May 13, 2013

The case for defining the Spiritual Motherhood of Mary

By Mark Miravalle

Almost one hundred years ago, the prominent Belgian prelate Cardinal Desire Mercier began an international petition drive for the papal definition of Our Lady as the Universal Mediatrix of all graces. By 1918, the renowned pioneer of both Marian and ecumenical realms had collected over 300 cardinal and bishop petitions directed to the reigning pontiff, Pope Benedict XV, for this requested fifth Marian Dogma. By the early 1920s, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe and his nascent Militia Immaculatae (“Army of the Immaculate”) joined in the movement to proclaim the Mother of Jesus as the Spiritual Mother of all peoples.

What inspired Mercier and St. Maximilian to initiate a global call of support to the Holy Father to make an infallible statement regarding Mary’s relationship with you and me?

Grace and Precedence.

Of the four existing Marian dogmas, Mary’s Motherhood of God, her Perpetual Virginity, her Immaculate Conception, and her Assumption, the last two dogmas have been solemnly proclaimed only after a lengthy petition drive from the People of God to the Roman Pontiff.

Before the papal definition of the Immaculate Conception by Bl. Pius IX in 1854, millions of petitions from the Catholic world came into the Vatican, with particular perseverance coming from Spain and its Catholic government. In the case of the Assumption, infallibly declared by Pius XII in 1950, over 8 million petitions spanning 95 years were documented by the Holy Office in support of this Marian dogmatic crown.

Petition drives for Marian dogmas are simply Catholic precedence. It’s not a democratic power play seeking to force the Pope’s hand. It is rather a manifestation of the sensus fidelium (the “common consensus of the faithful”) in encouraging the Holy Father to a particular course of action which the faithful discern to be for the good of the Church. An authentic Catholic petition drive must always be founded and sustained on two pillars: 1) the request is something that conforms to the faith and morals teachings of the Church; 2) that the object of petition be submitted with an unconditional obedience to the ultimate discernment and decision of the Vicar of Christ.

On December 1, 1950, an international association of mariologists gathered in Rome to petition Pius XII for the solemn definition of Mary’s universal mediation, and this just one month after he declared the dogma of the Assumption. Why did they ask for so much more so soon?

Their reasoning was simple: now that the four earthly prerogatives of Mary have been solemnly defined as dogmas, the last remaining Marian doctrine, her relationship as our spiritual mother from heaven, should also be defined as a dogma. In a certain sense, the existing four dogmas which articulate her relationship with Jesus and her special personal gifts lose some of their immediate relevance for us if she is not also our spiritual mother.

How precisely is Mary our Spiritual Mother? In three ways.

First, Mary uniquely shared in the work of Jesus to redeem the human family, both by giving Jesus his body, the very instrument of Redemption (cf. Lk. 1:38; Heb. 10:10), and by suffering with Him at Calvary in a way unparalleled by another other creature (cf. Jn. 19:25-27). For this extraordinary role with Jesus in saving souls, Mary has been called the “Co-redemptrix” in the Church since the 14th century. Fear not—“co” means “with” not “equal.” Mary’s not a goddess on a level or equality with Jesus. She is the unique immaculate human co-redeemer with Jesus, just as every Christian is called to be a “co-redeemer in Christ,” to use the expression of Bl. John Paul II.

Secondly, Mary nurtures us in the order of grace by distributing the graces obtained at Calvary to the human family through her role as the Mediatrix of all graces. The papal Magisterium of the last two centuries has consistently taught this Marian role, and Pope Benedict XVI Emeritus published this same title on the day he announced his resignation (Feb. 11, 2013). The Wedding of Cana (Jn. 2:5) reveals to us what the Second Vatican Council teaches us: that the Mother of Jesus “intercedes for the gifts of eternal life” (LG 62).

