In 1906, Pope Pius X approved a prayer which says “Mary, Virgin Priest, pray for us.” 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

NOTE: There is a related thread on this question but the accepted answer is Mary Virgin Priest is not a ministerial priesthood. Are Catholics permitted to honour Mary as a priest?.


For those who believe that Mary Virgin Priest is a valid expression , what kind of priesthood does Mary possessed? Is it similar to the Sacramental Order of the ministerial priesthood instituted by Christ or is it a unique concept associated with Mary at the foot of the Cross.


What is the basis of St. Pius X in 1906 that led to the approval of the prayer devotion; Mary Virgin Priest, pray for us?

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    @Geremia "“Three hundred days of indulgence acquires whoever piously and devoutly has recited this prayer” (Pope Pius X, Acta Sanctae Sedis 9 May 1906.)This is the source.womenpriests.org/mrpriest/popes.asp#piusxi Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 4:41
  • 1
    The link is from a pro female ordinations group that is in direct opposition to Catholic Tradition and teaching. Pope St. John Paul II put the question of woman’s ordination to rest and the answer is no.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 10:02
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    It has been the constant Tradition of the Church. Do not see any way of changing this. Even Pope Francis has backed this document up.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 21:23
  • 1
    But he did back up Pope John Paul II on this point.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 21:27
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    @jongricafort AL cannot actually change doctrine -- divorce and remarriage is still categorically grave sin and thus receiving communion with full knowledge is a sin. No Pope can change that and the Holy Spirit cannot be the inspiration behind any such "change"
    – eques
    Commented Mar 25, 2021 at 17:43

2 Answers 2


What are the origins that lead Pope St. Pius X in 1906 to approve the prayer invocation: “Mary Virgin Priest, pray for us”?

Prior to Pope Pius X’s approval to this invocation, Blessed Pope Pius IX had manifested his approval of the same title in a letter addressed to Msgr Oswald Van den Berghe, author of Marie et le Sacerdoce.

Marked by the priestly piety of the school of Bérulle, Pope Saint Pius X was singularly favourable to the invocation of Our Blessed Lady under the title of Virgo Sacerdos. Already in 1875, Blessed Pius IX had manifested his approval of the same title in a letter addressed to Msgr Oswald Van den Berghe, author of Marie et le Sacerdoce. Saint Pius X was pleased when an Italian translation of this work appeared.

When the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, founded by Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny, asked for permission to invoke the Mother of God, in their chapels, as Maria Virgo Sacerdos, Saint Pius X wishing to extend the devotion to all the faithful, charged Cardinals Vanutelli and Vivès with composing a prayer that would make this Marian title better known. The prayer appeared, indulgenced by Pope Saint Pius X, on 9 May 1906. - Prayer to Mary, the Sacerdotal Virgin

The Postulator of her Cause of Canonization is a priest from my home archdiocese.

The Daughters of the Heart of Jesus

The second phase of Marie Deluil Martiny’s life was a flowering of the first. After a long preparation in prayer, she opened the first house of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus at Berchem near Anvers in Belgium on June 20, 1873. The new foundation was characterized by a burning desire to console the Heart of Jesus, and by a mystical participation in His victimal priesthood, patterned after that of His Holy Mother at the foot of the Cross.

Divine Jealousy for Sacerdotal and Consecrated Souls

Mother Marie de Jésus wrote: “They will live from that life of suffering love that was the intimate life of the Heart of Jesus; they will penetrate the most tender secrets of His love: the Eucharist, the Church, His divine jealousy for sacerdotal and consecrated souls.”

Priests: Sacrificers and Victims

“What a calling! The Work must give to Christ souls who offer themselves as a sacrifice of Love, these will be “the victims of Love that Jesus asks for,” by the Holy Eucharist. The Host has become indispensable to my life; I should wish never to leave it for the sake of sacerdotal souls [priests]. Too many of them are satisfied with being Sacrificers and exercise their sacred functions without steeping them enough in the Priestly Spirit, that is, without themselves becoming truly Victims at the same times as Sacrificers, and so God wills that legions of souls who are truly Victims offer themselves as humble supplements for what certain priests are lacking in the Priestly Spirit. Their example is Mary, the Mother of Jesus.”

