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Mary, the Mother of Jesus was present at the foot of the Cross as her Son was dying in order to ransom mankind from sin.

This got me thinking that Mary must hold a special place in Catholic devotion. As Catholic priests offer the sacrifice of Our Lord on the altar, could not Mary have offered her Son on the altar of the Cross for our salvation?

I have been able to find a few pieces of religious art that shows the Virgin Mary dressed in priestly attire and I have included one here:

The Virgin Mary wearing a chasuble and stole

My question is quite simple: Does the Catholic Church allow us to honor Mary under the title of the Virgin Priest and if so what are the directives on it from Rome?

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    Wow. No. Just no. I'll put together an answer at some point. – Matt Gutting Mar 27 '16 at 20:08
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    But in brief, WAY NO. – Matt Gutting Mar 27 '16 at 20:19
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    The biggest challenge with your question to me is the idea of Mary having any authority to offer Jesus as sacrifice. Consider John 10:17-18. – Jon the Architect Mar 28 '16 at 0:52
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    An interesting thought, but there are some problems with the idea that Mary offered her Son as a sacrifice. That would imply Mary choosing to sacrifice her Son, and Jesus submitting to her will. Mary did not have a say in the matter. Rather, it was the will of God, the Father, that came into play. He offered his Son (John 3:16, etc.), and Jesus submitted his will to the Father. The Father is the one who would be most like a priest, Jesus being the sacrifice, while Mary would be a participant with the others. I don't have a Catholic perspective, though, so I'm just adding this as a comment. – Samuel Bradshaw Mar 28 '16 at 5:31
  • No, Mary is a supereme Deaconess, if anything. Only men can be made priests. Because they are ordained 'alter Chrisus'. Who is male. However, she did have certain sacerdotal funcations, as even we can. She did comply with what she most certainly did not want ot have to see, and thus offer as a sacrifice, her Son's suffering and death to God. But this was a detail of Mary's life, and the Redemption was not hinged around Mary's role. It was, however, hinged, in a real way, on Mary's 'yes' to be the new Eve who doesn't bring sin, but the New Adan to the tree of Life where He takes it away. – Sola Gratia Jul 7 '17 at 13:50
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St. Alphonsus di Liguori used to pray: "Nos cum prole pia benedicat Virgo Maria." (May the Virgin Mary bless us with her pious offspring [Jesus].) Thus it seems she has the ability to bless, yet this isn't necessarily reserved to ordained priests in all circumstances.

She is a "priest" (or sacerdote, "a giver of the sacred"), but she was not ordained a priest, as she was not present at the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the sacrament of Orders by washing the feet of His disciples. Nor could she be an ordained priest; only men can be ordained priests.

Although all Christians are a "kingly priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9), not all Christians are Ordained priests.

One of the greatest mariologists and Doctor of the Church, St. Albert the Great, wrote (Mariale 42 & 165):

The Blessed Virgin was not called by God to be a minister, but a consort and a helper, in accordance with the words "Let us make him a help like unto himself."

Quoted in Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.'s Mother of The Savior and Our Interior Life (p. 42).

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The idea of the priesthood of Mary "seems to have been around since the writing of the early Fathers of the Church in the 4th century and is wonderfully illustrated in striking mages of Mary dressed in priest’s vestments – some dating from as early as the 6th century."

"First of all I would like to refer to the question of the title of priest attributed to the Virgin in tradition. A writer of the end of the fifth century calls Mary "Virgin, and at the same time priest, and altar who has given us Christ -- bread of Heaven for the remission of sins."1 After this, there were frequent references to the topic of Mary as priest, which subsequently became the object of theological developments in the 17th century, in the French school of St. Sulpice. In it, Mary's priesthood is not placed so much in the context of a relationship with the ministerial priesthood, but rather with that of Christ."- Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, Pontifical Household Preacher.

"In the seventeenth century, Salazar and other Spanish theologians compare her role with that of the Christ and identify it with her redemptive mission.9 In the same century, another line of thought associated with Berulle and the French School of Spirituality appeared, and continued throughout the eighteenth century. While its inspiration originates in the Spanish school, this new line of thought overshadows Salazar's interpretation, due principally to Olier and the seminary of St. Sulpice. In the French School, Mary was invoked and contemplated as the model of the priest, and honored as "Virgo Sacerdos, the Virgin Priest."10

In the nineteenth century, the Marian writings of the early decades are vacuous and sentimental. By the middle of the century, a rebirth is detected. Theologians began to restore to Mariology its theological content, and to connect again with the movements of the seventeenth century. Once again, mediation, co-redemption and the sacerdotal aspect of Mary's mission gain ascendancy in their studies.11

