What is meant by Mary as Co-Redemptrix?

I am Catholic, and I freely admit to having a hard time reconciling Mary as Co-Redemptrix. I say the Hail Mary, I honor her as the Mother of God, but I cannot bring myself to say she is Co-Redemptive. I just can’t do it. I’ve struggled with it for the longest time. Granted, there are others who are more qualified than I to say that she is or is not, but regardless, it is a bit of a difficulty for me. Redemption is attained through Christ. Mary is the perfect example of His Redemption, no doubt, and I often ask Mary to intercede for me, but I just cannot, in my heart of hearts, apply the Co-Redemptrix title to her. I am also more comfortable reciting the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy than I am the Rosary. The Rosary is beautiful, without question, but it just strikes me as odd that there are ten Hail Mary’s to each Our Father. That’s something I never understood.

I will just continue to pray for guidance on this. I will not gainsay anyone who does believe this, but for me, I just can’t get my mind, or spirit around it. To me, she is to be venerated as first among the Saints, and she among all of them can intercede, I believe, in a way others cannot, or to a degree they cannot. But I cannot say that I am redeemed by her. I just can’t.

I guess I’m wanting to know if Pope John Paul II was speaking dogmatically when he applied this title to her. Is it binding on all Catholics as a required belief? And if so, what can I do about my own inability to reconcile this to myself? I love and treasure the Church, and would devastated if my inability to agree with this dogma (if indeed it is) meant my error against the Church. I know people say, “just believe” but, for whatever reason ,I just can’t agree with this. I’m at a loss here and it’s filling me with despair.

Dear Un,

The Church does not teach that we are redeemed by Mary. That would be heresy. It is important to realize that co-redemptrix does not mean co-equal. She co-operated in His mission of redeeming the world. He alone is the redeemer. She co-operated by the fact that the Father chose her to be the channel through which His Son entered the human race. She gave birth to Him and sustained Him through His childhood until adulthood. This is truly co-operation and this is all that is really meant by “co-redemptrix.” Because it is so easy to misunderstand this term, the Church has not made it an official title.

As for all the “Hail Marys” in the rosary, we are asking her to pray for us, but our thoughts are on the mysteries of her Son’s life. In repeating the words: “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you…,” we are only reiterating what the Father instructed the Angel Gabriel to say to her. They are God’s words.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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