MARY CO-REDEMPTRIX: HISTORY, DOGMA, FRUITS, & THE LADY OF ALL NATIONS
DR. MARK MIRAVALLE
We begin with the words of Pope John Paul II, with a phrase pregnant in meaning. He tells us that “Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son” (1). These words have a theological meaning, but also a meaning for us in this present critical moment of human history. This is not simply an ivory tower truth. It is a truth that calls each one of us to a conviction of heart for ourselves, and also for all humanity.
It is important to note and to understand from the beginning that what Our Lady says in the messages of Amsterdam is true: this is not a new doctrine, but these are really old ideas that she is bringing us to anew. It is therefore important that we briefly go back in history, back through the rich Tradition of our Catholic faith—the assurance of popes, of saints, of mystics, and of the sensus fidelium, the common people—so that we can understand how deeply this truth of Marian coredemption is part of us, part of our heritage. Now is the time for the climax, not the genesis, of the doctrine of Mary Co-redemptrix.
Brief History of Mary Co-redemptrix
So where did this truth begin? The truth as we know it begins with the fiat of the Virgin of Nazareth. When she consents to give us the redeemer, she gives Jesus his body, which is the instrument of our redemption. Hebrews 10:10 tells us that “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” In a brief time with Mother, now Blessed, Teresa of Calcutta on the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe in 1993 (August 14), within the first two minutes of my conversation with her, she told me directly, “Of course Mary is the Co-redemptrix! She gave the body to Jesus and the body of Jesus is what saved us” (2). I responded to Mother Teresa, “That’s the difference between sanctity and theology. It takes you 30 seconds to say what it takes us books to write.” There was no hesitation. And as we know, with the saints, it is a higher level of the sensus fidelium. They are more in tune with the Holy Spirit, not less.
Mary says “yes” and we have the redeemer. Keep in mind the yes of Mary, the consent of the fiat, is a lifetime yes. We know this within our own vocational examples. For those of you who are priests, when you said yes to become a priest, you said yes for your life. You didn’t say yes contingent on another invitation from heaven at a time of crisis later in life. It is the same for married life. When you say yes to be married, you don’t say “yes, but in 20 years when my marriage has challenges, I expect to receive another invitation and the choice to make another fiat.” The yes of vocation is a yes for life, and so it was with the Virgin. Her yes at the Annunciation was her yes for all her life, a yes confirmed by the prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2:35) that a sword would pierce her heart now and in the future. And like a mother, who even before the child understands his role of suffering-redemption, the mother always has behind her mind, in the recesses of her consciousness, “My son was born to die. My innocent child was born to be immolated.” Because this mother was educated in the Temple, and she knows the prophecy of Isaiah. She knows that indeed, the suffering servant would be so disfigured that he would be unrecognizable.
The yes of the Virgin of Nazareth is therefore in itself the yes to Calvary. There is no new invitation. The Archangel Gabriel does not come back and re-invite her to be “with Jesus” in the work of redemption. As Pope Benedict said recently in his February 11 letter to the Sick, Mary shares in the Passion of her Son as a continuation of her fiat at the Annunciation.
Hence it is at the Annunciation that Mary begins the role of Co-redemptrix. As we all know, it reaches a climax, not a beginning, at Calvary. John Paul explained it masterfully, that at Calvary Mary was “spiritually crucified with her crucified Son” (3). What happened to Jesus in his body happened to Mary in spirit, in heart. Other contributors from the mystical tradition, and not simply Our Lady of All Nations, testify to Mary’s spiritual and even invisible physical stigmata at Calvary in union with her son.
John Paul II’s theology of the body helps us to explain this. What does the theology of the body tell us? It tells us that the body expresses the person. Therefore Mary’s spiritual stigmatization in her heart with Jesus would also be appropriately experienced in her body, but invisibly. Why? She would never constitute a distraction from her son. Her suffering would be mystically united to that of Jesus, of heart and body, but never causing humanity to take its eyes off its crucified God. The Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium 58 gives a beautiful commentary on John 19:25: “Mary lovingly consented to the immolation of the Victim born of her.” This means that Mary has to say not only “I will endure this, I will tolerate this,” but she says further “I will that my Son be immolated for the salvation of the rest of my children.” Such an act of consent is almost unimaginable for a mother to have to say for her innocent, divine child. And yet, this is the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on Mary’s coredemption. It starts at the Annunciation and climaxes at Calvary.
In the second century, St. Irenaeus summarizes it well: “Mary is the cause of salvation for herself and the whole human race” (4). It a secondary causality completely dependent upon the all-encompassing causality of Christ; it is an instrumental causality, but it is a true causality. Why? Because God the Father wanted to use exactly the same means that led to the loss of our salvation to show his omnipotence. So he needed a man, he needed a woman, he needed a tree. And so he uses the New Adam in Jesus, the new Eve in Mary, and the tree of the Cross. This is the ultimate sign of the Father’s dominance over Satan, that he took the same instruments and reversed them for our salvation. And that is why Mary was a necessary part in the perfect providential plan of God in salvation. When we say that Mary is the New Eve, we are using the patristic formulation of the Co-redemptrix doctrine, in capturing her unique participation with Jesus in salvation.
