might petition it, permission to celebrate the special feast of Mary Mediatrix of All Graces on May 31 of each year. (26)
We conclude our references to Pope Benedict with a quotation from a letter he addressed to the American hierarchy relative to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington:
… all the Catholics of the United States will have their eyes turned towards that holy church placed under the protection of the Immaculate Virgin, Dispensatrix of all graces . . . and will come in great numbers to manifest their religion and their piety. (27)
Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) is in perfect harmony with his predecessors on this point. Since it would be repetitious to elaborate on his many pronouncements, we shall select only two passages in which our doctrine is very clearly stated:
We have nothing more at heart than to promote more and more the piety of the Christian people toward the Virgin treasurer of all graces at the side of God (gratiarum omnium apud Deum sequestram). (28)
Confiding in her intercession with Jesus, “the one Mediator of God and man” (1 Tim. 2:5), who wished to associate His own Mother with Himself as the advocate of sinners, as the dispenser and mediatrix of grace…. (29)
Our gloriously reigning Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, may rightly be hailed as the greatest Marian Pope in modern times. Indeed, he has done more than any of his predecessors to make the world more Mary-conscious. He is the Pope of the Assumption, of the first Marian Year in history; he has instituted the liturgical feast honoring Our Lady’s Queenship; he has solemnly consecrated the human race to her Immaculate Heart.
Hence we would naturally expect his teaching on Mary’s mediation to be at least as eloquent as that of his predecessors.
In numerous documents the Pope gives evident proof of his belief when he urges the faithful to ask and expect various graces and blessings from the Mother of God. (30) In some of these, he is particularly explicit on this point. For example, in his letter Superiore anno (1940), he writes:
And since, as St. Bernard declares, “it is the will of God that we obtain all favors through Mary,” let everyone hasten to have recourse to Mary…. (31)
And again, in Mediator Dei (1947):
She teaches us all virtues; she gives us her Son and with Him all the help we need, for “God wished us to have everything through Mary.” (32)
The same thought, expressed in the same words, occurs in the encyclical Doctor Mellifluus (1953), commemorating the eighth centenary of the death of St. Bernard. (33) And in an allocution on April 21, 1940, he reminds a group of pilgrims from Genoa that Our Lady is “the channel of graces which regenerate us to the spiritual life and help us regain the celestial country.” (34) Similar references are found also in his encyclical Mystici Corporis (1943), where Mary’s queenly prerogative is indicated as one of the foundations for her universal mediation. (35) Another basis, Mary’s Coredemption, is clearly recalled in his memorable broadcast to Fatima in 1946, where he tells us that, because Mary “had been united as Mother and Minister, with the King of martyrs in the ineffable work of Redemption, she remains always associated with Him … in the distribution of graces flowing from the Redemption.” (36)
In closing the testimony of Pius XII we quote from a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites by which the Pope recognizes the miracles proposed for the canonization of Louis M. Grignion de Montfort. It is important because of its reference to tradition and the teaching of theologians. The opening paragraph reads:
Gathering together the tradition of the Fathers, the Doctor Mellifluus (St. Bernard) teaches that God wants us to have everything through Mary. This pious and salutary doctrine all theologians at the present time hold in common accord. (37)
Conclusion: Our consideration of the argument from the magisterium may close with the following observations of Canon Bittremieux, which we summarize and gladly make our own:
1. The doctrine that Our Lady is the Dispensatrix of absolutely every grace is inculcated not only by one Pope, but by a series of them; to be exact, by every Pope in the past one hundred years.
2. The magisterium exercised by the Popes in the present matter is thoroughly assertive and categorical.
3. The doctrine is taught not only in allocutions and private letters, but also in authentic public documents addressed to the whole Church; likewise through the institution of the liturgical feast of Mary Mediatrix of All Graces.
4. This stand engages the magisterium in a very grave matter which pertains to the domain of faith. Hence these pronouncements require our religious assent.
5. The Popes realize that their authority tends per se to strengthen the theologians’ conviction that Mary’s universal mediation is a revealed truth; nevertheless they encourage and promote this doctrine with ever increasing frequency and clearness.
6. Moreover, we must bear in mind the perpetual and permanent ordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit who overshadows the Popes in their work as pastors and teachers of the faithful in the exercise of their ordinary magisterium. (38)
To these sober conclusions of the renowned Belgian Mariologist, we would add one of our own: It is our considered opinion, salvo meliori judicio, that, even though we do not have as yet a solemn definition on the matter, the doctrine of Our Lady’s universal mediation of graces should be classified as de fide divina ex ordinario magisterio. This conclusion is based particularly on our previous observations concerning Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Octobri mense.
B. The Sacred Liturgy
Having examined the pronouncements of the ordinary magisterium, we now direct our attention to the liturgy, which is rightly considered an authentic reflection of the mind of the Ecclesia docens. The liturgy is Catholic doctrine translated into action, and for this reason it becomes an excellent vehicle of education in the truths of our holy faith. (39) The sacred rites of the Church argue to a belief, not indeed in the sense that they gave rise to it, but rather in the sense that they presuppose its existence.
