Fifth Marian Dogma

A Synthesis of Mary’s Role as Co-redemptrix, Including her Presence at the Foot of the Cross

“She was a creature who penetrated the most intimate depths of Jesus’ holy Soul and who had benefited beforehand from the graces of Redemption. She was a creature who took to the Lord all that a human soul, full of grace, can give in love and virtue” (1). Mary was truly “blessed among all women” (Lk 1:42). A sinless woman perfectly obedient to the Lord, called to cooperate with Christ in the work of redemption, fulfilled the Lord’s will and bore the Word made flesh. She always humbly served her Son, the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“The truth of Christ and his Church is the only legitimate foundation for a balanced and legitimate devotion to the Mother of Jesus” (2). Jesus Christ must be recognized as the primary figure found in the New Testament. The primacy of Christ cannot be undermined by the greatness of Mary. The Christocentricity of any study of Mary must be evident in its foundation. If Jesus Christ did not become Incarnate, there would, in a sense, be no need for Mary. However, because of the Incarnation, there then became a great necessity for a holy woman to bear the Son of God. God chose that woman to be Mary. With her fiat, Mary said yes to the Lord and His will for her life.

The Catholic Church has declared four dogmas, which declare the very special nature with which Mary was born. Aforementioned, Mary is the Mother of God, Theotókos, and she was immaculately conceived. She remained a perpetual virgin including before, during, and after the birth of Jesus Christ. Lastly, the Church has dogmatically declared that Mary was assumed into Heaven upon completing the course of her earthly life.

Mary as Theotókos, “Motherhood of God,” was the first Marian doctrine to be defined by the Catholic Church. This doctrine was defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431. This early ecumenical council “proclaims that Mary is truly the Mother of God the Son made man” (3). As Mother of God, Mary was given many special graces and blessings.

As the Mother of God, she faithfully and obediently obeyed the Lord. Bl. John Duns Scotus remarks on Mary as the Mother of God:

We proclaim the Blessed Virgin Mary to be truly the Mother of God … For we say God was born of her, not in the sense that the divinity of the Word received the beginning of its existence from her, but in the sense that the Word of God became incarnate and was born of her. For the holy Virgin did not give birth to just a man, but to true God, but not to God in an unqualified sense, but to God incarnate (4).

The second Marian doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity was clarified at the Lateran Council in 649. Though this was not an ecumenical council, Pope Martin I “proclaimed the three-fold nature of the virginity of Mary: ‘she conceived without seed, of the Holy Spirit … and without injury brought him forth … and after his birth preserved her virginity inviolate” (5).

More than 1,200 years later, Bl. Pope Pius IX defined the third doctrine on Mary. In 1854, he declared that Mary’s Immaculate Conception actually took place and she entered this world without the stain of original sin. Because of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, she was then able to bear Jesus Christ as her Son. Also, St. Cyril of Alexandria imparts a syllogism from the Council of Ephesus summarized that since Jesus Christ is God, and Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ, then Mary is the Mother of God.

The last of the four doctrines to be defined was her most holy and glorious Assumption. Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus confirmed, “Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of Heaven” (6).

These four dogmas draw a strong association between Mother and Son, Mary and Christ. Each of these four dogmas show Mary’s unique role in salvation history. Though Mary’s relationship to her Son is clear, there still lies a necessity to clarify her relation to the rest of humanity.

Mary was not only a mother to Christ, but to all of humanity. She is the spiritual mother of every human being. Though it is obvious that Mary is not our physical mother, it may not be as clear to see her as mother in the spiritual domain.

This spiritual maternity means that Mary has given us supernatural life just as truly as our mothers have given us natural life. What our mothers do for our natural life, Mary does in the supernatural order, nourishing, protecting, increasing, and developing our life so as to bring it to maturity” (7).

Here in this motherhood, Mary nurtures each of her children, the children of God and unites their hearts to her Son. This spiritual motherhood refers to her unique relationship with humanity in this order of grace. “A full understanding of Mary’s Spiritual Maternity provides the only adequate foundation for a proper Christian response to the Mother of our Lord” (8). With her acceptance of being the Mother of God at the Annunciation in Luke 1, she accepted this motherhood of all humanity. At the Annunciation, Mary responded to the call of God. She actively accepted the invitation with the words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). As God’s instrument, Mary was used as an example to all the faithful. She exemplifies a daughter of God who is open to the Father’s will, but also obedient in His will. Her fiat not only gave her one son, but also mysteriously gave her all of humankind as children.