In the fifth century, in Eastern liturgies, for example the Armenian liturgies, Mary is referred to as the “Liberatrix,” the woman who frees us from Satan’s grasp. She is likewise called the “Salvatrix,” the woman who saves us (5). In the Eastern Akathistos hymn, she is called the “Redemption of the tears of Eve” (6). There is remarkably beautiful coredemption language in the Eastern Akathistos hymn of the sixth century.
By the tenth century, the coredemption doctrine is fully elaborated by John the Geometer, the Byzantine monk. John Paul II, in one of his audiences, tells us that John the Geometer is the first to clearly delineate that the Mother and Son are inseparable in the work of redemption (7).
It is noteworthy that in exactly the same tenth century, we have the first appearance of the title, “Redemptrix.” It is very important to never separate the doctrine and the title. They go together. The title is just a one-word summation of the doctrine. That’s why historically when the doctrine of Redemptrix is formulated in terms of Mary’s unique participation with Jesus at Calvary, thereby out comes the title. The title is found in a French hymnal within the litany of the saints: Sancta Redemptrix, ora pro nobis (8). Notice it does not read, Sancta Redemptrix, miserere nobis. There is no parallel with Jesus here. It is intrinsically subordinate.
Some modern theologians might contend that the Redemptrix title for Mary goes too far (9). But in historical fact and context, Redemptrix never places Mary on a level of equality with Jesus.” In a parallel case, when we use the term Mediatrix for Our Lady, we do not call her the “Co-mediatrix,” but rather the “Mediatrix.” Why? Because subordination is implied. The subordination is part of our clear understanding within the covenant family of the People of God.
By the twelfth century, we have the significant contribution of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. And St. Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of the “compassion” of Mary. Cum-passio: “to suffer with.” She is the woman who suffers with Jesus at Calvary. And St. Bernard is the first to speak about offering the divine Victim to the Father. Here it is still in the context of the Presentation. But it is a true offering, an act of will of the Mother to offer the Son for our redemption, which is articulated in the twelfth century.
His disciple, Arnold of Chartres, (+1160), is the first to talk about Mary “co-dying” (10), “co-suffering” (11), and being “co-crucified” (12) with Jesus at Calvary. He answers an objection that Mary did not operate the redemption by specifying that she indeed “co-operated” in the redemption. We thereby have the beginning of a series of Marian “co” terms. The prefix “co” of course does not mean equal. We know this as students of Scripture. When St. Paul calls each one of us to be co-workers with God (1 Cor 3:9), it cannot mean equal, otherwise such would constitute blasphemy. Pius XI and John Paul II have called each one of us to be “co-redeemers with Christ.”
Sometimes paradoxically what some theologians do not grasp, mothers of families grasp. Many will remember when we were children if we fell and we hurt ourselves, what would our mothers tell us? “Offer it up, dear.” What does it mean, to “offer it up”? It means that if you patiently endure your suffering and unite it to the sufferings of Jesus and Mary, you can truly cooperate in the salvation of someone else through a new release of the graces of Calvary. It is a very simple principle in the Mystical Body of Christ. We are all called to be co-workers, co-redeemers in the salvation of one another. Our Lady, though, is the unique Co-redemptrix in the objective, historic accomplishment of redemption with Christ.
In the fourteenth century, we have the first expression of the term “Co-redemptrix” in a hymn from Salzburg. It’s a beautiful hymn which uses both Redemptrix and Co-redemptrix titles, which mutually bespeak Our Lady’s unique sharing in the Passion (13). By this time there is no question of the legitimacy of the doctrine. Please keep in mind that this is over 700 years ago. If someone tells you, “We don’t need a new term,” one possible response might be, “Yes I agree, because there’s nothing new about Mary Co-Redemptrix. It is seven centuries old.”
By the sixteenth century, we have a very important theological contribution from one of the Council of Trent’s foremost theologians, one of the original Jesuits, Alphonsus Salmerón. In the sixteenth century on several occasions Salmerón, the Tridentine theologian, defends the Co-redemptrix doctrine and title. In one paragraph, he uses all thrre titles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate—and this over 500 years ago (14). A half century before Salmeron, the Franciscan theologian Bernardine of Bustos had likewise used Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate in 1470. Truly, these are not new terms.
After the reformation and during the Catholic Counter-reformation of the seventeenth century, we have what is rightly called the Golden Age of Mary Co-redemptrix—during which theologians make more than 300 references to the Co-redemptrix doctrine and the title (15). In terms of the fundamental theology of coredemption and the classical categories of merit, satisfaction, atonement, redemption, there is no new foundational pillar of the doctrine from the seventeenth century to the present. We have experienced a greater development of the understanding of the categories, certainly; but by this golden age of the seventeenth century, the essential theological foundations of Mary’s unique role in the redemption is systematically established (16).
In the nineteenth century, Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the great English scholar, in his debate with the Anglican Pusey, defends the Co-redemptrix title, stating, “When they found you with the Fathers calling her Mother of God, Second Eve, and Mother of all Living, the Mother of Life, the Morning Star, the Mystical New Heaven, the Sceptre of Orthodoxy, the All-undefiled Mother of Holiness, and the like, they would have deemed it a poor compensation for such language, that you protested against her being called a Co-redemptrix?” (17) This is yet another testimony to its multi-faceted presence in our Tradition.
