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Advocate 72 MetMuseumOrg DP258301_edited

The title "Advocate" bestowed upon the Virgin Mary in Catholic tradition reflects her role as a powerful intercessor, a compassionate defender, and a maternal advocate for all believers. This comforting epithet underscores Mary's special relationship with humanity, symbolizing her active involvement in the spiritual well-being of her children.

The term "Advocate" draws its roots from the Latin word "advocare," meaning to call to one's aid or to plead on behalf of another. In the Catholic understanding, Mary's advocacy is deeply intertwined with her unique role as the Mother of God. The recognition of Mary as Advocate aligns with her significance in Christian theology, emphasizing her compassionate intercession on behalf of humanity before the throne of God.

Mary's advocacy is most poignantly exemplified in her role at the wedding feast of Cana, as recounted in the Gospel of John (John 2:1-11). When the wine ran out during the celebration, Mary, perceiving the need, approached her Son, Jesus, and simply said, "They have no wine." In response to her intercession, Jesus performed his first public miracle by turning water into wine. This episode underscores Mary's maternal concern for the needs of others and her ability to intercede with her Son on behalf of humanity.

The title "Advocate" also finds biblical resonance in Mary's role as the New Eve. Just as the first Eve played a role in humanity's fall, Mary, as the New Eve, plays a redemptive role in humanity's salvation. This advocacy extends beyond individual needs to encompass the broader spiritual welfare of the Church and all believers.

Devotion to Mary as Advocate has been a consistent and cherished aspect of Catholic spirituality. Through the centuries, countless believers have sought Mary's intercession in times of trouble, uncertainty, and spiritual need.


The earliest references identifying the Virgin Mary with the role of "Advocate" trace back to writings in the 4th to 6th centuries:

  • One early instance is a statement by Church historian Rufinus of Aquileia (c. 345 – 410 AD) referring to Mary interceding or advocating for Eve, the fallen representative of humanity.

  • Greek Church father Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century AD) also spoke of Mary as humanity’s defense lawyer or “Advocate” in the cosmic trial surrounding Adam and Eve’s transgression.

  • In the early 5th century, Pope Sixtus III's encyclical letter proclaiming Mary as Queen, states "Holy Mary, Advocate of the Christian people, Mediatrix of men with their Creator."

  • By 600 AD, Venantius Fortunatus addresses hymns to Mary as the “Advocate of the whole earth.”

  • Western litanies and prayers like Agnus Dei chants going back to 687 AD invoke “Mary our Advocate” who prays or intercedes for us.


Church leaders emphasized Mary as the guarantor or “divine Advocate” for authentic Incarnation. This articulated role was the precursor building up to later Middle Ages recognition of her ongoing merciful mediation.

Great medieval voices like Saint Bernard of Clairvaux spoke passionately calling her “the Advocate of the whole human race.” The Memorare, a well-known Catholic prayer, encapsulates this sentiment with the words, "Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided."

In 1987, Pope John Paul II issued an encyclical Redemptoris Mater (Latin for “Mother of the Redeemer”). Therein he exhorted the faithful to plead for Mary’s intercessory aid as she ushers humanity toward ethical living and spiritual wholeness.


Pope Francis echoes similar invocations praising Mary as the perfect “Advocate who listens, understands, comes to meet us, and accompanies us.” He conveys her profoundly merciful presence constantly drawing wandering hearts back into fruitful communion with redemptive truth.

The title "Advocate" emphasizes Mary's empathy and understanding of the human condition. As a mother, she is attuned to the struggles, sorrows, and aspirations of her children. Her advocacy is not a distant or passive gesture but an active and compassionate involvement in the lives of those who turn to her.

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