“While the prayers of those in heaven have, it is true, some claim on God’s watchful eye, Mary’s prayers place their assurance in a mother’s right. For that reason, when she approaches her Divine Son’s throne, as Advocate she begs, as Handmaid she prays, but as Mother she commands.” — Pope Pius VII, Tanto Studio (1805).
I. Mediation and Advocacy
In his Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul begins by offering praise to God for the spiritual blessings He has bestowed upon us through Jesus Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ” (1:3-4). By rendering thanks for Divine gifts “in heavenly places” (in caelestibus ), St. Paul is speaking of the graces and blessings which pertain to our salvation. Therefore, he is speaking of those supernatural bestowals available to mankind because and only because the Eternal Word became Man and redeemed the human race on Calvary.
If we are able to become cleansed of the stain of original sin through Baptism, to receive God’s absolution in the confessional, and to partake of the Body and Blood of Our Lord at Holy Mass, it is because of the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. If there is any possibility at all for men and women someday to enter Paradise, it is because of the Redemption won by Christ for a fallen humanity. In short, all spiritual gifts were won for us, and are given to us, by and through Jesus Christ. And what is a “spiritual gift,” after all, but one that assists a human soul to reach a blessed end to its earthly sojourn, an eternity in the Presence of God?
The Blessed Virgin Mary is a spiritual bestowal and, like all Divine gifts, one which is ours because and only because “ the Word was made flesh , and dwelt among us.” If there had been no Incarnation, there would have been no Mother of God. If the Blessed Trinity had decreed a means of Redemption for the human race other than the Cross, there would have been no Blessed Mother.
This fact needs to be meditated upon, and meditated upon deeply. Of the infinite means available to God for the salvation of the world, He chose that which depended upon Mary! “Although God could create the world out of nothing,” wrote St. Anselm (+1109), Doctor of the Church, “yet when it was lost by sin, He would not repair the evil without the cooperation of Mary.” After the gift of Himself, the most exquisite gift Our Lord has given us is His Mother. He did not have to share His most prized possession with sinful men, but He did: Behold thy Mother! And so, she is our M other in the order of grace.
And, since God “hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ,” then Our Lady has been given to us to help us. Her Divine Maternity, the pivot upon which rested the Redemption of mankind, is therefore the basis of all her prerogatives, privileges, titles and doctrines. One of these prerogatives and titles deserves to be more widely recognized than it is at present — her role as Advocate of the Church .
Catholics are used to hearing Our Lady called the Mediatrix of All Graces , but how is her role of Advocate distinct from that of Mediatrix? The most logical place to begin is with simple definitions. A mediator is one who mediates between parties at variance with one another, one who intervenes to reconcile conflicting parties. A mediator is also an agent in a process, be it physical, chemical, biological or spiritual. An advocate is one who pleads the cause of another, particularly before a court or tribunal, one who supports a particular party or cause (from the Latin advocare , “to call, to summon for assistance”).
Note that the distinctive feature of “mediation” is the person of the mediator. The mediator must be one who can act on behalf of conflicting parties, one who can stand in the “middle” ( in medio ) of the conflict and labor on behalf of both sides in a dispute.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the “One Mediator” between God and Man for the very reason that only He can fulfill that role. The offense against God committed by Adam and Eve (who represented the whole of the human race at the time) was committed by humanity against God. Because of His human nature, Our Lord could atone as a human being for an offense committed by humanity. Because of His Divine nature, Our Lord’s Sacrifice on Calvary was one of infinite merit and, therefore, could atone for an offense committed against God. Because Christ is one Person in Whom are united Divine and human natures, He is the only fitting mediator between God and mankind.
This is the reason we call Our Lady the “Mediatrix of All Graces ,” and not the “Mediatrix between God and men.” She is the “agent” in a spiritual process — the process whereby graces are transmitted from the Head of the Mystical Body (Christ) to the Members of that Body (individuals who comprise the Church). By Our Lord’s decree, she intercedes between those who need graces and the One who is the Source of Grace. She can fill this role of Mediatrix because of the part she played in salvation history — as the promised Woman who would bear the Redeemer, and as the Co-Redemptrix who would share in His sufferings on Calvary. It was eminently fitting that the Mother who bore and nurtured the Redeemer should have been allowed, in her own way, to offer Him to the Father beneath the Cross. Mary, then, is in the unique position to fulfill the role of Mediatrix of All Graces because she was, and remains, the Mother of God :
“When she professed herself the handmaid of the Lord for the mother’s office, and when, at the foot of the altar, she offered up her whole self with her Child Jesus — then and thereafter she took her part in the painful expiation offered by her Son for the sins of the world . It is certain, therefore, that she suffered in the very depths of her soul with His most bitter sufferings and with His torments. Finally, it was before the eyes of Mary that the Divine Sacrifice for which she had borne and nurtured the Victim was to be finished. As we contemplate Him in the last and most piteous mysteries [the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary], we see that ‘there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother,’ who, in a miracle of love, so that she might receive us as her sons, offered generously to Divine Justice her own Son, and in her Heart died with Him, stabbed by the sword of sorrow” (Pope Leo XIII, Jucunda semper, Sept. 8, 1894).