In the twentieth century and from a very exclusive category of saints, that is, saints who lived, died, and were canonized all within the twentieth century, we have a consistent witness to the Mother Co-redemptrix. These contemporary saints tell us by their repeated use of the title and doctrine in their teachings and writings that the Marian Co-redemptrix title is a legitimate, contemporary, and relevant term for today. This modern litany of renowned saints include St. Pio, St. Edith Stein, St. Jose Maria Escriva, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and St. Leopold Mandic, who actually gave himself as a victim soul to Our Lady Co-redemptrix for East-West unity (18). The life offering of St. Leopold should make concretely clear for us that Marian coredemption and ecumenism are in no sense antithetical.
The nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century papal Magisterium continues the fiat to Mary Co-redemptrix, but now with its unique authoritative voice. The doctrine of Marian coredemption, which again reveals the simple truth that Mary uniquely participated with and under Jesus in the redemption of the world, both at the Annunciation and in a climactic manner at Calvary, has been the official papal teaching of the Magisterium from Leo XIII to Pope Benedict XVI.
When does the specific title first appear in the Papal Magisterium? Under the pontificate of St. Pius X, Co-redemptrix is used by the Holy See on three occasions. Twice it appears in the documents of the Holy Office (which today is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). On a third occasion, it appears in a statement by the Vatican Congregation of Rites. What is particularly interesting about these usages is that it is the Holy Office itself that voluntarily inserts the Co-redemptrix title in their own response to various questions posed to the Congregation. What does this infer? It infers that the Holy Office was so confident in the doctrinal legitimacy of this title that even in responding to various petitions they chose to freely present the title.
Pope Pius XI is the first pontiff to directly use the title, and does so on three occasions during his pontificate. In one address, he explains the Co-redemptrix title as describing Christ’s incorporation of his mother in the work of redemption, in a way whereby he could not but associate Mary in the work of redemption (19).
Pope John Paul II, on six occasions during his illustrious Marian pontificate uses the title Co-redemptrix (20). Some opponents have critiqued these usages by stating that John Paul’s use was reserved to “marginal” texts. While one can legitimately make distinctions concerning a true hierarchy of papal statements, nonetheless the case can rightly be made that there is no such thing as a marginal text by the Vicar of Christ when speaking on an issue of faith and morals. When an official teaching comes from the Vicar of Christ on an issue of doctrine, it ceases to be marginal. Moreover, the context in which John Paul has used the title, for example as in the text of Guayaquil (21), is a rich context of Scriptural and conciliar theology.
The Second Vatican Council most certainly teaches the doctrine in Lumen Gentium 57, 58 and 61. John Paul II wrote his only Marian encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, as a commentary on Lumen Gentium 58, the principal coredemption paragraph from the Second Vatican Council, yet another indication of its importance in the mind and heart of the Totus Tuus pontiff.
When certain theologians mention that the title is not contained in the Second Vatican Council, they typically fail to mention the explicit teaching of the doctrine and moreover fail to mention pertinent circumstances as to why it is not contained is typically not included, for example that a theological subcommission omitted the title before the council fathers had an opportunity to even discuss the title, even though there are four paragraphs of notation in the first schema of the treatment of Our Lady at the Council in explanation of the history of the Co-redemptrix title and of its legitimacy. What reason was given by the theological subcommittee for the removal of the title? They stated that the term, absolutely true in itself, could be difficult to understand by our “separated brethren,” our Protestant brothers and sisters. Hence the fathers of Vatican II never had an opportunity to evaluate or vote on accepting or rejecting the Co-redemptrix title. If we were to use the same criterion for other Catholic terms and titles, that is, anything that could potentially be difficult to understand by our separated brethren, what do we do with terms such as Transubstantiation and Papal Infallibility, let alone the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption?
Once again, even though the title does not appear in the Council documents, it must be re-iterated that Vatican II most clearly and emphatically teaches the Co-redemptrix doctrine.
Pope Benedict XVI has continued the more than two century unbroken line of papal teaching of this doctrine. On February 11, 2008, in his letter for the World Day of the Sick, our Holy Father specifically teaches Mary’s unique sharing in the Passion of her Son at Calvary as a continuity of her “yes” at the Annunciation (22). It is also significant that on that day of February 11 in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Cardinal Lozano Barragán, the prefect for the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care who presided at the Mass of the World Day of the Sick, gave his homily on Marian coredemption and specifically called her the “Co-redemptrix with the Savior” (23). On the next day, his use of Co-redemptrix was distributed throughout the world through Vatican Information Services.
If you hear, therefore, that the Co-redemptrix is simply a pre-Vatican term, neither relevant nor in use by the Church today, please be assured that it is most definitely a post-conciliar term, especially in light of John Paul II’s six uses of the term after the Council, as well as most recent usages within the Holy See, such as that by Cardinal Lozano-Barragán.
As recently as one week ago, Pope Benedict XVI wrote an inspiring prayer for the world day of prayer for China on May 24, 2008, in which in he teaches the following on Our Lady’s coredemption:
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother …
When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.
