“Because the virgin Mary was raised to such a lofty dignity as to be the mother of the King of kings, it is deservedly and by every right that the Church has honored her with the title of ‘Queen’.” – St. Alphonsus Liguori
The Feast of the Queenship of Mary was established by Venerable Pope Pius XII on October 11, 1954 (a year set aside in honour of Mary). In his encyclical letter, Ad Caeli Reginam (To the Queen of Heaven), he wrote that the purpose of this feast is “that all may recognize more clearly and venerate more devoutly the merciful and maternal [sovereignty] of the Mother of God.”1 The feast is celebrated each year on August 22nd, the 8th day (octave) after the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. The dates highlight the close relationship between these two celebrations. For, as soon as Mary was assumed into heaven, she was crowned Queen of both heaven and earth, and “is present in soul and body reigning, together with her only Son, amid the heavenly choirs of angels and Saints.”2
Mary, Mother of God
In naming Mary as Queen of heaven, Ven. Pope Pius XII was not defining a new truth. If we turn to Scripture, we see that in Luke 1:32-33, the Angel Gabriel announced that Jesus would be King over the house of Jacob forever. As the Mother of Jesus, Mary is our Queen. “The Fathers of the Church soon picked up these implications,” writes Fr. William G. Most. “A text probably coming from Origen (died c. 254) gives her the title domina, the feminine form of Latin dominus, Lord. That same title also appears in many other early writers, e.g., St. Ephrem, St. Jerome, St. Peter Chrysologus. The word ‘Queen’ appears about the sixth century, and is common thereafter.”3 The Christian tradition of referring to Mary as ‘Queen’ would eventually be reflected “in the Liturgy of the Hours (Hail Holy Queen, Queen of Heaven etc.), in popular piety (Litany of Loreto, Fifth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary etc.), and in Christian iconography.”4
What is Mary’s role as Queen?
There are several aspects that are characteristic of Mary’s queenship.
1. First of all, Mary has a greater dignity than any other created thing.
Mary “received privileges of grace above all other things created by God … [and] derived a certain eminence and exalted station from the royal dignity of her Son.”5 Not only was Mary preserved from the stain of original sin, but she received graces that surpassed that of all the saints. Mary is even above the angels, as we are reminded in the words from the Akathist Hymn: “Our tongue cannot worthily praise thee, O Lady; for thou who hast borne Christ the king art exalted above the seraphim. . . Hail, O Queen of the world; hail, O Mary, Queen of us all.”6
2. Second, Mary has a unique role in our redemption.
Although Mary’s Divine Motherhood is the foundation for her royal dignity, it is not the only reason we acknowledge her as Queen. It was God’s will that Mary should also have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation. She gave her fiat not only at the moment of Jesus’ Incarnation, but also at the time of His Passion and Death.
In his General Audience on August 22, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that, “Jesus’ kingship has nothing to do with that of the powerful of this earth. He is a King who serves his servants; he demonstrated this throughout his life; and the same is true of Mary. She is Queen in her service to God for humanity, she is a Queen of love who lives the gift of herself to God so as to enter into the plan of man’s salvation. … She is Queen precisely by loving us, by helping us in our every need; she is our sister, a humble handmaid. … How does Mary exercise this queenship of service and love? By watching over us, her children: the children who turn to her in prayer, to thank her or to ask her for her motherly protection and her heavenly help, perhaps after having lost our way, or when we are oppressed by suffering or anguish because of the sorrowful and harrowing vicissitudes of life.”7
3. Finally, Mary has an efficacious role as our intercessor.
Pope Pius wrote that Mary’s union with Christ is the source of “the inexhaustible efficacy of [her] maternal intercession before the Son and His Father.”8 When we entrust ourselves to Mary’s continuous intercession, she will obtain for us from her Son all the grace and mercy that we need. In the Old Testament, the mother of the king was a woman of great power and influence. She was the gebirah, the “Great Lady,” and she had tremendous power to advocate for her subjects with the king. For example, in 1 Kings 2:20, we read that King Solomon turned to his mother, Bathsheba, who was seated on a throne to his right, and said, “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.”9
Mary is our queen in much the same way. She has a mother’s heart, and she stands at the right hand of her Son, obtaining all she asks. He, too, will not refuse her. In fact, according to Pope Leo XIII, Mary has been given “‘almost immeasurable’ power in the distribution of graces.”10 The words of the Memorare remind us that we can turn to her, bringing our every need and concern and having complete trust and confidence in her love and care.
