All Graces? A Study of the Title ‘Mary Mediatrix of All Graces’
During a Poland pilgrimage led by the Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata last May, before the first morning prayers and Mass at Niepokalanow, a Catholic “revert” friend who spent decades in “Bible Alone” denominations and who is certainly on fire for the Catholic faith stated the following: “I cannot in good conscience pray this prayer written by St Maximilian Kolbe to Mary which we are supposed to pray together each day. It contains errors especially the statement ‘You alone destroyed all heresies’ and the title “Mediatrix of All Graces’. Jesus destroys heresies and Mary can do nothing ‘alone’ and also, the Fifth Marian dogma will be a detriment to Ecumenism should it ever be declared, but I don’t think it will because I have studied the arguments and I find them lacking. This prayer is an example of Marian devotions gone too far.”
I felt sure he would “see the light” but as the days went on I realized it would not be easy. A few days later the piety of the Polish people at Jasna Gora during the morning unveiling of the Black Madonna, was criticized. As my own mother and others made their consecration at Auschwitz inside the “Cell of Death” where St. Max died I prayed to Mary that the Steubenville class I was about to begin, “Mary in the Modern World” would help me aid others overcome misconceptions regarding Marian devotion. Recently, well after the pilgrimage, this same person stated the Marian piety of the Mexican people was “extreme” and blamed it on a lack of catechesis during the Church persecutions in the 20th century and the subsequent mixing of the Catholic faith with, I don’t know superstitious nonsense.
Since it was mentioned but is outside the subject of this document please note that Cardinal Newman defends the prayer to Mary that “you alone have destroyed all heresies.” Pope Pius IX in his declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception makes that statement. Finally, St Max Kolbe shows how and why this statement is true.
This document’s target audience is Catholics who accept that Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition make up the fullness of Catholic truth. The purpose is to describe the “all graces” aspect of “Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces” which is an integral part of the proposed “Fifth Marian Dogma.” While “Mediatrix of All Graces” is not a dogma (yet), it is most certainly a doctrine and as such deserves to be embraced by all the faithful.
Prior to this class, while I believed firmly in the “Mary Mediatrix of All Graces” teaching, I did not consider it a doctrine as such and certainly did not consider it in need of dogmatic definition, even leaning towards keeping it quiet in ecumenical dialogues preferring instead to explain “hyperdulia” as related to Mary and leaving it at that. After all, did not the patron saint of my Confirmation, St Louis de Montfort, on the very first page of his book The Secret of Mary describe it as a secret not to be revealed to just anyone? This was something not meant for all Catholics and certainly not meant for those outside the fullness of, or beginning their entrance into, the Catholic Church.
Now I consider myself “converted” believing this doctrine needs to be a dogma. It is too hidden and unknown just as St Louis de Montfort described in the first pages of True Devotion. Many who—at the risk of sounding sarcastic—consider Marian devotion as nothing more that Catholicism’s most popular condiment, with an acquired taste that can be left on the shelve for those so inclined and whose ingredients contain additives that may even be harmful, will, once it becomes a dogma, have to embrace it, and defend it, and perhaps most importantly, take advantage of it, thus helping to usher to climax this “Age of Mary” which St Louis de Montfort prophesied for the greater glory of God.
This paper will not dwell on the fact that Jesus is our all. Without God Mary is nothing. Everything she has, every office she performs, is at the will of God by the grace of God. All the popes and all the saints and the faithful know this including Poland and Mexico, where Marian devotion has been praised by those with a correct understanding of true devotion to Mary.
Vatican II Marian Excess
Vatican II teaches to “refrain as much from all false exaggeration as from too summary attitude in considering the special dignity of the Mother of God. Following the study of Sacred Scripture, the Fathers, the doctors and liturgy of the Church, and under the guidelines of the Church’s magisterium, let them rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin” and “carefully refrain from whatever might by word and deed lead the separated brethren or any others whatsoever into error about the true doctrine of the Church”. So Vatican II warns us of “Marian Excess” which would be “mariolatry” or adoration of Mary or giving her credit in place of Christ. “Marian Defect” or a “too summary attitude” is a minimalism or failure to acknowledge and teach proper devotions.
Since Vatican II the term “Mediatrix of All Graces” has been objected to by some in the Church but not by any Pope and as we shall see, the Post-Vatican II popes surely embrace the doctrine. The background section of this document certainly suggests that Mediatrix of All Graces, the prayer of St Maximilian Kolbe, and the piety of the Polish and Mexican people are Marian Excess.
If Marian Excess, then why is Kolbe not condemned but rather elevated to sainthood? There are not that many Kolbe writings and yet they are so Marian-intense that surely the Post-Vatican II process of beatification and canonization would find them to be in error. They did not. If Kolbe is not Marian Excess what is? There must be something. There is.
