Mary’s Universal Queenship comes home to us in a more concrete form if we consider its different aspects as presented in the Litany of Loreto: Queen of angels, of patriarchs, of prophets, of apostles, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins, of all the saints, of peace.
Queen of Angels
Mary is Queen of the angels since her mission is higher than theirs. They are but servants, whereas she is the Mother of God. She is as much above them as the word “mother” surpasses the word “servant.” She alone with the Father can say to Jesus: “Thou art my Son, I have begotten thee.”
She is higher than the angels also by her fullness of grace and glory, which surpasses that of all the angels united. She is purer than they, for she has received purity for others as well as for herself. She was more perfect than they and more prompt in her obedience to God’s commandments and in following His counsels. By her co-operation in the redemption she merited de congruo for the angels themselves the accidental graces by which they help us to save our souls and the joy which they experience in doing so.
As Justin of Miéchow well remarks, (1) if the angels have served Our Lord how much more did not Mary serve Him, she who conceived and bore Him, who cared for Him, who carried Him into Egypt to escape Herod’s anger?
She surpasses the angels in this also, that they have each care of one soul or one community, but she is the guardian of all men and of each in particular. She is, more than they, the messenger of God who brought us not a created word but the Uncreated Word.
Archangels are appointed to protect this or that city: Mary protects all cities and all churches in them. Principalities are the custodians of provinces: Mary has the whole Church under her protection. Powers repel demons: Mary has crushed the serpent’s head; she is terrible to the demons by the depth of her humility and the ardor of her charity. Virtues perform miracles as God’s instruments: but the greatest miracle was to conceive the Incarnate Word for our salvation. Dominations command the lower angels: Mary commands all the heavenly choirs. The Thrones are those angels in whom God dwells in a specially intimate way: Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, is the Seat of Wisdom, and the Blessed Trinity resides in her more familiarly than in the highest angel—that is to say, in a way proportionate to her consummated grace.
She surpasses even the Cherubim and Seraphim. The Cherubim shine with the splendor of their knowledge: but Mary has penetrated deeper than they into the divine mysteries since she has the light of glory in a degree far above theirs. She has carried in her womb Him in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. She lived with Him for thirty years on earth, and in heaven she is nearest of all to Him.
The Seraphim burn with the flame of love: but more ardent still is the living flame of Mary’s charity. She loves God more than all creatures together, for she loves Him not only as Creator and Father but as her Infant and her treasured Son.
She is therefore Queen of Angels. They serve her faithfully, surround her with veneration, marvel at her tender solicitude for each one of us and for the whole Church. Her charity, her zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls are the objects of their intense admiration.
Queen of Patriarchs
The superiority of Mary to Adam in the state of innocence is clear from all that has been said thus far. She was higher in grace than he, and had as well the principal effects of original justice: subordination of the sensibility to the higher faculties, and subordination of these latter to God. Mary’s charity was greater from the first instant of her conception than that of Adam in the state of innocence, and she had in addition the special grace of freedom from all sin however slight, even though she was conceived in passible and mortal flesh.
Her intimacy with God was much closer than that of Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Joseph. Abraham’s most heroic act was that of preparing himself to immolate his son Isaac, the son of the promise. It was far more for Mary to offer Jesus Who was dearer to her than her own life: nor did an angel come to arrest Jesus’ immolation as one did in the case of Isaac.
Her title of Mother of God, her charity and the heroicity of all her virtues make Mary shine as a star without compare among the patriarchs.
Queen of Prophets
Prophecy in the strict sense of the term is the gift of knowing with certainty and predicting the future under divine inspiration. It was given to many in Old Testament times. In the New Testament, St. John and St. Paul were both prophets and apostles. Sacred Scripture tells us of certain holy women also who received the gift of prophecy: Mary, the sister of Moses, Deborah, Anne, mother of Samuel, Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.
Mary is Queen of prophets. She foretold the future in the Magnificat when she sang: “Behold from henceforth all nations shall call me blessed.” Of her the prophets spoke when they announced the mystery of the Incarnation. She bore in her womb Him of Whom the prophets spoke, and she heard from His own lips the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
She had the gift of prophecy in the highest degree after Our Blessed Lord, and at the same time she had perfect understanding of the fullness of the revelation which He communicated to the world.