If the distinctive feature of “mediation” is the person of the Mediator, then the distinctive feature of “advocacy” is the work performed by the Advocate on behalf of a petitioner. The petitioner desires to plead a case, either to someone from whom he desires a favor, or to a judge. Thus, he seeks an advocate to represent him, to plead his case for him. For what reason? A person may deem himself undeserving of favors and may hesitate, out of humility, to present a case based on his own merits. Or, perhaps, he may not be competent to argue his own case. Also, the request may be of such import that the petitioner wishes to use all available means to see that it is presented well and efficaciously. The use of a proper advocate is usually a sign of prudence on the part of the petitioner.
The concept of “advocacy” is pleasing to God. In fact, one of the most intriguing verbal exchanges in the Old Testament is the one which took place between God and Abraham, in which the Patriarch acts as an Advocate for the people of Sodom. After the Lord tells him that the “sin” of Sodom and Gomorrha has become “exceedingly grievous,” Abraham asks, “Wilt Thou destroy the just with the wicked? …this is not beseeming Thee.” So begins the dialogue between a man and God, where Abraham pleads the case for humanity. The Patriarch asks God if He would spare Sodom for the sake of fifty just men… for the sake of forty-five just men… for the sake of thirty? Each time the Lord replies that He would spare the city for the sake of its just inhabitants, and each time Abraham continues to plead his case:
“Seeing, saith he, I have once begun, I will speak to my Lord: What if twenty be found there? He said: I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty. I beseech Thee, saith he, be not angry, Lord, if I speak yet once more: What if ten shall be found there? And He said: I will not destroy it for the sake of ten. And the Lord departed, after He had left speaking to Abraham: and Abraham returned to his place” (Gen. 18:20-33).
If the practice of advocacy were not pleasing to Him, would the Omnipotent and Eternal God enter into such a verbal exchange? On the contrary, God allows, even encourages , Abraham to plead a case for whatever just men may live in Sodom. Their cause, in effect, becomes Abraham’s cause, just as the cause of any petitioner becomes, for all practical purposes, that of his advocate.
In the Book of Job, we encounter a dialogue between Job and his friend, Eliu. Here, Eliu reminds the afflicted Job that God does not need to justify His actions to anyone . He continues with a very powerful dialogue, which culminates in a reminder that “advocacy” is an efficacious means to approach God in times of need or distress:
“If there shall be an angel speaking for him, one among thousands, to declare man’s uprightness, He shall have mercy on him, and shall say: Deliver him, that he may not go down to corruption: I have found wherein I may be merciful to him” (Job 33:12-24).
This passage teaches us how powerful is the advocacy of both angels and men. It is easy to think of Abraham and his words on behalf of any just men in Sodom when we read the words of Eliu to Job. And yet, the advocacy of the Blessed Virgin is the most efficacious there is, or ever can be, among all men and angels. In fact, Mary is such a powerful advocate that, according to St. Peter Damian (+1072), Doctor of the Church, “her Son esteems her prayers so greatly, and is so desirous to satisfy her, that when she prays it seems as if she rather commanded than prayed, and was rather a queen than a handmaid.” Why is this so?
II. Mary, the Queen-Mother
When he solemnly defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pope Pius XII declared that it redounded to “the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.” Pope Pius XI taught that this Kingship of Christ depends upon “that wonderful union” of Divine and human natures in the One Person of Jesus Christ. Our Lord reigns by right because He is “to be adored as God by angels and men.” However, as Man, Our Lord is also said to have “acquired” this Kingdom, to have won it by conquest : “But yet what could be more pleasing to us and more pleasant to contemplate than that Christ commands us not only by right of birth but also by an acquired right, that is, of Redemption? Would that all forgetful men would recall what price they have cost our Savior ( Quas Primas , 1925).”