There has been Marian Excess in the teaching of the “Real Presence of Mary in the Eucharist” as erroneously taught in the 17th and 18th centuries which was condemned by Rome and yet resurfaces in the middle of the 19th century. But at the same time, Mary “is at every alter where [the Mass] is celebrated, because she was present with her whole being to the Father’s plan, at the historic salvific occasion of Christ’s death.” Another example of Marian Excess came from theologians in the 20th century who erroneously proposed that since Jesus was not just man, but God as well, he could not by himself represent mankind in the Redemption. He did not need redemption. And so Mary was needed as she was completely human and therefore able to represent the human race and accept God’s gift. A final example of Marian Excess can be seen at www.womenpriests.org where the work of noteworthy Mariologist Rev. M.J. Scheeben (d. 1888) is being cited to justify the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood.
Vatican II Marian Defect – The True Current Problem of Our Time
After Vatican II, Marian doctrine has been minimized often under the auspices of the idea that since Vatican II did not speak of it in its entirety, the Church wishes it to be minimized. But paragraph #54 of Lumen Gentium states that the Council “does not, however, intend to give a complete doctrine on Mary nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified.” So Vatican II cannot be used to discard past Marian piety and in fact, Vatican II indicates its mission is not to change doctrines, so those in place must surely be embraced.
It is has been proposed that Vatican II for all intents and purposes dismissed the Marian theology of the east which has strong statements of Mary’s mediation. It has been acknowledged that Protestant observers at Vatican II indicated if too much were declared regarding Mary, ecumenical dialogue would end. The Council Fathers appear to compromise in the wording of Vatican II by not calling Mary “Mediatrix of All Graces” but only “Mediatrix.” Why would Vatican Council II have done this?
It seems that the documents of Vatican II are guilty of Marian Defect. Certainly there have been no breakthrough ecumenical gains and many erroneously look to the decline of the Catholic Church since the Council as the “fruits of Vatican II.” Ecumenical Councils are under the influence of the Holy Spirit and just as the human writers of Sacred Scriptures do not comprehend all the meanings of the Holy Spirit in their writings, the same can be said of the Council. There was more to do, more to understand, and the timing was not yet right. The council did subtly uphold Mediatrix of All Graces and as the theology ripens to maturity, the Church will blossom. It seems, knowing the incompleteness of the Mediatrix-only title, the Council fathers had footnotes pointing the reader to the writings of Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII where all these past popes refer to Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces.
Teachings of the Popes
Many Catholics erroneously subscribe to the notion that the teachings of Popes only are infallible when officially speaking “ex cathedra’ as if the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are the only papal teaching we are required to believe. Lumen Gentium informs us that a specific papal teaching can be considered part of the ordinary magisterium when they occur in a document of major importance, when it constitutes a consistent and frequently repeated theme, or when it is stated in a deliberate way which unmistakably indicates the pope’s intention to teach. For any Catholic who understands and embraces magisterial authority the following paragraphs that complete this section of the document are all that is needed to answer the question, once and for all, of Mary being Mediatrix of All Graces. In fact, the rest of this paper can be considered window dressing.
Pius VII called her “Dispensatrix of all graces.” Pius IX tells us “God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation.” Does everyone know? Obviously not yet. Leo XIII writes “nothing at all of that great grace which the Lord brought us…is imparted to us except through Mary.” The same pontiff quotes St Bernadine of Siena who teaches “Every grace that is communicated to this world has a threefold course. For by excellent order, it is dispensed from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, from the Virgin to us.” St. Pius X, in his encyclical Ad Diem Illium which he wrote after study of the writings of St Louis de Montfort taught Mary is the “Dispensatrix of all the gifts which Jesus gained for us by His death. Several years later this Saint Pope called Mary the “treasurer of all graces”.
Benedict XV says “together with Christ she has redeemed the human race . . . for this reason every kind of grace that we receive from the treasury of the Redemption is ministered as it were through the hands of the same sorrowful Virgin.” In one of the miracles for St. Joan of Arc’s canonization, objection was that since the miracle took place at Lourdes it was Mary’s intercession and not Joan’s. Benedict XV declared “in every miracle we must recognize the mediation of Mary, through whom, according to God’s will, every grace and blessing comes to us . . . Mary must never be excluded.”
Pius XI also called Mary “treasurer of all graces” at least three times in his pontificate. Pius XII taught “nothing is excluded from her dominion” and “it is the will of God that we obtain all favors from Mary.” John XXIII rhetorically asks “Did not the Lord will that we have everything through Mary” and more directly instructs us that “from her hands hope for all graces.” In a letter to the Legion of Mary this pope said that “the Legion of Mary present the true face of the Catholic Church”. The Legion, founded by Frank Duff, takes it entire spirituality from St. Louis de Montfort. So, in effect, Pope John XXIII is telling us that St. Louis de Montfort’s work presents the true face of the Catholic Church. How can anyone who embraces the Catholic Church, upon hearing this, be a critical and/or scrupulous devotee (which will be discussed later)?
