The doctrine of Mary’s mediation of all graces is firmly rooted both in theological tradition and Sacred Scripture. As the Second Vatican Council states, the maternal mediation of Our Lady, subordinate to the one mediation of Christ, “in no wise obscures or diminishes [it], but rather shows His power” and fosters “the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.”
Did you ever wonder what “Mediatrix of All Graces” actually means, or what difference it makes in your daily life? Have you struggled trying to explain this title to non-Catholics? Mary’s universal mediation of grace from God to all humanity is indeed part of the Church’s ordinary teaching, but even devout Catholics may find it hard to understand and to share it with non-Catholics. Part one of this two-part article surveyed the history of Mary’s title as “Mediatrix of All Graces.” This second part will highlight some of the theology of this Marian doctrine through a brief presentation of some possible objections to the title. A Biblical response to each objection will provide a solid foundation for all Christians to understand Mary’s universal mediation of grace. This article aims to clarify the idea enough for each reader to be ready to handle some of the usual criticisms of this Marian doctrine.
Definition of Terms: What Does “Mediator” Mean?
To avoid confusing apples with oranges, a good place to start is with a solid definition of terms. St. Thomas Aquinas explained that a mediator is someone who is in the middle between two parties, and being both similar to and different from each side, the mediator unites the two sides. Christ is the perfect and unique Mediator between God and man because Jesus is both God and man; He freely accepted His death on a cross to satisfy for man’s sins, interceded for men with the Father, and then conferred the Father’s gifts on man to reunite man with God. St. Thomas Aquinas based his definition on St. Paul’s teachings on Christ as our Mediator.
Objection 1—and a Response
One of the most frequently quoted verses from St. Paul is 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus.” The emphasis on the singularity of Christ seems to mean that no one other than Jesus is a mediator. Therefore, how can Mary be a mediatrix?
As a general rule, read any Scripture verse within its context. In this case, 1 Timothy 2:5 comes right after verses 1-4, which contain St. Paul’s exhortation to pray for everyone. Thus, St. Paul presented prayer for others as a type of mediation between God and man and urged Christians to do this. In the wider context of St. Paul’s writings, he even described Moses, the lawgiver, as “a mediator between God and man” (Galatians 3:19). Thus, St. Paul himself provided the example of calling human beings mediators who intercede for others and give God’s law to others, implying that there is more than one type of mediation.
Thankfully, the precise St. Thomas Aquinas carefully distinguished between Christ’s mediation which is unique, perfect, principal, independent, and sufficient mediation; and everyone else’s mediation which is imperfect, insufficient, subordinate to Christ’s, and dependent on Christ’s mediation. Christ’s mediation transforms us into His Body, as St. Paul wrote (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:27). As part of Christ’s Body, we mediate in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ, to prepare others to believe in Christ and also to distribute to them the grace that ultimately comes from Christ.
Now, how is Our Lady a mediatrix? Sinless from the moment of her own conception in her mother’s womb, Mary has always been in a unique middle position between God, the all-holy Creator, and sinful human creatures. By her consent at the Annunciation, Mary united God and man literally in her womb as she conceived Christ who is true God and true Man. As the one Mother of Jesus, Mary is a unique mediatrix of Jesus, who is the source of all graces. Thus, in at least an indirect way, the Blessed Virgin is the Mediatrix of All Graces.
However, Mary’s mediation is in an entirely different category than Christ’s, because her creaturely mediation has always been imperfect and insufficient in the sense that she has never done any of this only by herself. She depends on God who created her immaculate from her conception and even now holds her in existence at every moment. It was God who received the Blessed Virgin’s consent to overshadow her for the Son of God to become incarnate in her womb. It was by the merits of Christ that His Mother was created immaculate and received the grace to remain sinless throughout her life. Therefore, it is God Himself who made Our Lady to be a universal mediatrix, starting with her Immaculate Conception, and continuing with the grace of her virginal conception of Christ. Her mediation between man and the God-man Jesus was then seen by a few at the wedding feast of Cana, proclaimed publicly by Christ on the Cross, and manifested at Pentecost. As St. Bernard taught, “It is God’s will that we receive everything through Mary.”
Thus, Mary’s mediation is real, and it is as perfect as a creaturely mediation can be, given that her mediation is secondary and dependent on Christ’s divine mediation which is primary and independent. Mary is filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit and cooperates with God’s grace to mediate grace to others. But this explanation prompts yet another question.
Objection 2—and a Response
St. Paul taught that the Holy Spirit gives all graces in the spiritual lives of all people. For example, see Philippians 2:13: “God works in you to will and to do”; 1 Corinthians 12:6: “God… does all things in all”; and Romans 8:14: “Those who are moved by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Are Catholics putting Mary in the place of the Holy Spirit?
No. As God, the Holy Spirit is the source of grace. Just as Mary’s mediation flows from her sinless union with Christ, Mary also works in complete harmony with and dependence on the Holy Spirit. It was precisely the Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary at the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1:35). At the Visitation, the Holy Spirit worked through Mary’s words to fill St. John the Baptist and then St. Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:15,41). And later, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon Mary in the form of a tongue of fire (Acts 1:14, 2:3-4). Mary cooperated freely with the Holy Spirit to form the Body of Christ physically in her womb, and she still collaborates with the Holy Spirit to form us into the part of the Mystical Body of Christ that we are called to be. As the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, Mary also shares in all he possesses—which includes grace—and in distributing all his graces. Thus, the Annunciation, the Visitation, and Pentecost also show Mary’s mediation of all graces in giving us Christ, in uniting us with Christ, and in providing the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to fill us.
