The 22nd of August in the liturgical calendar features the liturgical of the Queenship of Mary. In this day and age, where monarchical titles seem out of fashion and something of the distant past, what sense can we have when we refer to the Queenship of Mary?
The encyclical of Pope Pius XII on proclaiming the Queenship of Mary, Ad Caeli Reginam, which was issued in Rome on 11 October 1954, seems to give convincing and enlightening responses to such a valid question.
To begin with, the Queenship of Mary shows the longstanding tradition of Catholic Christians to invoke Mary as Queen. Pope Pius XII writes:
From the earliest ages of the catholic church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother’s solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen (nro.1).
Secondly, the Queenship of Mary, whose title has always been revered in the Church, helps us appreciate that intimate connection between the Son, the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and his Mother. If the Son’s dignity is so supreme how can one fail to acknowledge the dignity that He bestowed on his Mother! To support such a stance Pope Pius says:
In this matter We do not wish to propose a new truth to be believed by Christians, since the title and the arguments on which Mary’s queenly dignity is based have already been clearly set forth, … (no. 2). From early times Christians have believed, and not without reason, that she of whom was born the Son of the Most High received privileges of grace above all other beings created by God. He “will reign in the house of Jacob forever,” “the Prince of Peace”, the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” And when Christians reflected upon the intimate connection that obtains between a mother and a son, they readily acknowledged the supreme royal dignity of the Mother of God (no.8).
Thirdly, the Queenship of Mary calls on the Pope, the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of Saint Peter, to uphold what great theologians always taught about this Marian title.
The theologians of the Church, deriving their teaching from these and almost innumerable other testimonies handed down long ago, have called the most Blessed Virgin the Queen of all creatures, the Queen of the world, and the Ruler of all (no.22). The Supreme Shepherds of the Church have considered it their duty to promote by eulogy and exhortation the devotion of the Christian people to the heavenly Mother and Queen (no.23).
Fourthly, the proclamation of the Queenship of Mary is a thorough appreciation of the Church on Mary’s special role in salvation history.
But the Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation. “What more joyful, what sweeter thought can we have” – as Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI wrote – “than that Christ is our King not only by natural right, but also by an acquired right: that which He won by the redemption? (no.35).
Fifthly, the Queenship of Mary is an urgent invitation to all creation to return to its holy origin. The Holy Father explains this important point when he says:
Now, in the accomplishing of this work of redemption, the Blessed Virgin Mary was most closely associated with Christ; and so it is fitting to sing in the sacred liturgy: “Near the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ there stood, sorrowful, the Blessed Mary, Queen of Heaven and Queen of the World.” Hence, as the devout disciple of St. Anselm (Eadmer, ed.) wrote in the Middle Ages: “just as . . . God, by making all through His power, is Father and Lord of all, so the blessed Mary, by repairing all through her merits, is Mother and Queen of all; for God is the Lord of all things, because by His command He establishes each of them in its own nature, and Mary is the Queen of all things, because she restores each to its original dignity through the grace which she merited (no.36).
Sixthly, the Queenship of Mary is a splendid opportunity to consecrate humanity to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of God. In Caeli Reginam Pope Pius XII exhorts:
Since we are convinced, after long and serious reflection, that great good will accrue to the Church if this solidly established truth shines forth more clearly to all, like a luminous lamp raised aloft, by Our Apostolic authority We decree and establish the feast of Mary’s Queenship, which is to be celebrated every year in the whole world on the 31st of May. We likewise ordain that on the same day the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary be renewed, cherishing the hope that through such consecration a new era may begin, joyous in Christian peace and in the triumph of religion (No.47).
Seventhly and lastly, the Queenship of Mary is the hope for persecuted Christians that they too will experience, through her powerful maternal help, the freedom to profess and practice their faith. Pope Pius XII prays:
In some countries of the world there are people who are unjustly persecuted for professing their Christian faith and who are deprived of their divine and human rights to freedom; up till now reasonable demands and repeated protests have availed nothing to remove these evils. May the powerful Queen of creation, whose radiant glance banishes storms and tempests and brings back cloudless skies, look upon these her innocent and tormented children with eyes of mercy; may the Virgin, who is able to subdue violence beneath her foot, grant to them that they may soon enjoy the rightful freedom to practice their religion openly, so that, while serving the cause of the Gospel, they may also contribute to the strength and progress of nations by their harmonious cooperation, by the practice of extraordinary virtues which are a glowing example in the midst of bitter trials (no.50).
This interesting journey helped me understand and appreciate more Pope Francis’ insight on tradition when he said: Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Let us make our own the prayer to Mary, Queen of Heaven, which came from the heart of Pope Pius XII:
From the depths of this vale of tears where sorrowing humanity makes weary progress, through the surges of this sea of ours, endlessly buffeted by the winds of passion, we raise our eyes to you, O most beloved Mother Mary, to be comforted by the contemplation of your glory and to hail you as Queen of heaven and earth, Queen of mankind.
With legitimate filial pride, we wish to exalt your queenship and to recognize it as due to the sovereign excellence of your whole being, O dearest one, truly mother of him who is King by right, by inheritance and by conquest.
Reign, O Mother and Queen, by showing us the path of holiness and by guiding and assisting us that we may never stray from it.
In the heights of heaven you exercise your primacy over the choirs of angels who acclaim you as their sovereign, and over the legions of saints who delight in beholding your dazzling beauty. So, too, reign over the entire human race, above all by opening the path of faith to those who do not yet know your Divine Son.
Reign over the Church, which acknowledges and extols your gentle dominion and has recourse to you as a safe refuge amid the calamities of our day. Reign especially over that part of the Church which is persecuted and oppressed; give it strength to bear adversity, constancy never to yield under unjust compulsion, light to avoid falling into the snares of the enemy, firmness to resist overt attack, and at every moment unwavering faithfulness to your kingdom.
Reign over men’s minds, that they may seek only what is true; over their wills, that they may follow solely what is good; over their hearts, that they may love nothing but what you yourself love.
Reign over individuals and over families, as well as over societies and nations; over the assemblies of the powerful, the counsels of the wise, as over the simple aspirations of the humble.
Reign in the streets and in the squares, in the cities and the villages, in the valleys and in the mountains, in the air, on land and on the sea; and hear the pious prayers of all those who recognize that yours is a reign of mercy, in which every petition is heard, every sorrow comforted, every misfortune relieved, every infirmity healed, and in which, at a gesture from your gentle hands, from death itself there arises smiling life.
Obtain for us that all who now in every corner of the world acclaim and hail you Queen and Lady may one day in heaven enjoy the fullness of your kingdom in the vision of your Divine Son, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, live and reign forever and ever. Amen.