Pope Paul VI, regarding the connection between the Rosary and Marian Mediation quotes Lumen Gentium when he writes “Let them value highly the pious practices and exercises directed to the Blessed Virgin and approved over the centuries by the magisterium”. And this pope, who as Cardinal during Vatican II was influential in minimizing the Marian title wording of Lumen Gentium Chapter 8 for fear of hurting ecumenism, as pope is unable to continue the same minimizing. He references Mary as Dispenser of Grace and cites St Bernard who all know champions Mediatrix of All Graces and tells us to “take refuge” in Mary in “all our affairs” as everything is more pleasing to God when it goes through Mary. And he tells us that it is from Mary’s throne that graces flow to us and that “Mary most holy is His appointed steward and the generous bestower of the treasures of His mercy.” He approved the Capuchin Mass which prays the prayer to Jesus which the Legion of Mary prays everyday: “Lord Jesus Christ, our Mediator with the Father, Thou has deigned to constitute the Blessed Virgin, Thy Mother, to be our Mother and Mediatrix with Thee; grant that all who turn to Thee to ask favors may be pleased to have obtained them through Her.” Finally he states that “the Divine Savior left . . . His Mother, with all the treasures of grace and virtues with which he had endowed her, that she may pour them over us.” 
Pope John Paul II used the specific term “Mediatrix of All Graces” at least nine times and taught the doctrine indirectly in many other ways. In Redemptoris Mater he teaches us that the teachings of St Louis de Montfort are an excellent example of Marian devotion matching the intentions of Vatican II. St Louis de Montfort’s entire Mariology is based on Mary being Mediatrix of All Graces. Pope Benedict XVI speaks of Pope John Paul II in such high regard that he considers it an important part of his mission to ensure his predecessor’s teachings are assimilated by the Church. He goes on to say that Vatican II in no way revoked any prior teachings. Benedict XVI, who is not one to make statements lightly, chose to pray to “Mary Mediatrix of All Graces” on the very day he announced his retirement.
St Louis de Montfort – Our Guide for True Devotion to Mary
According to the lectures of SteubenvilleUniversity’s Dr Mark Miravalle, St. Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary, is the most indulged spiritual writing since its discovery in 1842. The papacy has made it very clear. If you want to understand true devotion to Mary, study St. Louis de Montfort. Lumen Gentium speaks of devotion to the Mother of God “within the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine” and John Paul II tells us St Louis de Montfort is our guide for that.
At the beginning of his pontificate Pope John Paul II tells us of his realization that on the “universal level, if victory comes, it will be brought by Mary. Christ will conquer through her, because he wants the Church’s victories now and in the future to be linked to her.”
False Devotions to Our Lady
St Louis de Montfort speaks of “Critical Devotees and Scrupulous Devotees” as “false devotions” to Mary which can easily be mistaken for true ones and while he does describe other false devotions, these two can be specifically applied to those who consider Mediatrix of All Graces as error and the Marian devotions of the Polish and Mexican people as extreme and uneducated.
Critical devotees are self confident, scholarly types who may have some devotion to Mary but criticize much of the devotion which “simple and pious” souls practice thinking them “gullible.” They are irritated by homage paid to Mary at her shrines insinuating idolatry and excess. St. Louis warns critical devotees are “greatly to be feared” and “do untold harm” while “pretending to correct abuses, they succeed only too well in turning people away from this devotion” to Mary. Scrupulous devotees claim that the honor given to Mary takes away from the Son and are annoyed at those who are noticeably devoted to Mary imagining they are slighting the Son by honoring the Mother.
Newman expresses initial critical/scrupulous devotee ideas for a temporary period. The reservations Pope John Paul II describes during his time as a factory worker are scrupulous as he expresses concern devotion to Mary took away from Christ. He credits St Louis with correcting his error. In his homily at the beatification of St Maximilian Kolbe, Pope Paul VI said “No one should disapprove . . . if Blessed Maximilian and the Church together with him show such enthusiasm for the formal veneration of the Blessed Virgin; this enthusiasm will never be too great” and then he instructs us to “never let us think of this as ‘Mariolatry’” What about the works of St Louis de Montfort? St Maximilian wrote “the devotion taught by Blessed Grignion [Louis de Montfort] is ours exactly.”
Doctors of the Church
On the feast days for Doctors of the Church the Benedictus is “But they that are learned shall shine bright as the firmament: and they that instruct many to justice, as stars for all eternity.” One criterion for a Doctor of the Church is importance and orthodoxy of writings. The doctors are certainly safe guides the Church directs us to and at least three of them, St Bernard, St Lawrence of Brindisi and St Alphonsus of Liguori all proclaim Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces. With Bernard especially and with St Alphonsus’ Glories of Mary being arguably his most well known and popular work, there is no way that Mary is not Mediatrix of All Graces unless the Catholic Church is not the true Church.
