Let us meditate on the great mystery of Mary the Coredemptrix. We are small and we have to ask the light of the Holy Spirit to be able to adequately express and know this mystery. What good would it be to talk about this title if we are not joined in common prayer? Therefore, we are united about Our Lady and in union with the Holy Father in one spirit of profound prayer.
Our Lord Jesus, from the heights of the cross gave His Mother to all redeemed by His blood. Paul VI proclaimed the Virgin Mary Mother of the Church, during the Second Vatican Council, and already in this title we can understand the other three:
Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate
While speaking about the value of suffering, I would like to start the theme of Coredemption with a thought from St. Thomas Aquinas. He said that one drop of the blood of Jesus Christ would be enough to save the whole world, even hundreds of worlds. Yet we also know the words of St. Paul very well: “. . . to make up in my own body all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church” (Col 1:24).
How can we describe this seeming contradiction? If one drop of the blood of Jesus is enough to save the world, why did Christ have to suffer so much, and why did the Church have to suffer so much in these 2000 years in order to save the world?
Our answer, dear friends, can only be one of faith. God, in His infinite mercy, wanted our cooperation in the redemption which His Son attained for the salvation of all souls. Just as He redeemed us through suffering, we can contribute in the work of redemption only through suffering. St. Paul testifies that Christ wants our contribution in the work of redemption through our suffering.
Our late beloved pope, John Paul II, used more than once the word “coredeemers” in his addresses to the sick. In an audience for the sick on September 8, 1982, he calls Our Lady “Coredemptrix.” He said:
My word goes out to you too, dear sick ones. I invite you to rejoice about the birth of the immaculate Mother, the Immaculata. Mary, who was conceived and born without any stain of sin, participated in a wonderful way in the sufferings of her son, in order to become Coredemptrix of mankind. You know that every pain which is united with the pain of the Redeemer has a great and irreplaceable value for the salvation of souls. Therefore, recognize the inestimable value of your great mission, for which I invoke the consolation of Mary, the deepest joy which the purest Mother’s heart has prepared for you.
John Paul II, who knew from personal experience the value of suffering, called on the Mother of God several times during his pontificate as “Coredemptrix of the human race.” In the light of the Gospel, we understand that we, too, can become coredeemers along with Mary, if we offer up our sufferings.
Our Lady of Fatima’s Invitation to Coredemption
We are living in an age of the greatest Marian revelations. I would like to speak a little about Fatima. There, during the first apparition, the Mother of God asked a favor of the children. Sister Lucia told me about this fifty years after the apparition: “The first thing that Our Lady asked of us children was the willingness to accept every cross and every suffering that the Lord would send us for the salvation of sinners.”
The message of Fatima reminds us that each of us is called to unite our sufferings with those of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Christ took upon Himself death upon the cross for the salvation of sinners. The Coredemptrix, His Mother, was standing under the cross and carried deep suffering in her Immaculate Heart for thirty-three years, as Simeon prophesied: “Also your soul a sword shall pierce.”
What a great love the hearts of Jesus and Mary have for us! She came to Fatima to remind all people through three shepherd children that Coredemption is part of the central mystery of Christianity. She did this in a very dramatic way by showing them hell and told them: “Look, how many souls go to hell because there are few who sacrifice for them.” We are also all aware of the well-known prayer that the angel taught to the children: “My God I believe, I adore, I hope, I love you. I ask forgiveness for all those who don’t believe, don’t adore, don’t hope, and don’t love you.” This prayer teaches us that we have to accept the burden of the infidelity of others in order to save them through our prayer and coredeeming suffering. God wants to make us little redeemers through accepting, supporting, and offering this suffering. Our Lady repeats the same thing to us as she did to the three children of Fatima: “The hearts of Jesus and Mary need you for their plan of mercy. Continuously offer prayers and sacrifices to the Almighty.”