Reading carefully the Gospel of John allows one to recognize the distinction of Jesus’ mother, Mary. One identifies the very idea that as Jesus is dying on the cross, He speaks directly to His mother standing at the foot of the Cross. John recalls Jesus speaking to His beloved disciple, John, and Mary. “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” (Jn 19:26-27). In this key scene, John the beloved disciple is “a symbol of all humanity and, in a special way, of every person who likewise seeks to be a ‘beloved disciple’ of Jesus.” (9) As a symbol of humanity, we see Jesus giving humanity His mother. Also present here is the reality that Mary is the God-given Mother to every disciple of Christ. This concept of Mary as Spiritual Mother should not be foreign to any Christian. It is seen in both Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

In discussing Mary as Spiritual Mother, one must without question look to Genesis and the creation story. In Genesis 3, we see the fall of humanity, but recognize in verse 15 that God places an enmity between the serpent and the “woman.” In 3:15—the Protoevangelium, or “first Gospel”—the Lord God speaks, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed …” The initial, literal translation of this passage is that the woman is Eve and God is speaking to the serpent. However, the woman eventually becomes Mary. Therefore, God has placed an enmity, radical total opposition, between Satan’s (serpent) seed, which is sin and Mary’s seed, which is Christ. Therefore, the title of Mary as the “New Eve” defines her because her seed, Jesus, is in complete and perpetual opposition to sin. In fact, Jesus Christ conquers sin. This image of Mary as the New Eve has been used by many Church Fathers in depicting the unique role of Mary in the plan of salvation. St. Jerome, one of the greatest ancient exegetes of the Bible, declares “Death through Eve, life through Mary” (10). Distinguishing Mary from the rest of humanity requires sensitivity to her heart and its desire to serve her Son, Jesus Christ. In summary of Mary’s role as Spiritual Mother, Dr. Mark Miravalle states, “Mary became our Spiritual Mother initially at the Annunciation, but her motherhood was perfected on Calvary, participating in the spiritual regeneration or rebirth of the human family” (11).

Still, there are two more significant Scriptures, which discuss this spiritual maternity. Found in the New Testament, Galatians 4:4 and Revelation 12 both speak of Mary indirectly. In Galatians, St. Paul says “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…” (Galatians 4:4). In this passage we recognize Mary as the woman of which Christ was born. This passage recognizes Mary as the Mother of Christ and in turn, making us her children through the order of grace.

Just as we see Mary in the first book of the Bible, we see her in the last, Revelation. Though the identification of the woman mentioned in Revelation 11-12 is still in debate among some scholars, the Church reads this scripture on the Solemnity of the Assumption (12). This is significant, for it explicitly shows that the Church considers the identity of the woman mentioned in the passage to have some Marian meaning. The passage speaks of a woman who will give birth to a Son who will rule all nations. This Son is Jesus Christ. However, this also implies her maternity of the rest of mankind. Scripture is not lacking in its acknowledgment of Mary. In fact, if one looks scrupulously they will find her often implicitly at her Son’s side. However, Mary is not only found in Scripture, but also throughout the history of the Church. One must note that the Tradition of the Church is equally important to that of Scripture, for “both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (13).

St. Augustine, one of the greatest early Church Fathers, illustrates Mary as Mother using the image of Christ as the head with the faithful as His Body. This visual concept allows the faithful a glimpse to a greater understanding of Mary as their Spiritual Mother. “The Virgin Mary … is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer … She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’…since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head” (14). St. Augustine is not the only early Church Father to acknowledge Mary’s unique and significant role. In fact, each period of Church history has specific mariologists who make contributions to a greater understanding of Mary’s spiritual maternity. Though there have been many early theologians who contributed to an understanding of Mary as spiritual mother, only a few will be mentioned here. Emil Neubert distinguishes Origen in the third century to be “cited as the first to see in the words of the dying Christ to His Mother and to His beloved disciple an affirmation of Mary’s spiritual motherhood” (15). Here Origen is referring back to John 19, when Jesus speaks to His mother and John while dying on the cross. This understanding as spiritual mother developed gradually over history. In the twelfth century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux in his In festo Pentecostes is quoted:

All generations will call you blessed because you have generated life and glory for all generations … Rightly do the eyes of every creature look up to you because in you, and by you, and of you the benign hand of the Almighty has re-created whatever it had created (16).