In the Glories of Mary St Alphonsus goes to great length and research quoting many past saints in teaching us about Mary. Chapter 5 is dedicated to Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces and included in the cited edition of the book, is also a severe refutation to those who claimed his work was intentionally exaggerated and not to be taken literally. As he begins to build his case for Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces St. Alphonsus quotes St Ephrem (d. 373 A.D.) as praying to Mary “after God we have no hope but in thee.” He also quotes St Andrew of Crete (d. 740 A.D.) who identifies Mary with the Mercy-Seat in Exodus and attributing its importance to Mary. He teaches Mary as the Ark of Noah and none were saved except those in the Ark.
St Alphonsus explains that Mary is necessary to our salvation not absolutely but morally, by the will of God and that all the graces God dispenses come through her hands. Doctor Alphonsus tells us that St Germanus, St Anselm, St John Damascene, St Bonaventure, Saint Anoninus, and St Bernadine of Siena all asserted the intercession of Mary was necessary to our salvation and Alphonsus assures us this is not a hyperbolic and exaggerated claim.. Alphonsus and popes cite at length St Bernadine of Siena (patron saint of this author’s studies at the University of Steubenville on whose feast day the application for admittance was written by the way), who teaches that “all graces of the spiritual life that descend from Christ their head, to the faithful, who are His mystical body, are transmitted by Mary” and the reason is because “that as God was pleased to dwell in the womb of this holy Virgin, she acquired a kind of jurisdiction over all graces.”
St. Alphonsus refers to St Ildephonsus (d. 667 A.D.) along with one of our other Doctors, St Bernard, as teaching that God has determined that no grace shall be granted otherwise than by the hands of Mary. And yet another Doctor, St Bonaventure (d. 1274) is cited regarding the Isaiah’s “rod out of the root of Jesse” who teaches “whoever desires the grace of the Holy Spirit let him seek for the flower of the Holy Ghost in the rod, that is Jesus in Mary, for by the rod we find the flower and by the flower God so if you desire to possess the flower bend down the rod which bears the flower by prayer.”
St Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church, tells us “the Church believes with St Bernard that God has determined that no grace shall be granted otherwise than by the hand of Mary.” “God wills it” says St Bernard. Can we as good Catholics really trust in ourselves so much as to not embrace this and to think otherwise? As to St Bernard, this doctor of the Church and his teaching that Mary is Mediatrix of all graces absolutely permeated and influenced Marian teaching. Mary is the aqueduct from which all graces are distributed.
The following are some examples of Lex Orandi Lex Credendi (As we pray, so we believe). In the Liturgies, the Church publicly declares its beliefs. In the Mass of “Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces” we pray the same prayer to Jesus that the Legion of Mary prays daily: “Lord Jesus Christ, our Mediator with the Father, thou hast deigned to constitute the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thy Mother, our Mother and Mediatrix with Thee; grant that all those who turn to Thee to ask favors may rejoice to have obtained them through her.” In the Liturgy when “minister of” is used it most accurately means an office, similar to the office of bishop for example, and the same is true with “dispenser” and Vatican Council II’s Theological Commission stated that Mary is the minister and dispenser of all graces because of her role with Christ in acquiring those graces. These titles of mediation/dispensation have a number of liturgical confirmations.
In the Mass of Mary Mother of Reconciliation, the prayer to God says “you chose the Blessed Virgin Mary” and this choice of God is very much like the choice God made regarding Mary that St Louis de Montfort stresses throughout his book True Devotion. Like water in the sacrament of Baptism, which God chose to be a necessary instrument of grace, so he chose Mary to be Mediatrix of All Graces.
One example in the Liturgy of the Hours prayed during the duration of this class ties Galatians 4:26 with Isaiah 66:10-14. Paul tells us the heavenly Jerusalem is a free woman and our mother and Isaiah tells us to rejoice and be glad because of this mother, to exalt her, love her, to nurse with delight at her abundant breast, that prosperity will be spread over her, an overflowing torrent, that in her we will find comfort, that we will flourish. Peter tells us we are children who need milk for nourishment.
Sacred Scripture and the Doctrine
Papal teaching has consistently taught that the Mediatrix of All Graces can be primarily found in Gen 3:15; Luke 1:38,41; John 2:5; John 19:27; and Acts 1:4. Our redemption through Jesus Christ encompasses not only the act of acquiring graces but also of distributing them. Mary’s role in actively consenting to and cooperating in her Son’s redemptive act makes her Coredemptrix (“Co” meaning "with" not “equal”) and this role continues in the distribution of graces.  In this section note that Mediatrix of All Graces is also considered to be included in Mary Coredemptrix.