Queen of Apostles
In what sense is Mary Queen of the twelve Apostles?
Her dignity as Mother of God surpasses theirs. The apostolate is a form of ministry. (2)
But according to the phrase of St. Albert the Great, Mary is not simply God’s minister since as Mother of the Savior she is still more closely associated with Him. After the Ascension the Apostles had need of direction, of counsel, and no one was better equipped than Mary to give it to them. She consoled them in their grief at the departure of Our Lord when they felt lonely and helpless in face of the task of evangelization of the pagan world. Jesus had left them His mother to help them. She was for them, it has been said, a second paraclete, a visible paraclete, a mediatrix: she was their guiding star in the midst of the tempest of persecution that raged about them. She was truly a mother to them. None of them ever left her side without having been enlightened and consoled, without having been strengthened. By her example in suffering calumnies, by her experience of the things of God she sustained them in times of trial and persecution. There was no one who could talk as she did of the virginal conception of Christ, of His birth, His infancy, His hidden life, of what took place in His soul on the Cross. This is what prompted St. Ambrose to say: “It is not strange that St. John should have spoken better of the mystery of the Incarnation than the others did; he lived at the source of heavenly secrets.” (3) He lived in Mary’s company what he speaks of in the fourth gospel. (4)
Queen of Martyrs
The title of Queen of Martyrs has been applied to Mary by SS. Ephrem, Jerome, Ildephonsus, Anselm and Bernard. The implied allusion is to her martyrdom of heart of which Simeon spoke: “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce.”
Mary’s grief was proportionate to her love for her Son. She suffered when He was called a seducer, a violator of the Law, one possessed by a devil; she suffered inexpressibly when Barabbas was preferred to Him, when He was nailed to the Cross, when He was tortured by the crown of thorns, when He was parched with thirst; she shared in all the anguish of His priestly and victim soul. She felt as it were all the blows Jesus received in His scourging and crucifixion, for her love made her one with Him. As Bossuet exclaims: “One cross was enough to make martyrs of Him and her.” They offered but one sacrifice, and since she, for her part, loved Jesus more than herself, she suffered more than if she herself had been the victim. All this she endured so as to confess her faith in the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, and in her the faith of the Church was strong at the moment, stronger and more ardent than in all the other martyrs.
We should remember that Mary’s sufferings had the same cause as her Son’s—the accumulated sins of men and their ingratitude which made the sufferings to be partly of no avail. We must remember too that she suffered from the time of the conception of the Savior, still more after Simeon’s prophecy, still more as she saw the opposition to Jesus mounting, and most of all at the foot of the Cross. But even then, even when her soul was inundated with grief, her zeal for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls caused her a holy joy at the sight of her Son consummating His redemptive work by the most perfect of holocausts.
Lastly, she has helped the martyrs in their torments. She is Our Lady of a happy death because of her care for the dying who call on her. Much more does she help those who die to profess their faith in the Redeemer.
Queen of Confessors
She is Queen of all who confess their faith in Jesus for she herself confessed the same faith more than any other creature.
But we shall speak principally in this section of what she is to the priests of Our Blessed Lord. To represent Jesus truly, the priest who brings Him down on the altar and offers Him sacramentally in Holy Mass should unite himself more and more to His sentiments, to the oblation which is always living in the Heart of Jesus, “always living to make intercession for us.” In addition, he should, through the different sacraments, distribute the grace which is the fruit of the merits of Jesus and Mary.
Because of the work to which they are called, Mary is specially zealous for the sanctification of priests. She sees that they share in the priesthood of her Son and she watches over their souls that the grace of the ordination may bear fruit in them, that they become living images of the Savior. She protects them against the dangers which surround them and lifts them up if they happen to stumble. She loves them as sons of predilection, just as she loved St. John who was committed to her on Calvary. She attracts their hearts to herself to raise them up and to lead them to greater intimacy with Jesus, so that one day they may be able to say in all truth: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
Mary helps priests in a special way at the altar so that they may become more fully conscious of their union with the Principal Offerer. She is spiritually present at that sacramental oblation which perpetuates the substance of the sacrifice of the Cross, and she distributes to the priest the actual graces he needs to minister with recollection and in a spirit of self-donation. In that way she helps the priest to share in Jesus’ victimhood as well as in His priesthood. All this means to form priests to the image of the Heart of Jesus.
