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|Father James Miara, Pastor of Holy Innocents , on the critical teachings of our time on the Mediatrix of All Graces from the collaborative teachings of the Magisterium and the Saints in salvation history
In recent times, special attention has been given to Mary’s title of Mediatrix of All Graces. This means that Mary is our mediatrix with Her Divine Son. All of our prayers and petitions go to Him through Her; He distributes through Her all the graces we receive.
Though it has not yet been defined as an article of Faith that Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces, the belief had gained almost universal acceptance among the most orthodox theologians prior to Vatican II, and nearly every recent Pope has alluded to it or even expressly taught it.
We know that Pope Benedict XIV (†1758) has left these words on record: Mary is like a celestial river by which the waters of all graces and gifts are conveyed to poor mortals.
Pope Pius VII (†1823) called Mary the Dispensatrix of all graces.
Pope Pius IX (†1878), in speaking to the bishops of the whole world made use of the words of St. Bernard: God wills that every grace should come to us through Her. In his own words he placed his hope in the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, She who with Her only-begotten Son, is the most powerful Mediatrix and Conciliatrix in the whole world… She who has destroyed all heresies and snatched the faithful people and nations from all kinds of direst calamities…
In his Encyclical on the Rosary of Sept. 22, 1891, Pope Leo XIII (†1903) says: In a true and natural sense we may say that from the great treasury of graces that the Lord has merited for us, nothing came to us, by the will of God, except through Mary.
Pope St. Pius X (†1914) declares: She is the Dispensatrix of the graces that Jesus Christ has merited for us by His Blood and His death.
Pope Benedict XV (†1922) clearly believed and taught the Mary is Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces. In May, 1917, when World War I seemed to be going on interminably, he said: Because all graces… are dispensed by the hands of the Most Holy Virgin, we wish the petitions of Her most afflicted children to be directed with lively confidence, more than ever in this awful hour, to the Great Mother of God. It was eight days after this statement that Mary appeared at Fatima, as if in direct response to the Pope’s pleas. Less than a year later, he wrote: Mary suffered and, as it were, nearly died with Her suffering Son; for the salvation of mankind She renounced Her mother’s rights and, as far as it depended on Her, offered Her Son to placate divine justice; so we may well say that She with Christ redeemed mankind. Consequently… the graces which we receive from the treasury of the Redemption are distributed, so to speak, by the hands of this sorrowful Virgin.
In one of his first Apostolic Letters, written in 1922, Pope Pius XI (†1939) called the Blessed Virgin Mary the Mediatrix of all graces with God.
Pope Pius XII (†1958) frequently used the expression Mediatrix of All Graces, and particularly in the Encyclical Ad Coeli Reginam he teaches: For from Her union with Christ, Mary attains a radiant eminence transcending that of any other creature; from Her union with Christ She receives the royal right to dispose of the treasures of the Divine Redeemer’s Kingdom…
On the strength of these teachings one can unhesitatingly subscribe to the judgment of the apologist Fr. Joseph Bainvel SJ: The twofold cooperation of Mary in the work of the Redemption, first on earth by Her life, prayer and suffering, and then in Heaven by Her prayer alone is sound Catholic doctrine, beyond all dispute, and worthy of being defined—i.e. of being raised to the dignity of an article of Faith.
In writing of Mary’s Universal Mediation in The Mother of Jesus, Fr. James OFMCap. says: No one can attentively watch the mind of the Church, as it finds expression in the Church teaching and the Church taught, without entertaining the hope that the day is not far distant when this prerogative of Our Lady will receive solemn affirmation on the part of the Church… The fact that a special Mass and Office for May 31 (prior to the institution of the Feast of the Queenship of Mary for that date) in honor of Mary Mediatrix was granted, at the request of the Belgian Hierarchy, to the dioceses of Belgium and to all other dioceses which should ask for it, is significant. This was done on January 12, 1921, by Pope Benedict XV, at the request of Cardinal Mercier, the Primate of Belgium.
Many private revelations bear out the fact that Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces. St. Catherine Labouré saw rays of light streaming from gems in Our Lady’s fingers. The Blessed Virgin explained: The rays are graces which I give to those who ask for them. But there are no rays from some of the stones, for many people do not receive graces because they do not ask for them. The rays streaming from the hands of Mary are depicted on the Miraculous Medal.
At Pellevoisin Our Lady said to Estelle Faguette that the Heart of Her Son bears so much love for Her that He cannot refuse Me any requests. In another apparition Estelle saw drops of rain falling from Our Lady’s hands. She understood these to be graces. These graces, said the Blessed Virgin, are from My Divine Son; I take them from His Heart. He can refuse Me nothing.
Tell everyone that Our Lord grants us all graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary; that all must make their petitions to Her, Jacinta of Fatima said to Lucia.
The words attributed to Our Lady at Marienfried are especially clear on this point: I am the powerful Mediatrix of Graces. As the world can find mercy only through the sacrifice of the Son with the Father, so can you only find favor with the Son though My intercession… It is the will of the Father that the world acknowledge this position of His Handmaid. People must believe that I am the permanent Bride of the Holy Ghost and the faithful Mediatrix of All Graces. God wants it so.
Mary shared in the work of the Redemption to such an extent that She is called the Co-Redemptrix. It is only fitting that She should share in distributing the graces of that Redemption.
Just as God did not have to come into the world through Mary, so He does not have to distribute His graces through Her. But the fact is that He wishes to distribute them in that way.