Hence the Church’s practice to search the liturgy prior to the dogmatic definition of certain doctrines. (40) During the discussion of controversial subjects, the Church and the Fathers “have never failed to look to the age-old and time-honored sacred rites for enlightenment” (41) being well aware that “the law of prayer determines the law of belief.” Bearing this in mind, let us now review briefly a few of the various liturgical testimonies relative to our doctrine both in the East and in the West. (42)
1. The Latin Liturgy—Particularly significant as revealing the mind of the Church is the special feast of Mary Mediatrix of All Graces approved and commended by Pope Benedict XV in the year 1921, and observed in numerous dioceses on May 31. The central theme of the feast is Our Lady’s role in the actual dispensation of all graces. (43) Consequently, the Office and Mass abound in references to this doctrine. A few instances will suffice:
Behold my Lord has entrusted everything to me, and there is nothing which is not in my power, or that he has not given to me. (Antiphon for the Magnificat, First Vespers)
O Lord Jesus Christ, our Mediator with the Father, who hast deigned to appoint thy most Blessed Virgin Mother to be our Mother also and our Mediatrix with thee, mercifully grant that all who shall approach thee seeking favors, may rejoice having obtained everything through her. (Oration for Office and Mass)
Let us come and adore Christ the Redeemer who has willed that we should have all good things through Mary. (Invitatorium)
Who will distribute this sacred flow (of grace) to the redeemed? This care is confided to Mary who, as arbiter, directs the course of salvation. Everything which the Redeemer merited for us is dispensed by Mary, His Mother, at whose request the Son willingly diffuses His blessings. (Hymn at Matins)
The lessons for the second nocturn are taken from the works of St. Ephraem, St. Germain, and St. Bernard, containing glowing descriptions of Our Lady’s mediatorial office.
It may be of interest to note in this connection that long before the present feast of Mary Mediatrix was established, the Holy See had granted the various branches of the Franciscan Order a special Mass and Office for the feast of Our Lady of the Angels (August 2), the Oration of which opens with these significant words: “O God who hast wished to dispense all favors to men through thy most holy Mother…” (44)
2. The Eastern Liturgy—The Orientals have no special feast honoring Our Lady as Dispensatrix of all graces. Nevertheless, their liturgical books contain many more allusions to this Marian prerogative than do those of the Western Church. We do not, of course, discover any attempts to convey the doctrine in dogmatic formulas, but the rich imagery and the variety of ways in which Mary’s universal intercession is constantly emphasized unequivocally points to their consciousness that she is the channel of all heavenly graces. The gathering together of the numerous texts reflecting this conviction would constitute sufficient material for a separate dissertation. For reasons of necessary brevity we shall select but a few pertinent passages.
For the Byzantines, for example, Our Lady is “the bridge that brings mortals from earth to heaven.” (45) In their Divine Office she is addressed as the one “through whom the human race has found salvation” and through whom “we shall find Paradise.” (46) During the Mass, before Mary’s icon, the celebrant invokes her protection as “the fountain of mercy.” (47)
The Coptic liturgy is even more explicit. In one of its tropars we read that our salvation is insured “because every help comes to the faithful through Mary, the Mother of God.” (48) And in a certain theotokia: “We have no hope before the Lord Jesus Christ, except through thy prayers and intercession, O Queen of us all.” (49) Even in the administration of the various sacraments the priest’s prayer implies that the effects of the sacred rites are obtained somehow through the intercession of Mary. (50)
The Syrians are hardly less clear in conveying the same doctrine through their liturgy. Thus, in one of their many beautiful prayers they address Our Lady as follows: “How can I praise thee duly, O most chaste Virgin? For thou alone among men art all-holy; and thou givest to all the help and grace they need.” (51)
From the Armenian liturgy, so rich in references to Mary’s place in the economy of
salvation, these two passages will suffice. “Rejoice, O Mother of God, throne of salvation and hope of the human race, Mediatrix of law and grace.” (52) “We take refuge in thee, O most holy one… dispenser of graces; thou art a fountain for the thirsty, rest for the afflicted, thou who hast borne the Word Divine.” (53)
Written on a somewhat similar vein, the following excerpts from the Chaldean liturgy on the feast of the Immaculate Conception are likewise significant. “O Queen of queens, all rich, enrich thy servants with benefits, O Mother of the Most High. For He has made thee the dispensatrix of His treasures and the universal Queen…. It is in thy bosom that He has placed His treasures, and in thee He has gathered together graces as in a sea, and He has made thee the source of life for mortals….” (54)
From these testimonies, which could easily be multiplied, it is sufficiently clear that the sacred liturgy, both in the East and in the West, faithfully mirrors the mind of the Church relative to the doctrine of Mary’s universal mediation in the dispensation of every grace.
C. Sacred Scripture
It may be safely stated that most Marian truths find their ultimate basis in the written word of God. The doctrine of Our Lady’s universal mediation of graces is no exception. It is contained in the sacred pages, not formally and explicitly, of course, but rather by implication. And this implication is arrived at especially with the aid of the magisterium and the constant teaching of tradition.
Of the various biblical passages generally adduced in this connection, some make possible the formulation of a defensible argument in favor of the doctrine, while others constitute mere indications of a possible design on God’s part to confer His favors through Our Blessed Lady. Let us examine briefly a few of those more frequently invoked by Mariologists.
1. The Protoevangelium (Gen. 3:15)
I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head and you shall lie in wait for his heel.
