Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Letter Concerning the Dogmatic Definition of Mary as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for the People of God

by Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins


Msgr. Calkins, an American Mariologist, wrote this letter urging the faithful to spread devotion to the Marian titles of Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for the People of God, in the hope of achieving a solemn definition of these titles from the Holy Father.

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Original, July 20, 1999

Greetings in the Hearts of Jesus & Mary! I want to thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to promote knowledge and love of Our Lady as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for the People of God. As I have said to you many times, we must work so that the teaching of the ordinary magisterium in this important are may be grasped, assimilated, appropriated and lived by our Catholic brothers and sisters. Only then will the ground be prepared for an eventual definition. We must work with an awareness that this goal may not be achieved in a matter of a year or two; we must be prepared to spend ourselves for Our Lady's cause even if we do not live to see a papal definition in our own lifetime. I hope that in fact we do, but I think it very unrealistic to work for a short-term goal and then be disappointed when it doesn't come about.

As you will recall, I told you repeatedly last year that I thought the indication of the date of Pentecost Sunday, 31 May 1998, as the date of a solemn definition of the dogma of Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate by the Holy Father was a great mistake. I regret that this fanciful speculation was publicized by Inside the Vatican and that when it didn't come to pass, a number of people lost interest. I am confident that when the definition comes about it will be well publicized in advance. Something as significant in the life of the Church as a solemn dogmatic definition will surely not be done as a last minute surprise. A little knowledge of the history of the development of Marian dogma would have saved people from such a disappointment.

First of all, it took centuries for the understanding of the mystery of Mary's Immaculate Conception to mature even after Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) made the great intellectual breakthrough which had evaded no less an intellect than the great Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). It is primarily due to the untiring work of a veritable legion of the sons of Saint Francis in the course of centuries that the dogma was defined by the Venerable Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854. During that long span there were times when the enemies of the doctrine got the upper hand and Friars Minor and others who had championed the cause were silenced, forbidden to preach and even imprisoned. I wonder if we are ready to suffer patiently for Our Lady's triumph?

Another very important point is that, even after centuries of steady doctrinal progress, Pius IX canvassed the Bishops of the world in his Encyclical Letter Ubi primum of 2 February 1849 on the opportuneness of defining the Immaculate Conception. Likewise the Servant of God Pope Pius XII addressed the Encyclical Letter Deiparæ Virginis to the Bishops of the world on 1 May 1946 begging them to inform him.... "about the devotion of your clergy and people (taking into account their faith and piety) toward the Assumption of the most Blessed Virgin Mary". "More especially We wish to know if you, Venerable Brethren, with your learning and prudence consider that the bodily Assumption of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith, and whether in addition to your own wishes this is desire by your clergy and people".

Note well that more than five years before the first definition and four years before the second the Popes were consulting the College of Bishops about these important matters. Anyone who expected a definition undertaken by the Pope entirely on his own initiative with no consultation of the Body of Bishops in these days of great emphasis on episcopal collegiality, even if such consultation is not absolutely required, was bound to be disappointed.

Now we both know that on the eve of the opening of the Second Vatican Council a number of Bishops proposed discussion and even a possible definition on the interrelated topics of Mary as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces. In some ways the Marian movement which we could say was originated by Our Lady herself on the Rue du Bac in Paris in 1830 was perceived as leading to this climax. But there was opposition in the council and, while Lumen Gentium chapter eight spoke clearly on Mary's intimate collaboration in the Redemption, the word Coredemptrix was avoided on what I consider to be questionable ecumenical grounds. Mary's mediation of grace fared less well, but the magisterium of previous popes on this matter cannot be simply dismissed. Our present Holy Father made an unprecedented comment on this situation in his general audience of 13 December 1995:

During the Council sessions, many Fathers wished further to enrich Marian doctrine with other statements on Mary's role in the work of salvation. The particular context in which Vatican II's Mariological debate took place did not allow these wishes, although substantial and widespread, to be accepted, but the Council's entire discussion of Mary remains vigorous and balanced, and the topics themselves, though not fully defined, received significant attention in the overall treatment.

