Mary's month of May is the time to pray to her as Co-Redemptrix
Continuing the Church’s promotion of devotion to Mary during the month of May, Pope Paul VI wrote his encyclical Mense maio in 1965, further building on the widespread popular dedication of this time of year to the Blessed Virgin.
The opening lines of the encyclical are awash with Co-Redemptive theology, as Paul VI notes how “what other reason do we continually turn to Mary except to seek the Christ in her arms, to seek our Saviour in her, through her, and with her?”
The Pontiff also highlights how this dedication of may to Mary is not a recent innovation, as if borne from some exaggerated cult to the Blessed Mother. Rather, it is a custom of ages long since gone, borne out of the very natural, and proper, love and devotion with the Church fosters towards she who accompanied Christ in His Redemption.
“Because the month of May is a powerful incentive to more frequent and fervent prayers, and because our petitions more readily find access to her compassionate heart during it, it has been a favorite custom of Our predecessors to choose this month, dedicated to Mary, for urging the Christian people to offer up public prayers whenever the needs of the Church demanded it or some grave crisis threatened the human race.”
As part of this time dedicated to growing closer to Mary and thus to Christ, the Pope notes how Mary is the perfect model for the spiritual life, since she experienced all of the hardships of earthly life, yet poured herself out continually in the service and love of God.
“May she who experienced the cares and hardships of earthly life, the weariness of daily toil, the hardships and trials of poverty, and the sorrows of Calvary, come to aid the needs of the Church and the human race.”
Mary is the Mother of the Church, the type of the Church and the most perfect member of the Church. As Mediatrix of all graces she is perfectly placed to turn to in all our necessities. The Pope highlighted in particular the prayer requested by Our Lady at Fatima, the rosary, urging the bishops to encourage its recitation in their dioceses:
“Since this is a perfect occasion, do not fail to put repeated emphasis on the recitation of the Rosary, the prayer so pleasing to Our Lady and so often recommended by the Roman Pontiffs. It affords the faithful an excellent means of complying effectively and pleasingly with our divine Master's command: ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you’.”
However unfortunate it is therefore, that even though Paul VI in the same encyclical calls for Mary’s assistance during the current Second Vatican Council, it was that very same council which rejected pronouncing Mary as Co-Redemptrix out of ecumenical fears.
Before the Second Vatican Council, a multitude of requests were made by bishops regarding Mary’s mediation, with fifty bishops specifically requesting a definition of Mary as Co-Redemptrix.
A note sent in response to this petition stated that any such definition would not occur, due solely to ecumenical reasons, not any theological problems. The note read: “Certain expressions and words used by supreme Pontiffs have been omitted, which, in themselves are absolutely true, but which may be understood with difficulty by separated brethren. Among such words may be numbered the following: ‘Co-redemptrix of the human race’.”
Historians documenting the Council have also noted the anger from the progressive clergy at the moderately strong elements of Marian theology which were nevertheless contained with Lumen Gentium, despite the efforts of the ‘reformers.’
Perhaps in this month of May, therefore, the Church should once more pray with increased fervour that Mary will be publicly honoured under the title of Co-Redemptrix, as befits the Mother of God and companion of the Redeemer.