May 20, 2024
1 John 4:9
May 20, 2024
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MEMORIAL OF MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH (Celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday)

Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”  And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. – John 19: 25 – 27

A feast was inserted into the Universal Calendar for the Latin Church, by Pope Francis, in a decree dated February 11, 2018 – the 160th anniversary of the apparition of Mary at Lourdes. Previously, permission to celebrate a feast of Mary had been extended to Poland and Argentina, as well as St Peter’s Basilica, and several Religious Orders and Congregations.

The title of “Mother of the Church” was famously bestowed on the Blessed Virgin Mary by Blessed Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council. The understanding of Mary’s motherhood has developed in the decades following Vatican II, especially as the Church has reflected on the Council’s teaching about Mary in chapter 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium).

The Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church is celebrated on the Monday following Pentecost, highlighting the fact that the Mother of God was praying alongside her spiritual sons, the Twelve Apostles, at the moment when the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost. Mary, by virtue of being the mother of Jesus Christ, has always been recognized as the Mother of the Church.


Mary mothered Jesus, Jesus then gave life to the Church with water and blood from His side, and the Church then mothers us into existence through baptism. Devotion to Mary goes hand in hand with devotion to the Church because both are mothers. Mother Mary gives the world Christ. Mother Church gives the world Christians.

The metaphorical parallels between Mother Mary and Mother Church are spiritually rich and deeply biblical. Mary was understood by many early theologians as both the mother of the Head of the Church, Jesus, and also the symbol of the Church par excellence.

Mother Mary is a virgin who conceived the physical body of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation. In a parallel way, Mother Church is the Mystical Body of Christ who gives every Christian rebirth through the power of the Holy Spirit received at Pentecost.

Both Mary and the Church conceived through the same Spirit, without the aid of human seed. Mother Mary makes Christ’s body physically present in Palestine in the first century.

Mother Church, in turn, makes Christ’s body mystically present through baptism and sacramentally present in the Eucharist, in every time and place. It was common for a baptismal font in early Christianity to be described as a sacred womb in which Mother Church gave her children life.

The theological cross-pollination between Mother Mary and Mother Church has produced a field ripe for spiritual and theological cultivation. Christ is from Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Galilee. But He is most deeply from the Father. He is one Son but lives two sonships. Similarly, all Christians are born from one Mother expressed in two motherhoods: Mary’s and the Church’s.

Mary and the Church, understood most profoundly, form one mother. Both are the mother of Christ, but each mutually assists the other to bring Christ physically, sacramentally, and mystically into the world in all His fullness. Neither Mary nor the Church can exercise their motherhoods alone.

Today’s feast, formally integrated into the Church’s calendar by the authority of Pope Francis in 2018, specifically commemorates Mary’s motherhood of the Church rather than her motherhood of God, a feast celebrated on January 1. Mary likely showed as much tender concern for Christ’s mystical body as it slowly matured in its native Palestine as she did for His physical body in Nazareth.

Pope Pius XII perceptively noted Mary’s dual maternity in his encyclical on the Church: “It was she who was there to tend the mystical body of Christ, born of the Savior’s pierced heart, with the same motherly care that she spent on the child Jesus in the crib.”

It is possible the Apostles held their first Council in about 49 A.D. in Jerusalem precisely because Mary still dwelled in the holy city. She was likely the young religion’s greatest living witness and pillar of unity.

We can imagine her presiding over early Christian gatherings with reserved solemnity, nursing primitive Christianity just as she had Christ.

Ancient pagans spoke of imperial Rome as a Domina, a divine female master. Rome was praised as a conquering mother who brought vanquished peoples close to her own heart, incorporating them as citizens into her vast, multicultural, polyglot realm. Other empires executed prisoners of war, exiled peoples, imposed a foreign culture, or displaced populations.

Not Rome. Rome absorbed them all. The early fathers understood Mother Church as the successor to this Domina. In baptism this Mother does not release her children from her body but absorbs them, making them fully her own unto death. Since the early Middle Ages, feast days and devotions to the Virgin Mary have proliferated in Catholicism.

Now Pope Francis has given the Church a feast to compliment that of January 1. The two motherhoods of Mary reflect one profound truth, that Christ approaches us in time and in space, in history and in sacrament, in mysterious and beautiful ways.

In the words of Saint Augustine: “What (God) has bestowed on Mary in the flesh, He has bestowed on the Church in the spirit; Mary gave birth to the One, and the Church gives birth to the many, who through the One become one.” This is all cause for deep reflection.

Jesus established this during His Passion. Before He expired on the Cross, Jesus gave His final instructions to Mary and John, elevating the nature of their relationship within the Kingdom of God. He said to Mary, “Woman, behold thy son,” and to St. John the Beloved (who mystically represents all His disciples), “Behold thy mother.”

As pilgrims, we always search for the face of Christ, for Christ himself, and reflect continually on the meaning of our lives, and of what it means to be a pilgrim in this world. As we search, we encounter many that point the way to Him–the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Saints and many “living stones” of faith–especially Mary, His mother and our mother. We find a deep devotion to Mary, at the heart of many pilgrimages.

The Church today continues to encourage all of us to entrust our lives, our vocation, our ministry, our service to Mary, the mother of Jesus, mother of God, mother of the Church.

This title is one by which Mary has been venerated in the Church for many centuries. And in 1964 at a Mass closing the third session of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Paul VI formally recognized her as “Mother of the Church.”

Now, on this day after Pentecost, the whole Church is celebrating for the first time as a universal feast the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. This celebration, instituted by Pope Francis in March, incorporates the Gospel reading from Saint John which recounts how as Jesus was dying, he “the disciple he loved” with Mary at the foot of the cross, and the Lord said to him, “Behold your mother” (19:25-34).

Since we regard Pentecost as the birthday of the Church, it is fitting to celebrate this next day as the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, the first Member of the Body of Christ, of which he is the Head.

She was present, abiding in prayer with the Apostles in the Upper Room as they received the Holy Spirit, and it was in fact her “yes” to following God’s will that set in motion our salvation as she became Jesus’ mother, his first and greatest disciple, and our first and greatest example in faith.

On this inaugural universal feast day – which comes about a week after we celebrate Mother’s Day to honor our earthly mothers – we can, like Saint John Paul and also like the young men studying to become priests, remember Mary’s maternal care for our Church and for each of us. Just as she prayed with the Apostles, she prays for us, that we too open our hearts and lives to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and become Jesus’ witnesses to the world.

As Pope Francis says – “Mary is the Mother who gives us her Son Jesus. Mary is the path that guides us to the Heart of Christ, who gave his life for love of us. This is why we love her and venerate her as Mother of the Church.


Interestingly, before this feast was created Pope Francis penned a prayer that was at the end of his encyclical Lumen fidei, released in 2013, an encyclical begun by Pope Benedict XVI.
Here is this prayer, invoking the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church.

Mother, help our faith!
Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.
Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise.

Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.


Remind us that those who believe are never alone.
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord! Amen


Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church: O God, Father of mercies, whose Only Begotten Son, as he hung upon the Cross, chose the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mother, to be our Mother also, grant, we pray, that with her loving help your Church may be more fruitful day by day and, exulting in the holiness of her children, may draw to her embrace all the families of the peoples. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.


Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, you are the fairest daughter of Israel, chosen and prepared by God as the sacred vessel to replace Mother Synagogue with Mother Church. Eve approaches you like mother to daughter, old Eve to New Eve—two mothers of souls both on earth and in heaven.

Excerpts from catholic.mylife and catholicculture

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