Catholic fine art - Queen of Apostles
St. Epiphanius called Our Lady a "priest," inasmuch as She offered up Jesus, and prepared His Body for the supreme Sacrifice. Surely, Mary Most Holy was not just a priest, but a high priest in this Divine Sacrifice. But spiritual writers cannot use that expression in the strict sense of the word, for Mary was, of course, not ordained to the priesthood. Not being a priest, neither can She be called in the official, strict sense of the word one of the Apostles. But She was an apostle—an apostle to the Apostles. For the word "apostle" in a general sense means anyone who is sent forth on a mission, specially delegated, so that anyone with a mission from God to man may be called an apostle—as we call St. Patrick the Apostle to Ireland, or St. Francis Xavier the Apostle to the Indies. But when we refer to the Apostles, we mean the Twelve who were chosen and appointed by Jesus—those Twelve, who were witnesses to the Resurrection, and were sealed to the work of preaching and proving the Christian truth (St. Matthias was chosen to replace the traitor Judas). To those Twelve were added St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, also a witness to the Risen Christ, and signed especially for the apostleship. They were the official Apostles, confirmed in grace, given a universality of jurisdiction, and endowed with a personal infallibility in regard to teaching faith and morals. Thus, strictly speaking, Mary was not one of the official Apostles, not one of those commissioned to go forth and preach the Gospel. That was not in the Divine dispensation of things. Women were not to be priests, in the Old Law or the New.
But if Mary was not (in the strict sense of the word) one of the Apostles, since it would be incongruous to think of Her as a traveling missionary, upon Her was conferred a higher dignity—She was designated Queen of the Apostles, and She was accepted by them as their Queen. That is what St. Bridget of Sweden meant when She called Our Lady, "the Mistress of the Apostles."
No one understood as well as the Apostles the great prerogatives of Jesus' Mother. When the deposit of faith was entrusted to them, they knew the supremacy of sanctity that was Mary's by Her Immaculate Conception and on account of Her being chosen to be the Mother of God. They knew, too, how She had cooperated in the work of the Redemption. They knew how Jesus loved Her; some of them had been witnesses of the Miracle at Cana, of changing water into wine, a miracle done out of love for Her. They had been closely associated with Her during the years of the Public Ministry of Jesus. They knew that on the Cross He had appointed Her to be Mother of all Apostles in the person of St. John, and indeed, Mother of all men. She had persevered with them in prayer in the Cenacle while they waited for the coming of the Holy Ghost. During all their long association with Her before the Crucifixion and after, but particularly the days of the initial formation of the Church, they knew Her importance in the Divine Plan. They knew that since She was the Mother of the Head of the Church, She was the Mother of the Church—their Mother. Thus St. Augustine says that She is, "spiritually the Mother, not indeed of our Head, i.e. the Savior Himself, from Whom rather She is spiritually born—but of His members, i.e. ourselves, because She cooperated in love towards the birth of the faithful in the Church who are the members of the Head; bodily She is truly the Mother of the Head."
Regarding Mary as the creature nearest to God, the Apostles who were filled with wisdom, found in Her, after God, their greatest inspiration. She was the very link with God. He had gone back to His Father, He had left His Mother with them. And surely for some great purpose. In His infinite love for His Mother, one would rather expect that when He ascended into Heaven He would take Her with Him immediately to enjoy the Beatific Vision. But it was His will that She remain on earth for some years after His Ascension. Why? It was because She was needed on earth. The title "Queen of Apostles" explains that.
She was always the Mother of Good Counsel. She was particularly the adviser of the Apostles. That was an extraordinary office, when you consider the importance of the apostolic position. They were the special choice of Jesus. He sanctified them, confirmed them in grace, even associated them to Him in judgment—"Amen, I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the seat of His Majesty, you also shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19: 28). Today in Heaven they are special Saints, owing to their rank and holiness, leading all the Heavenly litany of Saints. So in the hymn for Matins for the feasts of Apostles and Evangelists, written by St. Ambrose, the Church sings their glories—"They are the princes of the Church, the triumphant leaders of the war, the soldiers of the Heavenly Court, and the true light of the world. The steadfast faith of the Saints, the unyielding hope of believers, the perfect charity of Christ trample under foot the tyrant of the world. In them triumphs the glory of the Father; in them triumphs the Son; in them the will of the Holy Ghost is accomplished, and Heaven is filled with joy." But great as they were, She was greater. She had greater wisdom, greater holiness; hence, She was able to advise them in the work which was dearest to Her Heart, the spreading of the Kingdom of God. It would be vain now to speculate on how much Mary taught the Apostles. Their real teacher, of course, was Jesus and the Holy Ghost. But in a lesser way Mary had much to teach them. The Virgin Birth, and most of the facts about the infancy of Christ as related by St. Luke could have come from none but Her. That is in great measure Her Gospel. As Cardinal Wiseman says—"Her place is the very first in the order of Gospel evidence, and so in the economy of faith." Not only did She give the first Christian evidence, but She was their confidant, their inspiration. She encouraged them when they went forth to gather the harvest of souls, She was waiting there when they returned with their sheaves, blessing them, congratulating them, rejoicing with them. How Her Heart thrilled with joy as She saw the Gospel carried to the ends of the earth. After Jesus Himself no one, not even all the Apostles together, had such desire as Mary to convert the world.