Thirdly, Mary, as Spiritual Mother, pleads for us before the throne of Christ the King as our Advocate. Her most ancient title (from the second century), Our Lady’s role as Advocate simply confirms that this Mother intercedes for our wants and needs with a maternal perseverance and power beyond that of any of the other saints.

By why a dogma? If Mary’s role as our Spiritual Mother is already a doctrine of the Catholic Church, what’s the benefit of a papal definition of the same truth?

Because history verifies that with every Marian dogma declared, historic graces have been poured forth upon the Church.

Take, for example, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The historic situation of the papacy and the Church during the time immediately preceding this Marian definition was bleak. Pope Pius IX had been chased out of the Vatican by Masonic forces from the South. While in exile in Gaeta, two cardinals approached the beleaguered Holy Father with the remedy to this dire situation: proclaim the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Bring Our Lady’s powerful intercession into this situation, and the papacy and the Church will be fully restored. Acquiescing to their request, Pius IX from exile, wrote to the world’s bishops, stating his intention to proclaim this new Marian Dogma.

The result? The dogma was proclaimed. The papacy was restored. The Vatican and Church secured. Ultimately, this Marian dogma led to the later declaration of Papal infallibility, which then cemented the unity and vitality of the Church under the authority of Jesus’ Vicar on earth.

When Marian dogmas happen, graces happen.

Could we—our contemporary Church and world situation—not benefit from a historic outpouring of grace right now?

Since Mary’s motherly titles are also her motherly functions of grace for the Church, the more solemnly we acknowledge these motherly roles, the more powerfully she can exercise these motherly roles. When these roles are infallibly proclaimed by the Petrine keeper of the keys as the highest authority on the planet, this proclamation will lead to the fullest possible release of heavenly graces by the Mediatrix of all graces.

Pope Francis has been on a blessed tirade of Marian teaching and witness. Starting with his very first papal act of going to St. Mary Major’s Basilica to thank and honor Our Lady; to his request to have his papacy consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13; to his return visit to St. Mary Major’s Basilica on May 4, where Pope Francis prayed the Rosary and presented a lengthy and inspiring homily on our very subject: Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood.

During this month of May 2013, an international letter writing campaign to Pope Francis for the solemn definition of Mary’s Spiritual Motherhood is happening on all the continents of the world. Cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, and laity are writing to this extremely Marian pope in support of Pope Francis to proclaim this fifth Marian Dogma.

If you feel called to join in with Catholic faithful the world over in writing a brief, respectful few lines to our beloved Holy Father in support of Pope Francis to proclaim this fifth Marian Dogma, you can easily do so by mailing your note to: Pope Francis, Vatican City, 00120 (3 postage stamps gets your letter from the US to the Vatican).

The precedence is clear: with Marian dogmas come historic graces.

Our ecclesial and global situation is clear: we need historic graces from above to remedy the unprecedented challenges facing both the Church and in the world today—graces which call for the most powerful intercession possible by the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all peoples.

Prayerfully consider participating by your prayers and your own personal letter to Pope Francis to contribute in bringing about this fifth Marian definition of Our Lady’s Spiritual Motherhood, and thus to bring to full completion Mary’s own scriptural self-prophecy: “All generations shall call me blessed” (Lk.1:48).

Dr. Mark Miravalle is Professor of  Theology and Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.


  1. Mary's motherhood, as far as I know, is not in doubt. Whatever graces have followed from the dogmatization of her Immaculate Conception, the definition has also seriously compromised our efforts for reunion with the Eastern Churches. It seems likely to be a stumbling block for generations to come.

    Is there any movement afoot to challenge her motherhood?

    If not, why rush into this when we're still mopping up after the proclamation of 1854? There are many channels of grace for the problems facing the Church; I am certain that Mary can help open them without having yet another definition put forth in her honor. In her cooperative work with her Creator and Son, she may even be more effective without it.