From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son, Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence (24).
The papal teaching on the doctrine of the Co-redemptrix continues in our day.
Theological Objections to Mary Co-redemprrix
Within this rich historical and magisterial context, I want to respond to three objections that have been raised regarding the Co-redemptrix title.
The first objection is that the term Co-redemptrix represents a pre-Vatican II Mariology and therefore is irrelevant for today. As we have said, as soon as John Paul II used the term, it ceased to be a preconciliar term in light of its explicit use by a postconcilar pontiff. But this objection also represents an artificial separation between the Co-redemptrix doctrine and the Co-redemptrix title. The title embodies, encapsulates, and summarizes in one word the doctrine. It continues to be the powerful teaching of the Second Vatican Council and of John Paul II, and now Pope Benedict, whether it be present in the title or in the doctrine.
In response to the related objection that all which came before the Council is now no longer relevant, I refer to the preeminently important presentation of Pope Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia of December 22, 2005 (25), in which he gives the proper interpretive key for understanding the Council and its present relevance in light of what came before the Council. His expression “hermeneutics of continuity” well conveys that the Second Vatican Council should be seen as the keystone of what came before in light of the inspired development of Sacred Tradition, and not its nemesis. The Holy Father contrasts the hermeneutics of continuity—in which we appreciate the past in light of the conciliar present—with the “hermeneutics of rupture” which would convey the erroneous idea that the Second Vatican Council launches us on such a new direction that substantially disregards the rich Tradition of the Church before the Council.
The identical hermeneutics of continuity must be applied to Mariology and the issue of Marian coredemption. The Second Vatican Council highlights Our Lady’s coredemption in Lumen Gentium 58 and Pope John Paul II does not hesitate to use the Co-redemptrix title and preach repeatedly the Co-redemptrix role after the Council as an organic continuation of the development of Co-redemptrix doctrine which took place before the Council. We must be beware that in Mariology as in all theological fields, a hermeneutics of rupture leads to a erroneous interpretation of both the Council and Tradition which discredits the ongoing actions of the Holy Spirit in the development of the Church which brings us to our present moment of truth and grace for the People of God.
A second objection states that you can call Mary the “Mother of the Redeemer,” but you cannot call her the Co-redemptrix. This is a somewhat undistinguished form of objection, as Mother of the Redeemer and Co-redemptrix can refer to the different dimensions of Our Lady’s roles, but it is not an “either-or” proposition, but a “both-and” doctrinal reality for Our Lady. She is the Mother of the Redeemer, in giving birth to Jesus, and this action is in itself the beginning of her coredemptive role, but it does not stop here, as Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium confirm. Of course she is the Mother of the Redeemer, but Tradition, and the Papal and Conciliar Magisterium teach that after she says “yes” to be the Mother of Jesus, she continues to suffer with Jesus in fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy, that her heart will be pierced by the sword of sorrow, that she is spiritually crucified with her son at Calvary, and, again in John Paul’s words, that her role as Co-redemptrix does not cease with the glorification of her son. So she is Mother of the Redeemer, but she is also Co-redemptrix with the Redeemer. To separate the two would be a false dichotomy; to deny the second would be against the doctrinal integrity of the Church.
A third objection, which is the most common, is that Co-redemptrix title and doctrine is intrinsically anti-ecumenical. I refer you to John Paul II’s encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint. At times, the term “ecumenism” is employed with a similar type of vagueness and confusion that the term “love” did when it was used in the 1970s. We all use it, but many do not know do not know exactly what it means, and few dare define it fully. Ecumenism has a very specific meaning and John Paul II gives that to us in this document. Authentic Catholic ecumenism consists of prayer as the soul and dialogue as the body which seeks Christian unity ultimately in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church (26). John Paul further warns in Ut Unum Sint that for you may never (under the guise of what would constitute a type of pseudo-ecumenism): 1.) compromise the full doctrine of the Catholic Church; or 2.) prevent the organic development of Church doctrine (27).
Therefore, it would be constitute an erroneous understanding of both authentic ecumenism and of the Co-redemptrix doctrine to hold that the existing Marian doctrine and title, as well as its ongoing contemporary development is somehow contrary to the likewise contemporary imperative for Christian unity and true ecumenical activity by the Church.
In his letter to Pope John Paul II in petition for the fifth Marian dogma, the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York alludes to the positive contribution of this papal proclamation for true ecumenism, as it would help non-Catholic Christians realize that the Church does in fact distinguish between what is uniquely true of the divine and human Jesus from what is secondarily true of the human Mary in the work of Redemption, taking away any mistaken notion that Catholics place Mary on a level of equality with Jesus Christ.
More recently both Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, who is a previous primate of the Indian Conference of Bishops, and the present primate, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, have published interviews on Zenit News Agency saying that the dogma will be a true step help for interreligious dialogue, and this would include Muslims, Hindus, and Christians (28). These cardinals confirm that the Marian element is already assisting the unity of peoples in India as manifested at major Marian shrines, where Hindus, Muslims and Christians are praying together through their common recognition of Mary as the Mother of unity, and the fifth Marian dogma will all the more facilitate this unity under the Mother of all peoples. The testimony of these cardinals based on real experiences of religious unity through Mary leads us away from mere speculation and offers us concrete examples of how this proclamation will be a unifying factor for authentic religious unity today.
