In his 1987 Marian encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II used a new title for the Blessed Virgin Mary, which unfortunately has been fundamentally ignored. He stated that our Blessed Virgin Mary “also has the specifically maternal role of Mediatrix of Mercy at Our Lord Jesus’ coming.”
In this single title is contained the two greatest spiritual movements initiated by heaven for the twentieth century: the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Triumph of Divine Mercy.
Can we not see in this title both the reference to the critical intercession of the Mother of God in our own times, and at the same time a profound complimentarity with the messages of St. Faustina and Divine Mercy?
I would like to discuss this title, “Mediatrix of Mercy,” under two aspects: firstly, it’s theological foundations, and secondly, it’s prophetic context. In regards to its theological foundations, how can we call Our Lady the “Mediatrix of Mercy”? On what basis can we call her “Mediatrix” if, seemingly, Scripture speaks of only one Mediator? With regard to this title’s prophetic dimension, in what manner does the Mother of Jesus and Our Mother exercise this title and role for humanity in our present historical moment? Does it fit in with the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart in the time we find ourselves? What special cry and what special source and instrument of grace is it for us at this critical moment for the Church and for the world today?
Let us first examine the theological foundations for the title Mediatrix of Mercy. It is important to establish from the beginning that Mary’s role as Mediatrix is a result of a unique participation in the acquisition of the graces of Calvary, for which she received from the Church the title “Co-redemptrix.” It is the Church that has given Our Lady this title, and John Paul II, following the precedent of previous Papal Magisteriums, referred to this role of Our Lady when on at least six documented occasions he called her the “Co-redemptrix.” The prefix “co,” of course, never means “equal,” but always means “with,” from the Latin root “cum.” The title means “the woman with the Redeemer,” not equal to the Redeemer.
Our Lady is Mediatrix because she first participates in the acquisition of the graces of redemption as the Co-redemptrix. The Papal Magisteriums have made it very clear that every grace and gift given from Christ to humanity comes through the mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the omnium gratiarum, the Mediatrix of all graces and gifts, which come from our Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, because she first participated with our Lord as the Co-redemptrix in acquiring those graces.
Sacred Scripture profoundly reveals the role of our Blessed Mother as Co-redemptrix. At the Annunciation, when Mary says “yes” to the angel and thereby gives her fiat (cf. Lk 1:38), she gives to the Redeemer the instrument of redemption, his human body. In a discussion I had with the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta regarding the solemn papal definition of the co-redemptive role of Our Lady, within the first two minutes of speaking Mother said, “Of course she is Co-redemptrix, of course. She gave Jesus his body and the body of Jesus is what saved us.” I replied, “Mother, that’s the difference between sanctity and theology. You say in two minutes what it takes the theologians three volumes to write.”
We can also look to the Presentation in Luke 2:25ff, wherein Simeon’s prophecy also identifies the Mother of Jesus as a sign of contradiction. Any mother of a sign of contradiction will most certainly have the vocation of suffering. Simeon tells us that the child to be born of Mary will be the cause of the rise and fall of many. He then gazes at the mother and says, “your heart too will be pierced.” (Lk 2:25). Thus for thirty-three years the Mother with the Redeemer ponders the works of Simeon that her child is born to die, the child to which she alone gave flesh. Only one woman gave carne to the Incarnation, gave flesh to the Word made flesh, and the goal of this Incarnation was redemption and co-redemption. If we were to summarize the single mission that the Father gave to the Son and to the Woman, it is, as Galatians tells us, a mission of redemption and co-redemption (Gal 4:4). That is the purpose of the union of the Two Hearts, the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Our Mother Mary.
The inestimable graces acquired by Jesus, the New Adam, and secondarily by Mary, the New Eve, must then be distributed to human hearts through Our Lady’s mediation as Mediatrix. This is the continuation of Our Mother’s co-redemptive role as the Mediatrix of All Graces.
The Papal Magisterium has repeatedly taught that since Mary uniquely participated with the Redeemer in the acquisition of every grace of redemption as Co-redemptrix, for this reason, Mary has rightly been granted the role by the Eternal Father to participate uniquely with the Mediator in the distribution of every grace that flows from the Redemption as Mediatrix. (1)
Let us then examine a brief example of papal teachings on Our Lady’s role as Mediatrix of all graces:
1. Leo XIII: “through her whom (Christ) has chosen to be the dispenser of all heavenly graces” (Superiore Anno, 1884); “It is right to say that nothing at all of the immense treasury of every grace which the Lord accumulated—for ‘grace and truth come from Jesus Christ’ (Jn 1:17)—nothing is imparted to us except through Mary…” (Octobri Mense, 1891).