The Experience of Coredemption During the Persecution
At this point I would like to tell you my own experience and that of many others who were imprisoned in the East because of Christ and the Gospel. Certainly you all know that in the Eastern countries — I am from Slovakia — there was heavy persecution of Christians for forty years. When this atheist-communist regime came to power as prophesied in Fatima, all bishops, and the best diocesan priests were imprisoned, along with all religious: Franciscans, Capuchins, Salesians, Dominicans…; all were deported to concentration camps or prisons. Later, all nuns — more than 10,000 — were arrested; shortly thereafter thousands of laity, especially all those who worked in the service of the Church.
In that time I was a theology student and Jesuit seminarian. At midnight the police came and occupied our convent. Three policemen came into my room and since there were three of us together they said: “All of you get up and follow us.” Outside a bus was waiting for us in which we had to take our place. Next to every religious there was an armed policeman. This is how they brought us to the unknown.
Allow me to tell you what I felt in my soul at that moment. I can say that I was afraid. Not afraid of the manual labor which likely awaited me, but I was afraid of not being able to become a priest anymore. This was my one goal, the only great desire of my life. I have the prayers of my mother to thank for my priestly vocation. She wanted, already as an unmarried woman, to give her children to the Lord as priests and nuns. There were eight of us, four brothers and four sisters, but none of us could study; we were poor. And yet my mother never ceased to pray and hope.
Then I became a worker and along with my work I studied privately. This is how I was allowed to enter the Jesuits. It was towards the end of the war and there were bombing raids. Often we had to leave the house and move to another city. Often we hid in cellars while the bombs fell, and you could hear them explode. As the dirt began to fall from the ceiling, our father superior began to pray the Act of Contrition and then he gave us the general absolution since we were in danger of death. I couldn’t pray, but I fought with the Lord: “Let me live, let me live, let me say at least one Holy Mass. Then I will be ready to die.”
I had the same fear and the same fight on that bus which brought us toward the unknown. I didn’t know if it would bring us to Siberia or somewhere else. Maybe I would never encounter a bishop who could ordain me a priest. Again, I began to pray: “Lord, let me live, allow me to say one Holy Mass.”
Only in the Light of Christ can We Understand Coredemption
To save me from this fear I pulled out the Gospel which was the last thing I stuck in my bag before leaving my room. I opened it to read something to free me from this fear which practically took the breath out of me. The first words which came to my eyes were these: “You foolish men! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?” (Lk 24:26).
They were Jesus’ words to the two disciples of Emmaus who found themselves in this same situation, fleeing from Jerusalem despairing, confused, and depressed. They couldn’t quite understand the sense of the suffering which appeared in their eyes, as it does in ours today, as a defeat. They awaited the Messiah, and now their hope was gone.
Jesus came though, to the aid of their poor faith and opened their eyes: “Don’t you know that all of that suffering was necessary?”
These words were an enlightenment for me; a light which illuminated me and got rid of the darkness and fear. Then a profound peace came into my heart and into my mind, a peace which up to this point I had never experienced before. In this light, I understood that the essence of Christianity and the priesthood was sacrifice, the cross, and suffering offered in love. So, much more than before I felt my unworthiness of becoming a priest, because I hadn’t yet understood the immense value of suffering with Christ and for Him.
Exactly this glorious light of the cross illuminated millions of other imprisoned, oppressed, and persecuted Christians of the Church of the East.
In the concentration camp, I found myself with 700 other religious, priests, and seminarians. There was maltreatment, hunger, and cold, but that which made us suffer the most inside was to hear how our persecutors mocked and cursed everything which we held sacred: the Lord, Our Lady, the Holy Father, our vocation. The priests, instead of taking the chalice and offering it to the Father, had to take the pick-ax and do seemingly useless work.
But the Lord visited us there with His light just like the disciples of Emmaus. The priests found the original meaning of their priesthood more deeply, which is the priesthood of Christ. What was the first goal of Jesus? To preach? No, the prophets also preached. Also the apostles proclaimed the Kingdom of God. To perform miracles? But Jesus said: “You all will perform even greater ones.” So the goal of His coming upon