These words, addressed by God Himself to the serpent-tempter after the fall of our first parents in the garden of paradise, constitute a messianic prophecy forecasting the future Redemption through Jesus Christ. (55) At the side of the victorious Savior we find a woman sharing His enmity with the serpent (Satan) and His triumph over the infernal powers.
The magisterium of the Church unquestionably favors the opinion which identifies that “woman” with Our Blessed Lady. (56) Catholic tradition lends strong support to the same view, (57) which is now shared by the majority of theologians and a growing number of professional exegetes. (58) Presupposing, as we must, the Marian sense of the passage, we may argue thus: Our Lady is indissolubly associated with Christ both in the exercise of a perpetual struggle with the devil and in the complete victory over him. (59) This mission of Christ as Restorer of the supernatural order did not terminate with the cancellation of our debt on Calvary and with the acquisition of graces through His infinite merits, but continues with the communication of those graces to individual souls. It is only through the actual reception of the fruits of Christ’s Redemption that individual souls are able to attain to their supernatural destiny in heaven and thus boast of a complete and perfect triumph over the infernal foe. From which we conclude: It is highly fitting that, since Mary was so closely associated with the Savior in the initial phase of the victory, she should have an active share also in its ulterior and decisive phase. In this sense, the Protoevangelium may rightly be considered as a biblical basis for Mary’s role as Dispensatrix of all graces. (60)
2. Our Lord’s Testament (Jn. 19:26-27)
When Jesus therefore had seen his Mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he said to his Mother: “Behold thy son.” After that he said to the disciple: “Behold thy mother.”
The value of the above text for our thesis hinges on whether or not it contains a truly biblical reference to Our Lady’s spiritual motherhood. Catholic scholars are not agreed on this point. For example, a large number of exegetes still maintain that Our Lord’s words can be used in this connection only in a purely accommodated sense. (61) On the other hand, the vast majority of theologians and not a few biblical interpreters recognize in them a proclamation of Our Lady’s mystical motherhood of mankind, either in a literal or at least a spiritual sense. (62)
The undeniable advantage of this latter position is that it enjoys considerable traditional support, (63) and what is more important, it conforms perfectly with the repeated pronouncements of the ordinary magisterium. The most striking of these was made by Pope Leo XIII when he declared that “the Church has always felt” that Christ designated the whole human race in the person of the beloved disciple. (64)
In view of the above, a reasoning along the following lines would seem to be amply justified: Our Blessed Lord, about to consummate His redemptive sacrifice, openly proclaims Mary as the Mother of the redeemed. Obviously, this motherhood of Mary pertains to the supernatural order, the order of divine grace by which we become the children of God. But this maternal function is inconceivable without the transmission of supernatural life; it presupposes or implies the communication of grace. Nor is the integral concept of spiritual motherhood sufficiently verified by our regeneration to the life of grace only in actu primo. Unlike human motherhood, which does not necessarily require a continuous vital influence from mother to offspring, a true spiritual motherhood cannot be properly exercised without an enduring personal communication of life, for the good reason that no advance is possible in the supernatural order without the actual aid of divine grace. As Father Plessis rightly observes, this maternal role involves “the Virgin’s cooperation in the diffusion, conservation and increase of the supernatural life of souls. These things are not obtained except by grace, either by habitual grace procuring and developing the supernatural life, or by actual grace preserving and protecting this life, or again by arousing and preparing the sinner to receive it.” (65) Therefore, we conclude that Mary’s role as Dispensatrix of every single grace may be deduced from the Savior’s testament on the cross.
Two other biblical passages are sometimes mentioned in support of our doctrine, namely: the Visitation pericope (Lk. 1:39-45), and the wedding feast at Cana (Jn. 2:1-11). In the former we learn that, at the sound of Our Lady’s greeting, St. John the Baptist leaped with joy and was sanctified in the womb of his mother Elizabeth; in the latter we witness the Savior working His very first miracle at the request of His Mother. (66)
It should be stated in this connection that neither of these texts is sufficient to establish the Catholic thesis that all graces are actually dispensed through Our Lady’s intercession. However, while showing that God did use her instrumentality for the conferring of specific favors in specific circumstances, these passages may well contain a veiled indication of God’s design with reference to all other cases. Beyond that we hesitate to go.
D. The Argument from Tradition
In this section of our study we understand tradition to mean that divine orally revealed doctrine consigned to writing or transmitted by word of mouth under the vigilance of the living magisterium of the Church. The organs of this tradition include preachers, teachers, doctors, writers, artists, and the faithful in general insofar as they treat of revealed religion or profess it. Its monuments are the extant works of the Fathers, theologians, and ecclesiastical writers which deal with things pertaining to revealed religion, and works of Christian art reflecting the faith of the Church.
As with other phases of Mariology, the teaching of tradition concerning the doctrine now under discussion has not always been universal or uniform. The positive data now available point rather to a gradual development which slowly progresses toward a period of maturation. (67) This evolution of the original germ ideas falls into the three following stages: 1. from the beginning until the eighth century; 2. from the eighth to the sixteenth century; and 3. from the sixteenth century to the present time. In view of the limited space at our disposal, we shall attempt to give here only a summary of the numerous testimonies available.