2. St. Pius X: “dispensatrix of all the gifts acquired by the death of the Redeemer” (Ad Diem Illum, AAS 36, 1904, p.453); “…she became most worthily the reparatrix of the lost world and dispensatrix of all the gifts that our Savior purchased for us by his death and his blood” (Ad Diem Illum, 1904; cf., Eadmer, De Eccellentia Virginis Mariae, c.9); “For she is the neck of our Head by which He communicates to his Mystical Body allspiritual gifts” (Ad Diem Illum, 1904).
3. Pope Benedict XV: “For with her suffering and dying son, Mary endured suffering and almost death…. One can truly affirm that together with Christ she has redeemed the human race… For this reason, every kind of grace we receive from the treasury of the redemption is ministered as it were through the hands of the same sorrowful Virgin…. (Apostolic Letter, Inter Sodalicia, AAS 10, 1918, p. 182; Mass and Office of Mediatrix of all Graces approved 1921).
4. Pope Pius XI: “the virgin who is treasurer of all graces with God….(Apostolic letter, Cognitum Sane, AAS 18, p. 213); “….We know that all things are imparted to us from God, the greatest and best, through the hands of the Mother of God” (Encyclical Letter,
Ingravescentibus Malis, AAS 29, 1937, p. 380).
5. Pope Pius XII: “it is the will of God that we obtain all favors through Mary, let everyone hasten to have recourse to Mary” (Superiore anno, AAS 32 1940, p. 145. For usage of same expression by Pius XII, cf., AAS 45, 1953, p. 382); “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” (Mediator Dei, 1947).
We especially find a particularly rich contribution to the doctrinal teaching of Our Lady’s role as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix in the contemporary writings of John Paul II. In fact, the Maternal Mediation of Mary is the subject of the entire third part of His 1987 encyclical, Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer).
In part I, n. 21, the Pope states:
Thus there is mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of its wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle,” that is to say, she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that, as such, she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind and in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind (R.M., n. 21).
In John Paul II’s October 1, 1997 Wednesday Audience, he reminds us:
We recall that Mary’s mediation is essentially defined by her Divine Motherhood. Recognition of her role of Mediatrix is moreover implicit in the expression “our Mother,” which presents the doctrine of Marian mediation by putting the accent on her Motherhood.
By theological deduction therefore, one can rightly say that the title “Mediatrix of Mercy” is implicitly contained in the classic Marian title of “Mother of Mercy.”
Referring to the Blessed Virgin’s co-redemptive role, that it is Mary who in fact “enfleshed” the mission of the world’s redemption through her free and active co-operation, her “co-working,” John Paul pondered yet again this dimension in his September 18, 1996 Audience:
For Mary, dedication to the person and work of Jesus means… co-operation in his work of salvation. Mary carries out this last aspect of her dedication to Jesus “under Him,” that is, in a condition of subordination, which is the fruit of grace. However this is true co-operation, because it is realized “with Him” and, beginning with the Annunciation, it involves active participation in the work of redemption. “Rightly therefore,” the Second Vatican Council observes, “the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely co-operating in the work of man’s salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she ‘being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race'” (Adv. Haer. III, 22, 4). (2)
A year later, in the his Wednesday Audience of April 9, 1997, (3) he explained how this co-operation of the Blessed Virgin in the redemption is “unique and unrepeatable”:
However, applied to Mary, the term “co-operator” acquires a specific meaning. The collaboration of Christians in salvation takes place after the Calvary event, whose fruits they endeavor to spread by prayer and sacrifice. Mary, instead, co-operated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to Him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity.
The Blessed Virgin’s role as co-operator has its source in her divine motherhood. By giving birth to the one who was destined to achieve man’s redemption, by nourishing Him, presenting Him in the temple and suffering with Him as he died on the Cross, “in a wholly singular way she co-operated… in the work of the Savior” (Lumen Gentium, n. 61). Although God’s call to co-operate in the work of salvation concerns every human being, the participation of the Savior’s Mother in humanity’s Redemption is a unique and unrepeatable fact. (4)
In another Wednesday Audience, after explaining the Blessed Virgin’s “intimate participation in Jesus’ entire life,” John Paul paused to reflect on the Virgin’s participation at Calvary:
However, the Blessed Virgin’s association with Christ’s mission reaches its culmination in Jerusalem, at the time of the Redeemer’s Passion and Death…. The Council stresses the profound dimension of the Blessed Virgin’s presence on Calvary, recalling that she “faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross” (Lumen Gentium, n. 58), and points out that this union “in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death” (ibid., n. 57).
With our gaze illumined by the radiance of the Resurrection, we pause to reflect on the Mother’s involvement in her Son’s redeeming Passion, which was completed by her sharing in his suffering. (5)
Therefore, it must be underscored that the Maternal Mediation of Mary is not a “new doctrine,” but a firmly established revealed truth consistently taught by the Papal Magisterium. (6)
It should also be noted that the title “Mediatrix of Mercy” is a species aspect of her genus role as “Mediatrix of all graces,” as God’s greatest gift in the order of grace is none other than His mercy.