Thus, the hesitation of some Fathers regarding the title of Mediatrix did not prevent the Council from using this title once, and from stating in other terms Mary's mediating role from her consent to the Angel's message to her motherhood in the order of grace (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 62). Furthermore, the Council asserts her co-operation "in a wholly singular way" in the work of restoring supernatural life to souls (ibid., n. 61). Lastly, even if it avoided using the title "Mother of the Church", the text of Lumen gentium clearly underscores the Church's veneration for Mary as a most loving Mother.

We must note well that the Holy Father's comments here are very even-handed and do not prejudice the issue. He simply states the facts and reads them in the light of divine providence. In fact, I am convinced that Pope John Paul II has done an enormous amount to "prepare the ground" on the doctrine of Mary as Coredemptrix and Mediatrix. He has easily given us enough material to write a book on this topic from the perspective of his teaching alone.

My point is that now we must "prepare the ground". Many Catholics don't know what these words mean and how important is the role that God has given Mary in the work of our Redemption. If they are ignorant of it, they cannot benefit from it as God wishes them to. Unfortunately, since there has been much disinformation on this matter since the council, many priests and even Bishops are not so clear on this matter and not a few would say that the Church has discarded such ideas which, in any case, are anti-ecumenical. This is why it will take time to "prepare the ground". Even if the Pope personally believes in the doctrine — and about this I don't think there can be any doubt — he cannot simply impose it on people who don't understand it and aren't ready to appropriate it.

Does this mean that we should abandon our humble efforts? By no means! But I think we need to be realistic and if we really believe that Mary's role in our salvation is vitally important — as Sts. Louis-Marie de Montfort, Maximilian Kolbe and hundreds, even thousands of saints believed — then we must be ready to work, sacrifice and suffer so that this truth will one day be solemnly defined. Our immediate satisfaction at seeing our efforts bear fruit must be acknowledged as utterly secondary — something that we must be ready to forego for the greater glory of God and of Our Lady. What has already been accomplished is undeniably noteworthy. The vital area of Marian theology that deal with Mary's collaboration in our salvation, which many thought (and some rejoiced at it) was dead and buried, has been re-proposed so vigorously that even its opponents — and they are numerous — cannot avoid dealing with it even if they aren't yet prepared to assess the evidence seriously. Now on to some positive news which, perhaps, you are not familiar with. Last summer Monsignor Brunero Gherardini, a distinguished Roman theologian and former professor at the Pontifical Lateran University, published a 400-page book entitled La Corredentrice nel mistero di Cristo e della Chiesa (Rome: Edizioni Vivere In, 1998) which analyzes the question of Mary as Coredemptrix in very positive terms. I recently reviewed a book by a young French priest-member of the Community of the Beatitudes, Father Daniel Lacouture, entitled Marie Médiatrice de Toutes Grâces: Raisons, enjeux, conséquences (Nouan Le Fuzelier: Éditions des Béatitudes, 1997) which argues cogently that Mary may be justly described as the "mediate" Mediatrix of all graces given by God before the redemption and with regard to sanctifying grace whereas she is "immediate" Mediatrix of all other graces given by God after the redemption in which she actively cooperated.

The good Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, a young and vibrant community of who live the unmitigated rule of Saint Francis according to the optic of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, have thus far produced two admirable scholarly volumes entitled Maria Corredentrice: Storia e Teologia (Frigento (AV): Casa Mariana Editrice, 1998, 1999). The first provides a general introduction and treats the doctrine in Scripture, the Fathers, the Magisterium and the Liturgy. The second volume is entirely devoted to the development of this theme in the Franciscan School. I am told that two more volumes are expected.

I wrote three articles last year which were published in Soul magazine (Jan.-Feb., March-April, May-June 1998) responding to the well publicized declaration of the committee of the Pontifical International Marian Academy and to the anonymous commentary published on 4 June 1997 in L'Osservatore Romano. I also responded to a negative book review published by Don Angelo Amato, S.D.B. in Marianum ["'Towards Another Marian Dogma?' A Response to Father Angelo Amato," Marianum LIX (1997) 159-167]. I am presently engaged in writing a series for Soul magazine on the relationship between the Miraculous Medal apparitions and those at Fatima in which I am highlighting the themes of Mary's coredemptive role, her mediation and advocacy.