1. From the Beginning to the Eighth Century—This primitive period is characterized for the most part by general references to Our Lady’s share with Christ in the economy of man’s salvation. Mary is set forth as the Second Eve, co-operating with her divine Son, the Second Adam, in the process of our supernatural restoration. This corresponds to the share which the first Eve had with the first Adam in our fall. Eve and Mary are the first mothers of the entire race: Eve, mother of men according to the flesh; Mary, their spiritual mother in the supernatural order of grace. These testimonies, which, according to Cardinal Newman, constitute “the rudimentary teaching of antiquity” (68) implicitly point to Mary’s co-operation in the distribution of all graces.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (+ c. 200) may well speak for his contemporaries when, after establishing the Eve-Mary antithesis, he concludes that Our Lady “became the cause of salvation both for herself and for the whole human race.” (69) Elsewhere the holy Bishop writes:
Though the one (Eve) disobeyed God, yet the other (Mary) was drawn to obey Him, and thus the Virgin Mary became the virgin Eve’s advocate. And just as the human race was bound to death by a virgin, so it was released by a Virgin, and the balance was maintained: a virgin’s disobedience by a Virgin’s obedience. (70)
Substantially the same ideas recur in such early and important writers as St. Justin (+ c. 165), St. Epiphanius (+ 403), St. Ambrose (+ 397), St. Jerome (+ 420), St. Augustine (+ 430), St. Peter Chrysologus (+ c. 450), and many others. (71)
The title “Mediatrix,” so frequently applied to Our Lady in subsequent centuries, made its first appearance about this time. The first to use it seems to have been St. Ephraem (+ 373) who addresses Our Lady thus: “I call upon you, Mediatrix of the world; I invoke your prompt protection in my necessities.” (72) Others employing the same title, or that of Sequestra, are: St. Epiphanius, Theodotus of Ancyra (+ 440), one of the more highly regarded Fathers of the Council of Ephesus, Antipater of Bostra (+ after 451), and Basil of Seleucia (+ 499). (73)
St. Cyril of Alexandria (+ 444), “the most noble defender of the Virgin Mother of God,” (74) has left us a significant testimony of his faith in Mary’s intercession in a homily pronounced in the presence of the bishops assembled at Ephesus in 431. In it he hails Our Lady as the one through whom the devils are put to flight . . . through whom the fallen creature is taken up to heaven; through whom all creation, held fast by the madness of idolatry, has come to the knowledge of truth; through whom holy baptism has come to believers . . . through whom nations are brought to repentance . . . through whom the only-begotten Son of God has shone forth . . . through whom the dead are raised, and kings reign. (75)
We may close this period with the beautiful words of an Encomium attributed to St. Modestus of Jerusalem (+ 634), but probably written at the end of the seventh century: “The human race has been saved in thee (Mary), and through thee it has obtained favors and everlasting blessings from Him (God).” (76)
2. From the Eighth to the Sixteenth Century—It is during this period, particularly in the twelfth century, that the evolution of our doctrine reaches the explicit stage. Thus we hear St. Germain of Constantinople (+ 733) address the Mother of God: “No one obtains salvation except through thee, O most holy One! . . . To no one is mercy granted except through thee!” (77) What St. Germain taught in the East, St. Peter Damian (+ 1072) re-echoes in the West: “In thy hands”—he apostrophizes Our Lady—”are the treasures of the mercies of God.” (78)
However, it was St. Bernard of Clairvaux (+ 1153) who expressed this teaching in categorical and unmistakable language and who, for this reason, has been styled the “Doctor of Mary’s Mediation.” According to the Saint, “God has willed that we should have nothing which would not pass through the hands of Mary.” (79) And again: “This is the will of Him Who wanted us to have everything through Mary.” (80) These two generic statements, which have become classic in Marian literature, receive more precision when the holy Doctor tells us that “God has placed in Mary the plenitude of every good, in order to have us understand that if there is any trace of hope in us, any trace of grace, any trace of salvation, it flows from her.” (81) Of course, he assures us elsewhere, “God could have dispensed His graces according to His good pleasure, without making use of this aqueduct (Mary); but it was His wish to provide this means whereby grace would reach you.” (82) The tremendous influence of St. Bernard’s teaching in this respect can best be gathered from the fact that numerous Marian writers of subsequent centuries unhesitatingly endorse his position as something already well established.
Thus, for example, the author of the Mariale heretofore attributed to St. Albert the Great, unequivocally states that “every single grace passes through the hands of Mary.” (83) And Richard of St. Lawrence (+ c. 1245), St. Bonaventure (+ 1274), James of Varagine (+ 1298), and John Gerson (+ 1429) do nothing but repeat the same ideas in a variety of ways. (84) St. Bernardine of Siena (+ 1444), who shares with the abbot of Clairvaux the title “Doctor of Mary’s Universal Mediation” trenchantly sums up the matter in the following remarkable passage: “This is the process (in the distribution) of divine graces: from God they flow to Christ, from Christ to His Mother, and from her to the Church. … I do not hesitate to say that she has received a certain jurisdiction over all graces. . . . They are administered through her hands to whom she pleases, when she pleases, as she pleases, and as much as she pleases.” (85)
3. From the Sixteenth Century to the Present Time—This third period might be characterized as one of theological progress. (86) In the preceding centuries the teaching concerning Mary’s role as Dispensatrix of all graces had evolved from the implicit to the explicit stage. This prerogative of hers was generally accepted; it was considered part of the Christian thought and cult. The writers of the third era will direct their endeavors to demonstrating, explaining, and elaborating the various phases of the doctrine. They will base their demonstration on the testimonies of the ecclesiastical writers who had previously affirmed the truth, especially since the time of St. Bernard. They will now begin to discuss ex professo the nature of Mary’s mediatorial office. A more profound study of the sources of revelation will also be undertaken so as to determine its theological note and even the possibility of its definition by the Church. The result of all these efforts will be greater precision in the formulation of the doctrine and likewise a more thorough grasp of Mary’s place in the economy of salvation.