Looking at these three early Church Fathers, one appreciates the important role of Mary as spiritual mother. With the evidence above, one should acknowledge that the foundation for the spiritual maternity of Mary is found in both Scripture and Tradition. She is at least implicitly found throughout Scripture, while the Church Fathers explicitly recall her role throughout salvation history.

Because of Mary’s distinct role as both Mother of Christ and Mother of humanity, she also is a mediator between Christ and His brothers and sisters. The role of a mediator is to intervene between two people for the sake of union. Mary’s mediation takes the form of maternal mediation. She unites her children and reconciles them to her Son. She is the link between her Son and His children. Fr. Alessandro M. Apollonio, F.I., in his article “Mary Mediatrix of All Graces” emphasizes:

Mary’s mediation is the divinely appointed means by which the whole of creation and in particular the human family is recapitulated in Christ the Head, and so enjoys the blessing willed by the Father and gained for us by Christ in his stupendous work consummated on Calvary (17).

At times, this mediation has been misunderstood. In 1 Tim 2:5, Paul states, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” This statement has caused much controversy, but it must be considered in context. When Paul calls the faithful to prayer, supplication, intercession each of which are all forms of mediating in 1 Tim 2:1, he apparently contradicts himself in verse 5. However, there is a necessity in recognizing that Jesus Christ has a unique and perfect mediation, but other forms of mediation are possible. Any other form of mediation must always be subordinate to Christ’s. Nevertheless, 1 Tim 2:1 clearly demonstrates that other forms can exist. The reality, which Paul conveys in verse 5, is the condemnation of all parallel, competitive mediations, which consider themselves to be of an equal value. However, the more people who participate in this mediation, the more glory it gives to Christ. This in no way diminishes the glory of Christ. As long as the mediation is subordinate to Christ and recognizes the perfection of Christ’s mediation, there is no reason to reject this teaching. Once again Fr. Apollonio makes a definitive statement. Here are some of his remarks where he highlights the necessity of Christ’s mediation within the Church:

With the participation of others there remains but one mediation, as the thought and love of Christ remain perfect, no matter how many share his thoughts and affection; but there are many persons active in that mediation according to a certain order in relation to Christ, the one Mediator. This is true of Mary in a unique and non-repeatable way because of her fullness of grace in view of the divine and spiritual maternity … Christ’s one mediation would not be perfect unless he could so save one of his members so as to cooperate actively in the work of salvation of all others, viz., as maternal Mediatrix (18).

Here we see how Mary’s mediation is necessary, but still subordinate. Christ’s mediation is the perfect mediation, yet without Mary’s mediation, according to Fr. Apollonio it would not reach perfection.

Mary fulfills her role of Mediatrix through suffering, nourishing and interceding on behalf of humanity. In Sacred Scripture Mary is present at Jesus’ first miracle, which begins His life of public ministry. In John 2:1-11, the Wedding at Cana takes place with Jesus turning water into wine once His mother asks him to, through her intercession, the miracle takes place. In “this first public manifestation of the glory of the Mediator (Christ) in his adult mission of salvation was in turn mediated by his Mother” (19). In this passage, Mary is mediating between mankind and her Son. John Paul II addresses this issue in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater:

Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of heir wants, need, and sufferings. She puts herself ‘in the middle,’ that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother (20).

These are just two of many examples of Mary’s role as Mediatrix found in both Scripture and Tradition. Once again these two, Sacred Scripture and Tradition, along with the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, make up the Deposit of Faith. All of the teachings of the Church must be found within the Deposit of Faith.

As a summary on this section of Mary’s maternal mediation, Fr. Apollonio provides this statement: “Mary is the Mediatrix of all creatures, angels and men, because God, in Christ, has assigned this function to her in order to reunite all creatures, above all the rational and free creatures, to Christ” (21).

Understanding Mary as Mediatrix is only one part in understanding Mary’s relationship with humanity. Another area, which will be the focus of the rest of this paper, is Mary as Co-redemptrix. In reality, the role of Mediatrix was one of the gifts she received for participating as Co-redemptrix. This title for Mary has caused much controversy among the faithful, cafeteria Catholics, Protestants and many others. In fact, “Father Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., has argued cogently that the theological question about Mary Co-redemptrix is the theological issue of our era” (22). This shows the importance of a clear understanding of this doctrine, so it can be intellectually discussed and then hopefully become confirmed dogma of the Catholic Church. One clarification must be made when discussing this title. The use of the prefix “co” means ‘with’. It has been debated to mean, “equal to,” but it comes form the Latin word ‘cum’ which means with. Therefore, because Mary is Co-redemptrix, she is with the Redeemer. Dr. Miravalle in his Introduction to Mary reiterates “it must be stated that Mary’s participation in the Redemption of the human family was completely and in every way secondary and dependent to the sacrifice of Jesus the Savior” (23).