Offering for Priests

“To offer yourself for souls is beautiful and great,” wrote Mother Deluil Martiny, “but to offer yourself for the souls of priests is so beautiful, so great, that you would have to have a thousand lives and offer your heart a thousand times. . . . I would gladly give my life if only Christ could find in priests what he is expecting from them. I would gladly give it even if just one of them could perfectly realize God’s divine plan for him.”

The Blessed Virgin Mary United to the Victimal Priesthood of Her Son

Marie Deluil Martiny presents the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of Christ the Victim Priest and of all who are called to follow Him in the way of His Victimal Priesthood. By her most intimate and perfect participation in the Victimal Priesthood of her Son, the Blessed Virgin Mary is both Coredemptrix and Mediatrix. She is the Virgo sacerdotalis, sacerdotal, not by virtue of sacramental ordination, but by virtue of her unique and entire adhesion to the Sacrifice of Christ. - A Life Offered for Priests

The above information provides the basis that led to the approval of the prayer devotion: “Mary Virgin Priest, pray for us” by Pope St. Pius X in 1906?

Fr. Francis Marsden, 36 yrs a priest of 36 years with a Cambridge chemistry doctorate puts it this way:

As a Catholic priest, when I saw this question, I thought it was untrue. It’s forty years since I started theological studies, and I don’t remember ever seeing a prayer which addressed Mary as Virgin Priest.

The expression made me rather uncomfortable, especially in the modern context of agitation for the ordination of women.

However, the questioner turns out to be correct. There was a prayer for priests issued in 1906 which uses the expression “Maria, Virgo Sacerdos, ora pro nobis.”

The rationale quotes St Antoninus: “although you (Mary) did not receive the Sacrament of Order, you were full in dignity and grace of whatever is given by it.” You are therefore rightly hailed as Virgin Priest.

It was a prayer which the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus were accustomed to recite in their churches. That’s a religious order I’ve not heard of.

Back in 1906 nobody would have thought of women becoming priests, whereas now it’s all the rage to campaign for it. So I doubt that such a prayer would today obtain official approval.

Just to make sure, in 1916 the Holy Office prohibited pictures of Mary shown in Mass vestments.

Denominations which have ordained women to their priesthood might have less qualms about this expression Virgo Sacerdos. - What is the basis of St. Pius X in 1906 that led to the approval of the prayer devotion; “Mary Virgin Priest, pray for us”?

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap, Pontifical Household Preacher states that the invocation is officially not permitted publicly!

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M. Cap. (born July 22, 1934) is an Italian Catholic cardinal and priest in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and a theologian. He has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980, under Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Pope Francis raised him to the rank of cardinal on 28 November 2020.

"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." 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."

At the end of the 19th century a true and proper devotion to the Virgin-priest spread, and St. Pius X even accorded an indulgence to its relative practice. However, when the danger was perceived of confusing the priesthood of Mary with the ministerial priesthood, the magisterium of the Church became reticent and two interventions of the Holy Office practically put an end to such devotion.

After the council, the priesthood of Mary is still spoken of, but it is no longer linked to the ministerial priesthood nor to the supreme priesthood of Christ, but rather to the universal priesthood of the faithful. As figure and first fruits of the Church, she possessed in a personal way that "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9), that all the baptized possess in a collective way. - Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, Pontifical Household Preacher.

Decree of April 8,1916:


Circa Imagines Exhibentes BeatIssimam Virginem Mariam Indutan Sacerdotalibus.

Cum recentioribus praesertim temporibus pingi atque diffundi coepissent imagines exhibentes Beatissimam Virginem Mariam indutam vestibus sacerdotalibus, Emi ac Rmi DD. Cardinales Inquisitores Generales, re diligenter perpensa, fer. iv, die 15 ianuarii 1913, decreverunt: « imaginem B. M. Virginis vestibus sacerdotalibus indutae esse reprobandam ».

Feria vero iv, die 29 martii 1916, huiusmodi Decretum publicandum mandarunt.

Datum Romae, ex aedibus S. Officii, die 8 aprilis 1916.

Aloisius Castellano, & R. et U. I. Notarius.