Objection 3—and a Response
Christ established the Church as the instrument to distribute all graces through the Sacraments (Mt 16:18-19). Therefore, how can Mary be the Mediatrix of All Graces?
Again, the Church’s mediation does not exclude Mary’s. The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, Chapter 8, emphasized that Mary is a member of the Church. When Pope Paul VI proclaimed it, he added that she is also the Mother of the Church, because the Church is the Body of Christ, and she is the Mother of the Body of Christ.
As Mother of the Church, Mary’s mediation is prior to the Church’s, although also simultaneous with it because she is also a member of the Church. Mary’s motherhood of the Body of Christ began on earth but still continues in heaven, as her “other children” include “all those who follow the commandments and testify to Jesus Christ” (Rev 12:17).
Thus, similar to a mother who is not the source of the child in her womb, but rather the mediatrix of all things to her unborn child, God is our spiritual Father, and Mary, our spiritual Mother who mediates all graces to us from God, the source of physical and spiritual life.
Objection 4 – and a Response
Mary certainly mediates some graces to Christians, but how can she be said to mediate all graces? What about Old Testament graces before she even existed, or her own graces, which sounds like saying she redeemed herself, which is not true? What about sanctifying grace that is God’s life given directly to us, and sacramental grace that works by the very performance of the action?
There are many ways to answer the objection that Mary’s mediation is not universal. However, in this summary, two ideas stand out: (1) the definition of “mediatrix”; and (2) Mary’s inseparable union with Christ in the Redemption.
The definition of a mediator can resolve the issue of her own grace. A mediator—male or female—goes between two other parties. Thus, the very definition of “mediatrix” could be understood to exclude the idea of Mary mediating her own grace. This is where the title, “Mediatrix of All Graces,” can be helped by adding the phrase, “for others.”
Secondly, Mary’s inseparable union with Christ is the basis for the universality of her mediation for all others. As already explained, she is the spiritual Mother of the Body of Christ, i.e., of all those who are saved. This permanent association of Our Lady and Our Lord was prophesied by God’s punishment of the serpent in Genesis 3:15—“the woman and her seed” who, together, will be the enemies of the devil. Just as all people of all time are saved by Christ’s grace which flows from His obedient death and Resurrection, Mary has been Christ’s subordinate and dependent associate in His work of Redemption. Thus, just as Christ’s perfect, sufficient, primary, and independent mediation is a transcendent event that extends to all people and all types of grace, Mary’s subordinate and dependent mediation also extends to all graces for others—Old Testament, sanctifying, and sacramental graces.
A Biblical Foundation
Thus, Mary’s universal mediation of grace can be found in the Bible, from the first book to the last:
- Genesis 3:15, the Protoevangelium, is the first prophecy of Mary’s inseparable association with Christ in the Redemption.
- Luke 1 shows Mary’s mediation in Christ’s Incarnation at the Annunciation, and then at the Visitation, Mary’s words mediating the Holy Spirit to St. John the Baptist and St. Elizabeth.
- John 2:1-11 teaches us about Mary’s mediation at the wedding feast of Cana.
- Acts 1 and 2 shows Mary’s intercessory mediation of prayer in the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
- Many of St. Paul’s letters explain how the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.
- Revelation 12:17 demonstrates how the Mother of Jesus is also the Mother of the entire Mystical Body of Christ.
These Scriptural passages provide the strong premises for the logical deduction that Mary’s participation in Christ’s redemption in the past and His on-going salvation of each person in the present can rightly be called a “mediation of all graces.”
A Practical Application
While the above theological points are useful, what does it matter to one’s everyday life that Our Lady is the Mediatrix of All Graces? Knowing that Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces could have many practical applications:
- First, as her children, we should thank her for all that she has been and still is doing for us.
- Second, we can have confidence in asking for her intercession for any need.
- Third, we could try to cooperate with her. As any mother can tell you, it is much easier for a mother to help a cooperative child! But how can we cooperate with Mary? We can obey her command spoken at Cana, to “do whatever Jesus tells you” (cf. Jn 2:5), by listening to God’s Word handed down by the Church “by word of mouth and by writing” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) in the Gospels. We can contemplate Mary herself as a lived example, to imitate her; the meditations made by praying the Rosary daily are an easy and consistent way to study Mary’s actions and words in the Bible. We can then apply the virtues exemplified by Jesus and Mary to our situations in the family, at work, at school, etc.
But these few thoughts are just a start in an application that you may find even better ways to make in your own life.
This condensed overview has provided some Scriptural passages in responding to some of the common confusions about Mary’s universal mediation of grace. The brevity of this article does not allow for a more complete analysis. For those who might want to study Mary’s mediation more in depth, the book, The Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace: History and Theology of the Movement for a Dogmatic Definition from 1896 to 1964, can be purchased from the Academy of the Immaculate bookstore, found online. Part one of the book provides the history with its interesting intrigue, while part two gives the theology in greater detail. Hopefully, the more one knows about Jesus and Mary, the more one may love Jesus and His Mother, who is our maternal Mediatrix of All Graces.
 Cf. “Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces: History of a Movement from 1896 to 1964,” Missio Immaculatae International, vol. 13, no. 3 (May / June 2017), 9-11.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, Q. 26, a. 1 and 2, and III Supplement, Q. 90, a.2, corpus.
 Sermon on the Nativity of Mary.