Once again recognizing the prominence with which the Church holds Scripture, it is necessary to once again begin there for any clarification on this issue. The above mentioned passage of Genesis 3:15 plays a particular role in this discussion. Again, the woman in the passage should be distinguished as Mary. In fact, “the ‘woman’ foreshadows the mother of the redeemer, who intimately shares in the same struggle and same victory as the future redeemer against the serpent of evil” (24). Also here the reference to Mary as “New Eve” plays a valuable role in acknowledging how Mary participates in the redemption of humanity. As the “New Eve” she is intimately connected with the “New Adam” who victoriously conquers sin and Satan. Because of this intimate connection with her Son, Jesus Christ, she is able to uniquely share in the work of redemption.

This identification of Mary as the “New Eve” can also be seen in more recent times. In fact, the most recent ecumenical council, the Second Vatican Council, in its document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, speaks of Mary in this way. The Church Fathers write, “‘the knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience; what the virgin Eve bound through her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.’ Comparing Mary with Eve, they call her “the Mother of the living” (25). This recognition by the teaching authority of the Church just confirms the exegetical work of many biblical scholars.

Below is another reflection of Mary where she is presented as the woman in Genesis. This short reflection shows the growth of Mary at the Annunciation until she stands suffering at the foot of the Cross.

The term, “Woman” unites the Mother of the Savior at the foot of the Cross with the “Woman” of the seed of redemption in Genesis, who will work with the Redeemer in the triumph over Satan and his seed of sin and death. Mary, who previously was the Handmaid of the Lord at the Annunciation, becomes through the bitter suffering of Calvary the Woman with the Man of Redemption, the Mother with the Son of Salvation (26).

Mary’s part in redemption is not only seen in the Old Testament, but in the Gospels. Once again, Luke’s Gospel speaks of the Annunciation. Frederick William Faber provides a beautiful insight of Mary’s “Annunciation” at Calvary:

But what a strange Annunciation it was, this proclamation to her of the Maternity of men, compared with the Annunciation of her Divine Maternity! The midnight hour, the silent room, the ecstatic prayer, the lowly promptitude of consent, the swift marvel of the adorable mystery,—all these were now exchanged for the top of Calvary in the dun light of the eclipse, with her Son hanging, bleeding on the Cross. Oh, what surpassing joy went with the first Motherhood, what intolerable anguish with the second (27).

The Gospel of Luke continues with more titles of Mary as “full of grace” and “blessed among women.” God has chosen Mary from the beginning of time to play this major part in the plan of salvation. When the angel Gabriel comes to “announce” this special vocation for Mary, he is also calling her to actively participate in the life of her Son and His vocation. He was called to be the Redeemer; therefore, His mother, through bringing Him into the world and suffering with Him, also partakes in this redemption. As the “handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), she completely surrenders herself to the will of the Father, which is where she is incorporated in the suffering of her Son on the Cross at Calvary. As she accepts this call, she begins her work as Co-redemptrix. Her whole work as Co-redemptrix begins with her fiat and carries straight through to Calvary. In conclusion of discussing these Scriptures, Dr. Mark Miravalle contributes:

The Father elected Mary from among all women to be the Co-redemptrix with the Redeemer… By giving flesh to the ‘Word made flesh’ for our salvation, this act alone rightfully and exclusively merits for the Handmaid of the Lord the title and honor of Co-redemptrix. But Mary’s cooperation at the Annunciation is only the beginning of her faithful role as Co-redemptrix (28).

The Gospel of Luke not only gives the Annunciation as the beginning of Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix, but also contributes the prophecy of the ‘climax’ of this role. In Luke 2, the fourth joyful mystery takes place, the Presentation of our Lord. The prophet Simeon, present at this event, makes a climactic prophecy in which clearly illustrates Mary’s individual role as Co-redemptrix. He prophesies speaking to Mary when he says, “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Lk 2:35). This passage radically transforms Mary’s task as Mother of the Redeemer. This prophecy makes known Mary’s share in the suffering and pain her Son will feel on Calvary. “This sorrowful annunciation to the Mother of the Savior confirms that her intimate sharing in the redemptive work of her Son will be at the price of profound suffering, and will lead her in the obedience of faith to the side of the suffering Redeemer” (29). As Mary is the perfect and obedient daughter to the Lord, she willingly accepts this suffering.