As Co-Redemptrix, Our Lady was called by her Son to unite her sorrows to His on Calvary, to participate in His redemptive suffering, i.e., in His unique Passion, which would ransom Mary and her spiritual children. (We should recall that Our Lady had been redeemed “preemptively,” at the time of her Immaculate Conception, yet still by the merits of Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary. This special Redemption prepared her for the Divine Maternity.) More than any other human being who has ever lived, Mary heeded the admonition which would be written down one day by St. Paul: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God” (Rom. 12:1). It is with the image in mind of the Virgin standing beneath the Cross that St. Peter could have written, “For this is praiseworthy, if for conscience towards God, a man endure sorrows, suffering wrongfully” (1 Pet. 2:19).
The degree to which the Blessed Virgin endured sorrows, making of herself a living sacrifice pleasing to God, was never attained by any other creature, for it was never given to anyone else to be the Mother of God, to watch her own Son and Lord die for the human race. “Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess you the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world ” (Mt. 25:34). These are the words with which Christ will receive His faithful servants into Heaven. He will invite them into the Kingdom prepared “from the foundation of the world.” This is the Kingdom that belonged to Him from the Beginning. It belonged to Him by right , because of His divinity. It would also belong to Him by conquest , because of the Redemption won by Him as Man, as “Redeemer.”
The Blessed Virgin is rightfully venerated as Queen by the faithful who recognize Jesus as King , and for reasons analogous, or similar in some respects, to those by which Our Lord’s Kingship is recognized. While these reasons could never apply to Mary in the same sense in which they apply to her Son, Who is God, nevertheless they express concrete circumstances, for the Queenship of Mary is not merely a “quality” attributed to her because of her intrinsic excellence, as one might refer to a lion as the “king of the jungle.” Our Lady is Queen in a proper sense, someone who wields power in the Kingdom of Christ:
“As the first-born daughter of the Father, the perfect Mother of the Word, the beloved Spouse of the Holy Ghost, she is related in virtue of the Hypostatic Union to the whole Most Holy Trinity, to Him Who in Himself alone is by essence infinite Majesty, the King of kings, Lord of lords; because she was the Mother of the King Divine, of Him to Whom from His Mother’s womb the Lord God gave the throne of David and eternal kingship in the house of Jacob and Who, after asserting in His own right that all power was given to Him in Heaven and on earth, He, the Son of God, gave His heavenly Mother a share in His glory, His majesty, His kingship; because, associated as Mother and Minister to the King of Martyrs in the ineffable work of man’s Redemption, she is likewise associated with Him forever , with power so to speak infinite, in the distribution of the graces which flow from the Redemption…. And this queenship of hers is essentially motherly, used only for our good” (Pope Pius XII, Mary’s Universal Queenship , 1946).
Jesus Christ is said to reign by right , because of His Divine nature. Therefore, in one sense, Mary is Queen because she is “the Mother of the King Divine, of Him to Whom from His Mother’s womb the Lord God gave the throne of David and eternal kingship in the house of Jacob,” a supreme King Who will not allow Himself to be bested in charity, justice or filial devotion by an earthly monarch, such as King Solomon, whose behavior towards his mother, Bethsabee, is recorded in Scripture: “A throne was set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right hand” (3 Kg. 2:19).
Christ is said to reign also by conquest , because of the victory won by Him on Calvary. In a very real sense, Our Lady can be said to have gained her Queenship also by conquest, insofar as she participated as Co-Redemptrix on Calvary. This is what Pope Pius XII indicated when he referred to Mary as the “Minister to the King of Martyrs in the ineffable work of man’s Redemption.” St. Paul wrote:
“Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor…. One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, and another the glory of the stars…. For star differeth from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead” (1 Co. 3:8; 15:41-42).
One is the glory of the sun , another the glory of the moon , and another the glory of the stars . It is no coincidence that these glories seem to be “summed up” in the image of Our Lady preserved in the apocalyptic vision recorded by St. John, to whom she was entrusted by the dying Savior: “And a great sign appeared in Heaven: A Woman clothed with the sun , and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars .”
Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his labor . Would Our Lord have allowed His Mother to suffer with Him on Calvary, yet refuse, then, to share with her the Kingdom won by Him?