Fruits of the Fifth Marian Dogma
More positively, what are some of the fruits the proclamation of this fifth Marian dogma will provide for the Church and for the world? The first thing it will provide is a theological clarity on the highest level regarding this Marian truth. With our present Holy Father, for example, you have a world class theologian who is respected by all in terms of his theological brilliance. Along with the infallible charism of his office, a solemn definition by Pope Benedict on this doctrine would guarantee the most scripturally grounded and theologically profound articulation of what is already part of our Tradition. How then could greater clarity and the best possible articulation of this revealed Marian truth hurt those of us inside the Church or hurt those outside the Church? It is already a truth. And now you have what Bl. Pius IX called in 1854 a perfection of the doctrine. It’s the clearest articulation possible. That would be its service.
Secondly, the dogma would be a concrete theological corrective to the mistaken concept that the human person is not obliged to cooperate with God’s grace for his own redemption. This revelation, in its essence, compromises a cornerstone of Catholic theology. We must cooperate, through the exercise of our free will, God’s greatest gift of our human nature, in order to receive and sustain the gift of salvific faith. By analogy, if you freely received the gift of a living plant some 10 years ago, but have not watered that plant for 10 years, you can be assured that the gift of the plant given freely and received freely is no longer alive. It is the same thing with Christian faith. If one freely accepted the precious gift of personal faith in Jesus Christ 10 years ago, but has never cooperated with that gift through living in Gospel or participating in the prayer and sacramental life of the Church over the past 10 years, then you can assume the absence of a living, salvific faith. We have to “co-operate,” we must “work-with” grace. The greatest dignity that God the Father gives the human person is the ability through the exercise of freedom to participate with Jesus and Mary in our own redemption, as well as in the redemption of persons. St. Thomas Aquinas refers to the capacity for man to participate in and to suffer for the salvation of others (cf. Col. 1:24) as the “envy” of the angels. The angels cannot suffer in body to lead other souls into heaven, but we as humans can.
Since Mary is the archetype of human cooperation in redemption, in ways beyond any other human being in light of her Immaculate Conception and her unique participation in the acquisition of the graces of redemption, the proclamation of the dogma of the Co-redemptrix would underscore the responsibility of every human person to cooperate in their own salvation and in the salvation of the human family through our sublime use of human freedom.
The papal proclamation of Mary Co-redemptrix would furthermore be an organic clarification and reaffirmation of the dignity of woman. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). God so loved woman that he wanted woman involved in the salvation of all humanity—not a priest, not a bishop, not a pope, but a woman. This is authentic Christian feminism. This is where a woman discovers her mystery, and it is where woman has a proper sense of awe in her femininity, that God has such a deep respect for her that the Father providentially predestines that a woman will work side by side with the man-God in the work of redemption. This is Our Lady, where femininity has its most dignified moment in human history.
Most of all, the proclamation of the fifth Marian dogma will “release” Our Lady and allow her to exercise her full power of maternal intercession for today’s troubled world.
Our Lady’s titles are her functions. The titles of Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate are not just honorary titles, but rather identity her roles of service for humanity. She is the Co-redemptrix, the “Mother suffering.” She is the Mediatrix, the “Mother nourishing.” She is the Advocate, the “Mother pleading.” These are not just honors; they are spiritual actions of our spiritual “mother in the order of grace” (LG 61).
Let us also keep in mind that we do not have three earthly mothers. When our mother suffered for us, and our mother fed us, and our mother interceded for us when we were children, we did not conclude to having three mothers. We had one mother who performed three motherly functions. That is likewise truly of our one spiritual mother, who performs three spiritual and maternal functions on behalf of humanity.
God, being the perfect God, will not break his own rules, and one of his providential rules which governs creation is that he will not force redemptive graces upon humanity. We must freely choose these graces in respect for human freedom. This is why the proclamation of the dogma is so important. This solemn definition would embody the Vicar of Christ, in the name of all humanity, saying yes to these motherly roles for the historic benefit of the entire human family. When the Holy Father, as Vicar of Christ and spiritual father of all humanity, infallibly acknowledges that Mary is Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, I believe we will see a superabundant release of grace upon a historically unprecedented level.
Is this fifth Marian dogma irrelevant for the needs and troubles of today? Is this something simply for the theologians? Quite the contrary: The common people, the sensus fidelium throughout the world, understand this Marian doctrine and the importance of its proclamation in their hearts. The common people who pray the Rosary, who consecrate themselves and their families to Our Lady, and who wear the scapular already know in their hearts and in their praxis that she is the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate. This is why over seven million people from over 150 countries worldwide have petitioned the Holy Father for the fifth Marian dogma now, for our present age in crisis of moral collapse, natural disaster, and war.
We need this Marian dogma for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart which was prophesied at Fatima on July 13, 1917. “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph, … and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” This dogma is the key that unlocks the door to the graces and the peace of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
St. Maximilian Kolbe tells us that the Holy Spirit acts only through Mary, his human spouse, in bringing us the first grace of Jesus Christ, and in bringing us all the redemptive graces of Jesus Christ. As the Holy Spirit descended in response to the prayerful intercession of Mary at the first Pentecost, I believe the divine Advocate will do so again in answer to Our Lady’s acknowledgement and prayers for a New Pentecost for our day.