Gen 3:15 is key to already defined Marian dogmas and key to Mary as Coredemptrix showing her motherhood of the Redeemer, her participation in the redemption along with her “seed”, her Queenship and justification for her Assumption. With the Coredemption, Mary is “Mother of the Living” (Gen 3:20) and the Church invokes her as “Mother of Divine Grace” because as Mother it is her duty to feed her children with the spiritual food of graces they need.
In Luke 1 the Annunciation declares her “full of grace” and she is “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit making her the Queen Mother, giving us all salvation and bringing her in unity with God to a degree we cannot appreciate or conceive thereby becoming Coredemptrix and Mediatrix. In Luke 2:24-35 Mary begins her coredemptive suffering when her suffering and the suffering of her Son is prophesied. She not only accepts it but offers it to the Father and presents her Son as priest and victim. Her suffering is intimately associated with her Son especially when the “sword” pierces her heart.
The Wedding at Cana is a lesson that Christ will do for us through Mary what he would not do for us without her. Also she gives us her command “Do whatever He tells you.” He tells us to listen to the Church and the Church tells us that Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces. At the foot of the cross in John 19:25-27 Mary becomes our Mother and this is taught in no uncertain terms by the Church in so many places it need not be cited. Mary is our Mother now. She has a responsibility to us and we have a commandment to honor her. Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled. Mary and her seed crush the serpent’s head. The woman in Revelation culminates the cycle of the Church’s direct teaching regarding Mary as related to her existing dogmas as well as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, Advocate. She is the mother of the Church.
In addition, the saints give us other biblical texts to ponder regarding Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces. St Maximilian Kolbe cites the Holy Spirit role and discretion in the distribution of graces (1 Cor 12:7-11) and based on the union of Mary with the Holy Spirit we can see her role via the choice of her Spouse. St Andrew of Crete (766 A.D.) identifies Mary as the mercy-seat in Exodus which God makes conditional to giving orders and speaking to the people.
St Alphonsus of Liguori comments that the passage of Jeremiah where “a woman shall encompass a man” explains that as no line can pass from the center of the circle without passing the circumference so no grace comes from Jesus without passing through his Mother, always, as explained elsewhere in this document, by the will of God and cites St Bernadine of Siena as agreeing with this interpretation of Scripture such that “all gifts, all virtues, and all graces are dispensed by the hand of Mary to whosoever, when, and as she pleases.”
St Louis de Montfort explains only Mary found grace with God (Lk 1:30) and it is only through her that anyone who follows will find grace. She was full of grace at the Annunciation (Lk 1:28) and at the incarnation when she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit her unity with God was of such an inconceivable degree God made her the “sole treasurer of His treasures and sole dispenser of His graces” which can be used at her discretion. St Louis de Montfort relates that the keys of the cellars in Canticles 1:3 are given to Mary so that she has the power to make divine love available to others.
Hebrews 9:29 tells us all graces have been earned but we still need mediation. In 1 Cor 13:12 Paul tells us those in heaven have the beatific vision and so Mary, so united to the Holy Spirit will be able to see all her children and know their needs. The Church uses the Wisdom books of Sirach (24:3-21) and Proverbs (8:22-35) to ponder the origins of Mary. Wisdom is transposed to Mary by reflection and participation and which give Mary a share in the work of Her Son, Incarnate Wisdom. Mary is the Gate of Heaven which Gen 28:17 and Psalm 117:20 speak of as the path all must take to enter heaven. The Holy Ghost makes Mary His special instrument as a “visible guarantee of His assistance and as Mediatrix of His illuminating grace.”
Immaculate Conception and Holy Spirit
St. Maximilian Kolbe’s teachings on the Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit provide great insight into how Mary can be Mediatrix of All Graces. Mary, being full of grace and overshadowed by the Holy Spirit is in effect possessed by the Holy Spirit and is so united with the Holy Spirit that she has become His vessel. St Maximilian takes the key verses of Scripture used in justifying Marian dogmas as well as Mary Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces and helps us begin to comprehend the incomprehensible of Mary’s relation to God. Since Mary is “full of grace” nothing is lacking to her. Grace always comes the same way: from the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit and as the Holy Spirit has overshadowed Mary and for lack of a more incredible analogy, espoused her. So that when graces come from the Holy Spirit they go through Mary. So by her incomprehensible union with the Holy Spirit all graces flow through her. A few days prior to his final arrest St Max wrote “it is the Holy Spirit that we love in Mary and through Mary we love the Son.”
