On August 22, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates a memorial in honor of the Queenship of
Mary. This memorial is placed an octave, that is, eight days after celebrating Mary's Assumption
into Heaven. The Queenship can be considered a prolongation of the celebration of the
Queen and Lady
Christ, the slain and risen Lamb, is "King of kings and Lord of lords." (Rv 19:16) On
earth, though, he was not a king according to the categories of this world (cf. Jn 18:36): he
reigned from the cross and with the power of love. Furthermore, the King, paradoxically, was the
Servant of his subjects. He washed their feet (cf. Jn 13:4-5), gave his life for them
(cf. 1 Jn 3:16; Eph 5:2; Jn 15:13), and wanted their relationships to be shaped by his
example of love (cf. Jn 13:34-35, 15:12.17) and mutual service (cf. Jn
13:14-15; Mt 20:25-28; Mk 10:42-45; Lk 22:24-27).
Mary is Queen and Our Lady because of Christ and like Christ. Vatican II, sanctioning a tradition
going back to the fourth century, reaffirmed authoritatively the doctrine of Mary's regality:
"When her earthly life was over," she was "exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that
she might be the more fully conformed to her Son." (Lumen Gentium 59)
Today there is a noticeable reluctance to apply the title "queen" to the Blessed
Virgin. It is judged
to belong to a bygone age. Some say it brings to mind more a Mariology of privileges than a
Mariology of service. This discussion has provoked a useful examination of the nature of Mary's
regality, its theological basis and the biblical background against which it has to be understood.
(For the theological foundations of Mary's regality there is abiding value in the encyclical of Pius
XII, Ad caeli Reginam, October 11, 1954), in AAS 46 (1954),
Despite the contemporary controversy, in present-day constitutions the titles "Queen"
come up with a certain regularity and have substantially the same meaning. In some cases,
perhaps, it is possible to note a difference between them. The title Queen is used to
indicate, in an almost official way, the final state of the Virgin, seated beside her Son, the King
of glory. The title Lady is used with a tone and in a context that are more familial; it
alludes to her presence as mistress of the place--monastery or convent--where the members of the
institute have placed themselves voluntarily at her service and are engaged in the radical
following of Christ.
The titles Queen and, consequently, the acknowledgment of the
Virgin's "dominion," are very frequent in Benedictine monasticism. Their use
underwent a notable development in the Cistercian reform movement and in the orders of evangelical--apostolic life
that arose from the beginning of the twelfth century onwards. The famous antiphon Salve
Regina misericordiae, already known in the eleventh century, is perhaps the most
characteristic expression of the way in which the monks and friars turned in supplication to the
Blessed Virgin. But in that era, along with the vigorous affirmation of Mary's regality, her
maternal dimension and mediating function are attested with equal conviction. In Mary, the
exercise of regality is maternal service of compassion. This thought led, already in the thirteenth
century, to modifying the beginning of the antiphon with the inclusion of the term
Mother: "Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy."
From that time onwards the paired terms "queen" and "Mother" appeared
often in liturgical, legislative and ascetical texts of institutes of consecrated life. At times they took on an official
character, as in the case of the Carmelite family, for whom the Blessed Virgin is the
"Queen and Mother of Carmel...."
Sometimes, for example, the title "queen" refers to the glorious destiny and dignity
of the Mother of the Lord, now fully conformed to her Son and sharing in his regality. Members of institutes of
consecrated life look with joy to this reality of grace and willingly place themselves under the
protection of the Queen of mercy. In other cases, attention is drawn to the way she reigns--like
her Son, by the power of love alone--and to the domain where she exercises her regality--in the
interior domain, i.e., in the person's heart. This is highlighted in the DeMonfort
tradition where she is called "Queen of hearts."
At other times the title is related to the eminent way in which Mary of Nazareth practiced the
evangelical virtues. She is the Queen of virtues, Queen of humility, Queen of purity, etc.
Consecrated persons contemplate her virtues and strive to reproduce in themselves the same
expressions of Christian perfection. ...
In conformity with the directions taken in post conciliar Mariology, ... there is noticeable concern
that it not be understood in such a way as to create a sense of distance between the
"glorious Queen of heaven" and consecrated persons, who, as pilgrims on earth, struggle daily to
meet the challenges of following Christ radically. ... We can characterize Mary's regality by saying that
- eminent sharing in the regal condition of the People of the new Covenant (cf.
1 Pt 2:9-10; Rv 1:6; 5:10; Ex 19:6), all of whom are all called to reign with Christ (cf. 2 Tm
2:12; Rom 5:17; Rv 22:5).
- the consequence of the Mother's involvement in the paschal mystery of her Son with its
dimensions of humiliation, passion and glory (cf. Phil 2:6-11). It is by reason of this involvement
that she who shares in his humiliation shares also in his glory.
the final outcome of Mary's journey of discipleship. At the end of her earthly life she was borne
to the Kingdom of her beloved Son (cf. Col 1:13) and received for her faithfulness "the crown
of life." (Rv 2:10; cf. 1 Cor 9:25) This outcome has universal significance because the
Blessed Virgin, now having attained fullness of freedom and full communion with Christ, is the regal
icon of the advance of the Church and of all of history and creation, as it moves forward toward
becoming " a new heaven and a new earth" (Rv 21:1; cf. Is 65:17), God's dwelling,
in which "there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain." (Rv
21:4; cf. Is 25:8)