  2. Anonymous asked if there is a movement afoot to challenge her motherhood. Not that I'm aware of but there is certainly a notorious movement on the W2C website proclaiming Pope Francis is the false pope, a deceiver and impostor. Given the precedence just outlined by Dr. Miravalle proclaiming Our Lady as Mediatrix of all Graces would certainly pour buckets of holy water over the false prophet Marie Divine Mercy and hopefully see her vanish into oblivion where she belongs. This proclamation is urgently needed to snatch souls back from the flames they have so unwittingly been attracted to. Thank you for bringing this proclamation to our attention.

  3. Some thoughts on the power of Mary’s prayers by looking at the prayer of Jesus and what the Church teaches:
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2741) states, “Jesus also prays for us- in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in His cry on the cross and, in the resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why He never ceases to intercede for us with the Father. If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in His Name, even more than any particular thing; the Holy Spirit Himself, who contains all gifts” Whom Jesus said He and the Father would send “in His Name” (Jn. 14:25, 15:26).
    The Church teaches that we are to “resolutely unite our prayer ‘with’ the prayer of Jesus, not “to” the prayer of Jesus and this requires Jesus’ prayer with ours and since we could not will to join our prayer with the prayer of Jesus without Jesus first giving us the grace (CCC 2559) and knowledge that this is what He wants everyone to do, we therefore know that He wishes to join His prayer with ours. To resolutely unite our prayer with that of Jesus (and consequently unite our prayer to that of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit) we must consciously and completely will to, resolve to make His infinite, always in the present tense, Will and prayer our will and prayer and not because of any real merit on our part, but only because of the infinite mercy and goodness of God’s willing to share His very self with us in spite of our sins of commission and omission.
    Jesus prays in everyone and for everyone and He prays with those who join with Him in prayer because in order for us to pray “with” Jesus, He must be praying “with” us, “with” requires two persons or it is not “with”. Therefore, when we resolutely join our prayer with the prayer of Jesus, we are joined with the prayers of everyone else who, in time and eternity, are joined with Him, including (and especially) all the prayers of Joseph and Mary with the Child Jesus.
    CCC 2666, 2750,
    If we dwell on the prayer of Jesus, we can join our prayer with His perfect prayer for everyone at every point in time and space, all at once in the present tense, Jesus offering His suffering and death for (in place of) all sinners, (CCC 579) and with those who join their prayer with His prayer in His Name.
    When we resolutely join our prayer with the prayer of Jesus, He joins His with ours, and we are joined with all who have joined their prayers with the infinite, perfect prayer of Jesus, including and especially each and every prayer of Joseph and Mary who prayed with Jesus for many years at which time and therefore eternally, Jesus and Mary honor St. Joseph perfectly as Head of the Family with the corresponding authority and responsibilities.
    To God, all time is present (CCC 600) and therefore God is present to each prayer of the Child Jesus with Joseph and Mary and He blesses the world through St. Joseph as Head of the family and God wants us to honor St. Joseph as He eternally does.
    Mary knew that God’s will could not change with time and therefore she knew that, because She believed Jesus to be true God and True man, that God eternally honors St. Joseph as the Head of the family and so when she offered her suffering and that of her Son on the Cross, she offered it to God through Her Son and with her Son and through St. Joseph as she does in heaven ‘today’.
    God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit each prays the Name of Jesus, eternally in the present tense for everyone and they have nothing more to say and we should join with them in their perfect prayer.

  4. The full implications of the spiritual motherhood of Mary present serious obstacles to contemporary Catholic theologians, especially those in the United States of America. To mention only two such obstacles: 1) the role of human sexuality was redefined by Mary’s Fiat at the Annunciation, and 2) the New Law of Love, Mary’s Son, restored us to the Father’s spiritual kingdom. Other consequences are mentioned in The Virgin Mary’s Revolution, or Love and do what you will (St. Augustine), please read it. A.M.D.G., Gonzalo T. Palacios, Ph.D., C.U.A., 1970.