The mind of a saint is supernaturally disposed to the truth. The more sanctified the human heart, the more docile is the human mind to revealed mysteries of faith. The saints have sacrificed all worldly desires for the sake of the heavenly paradise, and therefore have much less propensity for their intellects being skewed or confused due to attachments of the world—human agenda, ecclesiastical or otherwise, which can obscure divine truths and impede their assent.
The testimony of the saints and blesseds represents the highest, most trustworthy level of sensus fidelium—that common consensus of Christian faith found within the People of God, which is in its own way inspired and protected by the Spirit of Truth. (1)
The “voice of the people” (vox populi), according to the ancient Church maxim, is an echo of the “voice of God” (vox Dei). Among this vox populi chorus, the witness of the saints offers the most pure and genuine refrain in recognizing, living, and sometimes dying for Christian truth. It is therefore particularly valuable to listen to their songs in praise of Mary Co-redemptrix.
We are keenly aware of the limitations of our treatment of the illustrious and expansive testimony by God’s saints to their Mater Dolorosa. We restrict ourselves here to the most recent testimonies, in fact, only those saints and blesseds who have died within the last hundred years. This genus is itself radically limited to those who have been canonized or beatified within one hundred years of death.
St. Gemma Galgani († 1903) was an Italian saint who in her short twenty-five years of life experienced many supernatural manifestations, including visions of Jesus, diabolical attacks, and the stigmata. During some of her recorded ecstasies, St. Gemma speaks powerfully of the Mother’s coredemptive sufferings at Calvary:
Oh wicked sinners, stop crucifying Jesus, because at the same time you are also transfixing the Mother…. Oh my Mother, where do I find you? Always at the foot of the Cross of Jesus… Oh what pain was yours!… I no longer see one sacrifice only, I see two of them: one for Jesus, one for Mary!… Oh my Mother, if one were to see you with Jesus he would not be able to say who is the first to expire: is it you or Jesus? (2)
What compassion you show me, oh my Mother, to see you so every Saturday at the foot of the Cross!… Oh! I no longer see one Victim only, but there are two. (3)
St. Gemma writes to her spiritual director of the sufferings of the Blessed Virgin from the time of Jesus’ birth onward as she painfully pondered his Crucifixion:
Oh what great sorrow it must have been for the Mother, after Jesus was born, to think that they had then to crucify Him! What pangs she must have always had in her Heart! How many sighs she must have made, and how many times she must have wept! Yet she never complained. Poor Mother! (4)
. . . truly, then, when she sees Him being crucified . . . that poor Mother was transfixed by many arrows . . . Therefore my Mother was crucified together with Jesus. (5)
We have previously discussed the ecclesiastical approval of Mary Co-redemptrix which took place under the pontificate of Pope St. Pius X († 1914). (6) During his pontificate, three documents of the Roman Curia refer to the “merciful Co-redemptrix of the human race,” “our Co-redemptrix” and “Co-redemptrix of the human race.” (7) In his own words, the canonized Pope instructs in his 1904 Marian encyclical, Ad Diem Illum of the “communion of life and sorrows between Mother and Son” in her offering of the redemptive victim: “(Mary would have) the task of guarding and nourishing the Victim, and of placing Him on the altar. From this is derived that communion of life and of sorrows between Mother and Son, sorrows to which, for both of them in equal manner, can be applied the words of the Prophet: ‘My life is consumed in sorrow, my years are passed in groaning’ (Ps. 30: 1).” (8)
St. Pius X moreover invokes our Immaculate Mother as the “Reparatrix of the lost world” and therefore the “Dispensatrix of all the treasures which Jesus merited for us with his bloody death.” (9) He also quotes St. Bonaventure in speaking of the depth of the Mother’s redemptive participation at Calvary, stating that Mary “so participated in the (Son’s) suffering that, if it were possible, she would have been most happy to suffer herself all the torments which were supported by the Son.” (10)
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini († 1917), the first American citizen to be canonized, gives repeated laud to the Co-redemptrix in her teachings and sayings. (11) She calls the Blessed Virgin the “New Eve, true Mother of the Living” who was “chosen by God to become the Co-redemptrix of the human race.” (12) Mother Cabrini also elaborates upon the coredemptive papal teachings of her contemporary, St. Pius X, in this commentary on the Co-redemptrix:
If the glory of giving life to our Redeemer pertained to her, then also, as our Holy Father said so well, the office of guarding and preparing the Sacred Victim of the human race for sacrifice pertained to her as well. Mary was not only the Mother of Jesus in the joys of Bethlehem, but even more so on Calvary, . . . and there she merited to become our most worthy Co-redemptrix. (13)
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe († 1941) is the “Immaculata’s theologian” and therefore he is also theologian of the Co-redemptrix. The Polish martyr-saint who himself heroically lived the mystery of Coredemption by offering his life in exchange for another prisoner at Auschwitz, offers exceptional tribute to the Co-redemptrix as the predestined partner with the predestined Redeemer in restoring grace to mankind: “From that moment (of the Fall) God promised a Redeemer and a Co-redemptrix saying: ‘I will place enmities between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and her Seed; She shall crush thy head.'” (14) St. Maximilian goes on to encourage the more complete understanding of Mary Co-redemptrix for our contemporary times: “Clearly, our relationship with Mary Co-redemptrix and Dispensatrix of graces in the economy of Redemption was not understood from the beginning in all its perfection. But in these, our times, faith in the Blessed Virgin Mary’s mediation continues to grow more and more each day.” (15)
This wisdom concerning the maturity of doctrinal development of Co-redemptrix as an essential part of her universal mediation led St. Maximilian to be one of the first, along with the renowned Belgian Cardinal Mercier, to encourage the solemn papal definition of Our Lady’s mediation in 1923. Aware of the intentions of Pope Benedict XV to establish three theological commissions to study the question of the definability of Mary’s universal mediation, (16) St. Maximilian calls for prayers to Our Mother to hasten its solemn proclamation, since Our Lady’s role as the Mediatrix of all graces constitutes the underlying theological basis for the act of Marian consecration and for the activities of his Militia Immaculatae (Army of the Immaculate).
