Catholic Apologetics

Mary Distributes Mercy, Christ Distributes Justice

 

As noted early on here, Mary’s Queenship is devoted entirely to the realm of mercy, in contrast to Christ Who alone is Judge.  As St. Liguori says, “Though [Mary] is queen, she is not a queen of justice.  That is to say, she is not concerned with punishing.  She is a queen of mercy, committed to pity and pardon.”[1]

 

He notes, further, that St. Thomas teaches that, “…when the Blessed Virgin conceived the Eternal Word in her womb, she obtained half his kingdom.  Mary became the queen of mercy, while the distribution of justice remained in the hands of her son.”[2]

 

 

Mary Earned Universal Mediation Via Her Coredemption

 

Ad Diem Illum teaches directly that the Blessed Virgin’s role as Mediatrix Of All Grace is a gift to her from the Divinity in payment for willfully offering herself and her Son in reparation for sin: “Moreover it was not only the prerogative of the Most Holy Mother to have furnished the material of His flesh to the Only Son of God, Who was to be born with human members… of which material should be prepared the Victim for the salvation of men; but hers was also the office of tending and nourishing that Victim, and at the appointed time presenting Him for the sacrifice. Hence that uninterrupted community of life and labors of the Son and the Mother, so that of both might have been uttered the words of the Psalmist: ‘My life is consumed in sorrow and my years in groans’ (Ps xxx., 11). When the supreme hour of the Son came, beside the Cross of Jesus there stood Mary His Mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her Only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind, and so entirely participating in His Passion, that if it had been possible she would have gladly borne all the torments that her Son bore… And from this community of will and suffering between Christ and Mary she merited to become most worthily the Reparatrix of the lost… and Dispensatrix of all the gifts that Our Savior purchased for us by His Death and by His Blood” (emphasis mine).[3]

 

St. Liguori references Suarez, one of the Church’s greatest theologians: “Father Suarez explains that the Blessed Mother cooperated in our redemption in three ways: first, by having merited with a merit of congruity or fitness the Incarnation of the Word; second, by having prayed for us continually while she lived on earth; third, by having voluntarily offered her son’s life to God for our salvation.  For this reason, God justly decreed that… all men are to obtain their salvation through Mary’s intercession” (emphasis mine).[4]

 

 

Mary Is Mother Of The Church

 

It is considered well-established in Tradition that when Christ gave His Mother to John, He gave her to the Church, the Apostle representing all of the faithful:

 

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son.  After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own(John 19:26-27).

 

For example, Leo XIII, in Adjutricem Populi (1895), referencing the passage above, states that, “Now in John, according to the constant mind of the Church, Christ designated the whole human race, particularly those who were joined with him in faith.”[5]

 

St. Augustine taught the same, as referenced previously.

 

We repeat an earlier quote from Ad Diem Illum: “If then the most Blessed Virgin is the Mother at once of God and men, who can doubt that she will work with all diligence to procure that Christ, Head of the Body of the Church (Coloss. i., 18), may transfuse His gifts into us, His members, and above all that of knowing Him and living through Him.”[6]

 

In fact, that the Virgin would act as Advocate on our behalf follows directly from her spiritual motherhood alone.

 

 

Mary Distributes All Grace

 

It is important to note that Mary’s unique role as Mediatrix does include the characteristic that all actual grace (this grace being a fruit of the Cross) flows to humanity through her.

 

(It follows directly from this that the Blessed Virgin is necessary for salvation for all men, since no man can obtain efficacious grace save via the Virgin.  This is a necessity God has willed.)

 

St. Maximilian Kolbe: “The Holy Spirit is in Mary after the fashion, one might say, in which the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word, is in his humanity.  There is, of course, this difference: in Jesus there are two natures, divine and human, but one single person who is God.  Mary’s nature and person are totally distinct from the nature and person of the Holy Spirit.  Still, their union is so inexpressible, and so perfect that the Holy Spirit acts only by the Immaculata, His spouse” (emphasis mine).[7]

 

Even on Earth, Christ acted by His Mother’s intercession.  He sanctified John the Baptist literally, physically “through her” when He yet dwelt in her womb.  At Cana he acted, again, only out respect for her will – which initially contradicted His own!