In the course of the past year Father Peter Damian Fehlner, F.I., superior of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in the States, did a 13-part series on Mariology on Mother Angelica's Eternal Word Television Network in which he treated these topics at length. I hope that you will have access to video-cassettes of these very illuminating programs in England soon. I am also told that the video-cassette, Key to the Triumph: The Final Marian Dogma, of the MaxKol Institute, Sterling, VA is a very well done presentation of the theme.

I must also recommend a brilliant book which just appeared this year entitled For the Love of Mary: Defending the Church from Anti-Marianism (Americans United for the Pope, P. O. Box 1102, Massapequa, NY 11758) by a priest who writes under the pen name of Gerard Morrissey. It is a well documented exposé and rebuttal of the anti-Marian influences which have been at work in the Church since the council. He is convinced that this unhealthy minimalizing of Mary's role can only be overcome by a solemn papal definition. He is not so clearly focused on the importance of Coredemptrix-Mediatrix-Advocate (for instance, he would settle for a definition of Mary's spiritual maternity), but this does not take away from his very shrewd analysis of the problem including that posed by "ecumenists".

These positive developments are among the principal ones which have come to my attention. How many more there are only God knows. These efforts are not co-ordinated by any one human person. I think that they are evidence that the time has come to continue and intensify our work. The conference to be held in Northampton, England, in February 2000 is yet another encouraging indication in this regard.

Another major development on the horizon is that the movement in favor of declaring Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort a Doctor of the Church is gaining ground. There is no doubt that he would be a Marian Doctor par excellence and that the highlighting of his lucid doctrine on Mary's unique role in our salvation, especially her mediation of grace, would provide another strong witness to the truth of the proposed dogma.

You are well aware of the first appeal for a definition of Mary's role in our salvation as Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate. It came in a series of revelations made in Amsterdam to a humble and simple Dutch woman, Ida Peerdeman (1906-1996), from 25 March 1945 to 31 May 1959. In the course of these Our Lady disclosed that she wished to be known as "The Lady of All Nations". She asked that a picture should be painted according to her indications (somewhat similar to the well known image of "Our Lady of Grace" on the miraculous medal) and that this should be diffused along with a prayer which she dictated to the seeress. After the dogmatic definition of the Assumption by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950, Our Lady told Ida that this definition had to precede "the last and greatest dogma": that of Mary Coredemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate, for which the picture and prayer were meant to prepare the way.

On 31 May 1996 the late Bishop Hendrik Bomers, C.M. of Haarlem (the Diocese which includes Amsterdam) officially approved the public cultus of The Lady of All Nations stating that while at that time it was not possible to "make a pronouncement about the supernatural character of the apparitions and the content of the messages," nevertheless, "one is free to make a personal judgement according to his or her own conscience." My point — which anyone has a right to differ with — is that if Our Lady herself has given us two very important means to be employed for obtaining the dogmatic definition i.e., her image as the Lady of All Nations and the prayer which she dictated to Ida Peerdeman, then, I believe that we must propagate them and make good use of them ourselves. True, the dogma itself must be established on the basis of Scripture and Tradition; it cannot be defined on the basis of private revelations. Nevertheless, if heaven has given us the means to move hearts and engage in the necessary spiritual warfare, then we would be foolish to neglect them.

Let me underscore the notion of "spiritual warfare". I am deeply convinced for more reasons than I can relate here that it is the Lord's will that the victory over the powers of darkness raging in the Church and in the world should come about through Mary. She is "the Woman" of Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12. The more I manage to penetrate the hidden wisdom of the Scriptures, of the Magisterium and of the saints on her indissoluble union with Christ and on her role as the "New Eve", the more I grow in this conviction. It is my further contention that the dogma, when it comes, will usher in the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I hope that this relatively long letter will be a source of realistic encouragement to you and your co-workers.

Oremus pro invicem!
In cordibus Jesu et Mariæ,
Rev. Msgr. Arthur B. Calkins

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