For Catholics, the teachings of the popes alone should be enough to embrace Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces but to explain it to those outside the Church is another issue. While prudent ecumenical dialogue would certainly not begin with Mediatrix of All Graces, the subject often comes up early in dialogue. There are some who claim the doctrines related to the proposed Fifth Dogma should be avoided on the grounds of promoting ecumenism. Minimizing it and/or criticizing it is counter-productive even if in the short term it seems helpful.
We may do well to ponder what Dr Miravalle suggests. We cannot rely on our own skills for Ecumenism. For the decades since Vatican II meager progress has been made. We have been embarrassed about our Mother! If not embarrassed, maybe ignorant and unappreciative. The declaration of the Fifth Marian Dogma will make us face the truth and when the world knows what all Catholics already should know, the Mediatrix of All Graces will bring real fruits to ecumenical efforts.
The famous Anglican scholar Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman is a good study of coming to embrace not only Marian doctrines, but the Catholic Church in total. Prior to his acceptance of the Church in its fullness, Cardinal Newman feared negative consequences of teaching Mary’s mediation. But once Newman preaches as a Catholic, even when preaching to mixed congregations, he proclaims Mary as mediator and says that the definition of a saint involves the smile of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Newman did not treat Marian devotion as an obstacle to unity and we must not either.
Development of Doctrine Newman/Kolbe
It has been suggested that Cardinal Newman would have surely considered the Breviary of his day quite mariolatrous in its office of Matins for the Feasts of Our Lady. Newman was unable to embrace the Catholic teachings on Mary until after he completed the Development of Doctrine essay. When Newman’s Catholic writings are examined Mary’s Co-Mediation role is evident and it is safe to say Newman would have been a proponent of Mediatrix of All Graces, had the doctrine, in his day, been at the level of maturity it is today. Ultimately Newman comes to the conclusion that the teachings of the Church on devotion to Mary are of paramount importance, becoming deeply devoted to Mary himself. He goes so far as to say that those who cannot get past their devotional reservations regarding Mary are “deficient” and he tells us to “depend upon it, the way to enter into the suffering of the Son is to enter into the sufferings of the mother. . . .Let her be your great pattern.”
In his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine Cardinal Newman speaks of doctrinal development where at first the seed will sprout and take root but man is unable to fully realize all that is there, let alone fully articulate it. Confusion and misconceptions will be present but at length the light of truth will prevail and original principles will grow doctrinally with aspects accumulating towards completion. Relations to other doctrines will be realized with proponents and critics presenting ideas that are assessed and affect the doctrine. Ultimately a doctrine validly developed will immerse itself into the teaching of the Church. Newman maintained, like many saints including St Alphonsus and St Louis de Montfort, that at the beginning of Christianity “so little is revealed about the Blessed Virgin Mary, in mercy to our weakness because of the awesome degree of her sanctity would have threatened to keep our devotional attention focused on her rather than God”. It has been proposed that in his discourse on the “Glories of Mary” Newman understands Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces.
Newman sets seven characteristics for judging if the Catholic Church is truly descended from the Church of the Apostles and fathers. Using his criteria, let us see if “Mediatrix of All Graces” can be evaluated as doctrinal development or corruption. Newman says “there is no corruption if it retains one and the same type, the same principles, the same organization; if its beginnings anticipate its subsequent phases, and its later phenomenon protect and subserve its earlier; if it has a power of assimilation and revival, and a vigorous action from first to last.”
First Note – of a genuine Development of an Idea: Preservation of its Type: Does Mediatrix of All Graces correspond to the initial teachings. Newman does not mean there cannot be significant changes as time goes on but rather that the original can still be seen in the developed. Newman also proposes that corruption of religion can come from a refusal to follow the course of doctrine as it develops. Mediatrix of All Graces has this unity of type with Scripture and the teachings of the Fathers.
Second Note – Continuity of its Principles Doctrines are not the same as principles: Doctrines are made up of the principles they encompass. The principles from with Mediatrix of All Graces can be shown to be unaltered as this doctrine developed.
Third Note – Its Power of Assimilation: Mediatrix of All Graces can be shown to be in unity with its sources and faithfully developed from those sources and as the ideas have been analyzed, has naturally grown from them. This doctrine surely shows itself to be of a strength to hold itself in the minds of Christians to such a point that in its power of development can resist danger of corruption.
Fourth Note – Its Logical Sequence: The continued, steady, organized path of the doctrine into development is a natural and logical result of its original teaching sources. There is a harmony to this doctrine with other Marian doctrines
Fifth Note – Anticipation of its Future: The future tendencies of a doctrine to develop can show itself early as it develops. The traces of this can be seen in the writings of early saints. Corruptions under this characteristic tend to deny or lose original principles. Mediatrix of All Graces has only continued to develop and has no hint of fading away.
Sixth Note – Conservative Action upon its Past: There is nothing in this doctrine that contradicts or reverses it origins. Previous principles and other Marian dogmas are enhanced. Mediatrix of All Graces really contains all that can be said to come before it while positively augmenting these sources at the same time.