“Fr. Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt, often used the term, “a crown for a crown.” He taught that, when we give Mary a crown, she gives us a crown in return. In other words, for as much as we cherish her as our Queen, she cherishes us as her royal children. You could say, that she crowns us with her tender, motherly, love.” – Marge Fenelon, National Catholic Register (Aug. 22, 2016)
Consecrating Ourselves to Mary
When he established the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, Pope Pius asked that the world renew its consecration to Mary on this day each year. We can consecrate ourselves, our families, and our homes to Mary, crowning her in our hearts and placing ourselves under her loving protection as we recite the following words:
Act of Consecration
O Mary Immaculate Queen, glorious Queen of the Universe, most powerful Virgin, merciful Mother of a merciful God and refuge of sinners, we consecrate ourselves to thy Royal and Immaculate Heart.
It is through thee that Jesus Christ our King has come into the world to save it. It is also through thee that He is to reign over the world.
In order to obtain this great benefit for ourselves and all mankind, we come to thy feet to consecrate to thee our persons, our lives, all that we are, all that we have, all that we love. Keep us, enlighten us, dispose of us, reign over us.
May all hearts and all homes willingly proclaim thee as their Immaculate Queen.
O Mary Immaculate Queen, look down upon this distressed and suffering world. Thou knowest our misery and our weakness. O Thou who art our Mother, saving us in the hour of peril, have compassion on us in these days of great and heavy trial.
Jesus has confided to thee the treasure of His Grace, and through Thee He wills to grant us pardon and mercy. In these hours of anguish, therefore, thy children come to Thee as their hope.
We recognize thy Queenship and ardently desire thy triumph. We need a Mother and a Mother’s Heart. Thou art for us the luminous dawn which dissipates our darkness and points out the way to life. In thy clemency obtain for us the courage and the confidence of which we have such need.
Most Holy and Adorable Trinity, Thou Who didst crown with glory in Heaven the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Savior, grant that all her children on earth may acknowledge her as their Sovereign Queen, that all hearts, homes, and nations may recognize her rights as Mother and as Queen. Amen.
MARY IMMACULATE QUEEN
Triumph and Reign!11
- Sharon van der Sloot
1 Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Ad Caeli Reginam “To the Queen of Heaven” (October 11, 1954), 51; available from http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_11101954_ad-caeli-reginam.html; Internet; accessed 8 August 2017.
2 Ibid., 3. Venerable Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven on November 1, 1950. The feast of the Queenship of Mary was originally celebrated on May 31st. After the post-conciliar reform of the liturgical calendar (in 1969), Pope Paul VI changed the date of the celebration to August 22nd – eight days after the Solemnity of the Assumption – to emphasize the close bond between Mary’s royal nature and her glorification in body and soul beside her son.
3 Fr. William G. Most, “Mary’s Queenship,” EWTN [Catholic Website]; available from https://www.ewtn.com/faith/Teachings/marya6.htm; Internet; accessed 8 August 2017.
4 Anthony Buono, The Greatest Marian Titles: Their History, Meaning and Usage (New York: St. Pauls, 2008), 241. Buono goes on to observe that, “Five of the last seven invocations added by Popes to the Litany of Loreto have the title ‘Queen’ in them: ‘Queen conceived without original sin’ (Pius IX, 1854); ‘Queen of the Most Holy Rosary’ (Leo XIII, 1883); ‘Queen of peace (Benedict XV, 1917); ‘Queen assumed into heaven’ (Pius XII, 1951); and ‘Queen of families’ (John Paul II, 1995).”
5 Pope Pius XII, Ad Caeli Reginam, 8-9.
6 Akathist Hymn (Byzantine rite). Quoted by Pope Pius XII, Ad Caeli Reginam, 28.
7 Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience August 22, 2012; available from http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2012/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20120822.html; Internet; accessed 8 August 2017.
8 Pope Pius XII, Ad Caeli Reginam, 39.
9 Cf. Most, Mary’s Queenship.
10 Pope Pius XII, Ad Caeli Reginam, 42.
11 “Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Catholic Tradition; available from http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/mary-immaculate.htm; Internet; accessed 8 August 2017.