From the earliest days of the Church, Mary has been known for her great intercessory power. In the 3rd century, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons described her as an “advocate.”1 Why do we need an advocate? Scripture tells us that we are all sinners and, one day, we will be judged for our actions.2 Just as in a court of law it would be foolish to try to defend ourselves, we need someone to stand beside us and defend us, someone who understands intimately the ways of God. That someone is Mary.
If we try to “go it alone,” we will fail miserably and only be a burden to ourselves. Truly, the Lord doesn’t want us to fail, to stand accused and be found wanting. He’s given us His very Mother to be our most impassioned advocate and guide, to plead our case before God. She knows exactly what to ask. Just as Jesus won’t force His way into our lives, Our Blessed Mother is always there, waiting for us to ask for her help.
Mother Mary not only pleads for us individually, she is also the advocate for all humanity. This is really what the Early Church Fathers were getting at when they gave her the title of Advocate. “If the former [Eve] disobeyed God, the latter [Mary] was persuaded to obey God, so that the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve.”3 She helps restore the covenant that’s been broken with God – in essence, to “win back our favour” with Him.
As one like us – sharing “our afflictions in this valley of tears”4 – Mary is most suited to teach us to respond to the work of grace in our own souls. There’s a wonderful prayer from the early Church that we can use to call on our Blessed Mother. It’s best known by its Latin name, Sub Tuum:
We fly to your patronage,
O holy Mother of God,
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin.
– Kelley Holy
1 Anthony M. Buono, The Greatest Marian Titles (New York: The Society of St. Paul), 1.
2 Cf. Romans 3:23, Romans 2:6
3 Scott Hahn, Hail, Holy Queen (New York: Doubleday), 42.
4 Buono, 6.