All this vitality manifested in the study of this aspect of Mariology was occasioned chiefly by three historical events: the pseudo-reformation, the rise of Jansenism, and the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception. The first two can be grouped together as they both attacked accepted Catholic views concerning the Mother of God and her position in the divine plan, particularly her role as Mediatrix, and the consequent filial devotion manifested by Catholics. Their censures naturally compelled not a few Catholic apologists of the era to take up the arms of their profession in defense of their Tower of Ivory.
The pseudo-reformers, attacking from without, under the false plea of reinstating Christ in His rightful position as the center of Christianity, assailed the very legitimacy of devotion to His Mother. To them it was simply “Mariolatry.” (87) The Jansenists, attackers from within, thought that Catholic devotion to Mary, while praiseworthy in itself, was then giving way to excesses and dangerous exaggerations. They accepted the defined dogmas of the Church, but reacted unfavorably toward the evolution of some Marian doctrines and to some manifestations of her cult. Their hypercritical views were codified in the notorious Monita salutaria of Adam Widenfeld. (88)
The third event was the promulgation of the Bull Ineffabilis Deus on December 8, 1854. It is well known that the dogmatic definition of Mary’s absolute sinlessness in her conception focused theological attention on her intimate association with her Son in the all-out struggle against the forces of evil. This opened new vistas for the Mariologists and led them to a more profound and assiduous study of Mary’s role in the dispensation of graces. (89)
In the sixteenth century, when the Protestant pseudo-reform broke out, Mary had her champions. Chief among these was St. Peter Canisius (+ 1597). (90) One of his titles to glory is his Marian apology De Maria Virgine incomparabili et Dei Genitrice sacrosancta. Among other things, the holy Doctor stresses the point that St. Bernard did not place Mary on an equal footing with Christ, as the Protestants claimed. Christ, he explains, is the only source of life; Mary is the “aqueduct” which transmits to us the waters of grace. “Because of her compassion, she merited that the power and merits of Christ’s Passion should be communicated to men through her.” (91) The same teaching was proposed by his contemporaries St. Thomas of Villanova (+ 1555), John Maldonatus (+ 1583), and the renowned theologian of the Council of Trent, Alphonsus Salmeron (+ 1585). (92)
During the course of the seventeenth century the doctrine of Mary’s universal mediation of graces was so generally taught and accepted that it would not be difficult to multiply explicit testimonies to that effect. The imposing list would include great Doctors of the Church like St. Robert Bellarmine (+ 1621) and St. Francis de Sales (+ 1622); eminent theologians of the caliber of Suarez (+ 1617), Petavius (+ 1652), and Contenson (+ 1674); preachers of stature like Bossuet (+ 1704) and Bourdalou (+ 1704); Scripture scholars like Cornelius a Lapide (+ 1637) and de Salazar (+ 1646). (93)
Outstanding likewise for their contributions to Mariology were the members of the so-called French School,which flourished at this time. Father Olier (+ 1657), St. John Eudes (+ 1680), and St. Louis Grignion de Montfort (+ 1716) are but a few of the leading masters of this School in whose writings we recognize Our Blessed Lady as the Treasurer and the Dispensatrix of all graces. (94) In their perspective, Mary’s right to distribute the fruits of Christ’s Redemption is that which differentiates her intercession from that of the other saints. It is a sequel to her spiritual motherhood and her queenship. The following passage from St. Louis de Montfort, re-echoing St. Bernardine of Siena, is remarkable for its lucidity:
God the Son has communicated to His Mother all that He acquired by His life and His death, His infinite merits and His admirable virtues; and He has made her the treasurer of all that His Father gave Him for His inheritance. It is by her that He applies His merits to His members, and that He communicates His virtues and distributes His graces. She is His mysterious canal; she is His aqueduct, through which He makes His mercies flow gently and abundantly.
To Mary, His faithful spouse, God the Holy Spirit has communicated His unspeakable
gifts; and He has chosen her to be the dispensatrix of all He possesses, in such sort that she distributes to whom she wills, as much as she wills, as she wills and when she wills, all His gifts and graces. The Holy Ghost gives no heavenly gift to men which does not pass through her virginal hands. (95)
In the eighteenth century our doctrine continued to make rapid progress. By this time it was certainly more than just a “pious opinion.” The authors who questioned it or passed over it in silence became the very rare exceptions. Among its numerous supporters we might include St. Leonard of Port Maurice (+ 1751), Natalis Alexander, O.P. (+ 1724), Benedict Piazza, S.J. (+ 1761), and John B. Scaramelli, S.J. (+ 1752).