I invite you to ponder the following image, which was given to me by a woman of great prayer. Imagine the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a cage in her heart. Imagine that in that cage is a dove – a dove which represents the Holy Spirit, which is locked in the cage. When the pope proclaims the dogma, it will be like the Vicar of Christ is opening the door to that cage, and the Holy Spirit will come anew upon humanity and with an extraordinary generosity of his gifts.
What will that mean for the world? Grace, redemption, peace, mitigation for our sins, and new graces to deal with world conflicts such as are now happening in China and Myanmar, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East, terrorism in the world and terrorism in the womb with abortion, and help bring to an end the great offense through which we blaspheme God the Father in human cloning efforts. The Holy Spirit will convict us of sinthrough a New Pentecost, and that will prepare the way for the new redemption for our age. This is why I believe the proclamation of this dogma is so absolutely relevant to today, to the Church, to the world, to each one of us.
The Lady of All Nations and the Fifth Marian Dogma
I wish finally to speak about the Lady of All Nations and the heavenly call for the fifth Marian dogma. As we know, the movement for the fifth Marian dogma did not start in Amsterdam in 1945 with these profound apparitions; it began in the 1910s with Cardinal Mercier, the great Belgian cardinal. Even before 1920, Cardinal Mercier already had gathered the petitions of hundreds of bishops presented it to the Holy Father for the solemn definition of Our Lady’s universal mediation, which included the doctrine of coredemption. St. Maximilian Kolbe and his new religious followers joined the cause in the early 1920s. And in 1943, the Dutch bishops of this country consecrated the Netherlands to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and used the titles Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate in the document of consecration. Is it little wonder, then, why two years later, Our Lady answered the invitation of the Dutch bishops of this country and came to this land. She is always obedient and joyfully answers invitations that come from the hierarchy of the Church.
Then and only then in 1945 does Our Lady initiate her apparitions which will her unveil her repeated and insistent request for the papal proclamation of her roles as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. Thus, we have heavenly confirmation and a heavenly imperative for the fifth Marian dogma.
While it would be incorrect to say that this Co-redemptrix title and dogma request rests upon the private revelation of Amsterdam rather than upon the public sources of revelation in Scripture and Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium, it is correct to say that the private revelation of Amsterdam has served as a great confirmation and encouragement for prayer, petitioning, and preaching about the global and historical importance of the fifth Marian dogma. We should be grateful to God and his Mother for the great grace of the apparitions of the Lady of All Nations, which were declared as consisting of supernatural origin by Bishop Josef Maria Punt on May 31, 2002, as the final step in a successive line of positive ecclesiastical developments leading up to the declaration.
Let us refer to just a few of the pregnant passages from the messages of the Lady of All Nations. I begin with a message from May 10, 1953, where Our Lady states that Marian thought must become more pronounced, and it must start here from Amsterdam:
Marian thought must become more pronounced in these times. Amsterdam will become the focus for the Lady of All Nations. There the peoples will get to know the Lady of All Nations and learn to pray to her under this title to obtain unity for themselves, unity among the nations. This image will precede the final Marian dogma. First this image shall in the first place go to Amsterdam.
Here Our Lady calls the people of Amsterdam to be her special carriers of this message and its Marian thought focused upon a new, upcoming Marian dogma. Indeed, you, the people of Amsterdam, are her chosen instruments to bring this message into this world. She came here first. Our Lady brought this message to Amsterdam and entrusts it to you as the instruments for spreading it throughout the world.
On October 11, 1953, The Lady message mentions she is coming to a country that loves peace and calls for the picture of the Lady of All Nations to be placed in a public place before it is permanently located in the eventual “church” of the Lady of all nations:
The Lady, who must bring peace, came and gave her prayer in the country where Satan had reigned. The Lady, who is bringing peace, gave her words through an instrument from a country, where peace was always desired. “The Lady of All Nations” is not destined for one country and one place, but is meant for the whole world, for all nations. This picture will go to Amsterdam, however, and that at the end of 1953. It will be placed in a chapel or church. Later, it will be transferred to the church of “the Lady of All Nations.
It is clear that she wants her picture, the first great painting of her image, in some public place.
In her April 4, 1954, message, Our Lady admonishes the theological community that this doctrine is not something new, has its foundation in the Immaculate Conception, and challenges them to work and fight for this dogma:
“I see the Lady standing with a serious look on her face. ‘Once more I am here, listen well. From the outset, the handmaid of the Lord was chosen to be the Co-redemptrix. Tell that to your theologians that they can find it in all their books. The Lady pauses briefly, then smiling to herself, she says almost in a whisper, I am not bringing a new doctrine, I am bringing old ideas. She waits and continues, ‘because the lady is Co-redemptrix, she is also Mediatrix and Advocate not only because she is mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, but because she is the Immaculate Conception…”
“Theologians I ask you, do you still have objections to this dogma? You can find these words and ideas. I ask you to work for this dogma. No, fear nothing. There will be a clash. The others indeed will attack you, but the complicity of this dogma lies in these last thoughts which Mary, the Lady of All Nations, puts before you today. Do fight and ask for this dogma. It is the crowning of your Lady.”