Seventh Note – Its Chronic Vigor: Newman describes corruptions as a transition that leads to a crisis and cannot be of a long duration. There is nothing transitory about Mediatrix of All Graces which has established itself in magisterial teachings
Newman’s characteristics of valid doctrinal development are surely met in Mediatrix of All Graces. The authority of the Church and magisterial teachings and the writings of Popes and Saints (including multiple Doctors of the Church) bears this out. In his writing of the Development of Doctrine, Newman submits all to the “judgment of the Church” and as far as this doctrine is concerned anyone who truly understands and respects Sacred Tradition and magisterial teaching cannot do otherwise. To consider Mediatrix of All Graces to be an error is to reject at least three doctors of the Church (St. Bernard, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Lawrence of Brindisi) as well as St Bernadine of Siena, St Louis de Montfort, and St. Maximilian Kolbe, most all of the Popes since Pius IX and a number of popes prior. If Mediatrix of All Graces is an error, then the Sacred Tradition and teaching magisterium of the Church are also themselves in error, and in fact, the Catholic Church as an ideology is in error. That is something, when considering the stated audience of this document, we all agree just cannot be.
So even without considering the reasons and justifications of Mediatrix of All Graces, we can say, to paraphrase Cardinal Newman that we believe in the Mediatrix of All Graces because we have learned from the Church, who teaches it. According to Newman’s essay, the Theotokos of the fourth and fifth centuries could (and has) become Mediatrix of All Graces.
Like Newman, once we are sure that Catholic Church has the fullness of truth and Christ’s teaching authority then anything problematic for us should be considered resolved once we see without doubt that the Church teaches it. How to explain it to others or to thoroughly understand it ourselves , however, is surely a different matter, one that will require fervent prayer and diligent study.
Mary and Church
Prior to Vatican II there was debate between Marian theologians between Christ-type and Church-type theories. In general the proponents of the Fifth Marian Dogma since Vatican II have emphasized the Christ-type theories and yet, with Mary contained in Chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium instead of as an independent document, regardless of the various motives of the Council Fathers, the Holy Spirit decided. That is a lesson for us that I think has not been sufficiently revisited and which may be the key for better understanding of Mediatrix of All Graces. Mary as Archtype of the Church often gives the attributes of Mary to the Church but rarely are the attributes of the Church given to Mary. Just as there is “no salvation outside the Church” there is “no graces but through Mary.” It is beyond the scope of this document to break this ground (or revisit it) but it may shed light on a more complicated aspect of the Fifth Marian Dogma. A few ideas are presented below that could be clarified with a more complete study of Mary and Church.
Scheeben asserts that the doctrine of Mediatrix comes from John 19:26 but that Christ given Mary as Mother cannot define with “sufficient certainty” the doctrine of Mediatrix. Scheeben does say that Mary is definitively established as Mother of the Faithful in John 19:26 and we may presume that Christ intends her to act in a motherly capacity toward all the faithful nourishing them all with spiritual care and that the faithful, like John, should entrust themselves to Mary as their mother. In Revelation, Mary is related to the Church and Isaiah 53:8ff and Isaiah 66:7 ff give her a fruitfulness as is prophesied regarding Jerusalem. Scheeben goes on to say the relation between Mary and the Church is so “close, complete, and mutual” that the Church really acts through Mary’s motherhood.
St Bernadine of Siena comments that in Revelation 12:1 Mary is standing between the sun and the moon as she is between Christ and the Church. He augments this by saying that God gave her this office of dispenser of heavenly graces quoting Proverbs 8:23 as being “appointed from eternity.” He calls Mary “the neck of Christ our Head, through which all spiritual gifts are communicated to his mystical body” and this is further shown in Canticle of Canticles 7:4 where Christ is told “your neck is an ivory tower.”  In the Liturgy of the Hours Blessed Isaac of Stella writes that “the Church is incapable of forgiving any sin without Christ and Christ is unwilling to forgive any sin without the Church.” Similarly it can be said Mary is incapable of distributing graces without God and God is unwilling to distribute graces without Mary.
Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces is most certainly a doctrine that any Catholic who understand and adheres to the teaching of Sacred Tradition must embrace. The Church declares saints Doctors of the Church to emphasize to us that the writings of the doctors are of especial importance and benefit all the faithful. St Bernard, St Lawrence of Brindisi, and St Alphonsus of Liguori all speak of and emphasize Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces and with Bernard and Alphonsus it may be said their teachings on this office of Mary are the pinnacle of their works. This is a strong and most important message to all Catholics.
Every pope from Leo XIII to Pope John XXIII specifically taught this doctrine, as well as Paul VI supporting it and John Paul II telling us that, in effect, the writings of St Louis de Montfort should be our guide to Marian devotion that is true to Vatican II. It may very well be that Pope Benedict XVI intentionally made his last public prayer to Mary be as Mediatrix of all graces.
