Closely related to the Catholic teaching on Mary's cooperation in the redemption is the teaching that, with through and under her Son, she is Mediatrix of all graces. What exactly does this mean?
The term Mediatrix in itself could refer to either the objective redemption (the once-for-all earning a title to grace for all men), to the subjective redemption (the distribution of this grace to individual men), or to both. It is most usual to use it to refer only to subjective redemption, i.e. , the process of giving out the fruits of the objective redemption, throughout all centuries. We must consider whether or not the term Mediatrix applies to all graces or only to some. We will ask also about the nature of the mediation: is it only by way of intercession, that is, does Mary simply pray to her Son that he may give us grace, or does God also use her as an instrument in distributing grace.
To begin, we can say without doubt that the title "Mediatrix" is justified, and applies to all graces for certain, by her cooperation in acquiring all graces on Calvary.
The Second Vatican Council (Lumen gentium ## 61-62), said:
... in suffering with Him as He died on the cross, she cooperated in the work of the Savior, in an altogether singular way, by obedience, faith, hope, and burning love, to restore supernatural life to souls. As a result she is our Mother in the order of grace.
This motherhood of Mary in the economy of grace lasts without interruption, from the consent which she gave in faith at the annunciation, and which she unhesitatingly bore with under the cross, even to the perpetual consummation of all the elect. For after being assumed into heaven, she has not put aside this saving function, but by her manifold intercession, she continues to win the gifts of eternal salvation for us. By her motherly love, she takes care of the brothers of her Son who are still in pilgrimage and in dangers and difficulties, until they be led through to the happy fatherland. For this reason, the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adiutrix, and Mediatrix. This however it to be so understood that it takes nothing away, or adds nothing to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator. For no creature can ever be put on the same level with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer...."
We notice that Vatican II did not add the words "of all graces." However, as many papal texts point out, Mary's role in dispensation flows logically from her role in acquiring all graces. Further, the Council itself added a note on the above passage, in which it refers us to the texts of Leo XIII, Adiutricem populi, St. Pius X, Ad diem illum, Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor, and Pius XII, Radiomessage to Fatima.
Leo XIII, in the text referred to, spoke of her, as we saw above, as having "practically limitless power." St. Pius X said she was the "dispensatrix of all the gifts, and is the "neck" connecting the Head of the Mystical Body to the Members. But all power flows through the neck. Pius XII said "Her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion." These and many other texts speak in varied ways of Mary as Mediatrix of all graces, so often that the teaching has become infallible.
Protestants object to this , saying that there is only one mediator: 1 Tim 2:5. We agree that there are many ways in which Christ is the only mediator between God and man. 1) There is only one mediator who is such by very nature, being both true God and true man. 2) There is only one mediator whose whose work is necessary, without whom, in God's plan, there could be no salvation. 3) There is only one mediator who depends on no one else for power.
Mary differs on all three counts. 1) Mary only a creature, but it was appropriate that God be freely choose her as Mediatrix because he had made her Mother of the God-man, the Redeemer--it was she who on behalf of the whole human race consented to God's plan of salvation by proclaiming herself the handmaid of the Lord. 2) Her role was not necessary, since Christ was and is the perfect Redeemer and the perfect Mediator. Rather, Mary was associated with her Son by the free decision of the Father, a decision which we cannot ignore. 3) Her whole ability to do anything comes entirely from her Son, and hence we are not contradicting Lumen gentium # 62 which says no creature can be ever counted together with Him.
Really, the Father did not need her at all, except that if He decreed the incarnation, He necessarily decreed a Mother: she was and is that Mother. But everything else in which He has employed her is not needed.
Yet, if we recall the economy of redemption, it is clear that the Father wants everything to be as rich as possible, so that He will not stop with something lesser if there is more than can be done. Really, the incarnation in a palace, without death, would have been infinite in merit and satisfaction, as we have seen in the section on her cooperation in the redemption.
Further, the principle of St. Thomas helps here. In Summa Theologiae I. 19. 5. c., Thomas says that it pleases God to have one thing in place to serve as a title or reason for granting something further, even though that title does not move Him. It is His love of all goodness and good order that leads Him to act this way. Hence too, even though Calvary earned infinite forgiveness and graces, the Father wills to provide titles for giving out these, in the Mass. Even though He did not need even our Lady, yet He willed to employ her. Even though there is no need of any other saints, in objective or subjective redemption, yet He wills to add them--all to make everything, every title, as rich as possible.
Lumen gentium speaks of her as taking care of all her children. We are extremely numerous, but yet not infinite in number. Therefore, we are not too numerous for her to see and care for. For her capacity for that infinite vision of God is in proportion to her love on earth, so great that Pius IX, as we saw, said it was so great that "none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it."
Is her mediation merely by intercession, prayer for us to her Son and to God the Father? Or does she also play a role in the distribution of graces from the Father through her Son to us? Many today, influenced by Protestant theology, tend to speak of grace merely as favor, and so say grace is not a thing given. But that would imply Pelagianism, the heresy that says that we can be saved by our own power. For if God merely sits there and smiles at me, and gives me nothing, that would mean that I had to do it by my own power.
So we answer, since Mary was associated with her Son in acquiring grace for us, she will also share with him in distributing that grace to us. This fits well with the words of the Popes, who call her the administra of grace, meaning that she administers or dispenses it. So Pope Leo XIII, Iucunda semper, said:
"... when He [the Father] has been invoked with excellent prayers, our humble voice turns to Mary; in accordance with no other law than that law of conciliation and petition which was expressed as follows by St. Bernardine of Siena : 'Every grace that is communicated to this world has a threefold course. For by excellent order, it is dispensed from God to Christ, from Christ to the Virgin, from the Virgin to us.'"
Excerpted and adapted from Theology 523: Our Lady in Doctrine and Devotion, by Father William G. Most.
Copyright (c) 1994 William G. Most