The Sufferings of Mary as Co-redemptrix

Updated: May 30, 2020



How Did Mary Make Satisfaction For Us?


The purpose of satisfaction is to repair the offence offered to God and to make Him once more favorable to the sinner. The offence offered by mortal sin has about it a certain infinity, since offence is measured by the dignity of the person offended. Mortal sin, by turning the sinner away from God, his final end, denies in practice to God His infinite rights as the Supreme Good and destroys His reign in souls.


It follows from this that only the Incarnate Word could offer to the Father perfect and adequate satisfaction for the offence of mortal sin (1). For satisfaction to be perfect, it must proceed from a love and oblation which are as pleasing to God as, or more pleasing than, all sins united are displeasing to Him (2). But every act of charity elicited by Jesus had these qualities for His Divine Person gave them infinite satisfactory and meritorious value. A meritorious work becomes satisfactory (or one of reparation and expiation) when there is something painful about it. Hence, in offering His life in the midst of the greatest physical and moral sufferings, Jesus offered satisfaction of an infinite and superabundant value to His Father. He alone could make satisfaction in strict justice since the value of satisfaction like that of merit comes from the person, and the Person of Jesus, being divine, was of infinite dignity.


It was, however, possible to associate a satisfaction of becomingness (de congruo) to Jesus’ satisfaction, just as a merit of becomingness was associated to His merit. In explaining this point, we shall show all the more clearly the depth and extent of Mary’s sufferings.


Mary offered for us a satisfaction of becomingness (de convenientia) which was the greatest in value after that of her Son.


When a meritorious work is in some way painful it has value as satisfaction as well. Thus theologians commonly teach, following upon what has been explained in the previous section, that Mary satisfied for all sins de congruo in everything in which Jesus satisfied de condigno. Mary offered God a satisfaction which it was becoming that He should accept: Jesus satisfied for us in strict justice.


As Mother of the Redeemer, Mary was closely united to Jesus by perfect conformity of will, by humility, by poverty, by suffering—and most particularly by her compassion on Calvary. That is what is meant when it is said that she offered satisfaction along with Him. Her satisfaction derives its value from her dignity as Mother of God, from her great charity, from the fact that there was no fault in herself which needed to be expiated, and from the intensity of her sufferings.


The Fathers treat of this when they speak of Mary “standing” at the foot of the Cross, as St. John says (John 19:25). They recall the words of Simeon, “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce,” and they show that Mary suffered in proportion to her love for her crucified Son; in proportion also to the cruelty of His executioners, and the atrocity of the torments inflicted on Him Who was Innocence itself (3). The liturgy also has taught many generations of the faithful that Mary merited the title of Queen of Martyrs by her most painful martyrdom of heart. That is the lesson of the Feasts of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin and of the Seven Dolors, as well as of the Stabat Mater.


Leo XIII summed up this doctrine in the statement that Mary was associated with Jesus in the painful work of the redemption of mankind (4). Pius X calls her “the repairer of the fallen world” (5) and continues to show how she was united to the priesthood of her Son: “Not only because she consented to become the mother of the only Son of God so as to make sacrifice for the salvation of men possible, but also in the fact that she accepted the mission of protecting and nourishing the Lamb of sacrifice, and when the time came led Him to the altar of immolation—in this also must we find Mary’s glory. Mary’s community of life and sufferings with her Son was never broken off. To her as to Him may be applied the words of the prophet: ‘My life is passed in dolors and my days in groanings.’ To conclude this list of Papal pronouncements we may refer to the words of Benedict XV: In uniting herself to the Passion and death of her Son she suffered almost unto death; as far as it depended on her, she immolated her Son, so that it can be said that with Him she redeemed the human race’ (6).


The Depth and Fruitfulness of Mary’s Sufferings as Co-redemptrix


Mary’s sufferings have the character of satisfaction from the fact that like Jesus and in union with Him, she suffered because of sin or of the offence it offers to God. This suffering of hers was measured by her love of God whom sin offended, by her love of Jesus crucified for our sins, and by her love of us whom sin had brought to spiritual ruin. In other words, it was measured by her fullness of grace, which had never ceased to increase from the time of the Immaculate Conception. Already Mary had merited more by the easiest acts than the martyrs in their torments because of her greater love. What must have been the value of her sufferings at the foot of the Cross, granted the understanding she then had of the mystery of the Redemption!


In the spiritual light which then flooded her soul, Mary saw that all souls are called to sing the glory of God. Every soul is ca