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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Jan 23, 2016)
Last week we began our reflections on Mary's role as "Mother of Mercy" by showing that she is the true "masterpiece" of God's mercy in the world, through the gift of her Immaculate Conception.

But there is much more about Mary's merciful motherhood for us to explore. It's a mystery so deep that we have only just begun!

The second reason we are right to call Mary "Mother of Mercy" is that she was the one chosen to be the Mother of God — in other words, she was the Mother of the merciful Savior, and in this way she literally brought Divine Mercy Himself to birth in our world. Of course, this is nothing more than the common faith of the Church. When Mary humbly accepted the angel Gabriel's call, she actually conceived in her womb, and brought to birth into our world, the merciful God made flesh, Mercy Incarnate, Jesus Christ.

In the conclusion of his encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993), Pope John Paul II summarized this Gospel truth for us:

Mary is Mother of Mercy because her Son, Jesus Christ, was sent by the Father as the revelation of God's mercy (cf Jn 3:16-18). Christ came not to condemn but to forgive, to show mercy (cf Mt 9:13). And the greatest mercy of all is found in His being in our midst and calling us to meet Him and to confess, with Peter, that He is "the Son of the living God" (Mt. 16:16). No human sin can erase the mercy of God, or prevent Him from unleashing all His triumphant power, if we only call upon Him. Indeed, sin itself makes even more radiant the love of the Father who, in order to ransom a slave, sacrificed His Son: His mercy toward us is Redemption. This mercy reaches its fullness in the gift of the Spirit who bestows new life and demands that it be lived. No matter how many and great the obstacles put in His way by human frailty and sin, the Spirit who renews the face of the earth (cf Ps 104:30), makes possible the miracle of the perfect accomplishment of the good. This renewal, which gives the ability to do what is good, noble, beautiful, pleasing to God and in conformity with His will, is in some way the flowering of the gift of mercy, which offers liberation from the slavery of evil and gives the strength to sin no more. Through the gift of new life, Jesus makes us sharers in His love, and leads us to the Father in the Spirit.

It is ironic that this very simple theological truth — that Mary is our Mother of Mercy because she gave birth to our merciful Savior — has now become the focal point for a modern theological controversy: the claim that as Mother of Mercy, she is also the "Co-Redemptrix," and the "Mediatrix of all graces." The issue is not as complex as these theological phrases sound. Dr. Mark Miravalle, professor of theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, tells of an encounter with Mother Teresa of Calcutta when she expressed the truth of the matter in all its simplicity:

Sacred Scripture profoundly reveals the role of our Blessed Mother as Co-Redemptrix. At the Annunciation, when Mary says "yes" to the angel and thereby gives her "fiat" (Lk 1:38), she gives to the Redeemer the instrument of redemption, His human body. In a discussion I had with the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta regarding the solemn papal definition of the co-redemptive role of Our Lady, within the first two minutes of speaking, Mother said, "Of course she is Co-Redemptrix, of course. She gave Jesus his body and the body of Jesus is what saved us." I replied, "Mother, that's the difference between sanctity and theology. You say in two minutes what it takes the theologians three volumes to write." (from Divine Mercy: The Heart of the Gospel, published by the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, 1999).

As Mother of Mercy and Co-Redemptrix, Mary is also rightly called the "Mediatrix of all graces," and in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater (1987), Pope John Paul II called her "Mediatrix of Mercy." If we think of ourselves as the little children in God's family (and that is precisely what Jesus said we must become: like little children), then it only stands to reason that we are dependent upon the mother in God's family, Mary our Mother, to "mediate" to us (that is, to pass on to us) everything that we need. Dr. Miravalle explains for us the truth behind these exalted titles, "Mediatrix":

We see the beginning of Mary's unique sharing in the salvific mediation of Christ at the Annunciation, where the free consent of the Virgin to be the Theotokos, the "God-bearer," mediates to the world Jesus Christ, Savior and Author of all grace.

It is in virtue of Mary's yes that He who is the source and mediation of all graces of redemption came to the human family. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth...And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" (Jn 1:14, 16). Mary's moral and physical mediation of Christ as Mother brought into the world the Uncreated Grace from which flows every grace received in his Body, which constitutes the People of God. The Church confirms: "From Him flows out into the body of the Church all light through which the faithful receive supernatural enlightenment, and every grace, through which they became holy, as He himself is holy ... (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis).

The maternal mediation of Mary in bringing to the lost world its Savior was already prophesied in the ancient prophecy (cf. Gen 3:15), where the Woman would bring to the world as Mother the seed of victory over Satan. It is Mary, the New Eve, who by freely and physically mediating the New Adam, source of our salvation in grace, becomes "for the whole human race," as St. Irenaeus tells us, "the cause of our salvation."

In short, Mary, as Mother of our merciful Savior, is rightly called the Co-Redemptrix and the Mediatrix of all His graces and mercies to us. She plays a unique and unequalled role in God's plan to shower His mercy upon us all. Like any true and loving mother, her children can be trustfully and completely dependent upon her to bring us all that we need for life and growth. And that's all that Mary's "mediation" really means. It sounds complex at first, but it's really as simple and dependable as a mother's love!

Read part three of this series.

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy and author of Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

jong - Mar 10, 2019

" I replied, "Mother, that's the difference between sanctity and theology. You say in two minutes what it takes the theologians three volumes to write."
What a divine humor, it's true indeed. What we need to know about God, the Saints expressed fully in action not in words. As St.Francis of Assisi said "preach the Gospel and use words if necessary".

