The Rosary Light & Life - Vol 45, No 4, July-Aug. 1992

Theology for the Laity

The Queenship of Mary

By Father Paul A Duffner, O.P.

Of all the titles by which we honor the Virgin -Mary, few are older than that of "Queen," for the Scriptures clearly declare that she is the Mother of a King. Of her divine Son the Gospel of St. Luke tells us:

From the early centuries of Christianity, therefore, the faithful have addressed prayers and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mother of Christ the King. References to the queenly dignity of Mary are found both in ancient documents of the Church, and ancient books of sacred liturgy. Thus from the beginning of the Christian era the faithful have believed that Mary received privileges and graces above ail other members of the human race. And given the intimate connection between Mother and Son, they readily acknowledged the royal dignity of the Mother of God.


Since the kingdom of Christ "is not of this world" (Jn. 18:36), the Queenship of Mary is also not of a temporal nature. "Her royalty is spiritual and supernatural," says Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P., "rather than temporal and naturel, though it extends in a secondary way to temporal affairs considered in their relation to salvation and sanctification." (Mother of the Savior, ch.5)

Does the title of queen apply to Mary only in a wide and metaphorical sense, or in the strict sense of a sharing of Christ’s power? We shall see that just as Christ chose to associate His Mother with Him in an intimate way in His sacrifice for the redemption of mankind, so He chose to share with her in a unique way the power of dispensing the graces merited by that sacrifice. The term "queen," therefore, applies to Mary both in the wide sense because of her excellence and holiness, and in the strict sense because of her real dominion in Christ’s kingdom of grace.

However, Mary’s power as Queen is intercessory. When we say that her power in the distribution of graces extends to all souls, we do not mean that she is the source of those graces which are a sharing in the life of God; but that by her prayers she can obtain from her divine Son all the graces that are necessary for souls. Of her power of intercession Pope Pius IX wrote:

Fr. M.J. Nicolas, O.P., emphasizing the intercessory nature of Mary’s role, refers to the feminine character of all queenships. He points out that the royal spouse of an earthly monarch can wield immense power, not by being a minister of government, nor by her presence in the council chamber, but by her influence over the heart of the King. So too, the Heart of Jesus, as Pope Pius IX points out, cannot refuse what His Mother asks for in what pertains to the salvation of souls. Yet in her love and wisdom she will never ask for anything contrary either to the will of God or our best interest, which is always clearly known to her in the beatific vision of the Divine Essence.


In October of the Marian Year of 1954, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical "Ad Caeli Reginam" proclaiming the Queenship of Mary, and decreeing that the feast of Our Lady’s Queenship be celebrated throughout the world on May 31st. (It has since been moved to August 22). On May 13th of the following year, in a radio message to Fatima the Pope explained why Mary is entitled to be called Queen. In that address he said: "Jesus is King throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest. Through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him, Mary is Queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular election." We will briefly examine these four reasons for Mary’s Queenship.

  1. Queen by Grace: Even before the Incarnation of the Divine Son in the womb of Mary, the Angel Gabriel saluted her as "full of grace," a fullness that existed from the first moment of her Immaculate Conception. Of that fullness of grace Pope Pius IX wrote in his encyclical "Ineffabilis Deus:"

    "Wherefore far above all the angels and all the saints, so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of His divinity that this Mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in fully comprehending."

    That is why St. Thomas Aquinas does not hesitate to say that the Blessed Virgin Mary has "a certain infinite dignity from the infinite goodness that is God" (1,25,6,ad 4). For this reason Pope Pius XII states in the above mentioned encyclical, "it cannot be doubted that Mary most holy is far above all other creatures in dignity, and after her Son, possesses primacy over all." (40)

  2. Queen by Divine Relationships: GOD THE FATHER, of whom Mary is the first adoptive daughter and the highest in grace, selected Mary to be the Mother of His Son, whom He sent into the world to redeem mankind. GOD THE SON likewise chose Mary as His Mother, and by the foreseen merits of His passion and death endowed her with spiritual gifts and a fullness of grace beyond our power to comprehend. GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT chose her as His Virginal Spouse, infused into her soul the gifts of grace merited by the Son (Rom.5:5), and miraculously brought about the conception of the Divine Word in her womb.