For star differeth from star in glory. So also is the Resurrection of the dead . Could Jesus, the Judge of the living and the dead, refuse Mary the very honor and place to which she had been invited by the Blessed Trinity when she consented to become the Mother of the Redeemer and Co-Redemptrix? Though she, too, is one of the redeemed, she was the only one chosen to become a direct participant in the Redemption won for us by Jesus Christ — firstly, because of her part in the Hypostatic Union, whereby Divine and human natures were united in the One Person of Jesus Christ in and only in her womb and, secondly, through her maternal sorrows on Calvary.
While Mary’s kingdom is co-extensive with her Son’s — i.e., they rule it together — there is a particular sphere occupying the Virgin’s concern and labors. In the Salve Regina , we pray, “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy , our life, our sweetness and our hope.” In 1917, Pope Benedict XV decreed that Mary’s title, “Queen of Peace,” be added to her Litany. The outstanding, defining character of the Virgin’s Queenship is its maternal character, as was underscored by Pope Pius XII: “And this queenship of hers is essentially motherly, used only for our good.”
There is no person in the court of an earthly monarch who wields as much influence over him as does his queen. Ministers, secretaries, courtiers — these figures may be valuable assets to a ruler; they may earn his greatest regard and affection. But, in the sphere of advocacy , the queen towers above all, for, in the end, all others are still subjects of the king, while the queen remains his “consort.” The maternal quality of Mary’s Queenship, her unique reign as the “Queen of Mercy,” comes to the fore in her role as supreme Advocate for her children.
As in too many unfortunate cases, Our Lady’s detractors attempt to use her role of Advocate against her. This particular assault operates on the assumption that one individual is being snubbed or degraded merely because a certain positive or praiseworthy quality is attributed to a different individual, with whom the first is somehow connected. Therefore, if we praise a man as being a “good father,” yet neglect to offer some sort of similar praise to his wife in the very next breath… why, then, we must be implying that his wife is not a good mother! The enemies of Mary, pursuing this train of thought, assume that those who seek her intercession, calling her “Mother of Mercy,” must doubt the mercy of Jesus, or lack confidence in Him. As always, such unsound “logic” will lead to muddled thinking.
Because the Kingdom of Christ has been established as a monarchy , with its attendant hierarchical relationships, then Christ, the Son of God and Redeemer of mankind, is King. The Blessed Virgin is the Queen-Mother. The angels and blessed souls constitute the celestial Court. The concept of “advocacy” is implicit in the very structuring of this eternal Kingdom, and there can be no more efficacious or desirable Advocate than its Queen, as is demonstrated vividly by St. Louis de Montfort (+1716):
“She enriches our good works by adorning them with her own merits and virtues. It is as if a poor peasant, wishing to win the friendship and favor of the king, were to go to the queen and give her an apple — his only possession — for her to offer it to the king. The queen, accepting the peasant’s humble gift, puts it on a beautiful golden dish and presents it to the king on behalf of the peasant. The apple in itself would not be a gift worthy of a king, but presented by the queen in person on a dish of gold, it becomes fit for any king…. Thus Mary, who is never slighted by her Son but is always well received, prevails upon Him to accept with pleasure everything she offers Him, regardless of its value. Mary has only to present the gift for Jesus graciously to accept it. This is what St. Bernard strongly recommended to all those he was guiding along the pathway to perfection. ‘When you want to offer something to God, to be welcomed by Him, be sure to offer it through the worthy Mother of God, if you do not wish to see it rejected.’
“Does not human nature itself, as we have seen, suggest this mode of procedure to the less important people of this world with regard to the great? Why should grace not inspire us to do likewise with regard to God? He is infinitely exalted above us. We are less than atoms in His sight. But we have an Advocate so powerful that she is never refused anything. She is so resourceful that she knows every secret way to win the heart of God. She is so good and kind that she never passes over anyone no matter how lonely and sinful” ( True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Part II, Chap. 4, Para. 147, 149, 150).
III. Mary and the Holy Ghost
If “advocacy” is merely the pleading of another’s cause, then its use does not imply either that the one being petitioned through an advocate is some sort of tyrant who does not want to grant a request or favor, or that the one using an advocate feels this way. As we have seen in the Old Testament events quoted above, one who approaches God through an advocate is not making any implied criticism of God ; on the contrary, he admits his own unworthiness.