St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori tell us: Jesus Christ is the unique Mediator so far as strict justice is concerned, the only One Who obtains grace and salvation for us by His merits; but we say that Mary is Mediatrix by the favor of Her Son. While recognizing that She obtains nothing except by the merits of Jesus Christ and by prayers made in the name of Jesus Christ, we yet maintain that all the graces we ask for are given to us at Her intercession. By way of defending this doctrine against the critics of his time, this same Saint pointed out the numerous Fathers, Doctors, theologians, and great Saints who have held it:
St. Bernard says that Mary received the plenitude of grace from God. Then explaining in what this plenitude consists, he says that it consists principally in the reception into Herself of Jesus Christ, Who is the source of all graces; but then he adds that, in consequence of this, the Blessed Virgin received another plenitude, which is the plenitude of graces; that, as She is the Mediatrix of men with God, so She might Herself dispense the graces to all men. The Saint says, Why should human frailty fear to approach Mary? In Her there is nothing severe, nothing terrible; She is all sweetness, offering milk and wool to all. Thank Him, then, Who has provided you with such a Mediatrix. She has made Herself all to all… She opens Her merciful Heart to all, that all may receive of Her plenitude; the captive redemption, the sick health, the sinner pardon, the just grace, the angels joy, Her Son flesh, that no one may hide himself from Her heat. Remark these words, for if anyone had received graces otherwise than through Mary, he could hide himself from the heat of this sun; but St. Bernard says that no one can hide himself from the warmth of Mary.
This is still better explained by that which this Saint afterwards says in the sermon of the Aqueduct, in the commencement of which he says that Mary received the first plenitude of grace from God, that is Jesus Christ, in order that She might impart it to us also. But a little further on he speaks clearly of the second plenitude of graces which She received—consequently of the graces which we receive through Her prayers. He says, It is true that Mary obtained Jesus Christ, the source of graces from God; but this perhaps does not fully satisfy your desires; for you would wish that She should Herself obtain for you, by Her intercession, these graces which Jesus Christ merited for you… She is a garden of delights upon which that divine south wind has not only breathed in passing, but has so filled with His balmy breath, that its perfumes—that is, the most precious gifts of graces, are sent forth on every side. In reference to the text quoted above the Saint says, Take away the sun, where will be the day? Take away Mary, what will left but the darkest night? He then exhorts us to do as he does; that is, to place all our hopes in Mary—giving us at the same time to understand that if Mary prays for us we are certain of salvation. For, as the Father cannot but graciously hear the Son, neither can the Son do otherwise than graciously hear His Mother. On the other hand, he tells us, that if Mary does not pray for us, we shall not obtain salvation; because She will not have provided us with grace, which is all that we require, and the only means by which we are saved. He then concludes, What more can we desire? Let us seek for grace, and seek it by Mary; for that which She seeks She finds, and never meets with a refusal.
St. Bernardine of Siena says that all graces of the spiritual life that descend from Christ, their Head, to the faithful, who are His mystical body, are transmitted by means of Mary… From the moment in which the Virgin Mother conceived the divine Word in Her womb, She acquired a special jurisdiction, so to say, over the gifts of the Holy Ghost; so that no creature has since received any grace from God, otherwise than by the hands of Mary… All gifts, all virtues, and all graces are dispensed by the hands of Mary, to whomsoever, when, and as She pleases… As God was pleased to dwell in the womb of this holy Virgin, She acquired, so to say, a kind of jurisdiction over all graces; for when Jesus Christ issued forth from Her most sacred womb, all the streams of divine gifts flowed from Her as from a celestial ocean.
St. Bonaventure: As the moon, which stands between the sun and the earth, transmits to this latter whatever she receives from the former, so does Mary pour out upon us who are in this world the heavenly graces which She receives from God… God will not save us without the intercession of Mary… As a child cannot live without a nurse to suckle it, so no one can be saved without the intercession of Mary.
St. Ephrem: O most holy Virgin, receive us under Thy protection, if Thou wilt see us saved; for we have no hope of salvation but through Thy means.
St. Germanus: What hope can we have of salvation, if Thou dost abandon us, O Mary, who art the life of Christians?
St. Ildephonsus (image right): O Mary, God has decided on committing all good gifts that He has provided for men to Thy hands; and therefore He has entrusted all treasures and riches of grace to Thee.
St. Antoninus: Whoever asks and expects to find graces without the intercession of Mary, endeavors to fly without wings.
St. Peter Damian: All the treasures of the mercy of God are in Her hands.
Mary’s role as our Mediatrix is an appropriate one to be emphasized in our day. The people, sinking beneath the weight of their sins, can be saved only by a return to God. But God, in His august majesty, seems very far away to people who have never known Him. And the thought of an all-just God is a frightening one to them. Naturally they seek mercy rather than justice.
It is most consoling, therefore, to know that we can turn to Mary, our all-merciful Mother, and ask Her to intercede for us. She who is our Mother is also the Mother of God, and He can refuse Her nothing. She takes the graces from His Heart and distributes them to all who ask for them.
We cannot have peace without the cause of peace, says Fr. Edward Leen CSSp. in his book, Our Blessed Mother. Until the world assents to depend on its Mother Mary… there can be no peace… Only when Mary’s rightful place, as Mother of Men, is fully accepted will the world be able to rise. The apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima show us the truth of this… Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces, and it is through Mary alone, the grace of true peace among nations can come to the world. Justly then, in these days of turmoil… does the Church salute Our Blessed Mother with the glorious title Mediatrix Potentissima—Most Powerful Mediatrix.