    The unique relationship with all three Divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity establishes Mary at a level of dignity which is appropriately expressed by the title Queen. These relationships were established with a view of Christ’s Incarnation and birth as Son of Mary. Now, even as then, Christ is absolute ruler of the universe. Mary, as His Mother, is related by a true blood relationship to the King of Kings (Apoc. 19:16), and thus she properly reigns as Queen at the right hand of her Son. Of the relationship with Christ, her Son, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. writes:

    "Jesus Christ is King of the universe, even as man, in virtue of His divine personality. But Mary as Mother of God made man belongs to the hypostatic order and shares in the dignity of her Son, for His Person is the term of her divine motherhood. Hence she shares connaturally, as Mother of God, in His universal Kingship." (ibid.)

  3. Queen by Right of Conquest: As the new Eve, Mary was the helper of Christ in every phase of His work of redemption. Because she was the associate of Jesus on Calvary in winning all the graces of salvation, now as Queen of Heaven she is His associate in distributing those graces to mankind. She shares in His kingdom," says St. Albert the Great, "because she shared in His suffering for the human race." Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. echoes the same: "Mary was associated with Christ’s victory over Satan, sin and death by her union with Him in His humiliations and sufferings.. She is, therefore, really associated with Him in His Kingship." (ibid.)

    Forty days after His birth, Mary offered the Divine Infant to the Father in the Temple, an offering she would make again years later on Calvary. There in the Temple she heard Simeon’s prophesy that both He and she were destined to suffer (Lk. 2:22-35). When the time came she stood at the foot of the Cross, where she freely and fully joined with her Son’s sacrifice of Himself. Thus joined with Him in the Redemption of the human race, she became entitled to be called Co-Redemptrix. Of this Pope Benedict XV wrote:

    "To such extent did Mary suffer, and almost die with her suffering and dying Son; to such extent did she surrender her maternal rights over her Son for man’s salvation, and immolated Him—insofar as she could—in order to appease the justice of God, that we may rightly say she redeemed the human race together with Christ." (Apostolic Letter "Inter Sodalicia")

    Jesus Christ is King, as we saw, not only by natural right because of His divinity, but also by acquired right. He acquired that right (as Man) by his redeeming sacrifice on Calvary, where He freed us from the dominion of Satan, offered to the Father sufficient satisfaction for the sins of all the world, merited sufficient graces for the salvation of all, thereby opening again the gates of heaven.

    Since we can truly say, therefore, that Mary, along with Jesus, redeemed the human race, we can with equal truth say that she is Queen—by right of conquest. For whereas God seeks the cooperation of others in applying the grace acquired by His Son to mankind, His Mother Mary had the special privilege of cooperating (dependently on Christ) in the acquiring of that redeeming grace. She stood by her Son on Calvary, offered Him to the Father as a sacrifice, and merited—through Him, with Him, and subordinate to Him—the salvation of mankind.

  4. Queen by Singular Election: When we say that the Mother of Jesus is Queen by right of conquest, that must be understood in the sense that the Church understands it. She did not merit in the same way that Christ did. The rewards which Christ—a Divine Person— merited for mankind He merited in strict justice (de condigno), for His acts were as valuable as the reward given for them. However, when a human person (even one as holy as Mary) merits a reward for herself or others, it is a "merit of suitability" (de congruo), not one of strict justice. Her acts deserve a reward, not because they are as valuable as the ultimate reward (the beatific vision), but because they are proportionate to it. That is to say, the greater one’s merit at the end of this life, the greater will be his/her share in that ultimate reward—in the LOVE, and TRUTH, and GOODNESS, and BEAUTY, and WISDOM, and POWER that is God.

    Even though Mary enjoyed all the supernatural gifts that Adam had before the Fall, and a fullness of grace beyond our ability to comprehend, she could not have a strict right to the dignities and powers she now enjoys. They are hers because God, by a singular and special election, chose her to be Queen of Angels and men.