 

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange has this to say in regard to the question, Is she Mediatrix of all graces?: “Though non-Catholics answer the question with a denial, the Christian sense of the faithful, formed for years by the liturgy, which is one of the voices of the ordinary magisterium of the Church, has no hesitation in maintaining that, by the very fact of her being Mother of the Redeemer, all the indications are that Mary is universal Mediatrix, for she finds herself placed between God and men, and more particularly between her Son and men” (emphasis mine).[8]

 

St. Liguori notes that, “Saint John Chrysostom… says that only through Mary’s intercession do sinners receive pardon” (emphasis mine again),[9] and that a litany of saints attest to the universal mediation of Mary.[10]

 

He also echoes a common analogy, repeated by popes as well, that while Christ is the head, Mary is the neck through which all graces flow to the Body.[11] 

 

St. Bonaventure says that, “…since God chose to dwell in Mary’s womb, Mary acquired, so to speak, a jurisdiction over all graces,” (emphasis mine again )[12] and, Liguori points out, “Father Suarez says wisely: ‘Among the saints we do not usually ask one to intercede with the other, because all are of equal rank.  But we do ask them to intercede with Mary, because she is their sovereign and their queen.’”[13]

 

St. de Monfort has a beautiful analogy, noting similarity in language: “God the Father made an assemblage of all the waters, and He named it the sea (mare).  He has made an assemblage of all His graces, and he has called it Mary (Maria).”[14]

 

And: “It is by her that He applies His merits to His members, and that He communicates His virtues, and distributes His graces.  She is His mysterious canal; she is His aqueduct…”[15]

 

“…she distributes to whom she wills, as much as she wills, as she wills, all His gifts and graces.”[16]

 

St. de Monfort : “…the authority which God has been well pleased to give her is so great, that it seems as if she has the same power as God, and that her prayers and petitions are so powerful with God, that they always pass for commandments with His Majesty, who never resists the prayer of His dear Mother, because she is always humble and conformed to His Will.”[17]

 

This is a truly amazing teaching from one of the Church’s greatest Marian theologians.  Christ never resists the prayer of His dear Mother, just as when He was on Earth.

 

The saint continues, “…the Most High has made her the sole treasurer of His treasures, and the sole dispenser of His graces, to enoble, to exalt, and to enrich whom she wishes; to give the entry to whom she wills into the narrow way of heaven; to pass whom she wills, and in spite of all obstacles, through the straight gate of life…” (emphasis mine once again) [18]

 

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange reiterates the traditional belief as well: “… it is common and safe doctrine, taught by different Popes, by the liturgy, and by preachers throughout the world, that no grace is granted without Mary’s intervention.  This is contained clearly in the Mass and Office of Mary, Mediatrix of all graces, and it would be at least rash to deny it.”[19]

 

 

Mary Is The Most Powerful, Even Perfect Advocate

 

As noted in the introduction, Mary’s roles of Mediatrix and Advocate are particularly closely related, as both consist in a type of mediation between Christ and His Body, the Church.  As Mary distributes the graces of the Cross to mankind, she also acts as Advocate in supplication for grace.  We saw, in the discussion of the Davidic Queen Mother, that Mary’s archetypical fulfillment of that role implies she is an advocate before the King on behalf of His people, the Church.

 

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange points out that not only does Mary distribute all grace, but her intercession is just as universal: “It is clear therefore that Mary’s intercession is much more powerful and efficacious than that of all the other saints - even taken all together - for the other saints obtain nothing without her.  Their mediation is included under her universal mediation, while hers is, in its turn, subordinated to that of Jesus.”[20] 

 

As discussed above, Mary received her exalted role of Mediatrix Of All Grace in recompense for her selfless offering and perfect submission to the Will of God in regards to the Redemption, as well as her perfect holiness (kecharitomene – full of grace” to the maximum extent possible).  She can be said, as was discussed in the first part of this series, to have merited the grace of the Cross in the congruous sense (that is, merit based not on strict justice, but essentially on the kindness of the rewarding party). 