However, towering above all others is the great figure of St. Alphonsus Liguori (+ 1787), whose popular Glories of Mary is rightly credited with giving the decisive blow to the few adversaries of Mary’s prerogative. (96) His vigorous and masterful reply to the objections of the otherwise learned Muratori has become a classic in Marian literature. Summarized in his own words, the holy Doctor’s thesis is this:
God, who gave us Jesus Christ, wills that all graces that have been, that are and will be dispensed to men to the end of the world through the merits of Jesus Christ, should be dispensed by the hands and through the intercession of Mary. (97)
To establish his thesis, he marshals an imposing array of testimonies from the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, from the Sacred Liturgy, Sacred Scripture, and the Christian sense of the faithful. The doctrine, then, is not “a pious exaggeration,” as Muratori contended. “I consider it as indubitably true that all graces are dispensed by Mary.” (98)
The innumerable authors who have treated our topic during the period subsequent to St. Alphonsus are all tributaries of his. Suffice to mention Bl. William Chaminade, founder of the Marianists, Cardinals Pie and Dechamps, M. J. Scheeben, P. Jeanjacquot, S.J., and H. Depoix, S.M. (99) Following the encyclicals of Leo XIII, not a few theologians considered that the time was ripe to create a favorable atmosphere with a view to obtaining a dogmatic definition of the doctrine. Among those who have contributed most to this laudable movement, especially within the past five or six decades, the following are particularly deserving of mention: R. de la Broise, S.J., J. V. Bainvel, S.J., Cardinal Mercier, F. X., Godts, C.Ss.R., Canon J. Bittremieux, Msgr. J. Lebon, and the indefatigable J. M. Bover, S.J. (100) At the present time we know of no Catholic theologian who seriously questions the truth of Mary’s universal mediation in the sense already explained, and it is safe to say that the vast majority of them consider it sufficiently warranted by the sources to be defined by the Church.
E. The Argument from Theological Reason
St. Cyril of Alexandria (+ 444), “the most noble defender of the Virgin Mother of God,” (74) has left us a significant testimony of his faith in Mary’s intercession in a homily pronounced in the presence of the bishops assembled at Ephesus in 431. In it he hails Our Lady as the onethrough whom the devils are put to flight . . . through whom the fallen creature is taken up to heaven; through whom all creation, held fast by the madness of idolatry, has come to the knowledge of truth; through whom holy baptism has come to believers . . . through whom nations are brought to repentance . . . through whom the only-begotten Son of God has shone forth . . . through whom the dead are raised, and kings reign. (75)
In the preceding pages we have endeavored to show that the data furnished by positive theology, particularly when viewed in the light of the living magisterium, substantially establishes the doctrine expounded in this chapter. The present section of our study is intended to corroborate our position by recurring to speculative theology. Specifically, we would like to emphasize the internal nexus between our thesis and other accepted doctrines of Catholic theology. It will appear that the dispensation of all graces through Mary is but a natural corollary demanded by several other truths. These are, principally, Our Lady’s spiritual maternity, her Coredemption, and her universal queenship.
1. The Spiritual Maternity—Mary is really and truly the Mother of mankind in the supernatural order of grace. She conceived us at the time of the Annunciation and brought us forth through her bitter compassion on Calvary. Now, the integral concept and full import of this motherhood requires not only the transmission of supernatural life in actu primo, which took place at the foot of the cross, but also a continual fostering, conserving, and increasing of that life, and, if need be, of repairing it. All this incessant maternal activity is carried out through the actual communication of grace to her children. Thus, Mary’s office as universal spiritual Mother cannot be properly exercised except through her enduring co-operation in the dispensation of all graces to all men.
2. The Coredemption—As Coredemptrix, Our Lady is Christ’s associate in His entire redemptive work. But this redemptive work of the Savior comprises two phases: the acquisition of all graces through His merits while still on earth, and the actual application of those graces to individual souls. Consequently, it is reasonable to suppose that Our Lady’s association extends not only to the first, but also to the second phase of the redemptive process.
This reasoning was formulated with remarkable incisiveness by Cardinal Pacelli (now Pius XII, gloriously reigning) when, having distinguished between the objective and subjective Redemption, he stated: “After all, the application of the merits of Christ constitutes, together with their acquisition, a single, complete work: that of salvation. It was fitting that Mary should co-operate equally in the two phases of the same work. The unity of the divine plan demands it.” (101) Popes Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV had previously called our attention to this nexus between the two Marian prerogatives. (102)
3. Mary’s Universal Queenship—As queen, it is Our Lady’s function, with and under Christ, to lead men to their final supernatural goal which is the beatific vision in heaven. The only proportionate means to attain that end is supernatural grace. Therefore, in order properly to fulfill her royal mission in our behalf, Mary must have a perennial share in the distribution of graces to all her subjects.
Under another aspect (which partially coincides with the one from the Coredemption) this same argument was recently enunciated by Pius XII as follows:
Jesus Christ alone, God and Man, is King in the full, proper, and absolute sense of the term. Yet Mary also, although in a restricted way and only by analogy, shares in the royal dignity as the Mother of Christ who is God, as His associate in the labors of the divine Redemption, and in His struggle against His enemies, and in the victory of heaven over them all. From this association with Christ comes the royal function by which she can dispense the treasures of the divine Redeemer’s Kingdom. Finally, from this association with Christ comes the unfailing efficacy of her maternal intercession with the Son and with the Father. (103)
It may be well to note in this connection that the three theological arguments briefly outlined above do not carry the same weight in the opinion of modern theologians. For example, the fundamental argument, i.e., the one based on the Coredemption, is considered by some as apodictic (104) by others as a reason from fittingness, (105) or as one which establishes the doctrine with certitude. (106) More recently, Father Roschini has written that he regards it as yielding a true theological conclusion of the highest value. (107) Be that as it may, we must bear in mind that theological reasoning need not always be apodictic. It suffices that it show the internal harmony of a given doctrine with others belonging to the deposit of faith, and thus corroborate a thesis which has previously been established from the data of positive theology.