Anne - Aug 24, 2016

its a very educative piece of work, spreading the devotion to the Divine mercy with a clear indication of the role of Mary as the mother of mercy. may you all be blessed abundantly

Gemma John - May 13, 2016

I wish to say that due to my prayer meeting make a presentation I choose to use Mary as the Mother and queen of Mercy as this is the year of Mercy. My research and the internet has enlighten me and my thirst to know more about my faith. Thank for the information Mr Stackpole.

Linda - Jan 28, 2016

If anyone is seeking a deeper understanding of Mary's role I encourage them to read "33 Days to Morning Glory" by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

Steve - Apr 25, 2013

In response to some of the previous comments...

“... at the foot of the Cross, Mary... accepted in her heart in the person of St. John all the priests in place of Me, and further, to be the Mother of all mankind” – Jesus to Conchita

“Just as in the natural and corporal generation of children there are a father and a mother, so in the supernatural and spiritual generation there are a Father, who is God, and a Mother, who is Mary." - St. Louis de Montfort

Mary was immaculately conceived as a direct result of God's omnipotent mercy. She was "full of grace" prior to the Incarnation. Jesus took His sinless HUMAN nature from Mary. It is Mary who will crush the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15); God will use Mary as an instrument to completely humiliate and conquer the Devil, who, being so proud, will suffer greatly at being ruled by one of God's creatures. We owe Mary the honour of 'hyperdulia', which is far from adoration. This is the infallible teaching of Christ's Church, "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Every saint was devoted to Mary, and a great number of saints both prayed and encouraged others to pray the Rosary. Were they deceived? Surely not! Many of the saint were profoundly intelligent, and they were greatly illuminated by God. We cannot pass true judgement on their devotion to Mary without at least reading some works on Mary e.g. Garrigou Lagrange's work on Our Lady, Fulton Sheen's book on Mary, numerous Catholic apologetics books etc. (such as those printed by TAN publishers).

“He who is devout to the Virgin Mother will certainly never be lost.” – St. Irenaeus (this is confirmed by numerous saints and Doctors of the Church)

“Let those who think that the Church pays too much attention to Mary give heed to the fact that Our Blessed Lord Himself gave ten times as much of His life to her as He gave to His Apostles.” – Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Here is a key Scripture regarding Mary. Interestingly, and sadly, it is not in the Protestant Bible, though it was part of the original canon, which, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was determined hundreds of years earlier: "I am the MOTHER of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me, shall yet hunger: and they that drink me, shall yet thirst. He that hearkeneth to me, shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting." (Ecclesiasticus 24: 24-31)

Indeed, does not Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, bear Jesus within her immaculate womb? Do not be fooled: Satan hates Mary and he will do whatever he can do prevent devotion to her, who is so tender and merciful. She is the best of mothers, and what mother would fail to help their wandering children?

Mary - Jan 4, 2013

Jesus never exalted Mary at all. He judges all of us equally and this includes Mary. Jesus is the Immaculate Conception, not Mary. On the cross Jesus prayed for us when He said "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing". Jesus continues to pray for us, the Holy Spirit brings us closer to Jesus, Mary doesnt do this. Deut18 says "donot call upon those who pass on." Mary is not the Co-Redemtrix, Jesus never called her that. Jesus never put Mary above anyone else, if anything all believers of Jesus' saving blood sacrifice will sit at His table in heaven, not just Mary. the apostles never encouraged anyone to pray to her. If Mary's assumption was witnessed, then why isnt it in the bible? Jesus is our Savior, He died and resurrected for the sins of the world, not Mary. I dont pray to her, i take all my prayers to Jesus, He hears and answers all prayers directly. Mary does not take our prayers to Jesus. In the bible Jesus never said that those who pass on carry our prayers to Him. the living pray for the living in Jesus' name knowing that He hears and anwsers all our prayers that are in His name. Just bcuz Mary gave birth to Jesus doesnt justify praying to her. the Holy Spirit gave Jesus His sinless nature while in the flesh, not Mary. if you say that Mary gave Him His sinless nature then you are saying that she is the Almighty. give all to Jesus.

magdalene - Mar 29, 2012

I had encounter many times with Mama Mary when i called Her for help.only a simple prayer to say .i am all yours mother ,all that i have is yours ,i renounce myself,i give myself to you , to be move and directed by your spirit.

lawrence - Apr 25, 2010

I must say that I can identify with Sara's concern. Although all can acknowledge Mary's infinitely merciful character, I find it difficult to understand how she, though not divine, can offer mercy.
In our offering of prayers, devotions, and much attention to apparitions of her, there seems a danger of dissipating the attention we should be focusing on the One who died for us, and rose for us.
Nonetheless I am no less inclined to continue to ask Mary to pray for us.

Moderator - Jan 23, 2010

Dear Sara,

Thank you for your comment. The terms may seem complex and difficult, but the important thing is the reality they express. I encourage you to turn to Mary in your prayers and just speak to her as a daughter to her mother. Mary's role is always to lead us to her Son. God bless you.

sara - Jan 23, 2010

I am still wondering why in the bible Jesus did not mentioned any of these Mary's roles such as: as Mother of mercy, the Co-Redemptrix and the Mediatrix. He spoke to her only three times in the Holy Scripture. I love Mary as a humble virgin chosen by God to be the mother of our Savior. She totally surrended to God but I think that her apparitions have confused many people that may have contributed to shift the centrality from Almighty God so from original source!!!!!

Maria P.-Ottawa - Oct 10, 2008

Thank you Dr. Stackpole for these teachings. It is helping our cenacle, which is called Mother of Mercy, to understand more Her role and what our roles are to become.

juan angeles - Oct 8, 2008

excellent! people need to know about this more. thanks!