In fact, the Scriptures tell us that the role of advocate belongs principally to the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity. In the Gospel of St. John, the Holy Ghost is referred to as the Paraclete . The Greek word, parakletos , designates a legal advocate (as in the Latin, advocatus ) or intercessor, as well as a helper or comforter.
After Our Lord ascended into Heaven, He sent the Paraclete to instruct His Church, to inspire us to seek after the things of God, and to aid us in presenting our prayers to the Father:
“And I will ask the Father: and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you for ever : The Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, nor knoweth Him. But you shall know Him; because He shall abide with you and shall be in you” (Jn. 14:16-17).
“Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For, we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings , and He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what the Spirit desireth: because He asketh for the saints according to God” (Rom. 8:26-27).
As mortal men and women, beset by self-interest and disordered passions, we are not naturally creatures given to prayer. In His mercy, the Holy Ghost helpeth our infirmity by inspiring us to pray, even when we don’t know how or cannot bring ourselves to do it. During the Sermon on the Mount, Our Lord taught the crowd that “your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask Him.” God the Holy Ghost knows our needs — our true needs — better than we could ever hope to. Therefore, in His role as advocate, He asketh for us with unspeakable groanings . He “tunes” our prayers to their proper end, so that we may not pray in vain. In addition, He gives us an inner assurance of God’s mercy, to bolster our Faith: “For the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:16).
More than that, the Holy Ghost, like a good advocate, will counsel us when it is time for us to present our “case” to the world — i.e., when it is time to defend the True Faith:
“But when they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what to speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak: For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you” (Mt. 10:19-20).
If the title, “Advocate of the Church,” belongs properly to the Holy Ghost, why then do we call the Blessed Virgin by this title? — Because of the intimate relationship which exists, and has always existed, between the Holy Ghost and Mary, one that involves their laboring in tandem for the good of souls. By the primeval Divine decree, the very Redemption of the human race hinged on this relationship between the Third Divine Person and Our Lady:
“And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee . And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Lk. 1:34-35).
The very cornerstone of salvation — the Incarnation — is a miraculous work accomplished in tandem by the Holy Ghost and the Blessed Mother. We can say this with no fear of overemphasizing the connection between the two for a simple reason — namely, because Mary consented to her Divine Maternity: “Be it done to me according to thy word.” This consent made her an active participant in the Redemption of the human race, “because, as the first-born daughter of the Father, the perfect Mother of the Word, the beloved Spouse of the Holy Ghost, she is related in virtue of the Hypostatic Union to the whole Most Holy Trinity” (Pope Pius XII, Mary’s Universal Queenship , 1946).
Our Lady spent her entire life in a special union with the Holy Ghost. At her Immaculate Conception, He filled her soul with grace, and throughout her years on earth, she merited further increases of grace. “Know you not,” wrote St. Paul, “that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, Who is in you, Whom you have from God, and you are not your own (1 Cor. 6:19)?” If this is the case, then, we are justified in regarding Our Lady as the preeminent “Temple of the Holy Ghost”:
“It is said that the Holy Ghost dwells in the souls of the just. If this is so, then He must dwell in the most perfect manner possible in the soul of the Immaculata. Our Most Holy Mother is totally suffused with the Divine. For this reason we call her the Spouse of the Holy Ghost, even though we know that this name is only a distant shadow of the reality. For the Holy Ghost fashioned the humanity of Jesus in her womb, in a miraculous manner. If Jesus says of the souls of the just: ‘We will make our abode in them’ (John 14:23), then what an immense difference there must be between us and our most Blessed Mother, in regard to this indwelling!” (St. Maximilian Kolbe, Conference , April 9, 1938).
Our Lady’s earthly sojourn was one continuous oblation of herself to God. As a young girl, she served Him in the Temple. As a youth, she consecrated her virginity to His service. As a married woman, she nurtured and raised the Redeemer. On Calvary, she stood beneath the Cross as the Queen of Martyrs . After the Ascension of her Son, she prayed for, and taught, the Apostles and the infant Church. In fact, Pope Leo XIII wrote that the intercession of the Virgin “was of great avail both in the mystery of the Incarnation and in the coming of the Holy Ghost among the Apostles” ( Divinum illud , 1897). And in Heaven, Mary reigns as glorious Queen, while never for a moment forgetting her spiritual children on earth, interceding for them constantly and assisting them as the Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate:
“Our great Queen has gone on before us, she has gone on, I say, and has been gloriously received, so gloriously that we, her poor servants, walk with confidence after Our Lady, crying out to her, ‘Draw us: we will run after thee to the odor of thy ointments’ (Cant. 1:3). Our exiled race has sent home an Advocate, who, being the Mother of the Judge and also the Mother of Mercy, will be sure to advance the cause of our salvation, humbly, indeed, yet not less efficaciously” (St. Bernard +1153, Doctor of the Church, First Sermon for the Feast of the Assumption ).