From what we have seen, it is clear that the Queenship of Mary is equally extensive as the Kingship of her divine Son, although in a way totally dependent on Him. It extends to all men and to all favors and graces granted to men. Not only do all graces come to us through Mary, as Pope Pius X stated in his encyclical "Ad Deum Illum," but all graces come to us because of her intercession. Theologians clarify Mary’s mediation of grace in this manner:

Because Mary is the Mother of Him who is Eternal Wisdom, and because of her key role in the divine plan of redemption, God has given her far-reaching knowledge of His eternal plan for the salvation of the human race. Jesus said to His apostles: "To you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God" (Mk. 4:11). How much more of the mystery of His Kingdom must He not have revealed to His Mother, whose position in that Kingdom was far more important than theirs. For in God’s plan it falls to her to distribute by her intercession all the graces that will establish the Kingdom of God in this world.

St. Thomas Aquinas points out that the Blessed in heaven, through the beatific vision, will know all they desire to know, and whatever in any way pertains to them (Supp. 72,1). And since Mary is the Mother of the whole of mankind, she knows the needs of each and every soul on this earth far better than each individual knows his own needs. This is a comforting thought to have a Mother who knows better than we what is best for us, and has full power to obtain it—if only we let her lead the way.

Whether we pray to Mary or not, every grace we receive from God comes only because she asked it for us. She prays for all her children, including those who do not know her, even those who ridicule devotion to her. As Pope Pius Xl stated: "Since on Calvary she had all mankind commended to her maternal soul, she no less cherishes and loves those who do not know they were redeemed by Christ, than those who happily enjoy the benefits of the redemption."

When we receive a favor through another saint without praying to Our Lady, even this favor is granted because she asked it for us, the other saint receiving it for us through Mary. This does not mean that it is superfluous to seek help through other saints. In the divine plan of creation, especially manifest in the Mystical Body, God dispenses His gifts to the lower creatures through the higher. If every gift from God comes to us through Mary, God can give us His gifts through the prayer and merits of those who are in heaven, or the prayers and merits of those on earth. It pertains to the glory of all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body—whether in heaven or on earth—"that they assist the needy in attaining salvation; for thus they become God’s helpers, than which nothing is more Godlike." (St. Thos. ibid.)

As to further extension of Mary’s Queenship, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange states:

"We have seen how Mary exercises her Queenship on earth. She exercises it in heaven also. The essential glory of the blessed depends on Jesus merits and hers. She contributes to their accidental glory—as well as to that of the angels—by the light she communicates to them, and by the joy they have in her presence and in the realization of what she does for souls. To both angels and saints she manifests Christ’s plan for the extension of His Kingdom. Her Queenship extends to purgatory also, for she prompts the faithful on earth to pray for the souls detained there and to have Masses said for them . . . Her Queenship extends to the demons too who are obliged to recognize her power, for she can make their temptation cease, can save souls from their snares, and can repulse their attacks . . . Thus her Queenship is truly universal." (ibid.)


We see now the exalted role of Mary in the Mystical Body of her Son, not only as Queen Mother of her divine Son, but as co-redemptrix with Him, and as the channel through which all grace flow to mankind. We see how the Queenship of Mary involves and explains her privilege as the Mediatrix of all grace. And finally we begin to understand why, when Pope Pius Xll instituted the feast of the Queenship of Mary, the feast of the Mediatrix of all Grace was removed from the Church calendar. The new feast of Mary as Queen is an implicit affirmation of the doctrine of her mediation.

It is most comforting and consoling to know that this most loving of all mothers, and this most powerful of all queens, is our Mother and our Queen, concerned about our salvation, and most powerful in helping us to attain it —if only we do not resist or ignore her admonitions and invitations. This should inspire us with greatest confidence to surrender our spiritual destiny in her hands through consecration to her Immaculate Heart as she asked at Fatima. For as Pope Pius Xll assures us "she has a royal right to dispose of the treasures of the Divine Redeemer’s Kingdom," which accounts for "the inexhaustible efficacy of her maternal intercession before the Son and His Father:" (ibid.)

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