DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY May 27, 1998 vol. 9, no. 102
THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS
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Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces
There has been so much talk among Catholics recently concerning the title of Our Lady as "Mediatrix" and speculation on the Holy Father making the proclamation of these titles as Dogma that the Catholic Dispatch has furnished us a quote from a Catholic Encyclopedic dictionary (1954) on the subject, followed by a chapter from a dogmatic theology book (1930). It is important to see that these titles are nothing new, but honors attributed to the Blessed Mother for centuries. Donald Atwater provides the first definition and the deceased Monsignor Joseph Pohle, with Ph.D. and Doctor of Divinity, provides the second definition on Mary's Secondary Mediatorship as well as dogmatic proof in Chapter II, Section I in his book on "Mariology." Msgr. Pohle was dead-set againt the title "CoRedemptrix" but its use has been clarified in recent times, has been used by the Holy Father, and is in conjunction with the fact that Jesus, being the Redemptor, came into this world through His Holy Mother's fiat which would make her a willing and humble "partner" in redemption. The important point to remember is that Mary's role comes from God and there must be no "Divinity" attributes given to Our Lady who never would approve of such plaudits for she constantly reminds all that it is her Divine Son to Whom she brings us all, not to herself per se, though she does as a loving Mother to comfort us and guide her to Jesus.
MEDIATRIX OF ALL GRACES.
The Blessed Virgin Mary in her aspect of dispenser of the graces bestowed on human kind by the Holy Ghost through the merits of the crucified Christ. Having co-operated in the Incarnation and the Redemption by her motherhood and by her sufferings at the foot of the cross, our Lady merits to co-operate as channel for the graces flowing therefrom. In 1921 Pope Benedict XV granted to the dioceses of Belgium, and to any other diocese asking for it, permission to celebrate a Mass in honor of our Lady under this title, on May 31.
b) This must be our guiding principle in defining the mediatorship of Mary. Unfortunately, theologians, ascetic writers, and preachers have not always used due caution in this matter. Some have attributed to the Blessed Virgin Mary certain honorary titles which are apt to obscure the dogmatic teaching of the Church in regard to the sole mediatorship of Our Lord. We are perfectly willing to allow for rhetorical exaggeration; but zeal for the honor of the Blessed Virgin should not lead theologians to neglect their plain duty of safeguarding the Person and the work of the Redeemer. The following three propositions may serve as guiding principles in this matter:
2) The mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is entirely secondary and subordinate to that of her Divine Son.
3) Since, however, Mary is. the Mother of God, her mediatorship transcends that of all the angels and saints and consequently constitutes an altogether unique privilege.
There is another class of honorary titles sometimes applied to Mary, which imply the exercise of priestly functions, e. g., "sacerdotissa, consacerdotissa", or high priestess. These, too, should be avoided, for the Blessed Virgin was not commissioned to perform sacerdotal functions, nor did she ever claim hierarchic rights. The safest course is to follow the approved usage of the Church (e. g., in the "Salve Regina" and the Litany of Loreto), which agrees with that of the Fathers and all sober-minded Scholastics, and to interpret occasional exaggerations and symbolic appellations in accordance with the dogmatic teaching of the Church.
d) The term which most appropriately and comprehensively describes our Blessed Lady's part in the Redemption is undoubtedly "mediatrix", which is sanctioned by primitive Christian usage and embodies all that can be said on the subject.
The Blessed Virgin, furthermore, incalculably advanced the salvation of mankind by her virtuous life. As virgin, mother, and wife she furnishes a brilliant example of all virtues. The female sex in particular is indebted to her for its liberation from the contemptible state into which it had fallen. We can form an idea of the moral value of her life if we consider what would probably be the condition of the human family and civil society in general without her. The welfare of both family and State depends on the purity of woman. Millions of men as well as women owe the victory they have gained over the demon of impurity to the example of her who is the ideal virgin and mother.
Lastly, the Blessed Virgin may be said after a fashion to have co-operated in the atonement, because she formed the Divine Victim in her chaste womb, prepared Him for the slaughter, and, standing beneath the Cross, offered Him up for the salvation of mankind. This fact justifies the attribution to her of the honorary title of "diacona sacrificii". The spiritual martyrdom which she suffered at the foot of the Cross earned for her the twofold title of "Queen of Martyrs" and "Help of Christians." This thought deserves to be developed a little more fully.