II. The Nature of Mary’s Role as Dispensatrix of All Graces
The fact of Mary’s prerogative as channel of all graces is no longer the subject of discussion and controversy among Catholic theologians. The first part of our study has revealed the reason why. But theologians are not satisfied with that acquisition, important though it is. Besides answering the question an sit, they are instinctively curious as to the further question quomodo sit. Hence their attempts to probe into the very nature of Mary’s unique prerogative. And it is within this area that their agreement ceases. Briefly, all admit that Our Lady exercises some true causality in the actual dispensation of every single grace; but there is divergence of thought as to the type of causality and the precise manner in which her role is exercised. In order to forestall misunderstandings in this matter, it may be helpful to recall summarily the various types of causes which come into play in the present discussion.
A physical cause is that which directly produces an effect. It is called principal, if it produces the effect of itself and by its own power; instrumental, if it produces the effect in virtue of a power received from the principal cause. For example, a saw is an instrumental cause used by a carpenter (the principal cause) in cutting wood.
A moral cause is that which by counsel, request, or command induces another agent to produce an effect. It is called principal if it moves the physical cause in virtue of its own dignity, merit, or some inherent quality. It is called instrumental if its dignity or meritorious quality is derived from the principal moral cause. Thus, if a king releases a prisoner in view of the queen’s written request, the queen herself would be the principal moral cause of the royal amnesty, while her written request would be the instrumental moral cause of the prisoner’s release.
With these preliminary notions in mind, let us now review briefly the position of theologians in this matter, including the points in which they are at variance.
All theologians are in accord that Mary is not the principal cause of grace, whether physical or moral. Only God can be the principal physical cause of either habitual or actual grace. He alone can elevate a creature to the supernatural order through a participation in the divine nature; He alone can act directly on a created intelligence and will.
Again, Mary is not the ultimate principal moral cause of grace because no creature can be the final motive of God’s action. God is the uncaused Cause and, consequently, cannot be moved to action by any creature. The ultimate reason for His actions is Himself.
The expressions used to convey our Marian doctrine, to bring it within the grasp of our intelligence, are figures and metaphors, and hence not to be taken literally. The very nature of grace itself warns us. Habitual and actual graces are accidents that cannot be transferred from one subject to another. Over and above that, they are accidents of a spiritual order that cannot be conceived materially. It is true that the totality of these graces is often represented as a “treasure,” but we must not imagine a coffer of precious things from which Mary draws with bountiful hands to distribute them to man. Rather, we must visualize them as existing in heaven virtually, i.e., they exist in their primary cause or in their origin, namely Christ; also in their cause of dispensation, i.e., in Mary’s power as advocate. Therefore, the traditional expressions of “treasurer,” “almoner,” and others which are synonymous indicate in Mary a real charge or function. God has truly entrusted to her the administration of the treasury of His graces; He has constituted her Dispensatrix of all His goods.
In what precise way does Our Lady fulfill this role of hers? Theologians all agree that she enjoys the power of intercession. By divine disposition she possesses the right to act as a proximate moral cause in the conferring of every grace. This she has always in subordination to Christ “who lives always to make intercession for us.” (108) In this mediatorial function three things are to be noted. First, she knows all our spiritual needs, for as Mother of all men she must be aware of everything which, directly or indirectly, bears on the supernatural life she has been commissioned to give us and to nourish in us. Second, she is impelled by her boundless maternal charity to plead our case. That she actually prays for us is a matter of faith, and is included in the general dogma of the intercession of the saints. (109) Third, her intercession is most powerful and efficacious. Her prayers are always answered, for God will not turn a deaf ear on her whom He honors and loves above all creatures. Rightly, then, has Catholic tradition honored her with the title omnipotentia supplex.
Mary’s intercession is presented to God either expressly or interpretatively, according to the principle laid down by Aquinas concerning the manner of intercession of the saints. (110) At times she actually pleads our cause explicitly when she actually prays for us. At other times, she does this implicitly when she humbly but confidently advances her maternal rights, or her rights as Coredemptrix, by presenting to God her previous merits which congruously obtained the salvation of the world.
At this point ends the harmony and unanimity among theologians. The majority of theologians explain Mary’s causality in the distribution of graces by way of intercession only (moral causality), as outlined in the preceding paragraphs. (111)
A second group, a very small minority, not satisfied with the above explanation, has transposed Billot’s theory of the “intentional causality” of the sacraments, and applied it to our doctrine. According to the proponents of this view, (112) the terminus of Mary’s intercession is not grace itself, but rather a title to its reception. In other words, Our Lady, by virtue of the power invested in her by God, efficaciously designates specific graces for specific persons, and this expression of her will entitles these persons to receive those graces. In the last analysis, this view seems to be reducible to moral causality.
