Our Lady is mother of all humanity because she co-operated with faith,
hope and charity in Christís work of restoring supernatural life to
The Blessed Virgin, "having entered the Father's eternal
kingdom, closer to her divine Son and thus closer to us all, can more
effectively exercise in the Spirit the role of maternal intercession
entrusted to her by divine Providence", the Holy Father said at the
General Audience of Wednesday, 24 September, as he discussed Mary's
motherhood in the order of grace. He went on to explain the meaning of
the Marian titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix. Here
is a translation of the Pope's catechesis, which was the 64th in the
series on the Blessed Virgin and was given in Italian.
1. Mary is mother of humanity in the order of grace. The Second
Vatican Council highlights this role of Mary, linking it to her
co-operation in Christ's Redemption.
"In the designs of divine Providence, she was the gracious
mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others and in
a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the
Lord" (Lumen gentium, n. 61).
With these statements, the Constitution Lumen gentium wishes
to give proper emphasis to the fact that the Blessed Virgin was
intimately associated with Christ's redemptive work, becoming the
Saviour's "generous associate", "in a singular way".
With the actions of any mother, from the most ordinary to the most
demanding, Mary freely co-operated in the work of humanity's salvation
in profound and constant harmony with her divine Son.
Our Lady's motherhood has universal scope
2. The Council also points out that Mary's co-operation was inspired
by the Gospel virtues of obedience, faith, hope and charity, and was
accomplished under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It also recalls
that the gift of her universal spiritual motherhood stems precisely from
this co-operation: associated with Christ in the work of Redemption,
which includes the spiritual regeneration of humanity, she becomes
mother of those reborn to new life.
In saying that Mary is "a mother to us in the order of
grace" (cf. ibid.), the Council stresses that her spiritual
motherhood is not limited to the disciples alone, as though the words
spoken by Jesus on Calvary: "Woman, behold your son" (Jn
19:26), required a restrictive interpretation. Indeed, with these words
the Crucified One established an intimate relationship between Mary and
his beloved disciple, a typological figure of universal scope, intending
to offer his Mother as Mother to all mankind.
On the other hand, the universal efficacy of the redeeming sacrifice
and Mary's conscious co-operation with Christ's sacrificial offering
does not allow any limitation of her motherly love.
Mary's universal mission is exercised in the context of her unique
relationship with the Church. With her concern for every Christian, and
indeed for every human creature, she guides the faith of the Church
towards an ever deeper acceptance of God's Word, sustains her hope,
enlivens her charity and fraternal communion and encourages her
3. During her earthly life, Mary showed her spiritual motherhood to
the Church for a very short time. Nonetheless, the full value of her
role appeared after the Assumption and is destined to extend down the
centuries to the end of the world. The Council expressly states:
"This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues
uninterruptedly from the consent which she gave in faith at the
Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the Cross,
until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect" (Lumen gentium,
Having entered the Father's eternal kingdom, closer to her divine Son
and thus closer to us all, she can more effectively exercise in the
Spirit the role of maternal intercession entrusted to her by divine
4. The heavenly Father wanted to place Mary close to Christ and in
communion with him who can "save those who draw near to God through
him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb
7:25): he wanted to unite to the Redeemer's intercession as a priest
that of the Blessed Virgin as a mother. It is a role she carries out for
the sake of those who are in danger and who need temporal favours and,
especially, eternal salvation: "By her maternal charity, she cares
for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by
dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home.
Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles
of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix" (Lumen gentium,
These titles, suggested by the faith of the Christian people, help us
better to understand the nature of the Mother of the Lord's intervention
in the life of the Church and of the individual believer.
5. The title "Advocate" goes back to St Irenaeus. With
regard to Eve's disobedience and Mary's obedience, he says that at the
moment of the Annunciation "the Virgin Mary became the
Advocate" of Eve (Haer. 5, 19, 1; PG 7, 1175-1176).
In fact, with her "yes" she defended our first mother and
freed her from the consequences of her disobedience, becoming the cause
of salvation for her and the whole human race.
Mary exercises her role as "Advocate" by co-operating both
with the Spirit the Paraclete and with the One who interceded on the
Cross for his persecutors (cf. Lk 23:34), whom John calls our
"advocate with the Father" (1 Jn 2:1). As a mother, she
defends her children and protects them from the harm caused by their own
Mary is close to those suffering or in danger
Christians call upon Mary as "Helper", recognizing her
motherly love which sees her children's needs and is ready to come to
their aid, especially when their eternal salvation is at stake.
The conviction that Mary is close to those who are suffering or in
situations of serious danger has prompted the faithful to invoke her as
"Benefactress". The same trusting certainty is expressed in
the most ancient Marian prayer with the words: "We fly to thy
patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our
necessities but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and
blessed Virgin" (from the Roman Breviary).
As maternal Mediatrix, Mary presents our desires and petitions to
Christ, and transmits the divine gifts to us, interceding continually on