This suffering takes place while standing at the foot of the Cross on Calvary. For when the sword pierces through Jesus’ heart physically, Mary’s heart is spiritually pierced. At the crucifixion, Mary suffers greatly. In effect, “Mary’s soul is like a mirror that perfectly reflects Christ’s suffering” (30). In actuality, this is the fullness of her coredemption. Through Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection, He is the Redeemer. This redemptive act was universal at Calvary. It was for all of humanity’s sins. For “Mary has redeemed us with and subordinately to Christ, because she has…relinquished her maternal rights over her Victim Son, willingly offering Him for the redemption of the human race” (31). Mary’s work of offering her Son for humanity is still subordinate to the work of her Son as the Redeemer. The subordinate role, which Mary acquires, does not in any way diminish the work of Christ, the Redeemer. For Mary does not do the work alone, it is understood that:

In her role as Co-redemptrix, Mary offered her motherly collaboration in the work of her Son, a collaboration which implies dependence and submission, since only Christ is the absolutely master of his own work (32).

The Gospel of John gives a clear presentation of the events, which take place while Jesus dying on the Cross, has His mother, Mary, standing nearby. Once again looking back to John 19:25-27:

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’

As Jesus finishes these words to His Mother and the Church, he takes His last breath and dies. The significance of these being Jesus’ last earthly words must be pondered. Christ hands His Mother to the Church so she can spiritually nurture and love them. The gospel gives the most complete yet implicit, account of Mary’s cooperation in redemption.

Such cooperation in the redemptive work finds a solid foundation in the Gospel. The message of the Annunciation in fact enlightens Mary not only on the personality of her Son, but also on his messianic work, s that her consent implies a surrender to the service of this work. The presentation of Jesus in the Temple takes on a new meaning after the prophecy of Simeon, which gives Mary a glimpse of the sword destined to pierce her soul: the gesture of the offering of her Son is oriented toward a mysterious drama, to the point that one sees delineated here the first offering of the redemptive sacrifice, an offering more specifically maternal. The presence of Mary on Calvary, beside Christ crucified, manifests the will of the mother to unite herself to the intention of the Son and to share her suffering for the fulfillment of his work (33).

As Mary stands at the foot of the Cross, those around her were ridiculing her Son. Meditating on Mary’s great suffering while standing, James Cardinal Hickey offers these reflections:

Therefore Mary most holy was standing with head raised at the foot of the Cross and while she heard the blasphemies of the soldiers, the ugly jokes of the Pharisees, the insults of the priests, standing and with her eyes turned to her Divine Son, she felt her courage redoubling, even in the fullness of her sorrows (34).

This reflection reveals the purity of Mary’s heart. The Blessed Mother never sinned; therefore, as she stood at the foot of the Cross she just accepted all of the insults directed toward her Son without ever judging those who killed her Son. Mary’s uniqueness in purity of heart is totally through her free choice. Hickey once again illuminates Mary’s faith as he claims, “Mary stands at the Cross with an unwavering faith that lacks all consolation” (35). Mary continued to love all her children with the most pure of hearts. In fact, Pope John Paul II recognizes the union of Mary’s heart with her Son, Jesus’. In a papal address in 1985 on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows offers the reflection of their union as “the Admirable Alliance of Hearts.”

With this “Alliance of Hearts” from John Paul II, it is straightforward to recognize how intricately intertwined Mary is with Jesus. During Pope John Paul II’s lifetime, the twenty-first ecumenical council, the Second Vatican Council, took place. Though it was not to be a dogmatic council, there the Church pastorally proclaimed Mary’s role in Coredemption. In the document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, the Church offered this proclamation:

After this manner the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth.

In the history of the Church, this realization of Mary as Co-redemptrix has been addressed. Reflecting on the twelfth century, Arnold of Chartres contributes to Mary’s offering in the sacrifice of Calvary. “He distinguished in the Cross ‘two altars: one in Mary’s heart, the other in Christ’s body.’ Christ sacrificed his flesh, Mary her soul” (36). One recognizes Arnold of Chartres’ emphasis on Mary exhibiting a unique role at the foot of the cross, which today would be recognized as coredemption (even if he did not use this exact word).