  • " So I doubt that such a prayer would today obtain official approval."-It doesn't need another approval, as this prayer invocation continues until today and no Pope had prohibited this prayer. Sacramental Priesthood is alter-Christus, and Baptismal/Royal Priesthood is alter-Mary. Jesus is the image of the Father and Mary is perfect reflection and image of the Holy Spirit.-"Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee"-Canticle4;7 Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 1:26
  • @jongricafort Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa says otherwise! Besides, what you are now explaining is off subject matter as it does not pertain directly to the question: What is the basis of St. Pius X in 1906 that led to the approval of the prayer devotion: “Mary Virgin Priest, pray for us”?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 2:41
  • @KenGraham an elaboration on the "two interventions of the Holy Office" would enhance this answer.
    – eques
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 13:08
  • @eques True. I will give it some thought.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 13:14
  • @KenGraham do you know whether the decree has an English translation available? I'm not sure what Stackexchange's rules are on user translations, but I can give it an attempt if there isn't an official English translation out there
    – eques
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 14:18

What is the basis of St. Pius X in 1906 that led to the approval of the prayer devotion; “Mary Virgin Priest, pray for us”?


The prayer image attached contains ten names of the Saints, Theologians and Pope cited by St. Pius X that formed the basis, like St. Thomas of Villanova, St. Ephrem, and Pope Pius IX, etc.

Prayer to which Pope Pius X attached 300 days’ indulgence in 1906

Oh Mary, Mother of Mercy, “Mother and Daughter of Him who is the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation” (1), “Distributress of all the treasures of your Son” (2), “Minister of God” (3), “Mother of our High Priest Christ, both priest and altar” (4), “Immaculate Tabernacle of the Word of God” (5), “Teacher of all Apostles and Disciples of Christ” (6), protect our Supreme Pontiff, intercede for us and for our priests that the High Priest Jesus Christ may purify our consciences, and that we may worthily and piously approach his sacred meal.

enter image description hereO Immaculate Virgin, who not only “has given us Christ the celestial bread in forgiveness of sins (7), but who is yourself ”A most acceptable sacrifice offered to God" (8), “and the glory of priests” (9), and who, as your most blessed servant Saint Antoninius declares, “although you did not receive the Sacrament of Order, you were full of whatever in dignity and grace is given by it”, you are therefore rightly hailed as “Virgin Priest” (10). Please, look down on us and on the priests of your son, save us, purify us, sanctify us, that we may receive the ineffable treasures of your sacraments in a saintly manner and may deserve to obtain the eternal salvation of our souls. Amen - Women can be Priests

What is an indulgence?

The word indulgence (Latin indulgentia, from indulgeo, to be kind or tender) originally meant kindness or favor; in post-classic Latin it came to mean the remission of a tax or debt. In Roman law and in the Vulgate of the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1) it was used to express release from captivity or punishment. In theological language also the word is sometimes employed in its primary sense to signify the kindness and mercy of God. But in the special sense in which it is here considered, an indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven. Among the equivalent terms used in antiquity were pax, remissio, donatio, condonatio. - Catholic Encyclopedia

Who can grant indulgences?

The distribution of the merits contained in the treasury of the Church is an exercise of authority (potestas iurisdictionis), not of the power conferred by Holy orders (potestas ordinis). Hence the pope, as supreme head of the Church on earth, can grant all kinds of indulgences to any and all of the faithful; and he alone can grant plenary indulgences. The power of the bishop, previously unrestricted, was limited by Innocent III (1215) to the granting of one year's indulgence at the dedication of a church and of forty days on other occasions. Leo XIII (Rescript of 4 July. 1899) authorized the archbishops of South America to grant eighty days (Acta S. Sedis, XXXI, 758). Pius X (28 August, 1903) allowed cardinals in their titular churches and dioceses to grant 200 days; archbishops, 100; bishops, 50. These indulgences are not applicable to the souls departed. They can be gained by persons not belonging to the diocese, but temporarily within its limits; and by the subjects of the granting bishop, whether these are within the diocese or outside--except when the indulgence is local. Priests, vicars general, abbots, and generals of religious orders cannot grant indulgences unless specially authorized to do so. On the other hand, the pope can empower a cleric who is not a priest to give an indulgence (St. Thomas, "Quodlib.", II, q. viii, a. 16). - Catholic Encyclopedia

It would seem to appear that the Church traditions and numerous saints and theologians had acknowledge Mary as a virgin priest, even St. Pius X predecessors had acknowledged this teaching.