 

Since Mary actually, personally merited the grace she requests on our behalf, unlike any other saint, it is impossible not to realize that she must be Advocate without peer!

 

So says Garrigou-Lagrange: “There is another point to be noted: it is that Mary has merited all the graces which she asks for us, whereas the saints often ask for graces for others which they have not merited themselves.  Their prayer could not then have the same efficacy as Mary’s.”[21]

 

We can go even farther than this: Tradition says that Mary can even be regarded as, in a sense, omnipotent in her supplication.  “Is Mary’s prayer omnipotent?  Tradition has honored Mary with the title, Omnipotentia supplex, omnipotence in the order of supplication.”[22]

 

Of course, this is not in any sense a true omnipotence of the divine order, but an omnipotent power that the Godhead has willed the Virgin to possess, so perfectly is her will aligned with the Divine Will and so great the merit she has earned.

 

Garrigou-Lagrange teaches elsewhere[23] that that most critical wish of every Christian, to be guaranteed the grace of final perseverance, can be infallibly attained under certain conditions.  The easiest path to this goal is to place oneself in the care of the Blessed Virgin, who has the power to move our very will should it oppose this precious end.  “…Tradition teaches us as certain that Mary’s powerful intercession can obtain for all those who invoke her with the proper dispositions all the graces required for salvation… Thus the Church repeats: Sentiant omnes tuum juvamen: Let all be cognizant of your assistance.”[24]

 

 

Mary Is The “Last Refuge” Of Sinners; We Can Place Our Hope In Mary; The Blessed Virgin Is Necessary For Salvation

 

As noted above, Tradition holds that Mary is so powerful an Advocate that she can move the very will of the stubborn sinner.  She is God’s gift to a mankind saturated with sin, so perverse that men sometimes behave as if they do not even desire salvation.

 

Saint Bernard states that, “Mary is that blessed ark where anyone who takes refuge will escape the shipwreck of eternal damnation.  At the time of the deluge, even the brute animals were saved in Noah’s ark.  And so, under Mary’s protection, even sinners are saved.”[25]

 

St. Liguori points out that, although no one can merit final perseverance (which is a grace and thus by definition unable to be merited), according to Augustine, Bellarmine, Suarez, and others, those who ask for it diligently until the end of their lives will receive it, and asking with Mary’s intercession is the most effective means.[26]

 

“She herself promises this grace [final perseverance] to all who in this life serve her faithfully, according to the words which the Church puts on her lips for the feast of the Immaculate Conception: They that work by me shall not sin; they that explain me shall have life everlasting (Ecclus 24:30-31).”[27]

 

We previously quoted Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange as stating that Mary’s intercession is not necessary, in contrast to the sub-heading above.  In the sense that God was required to make use of the Virgin’s mediation in the plan of salvation, clearly it is not.  However, since God Himself has willed this necessity, she is, for us, a necessity in the moral order.

 

Says St. Liguori, “…Mary’s intercession is necessary for our salvation.  Not absolutely necessary, but morally necessary.  Moreover, we say that this necessity arises from the very will of God, who wills that all graces he dispenses should pass through Mary’s hands.  This… can certainly be called the common opinion of the theologians and scholars.”[28]

 

St. de Monfort echoes this teaching virtually verbatim: “… the most holy Virgin being necessary to God by a necessity which we call hypothetical, in consequence of His Will, she is far more necessary to men, in order for them to arrive at their last end.”[29]

 

He notes also that, “[t]he learned and pious Suarez the Jesuit… and many others, have proved invincibly, in consequence of the sentiments of the Fathers… that devotion to our Blessed Lady is necessary to salvation.[30]

 

 

Why Does God Will His Mother Act As Mediator And Advocate?

 

There are those who will wonder why God would will the general necessity of a non-divine person in the plan of salvation (and those deny it as well).  As a response, we might note that God has quite evidently willed many things not strictly necessary. 

 

He need not have deigned that His Son would be born of a woman – His Body could have been directly created, as was Adam’s.  He need not have accomplished the Redemption of mankind via His Incarnation at all.  Going one step further, He need not have redeemed him at all after the Fall.

