Mary, Co-Redemptrix in the Stabat Mater

Editor’s note: reminder to fulfill the First Saturday devotion according to the desires of Our Lady of Fatima. If you have already fulfilled it, offer up more First Saturdays for those who have not.


Mary Co-Redemptrix? Pius XI († 1939), the first Pope to attribute this title to “the Immaculate Virgin, chosen to be the Mother of God and thereby associated with Him in the work of man’s salvation,”[1] wrote about it one hundred years ago this past Thursday, on February 2, 1923.

Papa Ratti did so in his Apostolic Letter Explorata res, in which he teaches:

… nor would he incur eternal death whom the Most Blessed Virgin assists, especially at his last hour. This opinion of the Doctors of the Church, in harmony with the sentiments of the Christian people, and supported by the experience or all times, depends especially on this reason, the fact that the Sorrowful Virgin shared in the work of redemption with Jesus Christ.[2]

However, that kind of supernatural instinct which guides the people of God (known as sensus fidei) had already for some time made us celebrate the doctrine of the Co-Redemptrix in the sacred liturgy. The Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi († 1306) had sung in his Stabat Mater about the moving participation in the pain of Mary, present under the cross of Christ, and Marian co-redemption. Making our own the words of the Spanish writer Emilia Pardo Bazán († 1921), we recognize in that poem

a cry of pain that spans the centuries; inspirer of great painters and musicians, he made past generations cry and those of today. In fact, Jacopone’s Muse has never manifested herself more human than in the divine elegy of the Stabat Mater at the foot of the Cross.[3]

The sequence can be divided into two parts. In the first eight tercets the mystical poet probes the pain of the Madonna in seeing the Son hanging from the Cross.

Stabat Mater dolorosa / iuxta crucem lacrimosa, / dum pendebat Filius. // Cuius animam gementem, / contristatam et dolentem / pertransivit gladius. // O quam tristis et afflicta / fuit illa benedicta / Mater Unigeniti! // Quæ mœrebat et dolebat, / Pia Mater dum videbat / Nati pœnas incliti. // Quis est homo, qui non fleret, / Matrem Christi si videret / in tanto supplicio? // Quis non posset contristari, / Christi Matrem contemplari / dolentem cum Filio? // Pro peccatis suæ gentis / vidit Iesum in tormentis / et flagellis subditum. // Vidit suum dulcem natum / moriendo desolatum, / dum emisit spiritum.

Sorrowful, weeping stood the Mother by the cross on which hung her Son. // Whose soul, mournful, sad, lamenting, was pierced by a sword. // Oh how sad, how afflicted was that blessed Mother of the Only-begotten. // How did she mourn and lament, loving Mother, while she saw the torment of her divine Son? // What man would not weep if he saw the mother of Christ in such sorrow? // Who would not mourn with her, beholding Christ’s mother mourning with her Son? // For the sins of her race, she sees Jesus in torments and subjected to scourges. // She sees her dear Son dying in anguish, as he gives up the ghost.

The remaining ten tercets are a heartfelt and trusting supplication to the Sorrowful mother, so that she may make us feel her own compassion, so as to share in her pain, which is that of her Son, and to be able to weep together with Her (Fac me tecum pie flere): in her Immaculate Heart “the pain of the Son for the world’s salvation was reflected in a unique and incomparable way.”[4]

Eia Mater, fons amoris, / me sentire vim doloris / fac, ut tecum lugeam. // Fac, ut ardeat cor meum / in amando Christum Deum, / ut sibi complaceam. / Sancta Mater, istud agas, / crucifixi fige plagas / cordi meo valide. // Tui nati vulnerati, / Tam dignati pro me pati, / pœnas mecum divide. / Fac me tecum pie flere, / Crucifixo condolere, / donec ego vixero. // Iuxta Crucem tecum stare, / et me tibi sociare / in planctu desidero. / Virgo virginum præclara, / mihi iam non sis amara: / fac me tecum plangere. // Fac, ut portem Christi mortem, / passionis fac consortem, / et plagas recolere. // Fac me plagis vulnerari, / fac me Cruce inebriari / et cruore Filii. // Flammis ne urar succensus, / per te, Virgo, sim defensus / in die iudicii.

O Mother, fount of love, make me feel the strength of thy sorrow, that I may mourn with thee. // Make my heart burn with love for Christ my God, that I may please him. // Holy Mother, do this: fix the wounds of the Crucified firmly in my heart. // Share with me the pain of thy wounded Son, Who deigns to bear so much for me. // While I shall live, make me dutifully weep with thee, [make me] suffer with the Crucified. // I desire to stand beside the cross with thee, and to unite myself with thee in lamentation. // Foremost virgin of virgins, be not harsh to me now: make me weep with thee. // Make me a bearer of the death of Christ, make me a sharer in [his] Passion and to ponder his wounds. // Make me be wounded by [his] wounds, make me be inebriated with the cross and the blood of [thy] Son. // That I may not burn in flames, may I be protected by thee, holy Virgin at the day of judgment.

In particular, in the last two tercets Christ is invoked, through His Mother Co-Redemptrix, so that, having completed the earthly pilgrimage, he makes us reach the final victory and assures the glory of Heaven, of eternal joy.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire, / da per Matrem me venire / ad palmam victoriæ. // Quando corpus morietur, / fac ut animæ donetur / paradisi gloria. Amen.

Christ, when I depart from here, grant that through Thy Mother, I may gain the palm of victory. // When the body dies, grant my soul may enter the glory of paradise. Amen.

Great composers as Josquin († 1521), Palestrina († 1594), Lasso († 1594), Astorga († 1757), Vivaldi († 1741), Alessandro († 1725) and Domenico Scarlatti († 1757), Pergolesi († 1736), Boccherini († 1805), Haydn († 1809), Rossini († 1868), Verdi († 1901), Dvorak († 1904), Szymanowski († 1937), Poulenc († 1963), Bartolucci († 2013) and Penderecki († 2020) set that beautiful medieval sequence to music. We are grateful to Pius XI, the first Pope to write “Co-Redemptrix” in official documents, yet we should not underestimate the musical heritage that the Marian co-redemption has aroused.


[1] Leo XIII, Supremi Apostolatus officio, September 1, 1883, n. 2.

[2] Acta Apostolicæ Sedis, 15, 1923, p. 104.

[3] E. Pardo Bazán, San Francisco de Asís, Parigi 1890, p. 531. Our translation.

[4] John Paul II, Message for the II World Day of the Sick, December 8, 1993, n. 6.

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