Once again the work of St. Bernard of Clairvaux sheds some more light on the doctrine of Mary as Co-redemptrix. He “is the first to teach of Mary’s ‘offering’ of Jesus as the divine Victim to the heavenly Father for the reconciliation of the world” (37). Not long after St. Bernard provided this invaluable insight did a great doctor of the Church, St. Catherine of Siena, illuminate Mary’s work as Co-redemptrix. She focuses on two ways in which the Blessed Mother is “Redemptrix,” both at the foot of the Cross and in bearing Jesus as her Son. Msgr. Calkins in his article “Mary Co-redemptrix: The Beloved Associate of Christ,” quotes St. Catherine of Siena saying:

“O Mary…bearer of the light … Mary, Germinatrix of the fruit, Mary, Redemptrix of the human race because, by providing your flesh in the Word, you redeemed the world. Christ redeemed with his Passion and you with you sorrow of body and mind” (38).

St Catherine here offers an exceptional insight into Mary’s role in redemption. She still stresses the Christological aspect, which the idea of Co-redemptrix centers itself on. However, the necessity of Mary’s cooperation in redemption is not lost in her work. She emphasizes both roles giving each their proper attention.

Searching into the interior life of another great female saint, St. Veronica Giuliani, it is evident of the personal relationship she shared with the Blessed Mother. IN fact, found in her personal diary were detailed descriptions of some of Mary’s sufferings. In the 18th century, Mary standing at the foot of the Cross was still being pondered in the hearts of the faithful. St. Veronica speaks of Mary here:

She participated in the same torments, not by way of the executioners, like Jesus, but she, by way of love and sorrow, participated in all the torments, one by one. The heart of Jesus and the heart of Mary both stood united in suffering and in love, and this they offered to God the Father for all of us mortals.

Recalling Pope John Paul II’s “alliance of hearts” here, one sees the similarity between the thoughts of St. Veronica and Pope John Paul II.

Now in the twenty-first century there has been much controversy over this title of Mary as Co-redemptrix. Recalling Father Peter Damian Fehlner’s comment on this being the topic of today, it is also seen in The Cult of the Virgin by Elliot Miller and Kenneth R. Samples. As they begin their discussion of Mary as Co-redemptrix they comment, “The role of Mary in the work of redemption is the foremost area of Mariological inquiry today. The discussion has not been without controversy among Catholics” (39). This controversy is even found within the Catholic Church. There are those who are more ecumenically concerned and feel that it’s necessary to omit the use of the title to keep communication open with Protestants. However, there are also those who feel it is a disservice to the Church to omit this title. It is important to recognize both opinions, but realize that truth is truth and it must be shared.

During the Second Vatican Council, Mary was one of the main issues discussed. As fore mentioned, the council was not to proclaim dogma; it was to be a pastoral council. Therefore, Mary dogmatically as Co-redemptrix did not fulfill the purpose of the council. In effect,

the Second Vatican Council, which, in its exposition of Marian doctrine, in chapter VIII of Lumen Gentium (LG), avoided such terms. The Council…abstained from wishing to settle questions which did not seem sufficiently clarified and which remained sources of controversy (40).

Since Marian doctrine was still a controversial issue, the Council did not make official decisions. The issue of Mary being given the title of Co-redemptrix was one of the most controversial topics. Though the title was omitted, the Council…underscored, in fact, the union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation … (L.G., n. 57). Such cooperation could be called coredemption, given that this term signifies in itself a cooperation in the redemption” (41).

The recognition of the work which Mary accomplished as Co-redemptrix was no the issue with the Council. They did not want the title to be misleading, so they just omitted it from any of the documents published from the Council. In fact, “Without using the term ‘Co-redemptrix,’ the Council clearly enunciated the doctrine: a cooperation of a unique kind, a maternal cooperation in the life and work of the Savior” (42).