 

We might say that God loves diversity – the good kind, not the admixture of truth and error, good and evil, that sometimes passes for a positive “diversity” here and now.  It is said that no two angels are identical and that their number is greatly in excess of all the human beings that have lived or will live.  The Divine Will is not constrained, and we are not fit to question it.

 

The teaching that the Holy Trinity willed Mary’s direct participation in the Redemption is evident by at least the second century.  St. Irenaeus states that, “before the Divine Word took flesh in Mary’s womb, He sent an archangel to ask her consent: because He willed that the world should receive the Incarnate Word through Mary and that she should be the source of every blessing.”[31]

 

So why did the great God of the Universe gave us His Mother as our Advocate and Mediatrix of His grace?  Those who properly tremble before His Holy Majesty will understand easily: “But because men recognize in him [Christ] the majesty of God, since he isGod, and because they fear his divine majesty, it was necessary to assign us another  advocate to whom we can appeal with less fear and more confidence.”[32]

 

Though Christ is our friend and our brother when we are in the state of grace, He is our terrible Judge ready to necessarily condemn us eternally when we are not.  And, in fact, this Judge will require of each of us an account of every thought, word, and deed in this life, and each of us will repay the debt created by every sin to “the last penny”.[33]

 

St. Thomas points out that we can place our hope in something as either a principal or mediate cause[34] – clearly, in the case of the Virgin, it is the secondary case.  Bellarmine states that we can rely on her intercession to obtain things we cannot obtain alone.  We rightly “fear our own lack of the proper dispositions.”[35]

 

To this we add the reason already discussed at length: Mary was given this honor in compensation for her sacrifice and holiness, the combination of which goes beyond what any other human being has ever accomplished or will ever accomplish.  “…Mary’s mediation has nevertheless been willed by God because of our weakness and because God wished to honor her by allowing her the exercise of causality in the order of salvation and sanctification.”[36]

 

 

From the Virgin Herself

 

We have support for the doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces from the lips of the Blessed Virgin herself in the form approved Marian apparitions.

 

The best example is that of her appearances to St. Catherine Laboure, of Miraculous Medal fame, in Paris in 1830.  During her second apparition, during which the Virgin held a golden ball in prayer with her eyes turned to Heaven, she said to St. Catherine, “The ball which you see represents the whole world, especially France, and each person in particular.  These rays [from rings adorning her fingers] symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them.”[37]

 

This vision is a perfect representation of Mary as both Advocate (Intercessor) for the world and Mediatrix of all graces flowing to it.

 

The amazing apparition of Knock, Ireland, in 1879, contains imagery clearly suggestive of Mary’s role as Advocate and Mediatrix as well.

 

 

Objections Against Mary As Mediator

 

Of course it is extremely well-known that Protestants not only reject the Blessed Virgin as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate, they reject her as Theotokos, sinless, perpetually virgin, and every other honor that is her right and due and also completely supported in Scripture and Tradition.

 

In 1 Tim 2:5,[38] the passage Protestants tend to proof-text as ammunition in their misguided fight against the Mother of God, the Greek word heis, translated as “one,” properly means first or primary; Greek has another word – monos – more suited to express the concept of “one” without the qualification of first or primary, which would have been more appropriate had the Holy Ghost wished to exclude all other mediation.

 

(Of course, the Protestant tactic of “proof-texting” is doubly foolish to begin with: First, because reading Scripture “in the small,” and ultimately pitting it against itself, as they inevitably do, is improper exegesis, and secondly – and more importantly – because private interpretation of Scripture itself is illogical, un-Biblical, and leads to the countless divisions we see in the Protestant world.  These things are beyond the scope of this article.)

 

To cut to the chase, the Protestant aversion to praying to saints in general (and to the Blessed Virgin in particular, which seems to give them the most distaste) is preposterous at its foundation since Protestants ask each other to mediate for them.  There is clearly no qualitative difference between these two things. 