It is as if Our Lady is encouraging you in a special way, the people of Amsterdam, to be grateful for and defenders of these apparitions, which have been given in a primordial way as a grace to your country. She came here for a reason. She is your Lady. What is true of Jesus that no prophet is acceptable in his own country (cf. Lk 4:24), is perhaps also true for the Queen of Prophets here in our day. But you are in a particular way called upon to stand up for her, as she is truly your “Woman” or “Lady,” from where she seeks to be recognized worldwide as the Lady of All Nations, the Mother of All Peoples.
Finally, in Our Lady’s message of May 31, 1954, which was revealed 54 years ago today, she tells us:
“Here I am again. The Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate is now standing before you. I have chosen this day—on this day the Lady will be crowned. Theologians and apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, listen carefully. I have given you the explanation of the dogma. Work for and ask for this dogma. You are to petition the Holy Father for this dogma.”
Then the visionary Ida describes:
Now, all of a sudden, it is as if I were standing with the Lady above the dome of a big church. As we enter, I hear the Lady say, “I am taking you inside this. Relate what I let you see and hear.” We are now in a very big church, in St. Peter’s. I see lots of cardinals and bishops gathered there. Then the Pope enters. He is being carried in a kind of chair, but later he continues on foot. People cheer; the choir begins to sing. Now the Holy Father is announcing something in a language I do not understand, while holding up two fingers. All at once the Lady stands on the globe again. She smiles and says, “Child, thus have I let you see what is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. This day will become the coronation of His Mother, the Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary.” Now the Lady remains standing without saying anything, as she gazes far into the distance. This lasts a while and then she says, “And the Lady stayed with her Apostles until the Spirit came.” “So also may the Lady come to her apostles and nations throughout the whole world, in order to bring them the Holy Spirit again.”
I believe this refers to both the proclamation of the dogma and New Pentecost we pray for. With that New Pentecost will come the illumination of our souls which leads to new conversion, redemption, and peace.
Our Lady concludes:
“By means of this instrument in a small country which is on the edge of a precipice, the Lady of All Nations will give her motherly admonitions and consolations each year. I am here. I shall assist and help you. The image must be placed in public. Ask this of your bishop. He shall consent to having the image brought forth. He shall consent to the building of the church, the one I showed you. Everyone shall fight for this. … The Lady of All Nations wishes for unity in the true Holy Spirit. The world is covered by a false spirit, by Satan. Once the dogma, the final dogma in Marian history, has been proclaimed, the Lady of All Nations will grant peace, true peace, to the world.”
In conclusion, I would thank the people of Amsterdam for being true disciples of Our Lady, because through your fidelity the worldwide promulgation of the message has to a great degree been fulfilled. I encourage you to continue. The world looks to the people of Amsterdam. Continue doing what you are doing as the special ambassadors of the Lady of All Nations to the world.
Place her image in a public church as she requests, so that when the world visits Amsterdam, they see your manifest love and devotion to her and thereby can do the same in their own countries. Hence pilgrims will be encouraged to continue to spread the devotion, the most valuable prayer, and to pray, work and petition for the proclamation of the dogma.
I believe none of us fully understand what a privilege it is or the comprehensive historical significance of what it means to be working for this Marian dogma. Only in Heaven will we understand the grace to have been chosen in some small way to participate in this dogmatic crowning of Our Lady. I thank you, people of Amsterdam, once again, in the name of the rest of the world’s devotees, for all you have done here for her.
Let us conclude by praying together Our Lady’s revealed prayer which was given especially to prepare the way for this papal proclamation of the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate on this “coronation day” of May 31:
from degeneration, disaster
that they may be preserved
Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations,
send now your Spirit over the earth.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father,and war.
May the Lady of All Nations,
the Blessed Virgin Mary, be our Advocate. Amen.
Dr. Mark Miravalle earned his Sacred Theological Doctorate at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He holds the Saint John Paul II Chair of Mariology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he has been teaching since 1986. Dr. Miravalle is the founder and senior editor of Ecce Mater Tua, an international journal of Mariology research. He is also president of the International Marian Association, comprised of more than 130 theologians, bishops, clergy, and laity worldwide who seek to promote Marian devotion and doctrine.
(1) John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, November 12, 1984, p. 1.
(2) Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, Personal Interview, Calcutta, August 14, 1993.
(3) John Paul II, Papal Homily at Guayaquil, Ecuador, Jan. 31, 1985.
(4) St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, vol. 3, ch. 22, n. 4; PG 7, 959.
(5) Cf. Laurentin, Le Titre de Corédemptrice, Etude Historique, Paris, Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1951, p. 11. The original Armenian term is “Pyrgogh.”
(6) Akathist Hymn, Strophe 1; PG 92, 1337 A.
(7) John Paul II, General Audience, Oct. 25, 1995, n. 2; L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, Nov. 1, 1995, p. 11.