Our Lady is rightly considered the one person who, among all who ever lived (excepting Jesus Christ in His Humanity, of course), was the most receptive to the inspirations and guidance of the Holy Ghost. If, then, as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit,” then the wonderful gifts showered upon Our Lady by the Holy Ghost will ultimately benefit us , her spiritual progeny, redeemed on Calvary by her Son and Lord. If the Third Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity “Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings,” then with what unutterable sighs will He not unite Himself to Our Lady’s petitions on our behalf? Ultimately, Mary’s labors are those of the Holy Ghost:
“Just as the Second Divine Person appears in the Incarnation as the ‘seed of the woman,’ so the Holy Ghost manifests His share in the work of the Redemption through the Immaculate Virgin who, although she is a person entirely distinct from Him, is so intimately associated with Him that our minds cannot understand it. So, while their union is not of the same order as the Hypostatic Union linking the human and Divine natures in Christ, it remains true to say that Mary’s action is the very action of the Holy Ghost. For Mary as the Spouse of the Holy Ghost is raised to such a height of perfection above all other creatures that she accomplishes in everything the will of the Holy Ghost Who dwelt in her from the first instant of her conception” (St. Maximilian Kolbe, Miles Immaculata I , 1938).
Should it surprise us, then, that the Holy Ghost, He Who “helpeth our infirmity” and “asketh for us with unspeakable groanings,” should allot to His Spouse, Mary, the title Advocate of the Church ? She is the Mother of the Redeemer, and the Mother of the Church. She is the Queen of Sorrows and the Queen of Heaven. After God Himself, who could love us more, or who could be more concerned for our welfare? “Who more than she has received the power to move God?” wrote Pope Leo XIII.
The very Lord Who deigned to be born of a human mother, and then, in His mercy, deigned to share her with those whom He redeemed, knows well that we will be instinctively drawn to this marvelous Woman, to our Spiritual Mother, just as we are drawn to our natural mothers. And if we are drawn to her, we will trust her to act on our behalf. Surely, it is no coincidence that in the oldest extant prayer to Our Lady so far discovered, the Sub Tuum Praesidium (3rd century), the petitioner expresses his confidence in the Virgin’s powers of advocacy:
“We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all danger, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin.”
The truly Catholic — i.e., truly Christian — understanding of Our Lady’s role of Advocate is as old as the Church herself. We find St. Irenaeus (+ c. 202), Father of the Church, already using the term “advocate” in reference to the Mother of God:
“And if the former [Eve] disobeyed God, the latter [Mary] was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience” ( Adversus Haereses , Book V, Chap. 19).
Even if this particular use of the term “advocate” relates, as some hold, solely to Mary’s place in salvation history through her cooperation in the Incarnation, there is still strongly present the sense that Our Lady freely labors for the good of souls. As the advocate of Eve, Mary’s obedience to God, her purity and faith, have made her the one who can, in effect, “plead” for mankind. Being what the Protestant poet William Wordsworth called “our tainted nature’s solitary boast,” the Blessed Virgin made manifest the fact that there was, indeed, a “just individual” on earth, and that God’s mercy could be displayed to the world through her, as it could have been displayed in times past, when Abraham interceded for sinful men, had the city of Sodom been worthy of Divine mercy.
Because Our Blessed Mother is unique in all creation, she is also unique as Advocate. “If he who prays does not merit to be heard,” writes St. Anselm (+1109), Doctor of the Church, “the merits of the Mother, to whom he recommends himself, will intercede effectually.” It has been proven down through the ages, time and time again, by scholars and lay folk alike, that there is not, nor can there be, any means more efficacious of approaching Our Lord than at the side of the Mother He loves in such a singular manner. She is a Woman of many titles, and all of them resound to the glory of the Blessed Trinity, and contribute to the joy and confidence of the Church.
To this day, the members of the Church continue to address the Mother of God, and our Mother, by her title of Advocate, and with the same confidence in her power and maternal love as has been felt by Catholics since the days of the Apostles:
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy. Our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate , thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus; O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.