Our Lady, the Co-Redemptrix?: The Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 22, 2019


On the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12, 2019, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, given in Spanish, the Holy Father said, “When they come with stories that we had to declare this, or make this other dogma or that, let us not get lost in foolishness.” 

Pope Francis was referring to the proposal submitted by some clergy, consecrated and laity for the definition of a new dogma: Mary, the Mother of God, is the Co-Redemptrix.

In his Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion (Goleta, California: Queenship Publishing Company, 2006), Mark I. Miravalle, Professor of Theology and Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Steubenville, explains how Our Lady is said to be the Co-Redemptrix, a term that has been used since the fourteenth century.

“The title, ‘Co-redemptix,’ refers to Mary’s unique participation with and under her Divine Son Jesus Christ, in the historic Redemption of humanity. The prefix, ‘Co,’ comes from the Latin ‘cum,’ which means ‘with.’ The title of Coredemptrix applied to the Mother of Jesus never places Mary on a level of equality with Jesus Christ, the divine Lord of all, in the saving process of humanity’s Redemption. Rather, it denotes Mary’s singular and unique sharing with her Son in the saving work of Redemption for the human family. The Mother of Jesus participates in the redemptive work of her Savior Son, who alone could reconcile humanity with the Father in His glorious divinity and humanity.” (94-95)

Mary’s entire existence has been one of cooperation with the Lord. So it was on Calvary. She who was preserved by God from Original Sin at the moment of her conception and heard from the mouth of Simeon that “you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Saint Luke 2:35) accepted the salvific death of her Son not with a “hands-off” approach but instead by embracing it. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) of November 21, 1964, painted this picture of Our Blessed Lady’s collaboration with the Almighty, which included her heroic surrender to Christ’s ignominious death.

“Thus 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, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of His suffering, associated herself with His sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which was born of her.” (58)

Deacon Miravalle continued: “Mary uniquely participated in the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary and in the acquisition of the graces of Redemption for humanity (theologically referred to as ‘objective redemption’). Mary offered her Son and her maternal rights in relation to her Son to the Heavenly Father in perfect obedience to God’s will and in atonement for the sins of the world. Mary’s offering of her own Son on Calvary, along with her own motherly compassion, rights and suffering, offered in union with her Son for the salvation of the human family, merited more graces than any other created person. As Pope Pius XII confirmed in his encyclical On the Mystical Body, Mary “offered Him on Golgotha to the Eternal Father, together with the holocaust of her maternal rights and her motherly love, like a New Eve for all children of Adam.” (96)

Despite her enormous grief as she watched her Son die, Our Lady generously “yielded” Jesus to the purpose the Father through the Holy Spirit intended, namely the reconciliation of the human race to its Creator. Although what Mary did on Calvary was secondary and subordinate to what Christ did, it was, nevertheless, necessary because God made it so. In His unparalleled wisdom, the Lord required this all-encompassing—and real—sacrifice from Mary, who lived her fiat on Calvary with incredible trust in God as she had at the Annunciation.

During his homily, Pope Francis stated his preference for “disciple” to describe Our Lady rather than “Co-Redemptrix.”

When asked about Mary as the Co-Redemptrix, this correspondent answers that the notion, which has been taught for centuries, is within the common teaching of the Church. Any definition can only be decided by the Pope of the moment or an Ecumenical Council under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

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