Mary as Co-redemptrix, though not always expressed explicitly, can be seen throughout Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. In summary, all three recognize Mary’s participation and cooperation in the redemption of humanity. Each adds new meaning to Mary’s role, but never deny her participation. The climax of Mary’s cooperation in redemption is as she stands at the foot of the Cross on Calvary. There she stands in pain and suffering. Though no sign of this was to be found in her exterior, the interior of her heart ached for her only Son. Msgr. Calkins, quoting Cardinal Philippe, reminds us of Mary’s heart at the passion:

There was, at the foot of the Cross, at least one creature who understood perfectly the mystery of His Heart and the reason for His Incarnation and Passion. She was a creature who penetrated the most intimate depths of Jesus’ holy Soul and who had benefited beforehand from the graces of Redemption. She was a creature who took to the Lord all that a human soul, full of grace, can give in love and virtue. Mary, as the new Eve at the side of the new Adam, now fulfills a complementary role next to Christ: she offers to Christ her Immaculate Heart and, in consequence, offers to Him all of herself, the best within herself (43).

This quote summarizes Mary’s heart, but also keeps the necessary Christological focus. Though she was in pain and suffering, her humble and obedient heart sacrificed for the sake of humanity.

Kathleen Sappah has a Master’s in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Notes

(1) http://www.piercedhearts.org/hearts_jesus_mary/alliance_hearts_reparation_calkins.htm

(2) Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D., Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2006), 10.

(3) Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D., Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1993), xiii.

(4) Scotus, John Duns, Four Questions on Mary (New York: The Franciscan Institute, 2000), 81.

(5) Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D., Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1993), xiii.

(6) Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus. 1950, 15.

(7) Neubert, Emil S.M., Mary in Doctrine (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1954), 48.

(8) Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D., Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2006), 83.

(9) Ibid., 85.

(10) Ibid., 85.

(11) Ibid., 88.

(12) Mangan, Msgr. Charles. The Spiritual Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, ed. Mark I. Miravalle S.T.D. (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2007), 515.

(13) CCC, 82.

(14) Augustine, De Virginae, 6. Quoted in CCC 963.

(15) Neubert, Emil S.M., Mary in Doctrine (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1954), 61.

(16) Mangan, Msgr. Charles. The Spiritual Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, ed. Mark I. Miravalle S.T.D. (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2007), 525.

(17) Apollonio, Fr. Alessandro M. F.I. Mary Mediatrix of All Graces, in Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, ed. Mark I. Miravalle S.T.D. (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2007), 415.

(18) Ibid, 420.

(19) Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D., Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1993), 30.

(20) Pope John Paul II. Redemptoris Mater. 1987, 21.

(21) Apollonio, Fr. Alessandro M. F.I. Mary Mediatrix of All Graces, in Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, ed. Mark I. Miravalle S.T.D. (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2007), 427.

(22) Calkins, Msgr. Arthur Burton. Mary: Co-redemptrix: The Beloved Associate of Christ, in Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, ed. Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D. (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2007), 399.

(23) Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D., Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2006), 96.

(24) Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D., Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1993), 1.

(25) Pope Paul VI. Lumen Gentium. 1964, 56.

(26) Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D., Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1993), 12.

(27) Faber, Frederick William, D.D, The Foot of the Cross (New York: John Murphy Company, 1985), 338.

(28) Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D., Mary: Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing, 1993), 8.

(29) Ibid., 9.

(30) Hickey, James Cardinal, Mary at the Foot of the Cross: Teacher and Example of Holiness (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 25.

(31) Gaffney, Patrick S.M.M., Mary’s Spiritual Maternity according to St. Louis de Montfort (New York: Montfort Publications, 1976), 70.

(32) Galot, Rev. Jean Galot, S.J. Mary Co-redemptrix: Controversies and Doctrinal Questions, in Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today, ed. Mark I. Miravalle S.T.D. (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2002), 10.

(33) Ibid., 13.

(34) Hickey, James Cardinal, Mary at the Foot of the Cross: Teacher and Example of Holiness (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 15.

(35) Ibid., 26.

(36) Calkins, Msgr. Arthur Burton. Mary: Co-redemptrix: The Beloved Associate of Christ, in Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons, ed. Miravalle, Mark I. S.T.D. (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2007), 363.

(37) Ibid., 365.

(38) Ibid., 370.

(39) Miller, Elliot, and Kenneth R. Samples, The Cult of the Virgin: Catholic Mariology and the Apparitions of Mary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 47.

(40) Galot, Rev. Jean Galot, S.J. Mary Co-redemptrix: Controversies and Doctrinal Questions, in Mary Co-redemptrix: Doctrinal Issues Today, ed. Mark I. Miravalle S.T.D. (Goleta: Queenship Publishing, 2002), 7.

(41) Ibid., 8.

(42) Ibid., 14.

(43) http://www.piercedhearts.org/hearts_jesus_mary/alliance_hearts_reparation_calkins.htm.

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