Around 1870, the idea of living as a victim began to gain popularity among a number of generous souls, especially women religious, who proposed to assist the priests through their prayers and sacrifices. They thought naturally of Mary praying and offering herself for and with her son, and they loved to consider her as their sacerdotal virgin or the virgin Priest. This devotion aroused great enthusiasm, and was at times expressed in formulas scarcely theological.12"- Br. John M Samaha, SM

"In 1906, Pope Pius X approved a prayer which says "Mary, Virgin Priest, pray for us." (emphasis mine). However, a Holy Office decree of 1916 forbade the use of any image that had Mary wearing vestments – some say for fear of the possibilty of an argument for women’s ordination, others that Mary as a priest was a metaphorical image taken too far."-The Priesthood of Mary

"During the reign of Pius X, the Holy Office issued a decree stating that "the representation of Mary clothed in sacerdotal vestments was disapproved." In reality, the representation in question was that of an orante, which some persons mistook for Mary vested as a priest. In 1926-1927, the Holy Office again opposed the propagation of devotion to the "Virgin Priest." Even though only the picture and the spread of this devotion have been forbidden, Rome is evidently unfavorable to this title, since it might lead poorly-instructed Catholics to believe that Mary had received the sacrament of Holy Orders. Yet these decrees of the Holy Office in no way affected the pronouncements of Popes Pius IX and Pius X that Mary was "an associate of the Divine Sacrifice," and that she was enriched with "as much dignity and grace as are found in the priesthood."13 - Br John M Samaha, SM

If Mary is a priest, it is not by virtue of priestly ordination because she was not ordained a priest, but rather by virtue of her association with her Divine Son during the Passion.

Images of Mary wearing priestly vestments are now forbidden. We may have a personal devotion to Mary under the title of Virgin Priest, but may not spread its devotion without the approval of Rome!

  • Interesting answer. Is Mary's "role as priest" pastoral per this tradition? St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester ... unless you find the imprimatur from Rome on that idea/tradition, chances are Catholics will not be encouraged to honor Mary as priest. – KorvinStarmast Mar 28 '16 at 18:44
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Are Catholics permitted to honour Mary as a priest?

Since you ask "are" (which implies current teaching1) the answer is no.

As Catholic priests offer the sacrifice of Our Lord on the altar, could not Mary have offered her Son on the altar of the Cross for our salvation?

That isn't the role she played. (The church does not give the site you referred to its imprimatur). She accepted God's will long before the passion:

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."(Luke 1:38)

Jesus (in his role as high priest) offered himself in sacrifice upon the cross. (There are a variety of references to Christ acting as both priest and sacrifice, in contrast to the old priesthood which sacrificed lambs, etc, on the altar. The three articles summarizing this are all built upon doctrine and scripture: 2 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 5:10; 7:26, 10:14; St. Thomas Aquinas, commentary on Hebrews. 8,4; Revelation 1:6; 5:9-10; 1 Peter 2:5,9; Lumen Gentium 10 articles 1 & 2)

CCC 1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the "one mediator between God and men." The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, "priest of God Most High," as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique "high priest after the order of Melchizedek"; "holy, blameless, unstained," "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified," that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

1545 The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present through the ministerial priesthood without diminishing the uniqueness of Christ's priesthood: "Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers."

1546 Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church "a kingdom, priests for his God and Father." The whole community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ's mission as priest, prophet, and king. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are "consecrated to be . . . a holy priesthood."

To get real nitpicky, Mary wasn't baptized. She didn't need to be, as she was conceived without the stain of original sin. (That's the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception).

Besides the point that only men are ordained priests, "honoring her as a priest" might be a slight to the Mother of God, given that she serves as Queen in Heaven.

CCC 966 "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians: Lumen Gentium 59; Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950):

In a word, no, in current teaching Mary is not honored as a priest. A more detailed treatment of her role in the church and in salvation is presented in Lumen Gentium, Chapter VIII, articles 58-69.

(LG 69) The entire body of the faithful pours forth instant supplications to the Mother of God and Mother of men that she, who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers, may now, exalted as she is above all the angels and saints, intercede before her Son in the fellowship of all the saints ...


1 Then again, the church teaches that Mary is to be venerated and encourages petitions to her to for intercession on behalf of the faithful. There are still those whose devotion to Mary looks a lot like worship, even though that contradicts the teaching of the church. I've met quite a few, here in Texas. (Syncretism and the Cult of the Virgin, from Mexico southwards, is a book length topic).

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