A last group maintains that neither of the above opinions expresses completely the doctrine contained in the teaching of tradition concerning the mode of Mary’s mediation in the dispensation of graces. Her intercession, they say, may be a sufficient explanation of how Mary obtains the graces from God, but it does not seem to take into account the peculiar power of distribution attributed to her in traditional phrases such as “channel” or “aqueduct” of graces. No doubt we may be dealing here with metaphors; but, as Father Jennet points out, a metaphor demands a relation based on an analogy between the proper and the figurative sense. (113) To distribute something presupposes a possession, a dominion, which certainly is not included in the notion of intercession. Therefore, these men propose the theory of physical instrumental causality, according to which Mary serves as a separated physical instrument through which graces literally flow to us.
Although rather recent, the above theory has won some important adherents in the past few decades. (114) It does seem to give a more satisfactory meaning to Mary’s role. It is with this view that the sympathies of the author of this article rest. However, while maintaining this particular viewpoint, he makes his own the words of Father Hugon: “We have here a delicate question which we approach with reserve and timidity…. We do not make any categorical assertions, we discuss only a hypothesis which others may reject at their pleasure.” (115) Obviously, we are still in the realm of theory, of opinion, where certitude is lacking. Father Garrigou-Lagrange, himself a champion of this view, in his venerable wisdom states:
It must be admitted that it does not seem possible to prove with certainty that Mary did exercise physical causality. Theology will hardly advance beyond serious probability in this matter for the reason that it is very hard to see in the traditional texts quoted where precisely the literal sense ends and the metaphorical sense begins. . . . Tradition . . . uses metaphors which are, at very least, expressive, but we cannot affirm with certainty that they are more than metaphors. . . . Mary’s influence on our souls remains . . . shrouded in mystery. (116)
In this matter, in which theologians can give rein to their speculations, and are free to advocate either of the opinions discussed above, the following admonition of our reigning Pontiff is particularly timely:
In these and other questions about the Blessed Virgin let theologians and preachers of the word of God take care to avoid certain deviations lest they fall into a twofold error. Let them beware of teachings that lack foundation, and that, by misuse of words, exceed the bounds of truth. And let them beware of too great a narrowness of mind when they are considering that unique, completely exalted, indeed almost divine dignity of the Mother of God which the Angelic Doctor teaches we must attribute to her “by reason of the infinite good which is God.” (117)
Before concluding this section of our study, an objection, which is sometimes raised, should be briefly touched upon. If Mary is the Dispensatrix of all graces, would this not encroach on the efficacy of the sacraments? The sacraments, if validly conferred, will infallibly and automatically produce grace in the souls of those who receive them, provided they have the proper dispositions. This being the case, it would seem that Mary’s intervention does not extend to sacramental graces.
We must bear in mind that the grace which is conferred by a duly administered sacrament was condignly merited by the Redeemer and congruously merited by the Coredemptrix; hence, it is due to Mary in some way. But she has an even more proximate relation to the sacred rite. The minimum dispositions required for a fruitful reception of a properly administered sacrament, even the desire to receive it, are actual graces obtained through Our Lady’s mediation. That a man on his deathbed be comforted by the last rites, that a pagan submit to the laver of regeneration, that a newborn babe, in preference to others, become a child of God, all this is due without any doubt to Mary’s actual intervention. So in like manner with reference to the other sacraments.
The explanation of how these actual graces are conferred will depend upon the particular opinion one adheres to. As to sacramental grace itself, some of the proponents of the physical instrumental causality would advance the following process: “Grace begins in the Divine Nature, passes through the Sacred Humanity of Christ (a physical instrument), passes through Mary (also a physical instrument), and finally passes through the sacrament (also a physical instrument).” (118)
At the end of this study on the Dispensatrix of all graces, it behooves us to evaluate our findings by reviewing, in a summary fashion, the evidence presented. This evaluation will set forth the relationship existing between this Marian truth and divine revelation. Consequent upon this, a basis will be had for an appraisal of the dogmatic value and definability of the doctrine.
Without any shadow of doubt this truth has been, and continues to be, frequently inculcated by the Ecclesia docens. The official teaching authority, particularly within the past one hundred years, has conveyed this truth not only in a large number of papal documents, but through the medium of the liturgy as well. Does it seem possible that the Popes would inculcate into the hearts and minds of the Christian people, with such insistence and continuity, a doctrine which is not the authentic expression of the living faith of the Church? (119)
As to Sacred Scripture, we believe we have shown that some of its passages, interpreted in the light of the magisterium and tradition, do contain implicit references to Mary’s prerogative. This is particularly true of the Protoevangelium and Our Lord’s testament on the cross.
The teaching of tradition is likewise a witness to our truth. Suffice to recall in this connection the words of Leo XIII in his encyclical Octobri mense: “It is the belief and teaching of the venerable Fathers of the Church” and also the words of the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites approved by Pius XII: “Gathering together the tradition of the Fathers, the Doctor Mellifluus teaches that God wants us to have everything through Mary. This pious and salutary doctrine all theologians at the present time hold in common accord.” With but few exceptions, the Fathers of the Church did not, of course, convey these ideas explicitly and in so many words.
Nevertheless, they may be said to have implied as much (perhaps being unaware of it) in their more general teaching concerning Mary’s