The Popes and devotion to Mary Priest

Pope Pius VII (1800 - 1823 AD)

Pius VII approved the devotion to Mary ‘Pastrix Animarum’ [=‘sheperdess of souls’]. This title had arisen in the Capuchin Order at Seville (Spain) from the beginning of the 17th century. Request for the formal approval was submitted to the Holy Father by Jérôme Joseph OFM Cap, a consultor of the Holy Office, in 1796 (addressed to Pope Pius VI who died soon afterwards).

Pope Pius IX (1846 - 1878 AD)

Pius IX wrote a letter to recommend the book Marie et le Sacerdoce [‘Mary and the Priesthood’] by Mgr. O. van den Berghe, Paris 1873. This book is entirely devoted to describing the priesthood of Mary and to documenting its theological and spiritual antecedents in Christian tradition.

Pius IX’s letter of approval was printed as a preface to the book. It contained the following paragraph:

“To inculcate an attitude of sacrifice in the clergy, nothing can be a greater help than the patronage of the Mother of God. There is no more striking example, none more relevant and effective than the deeds of her who reflected divine holiness in herself, as in a mirror without stain, better than it is reflected in any other creature. From Christ’s virginal conception to his cruel death, Mary united herself so closely to the sacrifice of her divine Son that she has been called the 'Virgin Priest' by the Fathers of the Church”. (Marie et le Sacerdoce, pp. V-VI.)*

Note 1. Authors sometimes say that the Fathers never used the title ‘Virgin Priest’. However, ‘Virgin Priest’ is a correct translation of the expression ‘young woman, sacrificial priest’ used by Theodore the Studite. This had been pointed out by Mgr, O van den Berghe in his book.

Pope Pius IX’s letter was seen as giving official approval to the devotion to Mary, Virgin Priest. To quote just two examples:

*“I have rejoiced to see this glorious title of Virgo Sacerdos [=Virgin Priest] vindicated, a title which the growing devotion of the last centuries has built up on a text of ecclesiastical antiquity, then hallowed by the authority of our great Pope Pius IX! It will give a new impulse to the devotion to the priestly Virgin, to Mary Mother of the clergy and Mother of priests.” Cardinal L. Pius, Archbishop of Bordeaux in 1875.

“[Theologians . . . ] have interpreted with knowledge and piety the thoughts of the Doctors of the Church relating to the mystical priesthood of Mary, and these thoughts are like a concert of praise to our majestic Queen. Without having been invested with the priestly character, Mary was so closely associated with the sacrifice of the eternal Priest that the Fathers of the Church called her Virgo Sacerdos [Virgin Priest] and the Brief of our great Pope Pius IX accepts and hallows that glorious title. I too salute this divine Queen of the Priesthood.” Cardinal V. Vannutelli, Vatican in 1875.*

Pope Leo XIII (1878 - 1903)

Pope Leo XIII received ‘with joy’ a painting by the artist Capparoni, of Our Lady in priestly vestments. L. Laplace, La Mère Marie de Jésus, Paris 1906, p. 404. (The illustration is given in the book on page 392; I have not been able to trace it so far.) - The Popes and devotion to Mary Priest (Women can be Priests)

It would be fair to conclude that St. Pius X uses the teachings of his predecessors, their appreciation and devotion in granting indulgences and approving the prayer devotion. Therefore, Mary Virgin Priest is not a metaphor but a real priesthood.

Mary Virgin Priest, pray for us. (St. Pius X: 1906 prayer devotion)

The only question to resolve are:

When was Mary ordained and who ordained Her as a priest?

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    You said "ordained" which is only used in relation to ministerial priesthood. Otherwise, it's only a metaphorical priesthood and a) not an argument for women's ordination -- apparently the only sources you can quote and b) not a significant theological concern
    – eques
    Commented Mar 25, 2021 at 19:50
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    Your last phrase clearly implies a ministerial priesthood. The only question to resolve are: When was Mary ordained and who ordained Her as a priest?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 3:08
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    Do not think that is sound Catholic theology. Can you back that up with a Doctor of the Church and not private revelations?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 4:05
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    This appears to be the private theological musings of an individual and not anything backed up by Catholic sources
    – eques
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 20:05
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    @jongricafort Done. I look forward to what you can attempt to dig up to support this spurious claim
    – eques
    Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 13:12

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