(8) Litanies dessaintes, in a Psalter of French origin preserved in the chapter library of the Cathedral of Salisbury, Parchment 173, fol. in double columns, 0.39×0.32 m. Manuscript number l80, fol. 171 v., b, Edited by F.E. Warren, “An Unedited Monument of Celtic Liturgy” in Celtic Review, 9, 1888, pp. 88-96.
(9) Cf. For example, Laurentin, Le Titre de Corédemptrice, p. 12.
(10) Arnold of Chartres; PL 189, 1693 B.
(11) Cf. Laurentin, Le Titre de Corédemptrice, p. 15, note 51; “quod in carne Christiagebant clavi et lancea, hoc in ejus mente compassio naturalis”; PL 189, 1731 B.
(12) Arnold of Chartres; PL 189, 1693 B.
(13) Orat. ms S. Petri Slaisburgens.,saec. XV; Codex Petrin. a, III, 20 and Orat. ms S. Petri saec. XIV, XV; Codex Petrin. a, I, 20, quoted by G. M. Dreves, Analecta hymnica medii aevi, Leipzig, Reisland, t. 46, 1905, p. 126, n. 79. The original Latin is as follows:
20. Pia dulcis et benigna, Nullo prorsus luctu digna, Si fletum hinc eligeres, Ut compassa redemptori, Captivato transgressori, Tu corredemptrix fieres.
21. Tuncnon tantum condolere, Moestae matri se debere, Me cerno grates solvere, Tibi meae redemptrici, Quae de manu inimici, Dignatur me evolvere.
(14) Alphonsus Salmerón, Commentarii in Evangel., tr. 5, Opera, Cologne, ed., Hiérat, 1604, t. III, pp. 37b- 38a.
(15) Cf. Carol, De Corredemptione, pp. 198-480.
(16) For extended treatments ofcoredemption under the same four classic soteriological categories, cf. Gregory Alastruey, The Blessed Virgin Mary, English translation of the original by Sr. M. J. La Giglia, O.P., Herder, 1964, ch. 2; Friethoff, O.P., A Complete Mariology, Blackfriars, 1958, English translation of Dutch original, Part III, ch. I-V; specifically during this seventeenth century period in its four traditional categories; Carol, “Our Lady’s Coredemption,” Mariology vol. 2, Bruce, 1957, pp. 400-409.
(17) Ven. John Cardinal Newman, Certain Difficulties Felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teaching Considered, vol. 2, In a Letter Addressed to the Rev. E. B. Pusey, D.D., On Occasion of His Eirenicon of 1864, Longman’s, Green and Co., 1891, vol. 2, p. 78.
(18) Cf. Stemman, “Ilmistero di Maria ‘Corredentrice,’” p. 269. The original Latin text is as follows: “Vere coram Deo et Deiparae Virgini, interposita sacramenti fide, me obstrinxi in obsequium Corredemptricis humani generis, disponendi omnes ratione vitae meae iuxta oboedientiam meorum superiorum in redemptionem Orientalium Dissidentium a schismate et errore.” St. Leopold Mandic, Scritti, vol. 2, p. 97.
(19) Pius XI, L’Osservatore Romano, December 1, 1933, p. 1.
(20) Cf. Calkins, “The Mystery of Mary Coredemptrix in the Papal Magisterium,” Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issue Today, Queenship, 2002, pp. 25-92.
(21) John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, March 11, 1985, p. 7. The Guayaquil homily by the Vicar of Christ should not be dismissed as either marginal or devoid of doctrinal weight. Unfortunately, these were the expressions used to describe the significance of the repeated papal usages of the title of Co-redemptrix by Pope John Paul II, as contained in an unsigned article which appeared in L’Osservatore Romano on June 4, 1997. This article accompanied the brief conclusion of an ad hoc ecumenical committee of theologians (sixteen Catholic and five non-Catholic), who met at the 1996 Czestochowa Marian Conference to study the possibility of a dogmatic definition of Mary as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate (a meeting estimated by the committee members to have lasted less than one hour). Although the ad hoc committee members later stated that they were not informed that they were in any way acting as an official “papal commission,” their conclusions were nonetheless published some ten months later in L’Osservatore Romano as the conclusions of a “commission established by the Holy See” and released as a “Declaration of the Theological Commission of the Congress of the Pontifical International Marian Academy” (L’Osservatore Romano, June 4, 1997), cf. Miravalle, In Continued Dialogue with the Czestochowa Commission (Queenship, 2002).
(22) Benedict XVI, Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for the Sixteenth World Day of the Sick, February 11, 2008, Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
(23) Our Sufferings are also Christ’s Sufferings, Vatican Information Services, February 11, 2008.
(24) Prayer of the Pope to Our Lady of Sheshan, Vatican Information Services, May 16, 2008.
(25) Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI I (2005) 1023-1031.
(26) Cf. Ut Unum Sint, 21, 28.
(27) Cf. Ut Unum Sint, 18.
(28) Cf. “Fifth Dogma a Marian Antidote: Interview with Syro-Malabar Cardinal Vithayathil,” Zenit News Service, May 21, 2008, http://www.zenit.org/article-22649?l=english; and “Cardinal Toppo on a Proposed Marian Dogma: A Look at What It Could Mean for Dialogue,” Zenit News Service, May 5, 2008, http://www.zenit.org/article-22499?l=english.