We need but consider Mary's ardent love for her Divine Son, the excruciating tortures He suffered, and the terrible blasphemies to which she was compelled to listen, to appreciate the agony that pierced her soul during our Lord's dolorous passion and death. Simeon's prophecy: "A sword shall pierce thy soul" was so literally fulfilled under the Cross that St. Bernardine of Siena was able to say without exaggeration: "The pain suffered by the Blessed Virgin was so intense that if it were divided among her fellowcreatures, they would all die on the spot. The Blessed Virgin Mary, standing beneath the Cross, suffered all this for us, and thus became our mother and was declared to be such by her crucified Son Himself." It is the teaching of many Scholastics since St. Anselm that our dying Saviour, when He uttered the memorable words "Woman, behold thy son....Behold thy mother," committed His Blessed Mother to the entire human race in the person of St. John, and appointed her the spiritual mother of all His brethren. Bishop Schaefer interprets this touching scene as follows:
"Mary...stands at the foot of the Cross not merely as the mother of her dying Son, but as the mother of Him who is the Redeemer of mankind. Hence the Son, speaking in His capacity as Messias, addresses her as 'Woman.' The time when, according to the prediction of the Protevangelium, the 'seed' of the woman (taking the term in the sense of an individual person) was to crush the head of the 'serpent,' is at hand. But we also observe how at the very same moment the 'serpent' crushes the heel of this 'seed,' in that Christ dies through the very instrumentality of that sacred manhood by which we are redeemed. Beneath the Cross stands, among others, the mother of this one 'seed,' who is Christ - she, the woman whom the Proto-Gospel had already pointed out to humanity both as the mother of Jesus and the new Eve or mother of all those to be endowed with supernatural life....And henceforth Mary receives her spiritual 'seed.' Christ's words: 'Behold thy son,' must be interpreted in accordance with this idea. Coming from the Messias, it is a message of salvation for all the faithful who gather under the Cross. Of all the Apostles called by Jesus....only one, 'the disciple whom Jesus loved,' followed Him to the Cross, thus representing those that were to be saved and for whom, as a price, the Precious Blood was shed."
2) St. Paul teaches that we become spiritual brethren of Christ by Baptism. If this is true, then those who are baptized are "eo ipso" also spiritual children of Mary.
3) The Redemption was conditioned upon the consent of the Blessed Virgin to become the mother of God. The physical birth of our Saviour meant the moral regeneration of all mankind. Consequently Mary became our spiritual mother when she consented to become the mother of God.
4) The ideal woman must be conceived as sharing in the Saviour's affection for all men. Mary is the spiritual mother of mankind also through the love she bears for all.
a) Our Lady is furthermore the mediator of mankind in Heaven, where she effectively intercedes for the Church as a whole and for each individual Christian in particular.
1) This belief dates back to primitive times and is exemplified by many pictures found in the Roman catacombs. The "Memorare," often erroneously ascribed to St. Bernard, is a medieval pendant of the famous [greek omitted] of the Greek Church. To form a correct idea of the nature of Mary's celestial intercession we must remember that it differs essentially, and not only in degree, from the heavenly "interpellatio Christi." Our Lord intercedes for us as the royal High Priest, Mary as a loving mother. Their intercession differs both as to nature and power in precisely the same way in which the Godman differs from the Deipara.
2) The intercession of the Blessed Virgin is naturally far more powerful than that of the other saints, for while they are friends of God, she is His Mother. "She is the mediator between us and Christ," says St. Bonaventure, "even as Christ is the mediator between us and God." For this reason, too, her mediation is universal, whereas that of the Angels and Saints is limited in scope. From this point of view there is justification in the probable, though not strictly theological opinion of St. Alphonsus Liguori, so hotly contested by Muratori, that our Divine Saviour bestows His graces on mankind through His Blessed Mother, who may therefore be truly called "dispensatrix omnium gratiarum." It is in this same sense that St. Bernard refers to her as the "uberrimus gratiarum aquaeductus," and Suarez says: "Therefore the Church prays more frequently and, as it were, in a higher manner to the Blessed Virgin Mary than to the other saints." St. Bernardine of Siena teaches that "every grace which is communicated to this world has a threefold origin: it flows from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, and from the Virgin to us." In the light of this probable teaching, (which cannot, however, be positively proved from the Fathers), we must judge the titles applied to the Blessed Virgin in the Litany of Loreto and also certain rather extravagant eulogies that occur in the writings of the Fathers. It must always be borne in mind (i) that the dispensation of graces through the agency of our Lady is not a necessary condition of salvation but a free divine ordinance, and (ii) that the manner by which she obtains graces for us is simply and solely her maternal intercession, based upon the merits of Jesus Christ.
A Catholic may confidently ask Mary for her powerful intercession without ever entertaining the foolish apprehension that there is danger of offending Christ by addressing Him through His Blessed Mother. The dogmatic teaching of the Church is too clear to allow any intelligent Catholic to believe that the Blessed Virgin is able to accomplish anything without her Son. In its last analysis, therefore, every prayer addressed to Our Lady is addressed to Christ, i.e., God.
3) In this as in so many other things the Church herself carefully guides the faithful both by word and example. She directs her liturgical prayers sometimes to the tri-une God, sometimes to Jesus Christ, and then again to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but invariably emphasizes her belief in Christ as the sole Mediator by concluding with the words: "through Christ our Lord." Despite the forbearance with which she tolerates certain excesses and extravagances, the Church will never allow an exaggerated cult of the Virgin to obscure the dignity and majesty of Christ. This is plainly apparent from the condemnation of a certain novel representation of the Madonna and Child called "Domina Christi," and the rejection of the new-fangled title "Queen of the Heart Of Jesus."
THE AGE OF MARIAN APPARITIONS