With Jesus she arouses priestly vocations and cultivates them. She knows that where there are no priests there is no Baptism, no Confession, no Mass, no Christian Marriage, no Extreme Unction, no Christian life: without the priest the world returns to paganism.
Our Lord, Who has willed to have need of Mary in the work of salvation, has willed also to have need of priests, and Mary forms them in holiness. We can see her action clearly in some of the saints who were priests—St. John the Evangelist, St. Bernard, St. Dominic, the Apostle of the Rosary, St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Louis de Montfort, St. Alphonsus.
Queen of Virgins
Mary is Queen of Virgins since she had the virtue of virginity in the most eminent degree and preserved it in the conception, birth, and after the birth of the Savior. She teaches souls the value of virginity. It is a true virtue, a spiritual force, something more than a mere good inclination of the sensibility. She teaches them that virginity consecrated to God is higher than simple chastity since it promises integrity of the body and purity of the heart for the whole of life—a consideration which led St. Thomas to say that virginity stands in much the same relation to chastity as munificence does to simple liberality, since it is a perfect gift of self, and sign of a perfect generosity.
Mary safeguards virgins from danger, she supports them in their difficulties and leads them, if they are faithful, to great intimacy with her Son.
What is her role in regard to consecrated souls? The Church calls such souls “Spouses of Christ.” It follows that Our Lady is their perfect model. Following her example they should live a life of prayer and of reparation in union with Our Blessed Lord. They should become also consolers of the afflicted, remembering that the consolation which they afford in a supernatural spirit to the suffering members of Christ is afforded to Himself and makes amends for the ingratitude, coldness, and even hatred of so many. Thus, these souls are called to reproduce the virtues of Mary and to continue in some measure her work for Our Blessed Lord and for souls.
If consecrated souls but know and follow Mary’s guidance they find through her a wonderful compensation for the privations their lives impose on them, and which, though all accepted in advance, are felt most keenly only as they come one by one, day after day. Through Mary they can aspire to a certain spiritual motherhood, which is an image of her own, in regard to all—the poor, the afflicted, sinners—who are in need of spiritual care. Our Blessed Lord alluded to that spiritual motherhood when He said: “I was hungry, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you covered me; sick, and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.” (5)
Spiritual motherhood in the life of contemplation and reparation may be practiced also by the apostolate of prayer and suffering which makes fruitful the exterior apostolate for the conversion of sinners and the extension of the reign of Christ. A hidden, interior apostolate can be one of great sufferings; but Our Lady will show how to bear them and she will afford some glimpse of their effects in souls.
Another work of Mary’s is to help Christian mothers bring up their children to a life of faith, confidence in God, and love. She helps them also to win back their erring children, as St. Monica did St. Augustine.
Thus, we see the universality of Mary’s Queenship. She is Queen of all the saints by virtue of her unique mission in God’s providential plan, and her fullness of grace and glory. She is Queen of all the saints, the unknown as well as the known, the uncanonized as well as the canonized, the Queen of all those who strive after holiness on earth, whose trials and joys are so well known to her, and the crown of whose merits she foresees even now.
This article was excerpted from Stanley Mathews, S.M., ed., Queen of the Universe: An Anthology on the Assumption and Queenship of Mary, Grail Publications, 1957. Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (1877-1964), consultor to the Holy Office and other Congregations, taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960 and authored over 500 books and articles.
(1) Collationes: circa invocationem: Regina angelorum.
(2) “Let a man so account of us as the ministers of Christ” (I Cor. 4:1).
(3) De Institutione Virginis, c. ix.
(4) These remarks are a summary of the corresponding section of Justin de Miéchow’s work.
(5) Matt. 25:35-36.