 

Personally, I have never met a Protestant who is not stopped in their tracks at least momentarily by this simple observation.  Some will recover to insist that there is “no proof that those in Heaven can hear our prayers” – that is also a false and unscriptural position.  Scripture is rife with cases of human beings acting as mediators in prayer.  “But if Jeremiah, after his death, prays for Jerusalem (2 Macc 15:14); if the ancients of the Apocalypse present the prayers of the saints to God (Apoc 5:8); if Saint Peter promises to remember his disciples after his death (2 Pet 1:15); if Saint Stephen prays for his persecutors (Acts 7:59) and Saint Paul prays for his companions (Acts 27:24); if, in fact, the saints can pray for us, why can we not implore them to do so?”[39]

 

Of course, Catholics understand perfectly well that Mary’s mediation is subordinate to Christ’s and does not in any sense upset or compete with it.  St. Thomas notes that only Christ can perform the role of Mediator in the full sense: “He alone as Head of Mankind, could merit for us in justice the grace of salvation…”[40]  “But, St. Thomas adds… ‘there is no reason why there should not be, after Christ, other secondary mediators between God and men, who co-operate in uniting them in a ministerial and dispositive manner.’  Such mediators dispose men for the action of the principle Mediator, or transmit it, but always in dependence on His merits… The prophets and priests of the Old Testament were mediators of this kind…”

 

It is an undeniable fact that God chose to be mediated into the world, physically, via Mary – how, then, could someone recoil in horror at the notion of He doing the same with His grace?

 

 

Conclusion

 

We have seen that the Church honors Mary, the Mother of God, as Coredemptrix of mankind, Mediatrix of all actual grace passing from Christ to the Church, and Advocate par excellence as Queen Mother before the Throne of her Son, Jesus Christ, the God-Man and King of the Universe.

 

Mary earned the gift of becoming Mediatrix of all Graces by her complete, direct, willful participation in her Son’s Passion – a Passion that essentially began at His birth for them both.  This lifelong Coredemptive act makes her ideally suited to act as our Advocate before God as well, for she herself co-merited the graces she requests and distributes.

 

Mary, the Queen Mother, Mother of the Church, and our Mother, bridges the gap between God and man most perfectly; thus is her unique role in the plan of salvation made clear.

 

She will, until the end of the time, be the Refuge of Sinners and Help of Christians.  A more wonderful gift from the Godhead we could not ask for, or even have known to request.

 

 


[1] Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 3

[2] Ibid, 3

[3] https://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-x/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_02021904_ad-diem-illum-laetissimum.html

[4] Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 86

[5] As quoted in Miravalle, Mary Coredemtrix Mediatrix Advocate, 35

[6] https://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-x/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_02021904_ad-diem-illum-laetissimum.html

[7] As quoted in Miravalle, Mary Coredemtrix Mediatrix Advocate, 54

[8] Garrigou-Lagrange, Mother of the Saviour, 163

[9] Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 33

[10] Ibid, 80-81

[11] Ibid, 82

[12] Ibid, 82

[13] Ibid, 89

[14] St. Louis de Monfort, True Devotion to Mary (The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, 2013), 9

[15] Ibid, 9

[16] Ibid, 9

[17] Ibid, 10

[18] Ibid, 16

[19] Garrigou-Lagrange, Mother of the Saviour, 192

[20] Ibid, 193

[21] Ibid, 193

[22] Ibid, 190

[23] Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Providence: God’s Loving Care for Men and the Need for Confidence in Almighty God (TAN Books, 1998)

[24] Garrigou-Lagrange, Mother of the Saviour, 192

[25] Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 34

[26] Ibid, 36

[27] Ibid, 36

[28] Ibid, 78

[29] de Monfort, True Devotion to Mary, 14

[30] Ibid, 15

[31] Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 52

[32] Ibid, 105

[33] Matt 5:26

[34] Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 50

[35] Ibid, 51

[36] Garrigou-Lagrange, Mother of the Saviour, 167

[37] Joseph I. DirvinSaint Catherine Laboure, (TAN Books, 1984), 86-77

[38] http://biblehub.com/interlinear/1_timothy/2-5.htm

[39] Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 77

[40] Garrigou-Lagrange, Mother of the Saviour, 162