Mary’s many titles: their origins and implications — part 4

by Sean M. Wright

North Texas Catholic

mary and baby Jesus
Our Lady by Jan Matejko, 19th century

The Memorare, a prayer of consolation pleading the aid of our heavenly Mother, has been attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the most dynamic preacher in the 1100s. For centuries past the Lady Mary has been invoked by her children to soothe, comfort, and intercede; her patronage is sought in various fields of endeavor.


Co-Redemptrix; Mediatrix

Catholics honor Mary as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all graces. Neither honorific is dogmatic, and both depend solely on Mary’s relationship to Jesus.

Jesus Christ is humanity’s only Redeemer: (John 1:29; 1 Peter 2:24 et al). Co-Redemptrix primarily refers to Mary’s fiat, “Be it done unto me” (Luke 1:38). She cooperated with God the Father, allowing God the Holy Spirit to make her womb the tabernacle for God the Son, who, when grown, took away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Jesus is also the one Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:15). “The recourse we have to Mary in prayer,” Pope Leo XIII wrote in 1894, “follows upon the office she continuously fills by the side of the throne of God as Mediatrix of Divine grace.” In 1987, Pope St. John Paul II further explained Mary’s action as Mediatrix being part of her maternal care as Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Intercessor with Jesus, her Son.


The Woman

St. John records Jesus twice referring to Mary, not as “Mother” but as “Woman” during the wedding feast in Cana (John 2:4); and, again, from the cross (John 19:26). There really is no mystery here. By so addressing Mary at the beginning and end of His redemptive career, Jesus identified her as the promised Woman in Genesis 3:15.

Following Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God turned His wrath on the serpent, grimly promising: “I will place enmity between you and the Woman; between your seed and her Seed; He shall crush your head; and you shall bruise His heel.” Wisdom 2:24 and Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 make clear, “that ancient serpent … is called the Devil and Satan.”

So, from the start, God promised that Mary and her Son would regard Satan with “enmity,” i.e., the deepest form of hostility, antagonism, antipathy, animosity, detestation, and loathing. As Mary’s Savior, God, the Lord of History, willed the chasm separating the Woman from Satan’s lure, applying the fruits of her Son’s later act of atonement.

Beginning with her first moment of life, God provided for this Woman, Mary, to be a fit habitation for the Word Incarnate. From this biblical evidence the Church teaches the Immaculate Conception as a revealed truth.  

The New Eve

Saints Justin Martyr (c. 160) and Irenaeus (c. 190) called Mary the New Eve. Eve, the “Mother of all the living,” (Genesis 3:20) brought death into the world by her disobedience, they taught. Conversely, by her obedience, Mary “put right what once went wrong,” bringing into the world the source of everlasting life.

Adam and Eve were immaculately conceived, as were Jesus and Mary. Jesus became the New Adam (I Corinthians 15:45); Mary became the New Eve.


Queen of Heaven

We’ve already seen Mary’s queenship existing by virtue of her being the mother of Jesus, the King of kings. The New Testament tells us that Jesus is enthroned in heaven at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:56). Following the scriptural typology of Solomon and his mother in 1 Kings 2:18-19, Mary is surely enthroned at the right hand of her Son, Solomon’s successor in the line of Davidic kings.


Madonna (My Lady); Our Lady

Derived from the Latin: Mea Domina, “My Lady”, a deferential greeting offered a highborn, patrician woman, it became the French: Madame; and the medieval English: Milady. The vernacular Italian salutation developed into Madonna. All these were spiritually personalized into loving, reverential terms when calling on the Blessed Virgin.

In community prayer, Mary is warmly addressed as Dominæ Nostræ, or Notre Dame, or Nostra Signora, or Our Lady. This reflects the fact that, from the cross, Jesus gave His mother to be our mother.


Our Lady of the Snows
Altarpiece of Our Lady of the Snows by Matthias Grunewald, 1517 - 1519

Our Lady of the Snows

One hot Roman summer, the story goes, during the pontificate of Pope Liberius (352–366), an elderly, childless, patrician couple entreated the Virgin to show how they might dispose of their wealth. On August 5, snow fell overnight on the summit of the Esquiline Hill. One version of this tale says the snowfall delineated the exact dimensions of a basilica.

The church, originally called Our Lady of the Snows, is known today as St. Mary Major, one of Rome’s patriarchal basilicas. The optional memorial of the church’s dedication falls on August 5.


Mother of the Holy Eucharist (Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament)

            Mary brought divine humanity into the world, the very essence of this most wondrous of sacraments. Nourished by His mother, from her Jesus assumed the flesh and blood by which He spiritually nourishes us in the Most Holy Eucharist. I’ve put into verse St. Augustine’s explanation of this sublime paradox:

He, whom the heavens cannot contain,

One woman’s womb did constrain.

She ruled our Ruler;

She carried Him in Whom we live;

She, to our Bread, her milk did give. 

May 13 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament.


Our Lady of Victory

The Ottoman Empire prepared an overwhelming threat to the West in 1570. Only Spain, Venice, and Genoa answered Pope St. Pius V’s appeal, joining the Papal States in what was called the Holy League. Pius V implored all Catholics to pray the Rosary for the expedition’s success.

On October 7, 1571, 206 Christian galleys engaged nearly 300 Moorish craft at Lepanto in the Gulf of Patras, decisively crushing the Islamic threat for the next 400 years.

St. Pius, attributing the triumph to the Virgin’s intercession, in thanksgiving named October 7 the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Pope Gregory XIII renamed it the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary. St. John XXIII changed it to the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary. In 1969 St. Paul VI made “Our Lady of the Rosary” an obligatory memorial.


Our Lady of the Airways

In 1948 Father Ralph Egan started a mission church for Catholics in Malton, near the in-construction Malton International Airport (now Pearson International, Toronto, Canada). The priest was eager to have the Virgin Mary’s patronage. Possessing a wry sense of humor, with the church near an airport and all the planes overhead, Fr. Egan thought up the name “Our Lady of the Airways.” Many parishes near airports are now dedicated to the Virgin under this title.

Our Lady of the Airwaves (Our Lady of Television)

            In 1952, Bishop (later Archbishop) Fulton J. Sheen began hosting a high-successful, Emmy-winning TV program, “Life is Worth Living,” currently being rerun Sunday afternoons on EWTN. Sheen affectionately referred to the set’s statue alternately as Our Lady of the Airwaves or Our Lady of TV. Copies were sold to aid the Church’s missionary arm, the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, then led by Bishop Sheen.


Our Lady of the Highways

At war’s end in 1945, driving restrictions eased. Americans took to their cars and a new Marian title was coined. For decades, in successive cars, my parents had a beautiful silver visor clip of St. Christopher paired with “Our Lady of the Highways.” Shrines and parishes were soon established to Mary under this title across the nation, and a special prayer written.

O Lady of the Highways, be with us on our journey, for all thy ways are beautiful and all thy paths are peace. O God, who with unspeakable providence doth rule and govern the world, grant unto us, your servants, through the intercessions of our watchful Mother, to be protected from all dangers and brought safely to the end of our journey. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Our Lord. Amen.


- - - 

Many thanks are due my good friends, Lourdes Brent and Theresa Jorsz, along with my son, DeForeest, who went the extra mile for me, helping locate information for this series. It is with much pleasure I acknowledge their assistance.


Sean M. Wright, an Emmy-nominated television writer, is a Master Catechist in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and an instructor within his parish’s RCIA team. He answers comments sent him at .     

Mary holding baby Jesus

The Memorare, a prayer of consolation pleading the aid of our heavenly Mother, has been attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the most dynamic preacher in the 1100s.