What does it mean that Mary is queen of heaven?

We celebrate the Queenship of Mary on Aug. 22 to highlight its relationship to the solemnity of the Assumption


Q. We celebrate the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Aug. 22, one week after we celebrate her Assumption into heaven. Don’t these feasts celebrate the same thing?

A. No, these two liturgical feasts celebrate different things, but they are related.

13mary.jpgThe solemnity of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary commemorates the day when God took Mary, body and soul, to heaven. The memorial of Mary’s Queenship celebrates her enduring royal dignity as the Mother of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 and celebrated on May 31. The reform of the liturgical calendar moved the Queenship of Mary to Aug. 22 to highlight its relationship to the solemnity of the Assumption.

The Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrates her as “Queen of Apostles,” “Queen and Mother of Mercy” and “Queen of Peace.”

Throne room of heaven

When we celebrate the Queenship of Mary on Aug. 22, we should wear our best clothes to Mass. Why? Because the eucharistic liturgy for this day places us in a royal court, in the throne room of heaven.

Psalm 145, an option for the responsorial psalm for this memorial, tells us in whose presence we are: “The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.” Mary, the peasant girl of Nazareth, is now our queen, our down-to-earth queen of heaven. She is clothed in the golden beauty of her sinlessness. From all eternity, God desired the beauty of this incomparable woman’s life.

That is why God took Mary, body and soul, to heaven and made her our queen and the queen of all the saints.

Perhaps St. John Paul II was familiar with a folktale from his native Poland titled “How Little Petrousek Got into Heaven.” It’s the story of “little Peter,” an adolescent soldier who appears at the gates of heaven and seeks admittance. Peter wants to bring his musket with him into heaven, but St. Peter, the gatekeeper, won’t allow it. Our Lady of Czestochowa, the patroness and Queen of Poland, sees and hears all of this and declares that if Petrousek can’t enter heaven with his musket, then she will leave heaven and take the saints with her, for she is their Queen.

Then begins the heavenly roll call: “Queen of Patriarchs,” “Queen of Apostles,” “Queen of Martyrs,” “Queen of Confessors” (that is, non-martyrs) and finally “Queen of All Saints,” with each group getting ready to leave heaven with Mary.

Faced with this embarrassing exodus, St. Peter quickly relents and lets little Peter in along with his musket, and the whole company of heaven’s saints welcomes this new member.

The moral is clear: Mary is Queen of all the saints, even those we might be surprised to find there. Maybe Petrousek was forced to fight against his will, like so many teenaged soldiers caught up in civil strife around the world. All the saints entered heaven as less-than-perfect people, sinners who looked for the mercy of God and welcomed it in Jesus Christ.

Children of God

The saints, because they were just as human as we are, were sinners first, but they were saved from sin by the merciful love of God, the love that made them children of God. Their sins were washed away in the Blood of Christ, just as ours are.

On the memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we join with the greatest and the least of God’s people in every generation, with the angels and saints, to celebrate God’s love for the Mother of God’s Son.

We take our place in the procession of all who belong to Christ and enter in spirit the palace of our God and King. It is Mary’s home, but because of what her Son did for us in his living, dying and rising, it is our home, too.