Pope John Paul II said the problem of our age is lack of devotion to Mary. Confusion follows every council. He said that “Mary must be in all the ways of the Church’s daily life.”
Cardinal Ratzinger said that Vatican II has not yet come to fruition and as Pope Benedict XVI said that one of his missions was to promote the teaching of his predecessor. Pope Benedict XVI tells us Vatican II has been difficult to implement due to two factions regarding it. The first, more vocal faction, attempts to use Vatican II as a rupture from the past and our current pontiff says this is wrong. This brings to mind the recent comment of a Catholic in my parish, reputed as educated in the Faith, to say (sadly) the bringing back of bells at the Mass is “too pre-Vatican II.” The other faction has been more silent, but is in continuity with the Church prior to Vatican II and, though it has born some fruit must still develop.
Pius IX declared one reason for making the Immaculate Conception dogma was to “preserve the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace in the flock of Christ by putting down arguments and controversies and by removing scandals.”
Marian Defect is a lesion infecting the Ecumenical Movement. To hide Mary in our dialogue, to minimize her, to take critical and scrupulous methods of devotion to her is akin to the archaic practice of bleeding patients. It is doing more harm that good. We must realize that on our own we will never achieve Ecumenism. Only by the Holy Spirit and the graces He gives will that happen. And the Holy Spirit gives all graces through Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces. Let all of us who love the Catholic Church realize the truth of this matter, “fold the wings of our intellect” should that be necessary, and humbly embrace the Mother our God has given us, and the office He has assigned to her for our salvation. Amen.
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 The New Eve p. 44
 Papal Documents on Mary p. 26
 The Kolbe Reader p. 103
 Lumen Gentium Paragraph p. 67
 Mary at the Foot of the Cross VI p. 22-24
 Scheeben Mariology Volume 2 p. 252
 Theological Fouundations F I p. 168
 Mariology Volume 2 p. 581-583
 Theological Foundations I p. 111
 Ibid p. 141
 Ibid p. 149
 Ibid p. 168
[13 Mary at the Foot of the Cross VI p. 17
 Theological Foundations I p. 168
 Theological Foundations II p. 32
 Ibid p. 32
 Theological Foundations I p. 168
 Theological Foundations II p. 32
 Ibid p. 43
 Ibid p. 168
 Theological Foundations I p. 168
 Theological Foundations II p. 33
 Theological Foundations I p. 168
 Legion of Mary Handbook p. 331
 Mary at the Foot of the Cross VI p. 106
 Ibid p. p. 100-108
 Ibid p. 18
 Ibid p. 25
 Lumen Gentium Paragraph 66
 Crossing the Threshold of Hope p. 221
 True Devotion p 91 – 104
 Crossing the Threshold of Hope p. 213
 Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit p. 34
 Ibid p. 45
 Doctors of the Church p. xv,xxv
 Glories of Mary p. 85
 Ibid p. 100
 Ibid p. 129,130
 Ibid p. 135
 Ibid p. 136
 Ibid p. 136
 Ibid p. 137
 Mary at the Foot of the Cross VI p. 104
 Theological Foundations I p. 90-91
 Ibid p. 103
 Liturgy of the Hours Volume IV Week IV Thursday Morning Prayer
 Ibid p. 1180
 Theological Foundations II p. 33-37
 Ibid p. 72
 Ibid p. 69
 Ibid p. 80-81
 Ibid p. 87-91
 Ibid p. II 40
 Ibid p. 134-136
 True Devotion to Mary p. 25
 Ibid p. 25
 Theological Foundations I p. 167
 All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed p. 70-71
 Ibid p. 78-79
 Sheeben Mariology Volumne 2 p. 257
 Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit p. 6-34
 Ibid p. 39
 Ibid p. 48
 Mary at the Foot of the Cross VII p. 20
 Theological Foundations II 21
 Newman’s Mariology p. 73
 Ibid p. 79
 Ibid p. 14
 Ibid p. 28
 Ibid p. 51
 Ibid p. 68
 Ibid p. 66
 Development of Doctrine p. 37
 Newman’s Mariology p. 52
 Ibid p. 78-82
 Development of Doctrine p. 171
 Ibid p. xi
 Ibid p. 23
 Theotokos 100
 Scheeben Mariology Vol 2 p. 241
 Ibid p.247,248
 Ibid p.250
 Mary at the Foot of the Cross VII p. 260
 Liturgy of Hours Volume IVp. 247
 Mary at the Foot of the Cross VI p. 31
 Ratzinger Report p. 40
 Mary at the Foot of the Cross VI p. 25
 Papal Documents on Mary p. 15
© Steven Lovison
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