Cardinal Mercier says: “With the briefing of November 28, 1922, the Holy Father told us of his decision to nominate three delegations: one in Rome, another in Spain and the third in Belgium. They were to examine in detail the following problem: does the mediation of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary belong to the revealed truths, and can it be a matter of definition?”
. . . On this truth the Militia bases its activities. We have recourse to the Immaculata and we are instruments in Her hands, because She distributes all the graces of conversion and sanctification to the inhabitants of this valley of tears. Furthermore, we clearly profess this truth in our act of consecration to the Virgin Mary because every grace passes through Her hands from the Sweetest Heart of the pure Jesus to us. But on what basis? Let us look at history. All conversions have always come through Mary, and every saint had a particular devotion to her. The Fathers and the Doctors of the Church have proclaimed that She, the second Eve, has repaired what the first destroyed: that She is the channel of all graces, that She is our hope and refuge, that we receive our graces through her. In his encyclical on the Rosary (Sept. 22, 1891), Pope Leo XIII says: “It can be affirmed in all truth that according to the divine will nothing of the immense treasury of grace can be communicated to us except through Mary.” Let us pray, therefore, that our Holy Mother may expedite the solemn proclamation of this Her privilege, so that all humanity may run to Her feet with complete trust, since today we are in great need of Her protection. (17)
The Co-redemptrix and Ecumenism
St. Leopold Mandic († 1942), a Croatian Capuchin priest stationed in Padua, was an internationally celebrated confessor and spiritual director for almost forty years. Physically weak, suffering from numerous difficulties of body and speech due to several illnesses, he was a spiritual giant who spent twelve hours a day in the confessional as an ordained “channel of reconciliation.” An apostle and “victim for ecumenism,” St. Leopold offered his life to the Co-redemptrix for the re-unification of the Oriental Churches with the Church of Rome. So extraordinarily dedicated was this saint to Mary Co-redemptrix that he had a lifelong desire to author a book in defense of the Blessed Mother as “Co-redemptrix of the human race,” and the “channel of every grace” that comes from Jesus Christ. (18)
St. Leopold refers to the Mother as “Co-redemptrix of the human race” no less than thirteen times, and also rekindles the medieval and modern title of “our Redemptrix.” (19) So stouthearted a defender of the Co-redemptrix was Leopold, that above one of his images he once wrote the following personal testimony: “I, friar Leopold Mandic Zarevic, firmly believe that the most Blessed Virgin, insofar as she was Co-redemptrix of the human race, is the moral fountain of all grace, since we have received all from her fullness.” (20)
To convey the unconditional nature of dedication to the Co-redemptrix lived by this Patron of Church reunification, St. Leopold writes this oath of victimhood in his own hand, wherein he offers his entire life “in submission to the Co-redemptrix of the human race” for the “redemption” and reconciliation of the Oriental peoples: “In truth, before God and the Blessed Virgin, confirming all by oath, I myself am obliged, in submission to the Co-redemptrix of the human race, to exert all my life’s strength, in accord with the obedience I owe my superiors, for the redemption of all dissident Oriental peoples from schism and error.” (21)
The human witness of St. Leopold to both the undeniable truth of Mary Co-redemptrix and the authentic imperative of Christian ecumenism provides concrete proof in a canonized human life that generous Church devotion to Mary Co-redemptrix in no way opposes authentic Catholic ecumenical activity. In fact, the “Minister of reconciliation” (22) shows us that the Co-redemptrix is the Marian means for true Christian reconciliation as “our Common Mother,” (23) to use the expression of John Paul II. Thus, the Mother Co-redemptrix is also the Mother of the Ecumenical Movement, and never its obstacle.
Along with the example of St. Leopold, we have the example of John Paul II, who was both “fully Marian and fully ecumenical.” He was Pope of the Co-redemptrix without violating the true meaning or imperative of Christian ecumenism. For the ecumenical mission of the Church consists of prayer as its “soul” and dialogue as its “body” in seeking true Christian unity with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. (24) In his encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, the Holy Father forbids all doctrinal compromise in efforts to achieve this goal: “In the Body of Christ, ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (Jn. 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of truth?” (25)