Back in March, Pope Francis decided that we would have a new memorial feast to celebrate Mary, and the Congregation of Divine Worship issued the decree for the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, and placed it on the liturgical calendar for the Monday following Pentecost Sunday. The same Congregation said that the feast was to be celebrated by everyone beginning this year, 2018.
Now if you’re thinking Pope Francis is ‘shaking things up’ again when creating a new feast for Our Lady, you’d be mistaken. It isn’t a ‘new’ feast for Mother Mary at all. Pope Francis is just making a very old one, official – finally! – as Our Lady has always been venerated under the title “Mother of the Church”
In fact, Our Lady has been honored as Mother of the Church since the first Pentecost as Marge Fenelon reminded us in her recent article published in the National Catholic Register:
“Surely the Spirit’s descent was magnificent. But what about what happened afterward? Her Son’s friends – the ones who had turned on him – are suddenly and deeply converted. They lost their fears, put themselves aside, and bravely stepped out into the streets to proclaim the Good News. This is what Mary’s Son had worked all his life for, what he surrendered himself for, what he died for. These cowards were now bold, courageous men who were fulfilling her Son’s dream! When I picture this scene, I see Mary as the proud Mama, glowing with joy, elated over the transformation in the Apostles, and cheering them on as they went forth.
“She was, after all, the Mother of the Church. The Apostles were the original ministers of that Church – her Son’s Mystical Body.”
Like Marge, I too have thought more about Mary than the Apostles when the celebration of Pentecost comes each year. Mostly I have wondered that if Jesus came to us through Mary to redeem us does her Spouse, the Holy Spirit, come through her to sanctify us?
I grow more convinced that He does every time I ponder it. Mary, together with her Holy Spouse, giving birth to the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, on Pentecost. An official feast is most fitting and appropriate.
But again, devotion to Mary, Mother of the Church, is nothing new. It has been believed and practiced in the Church since the beginning of the Church, and recent developments of this truth have brought us to a deeper realization of it.
In 1980, while recuperating in the papal apartments from his gunshot wound, Pope John Paul II looked out over Saint Peter’s piazza and saw the images of all the holy people but did not see one of the Mother to whom he believed he owed his life – Mother Mary. He arranged to remedy that absence. On December 7, 1981 the image of Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church) was unveiled by the Holy Father
There was nothing radical about the decree by Pope Francis to establish an official feast for Our Lady under the title Mother of the Church. It was simply the logical conclusion to an established doctrine of the Church, the understanding of which had been developed over millennia, since her beginning.
At his morning Mass today, Pope Francis celebrated the new memorial feast wearing a chasuble that depicts Our Lady, inseparable from her Spouse, the Holy Spirit. In comparing Mother Mary to the Church who takes her as model, the Holy Father said, – Like Mary, “the Church is feminine, she is a mother…a mother of tenderness…a mother of tender love.” He has asked that the Church, you and me, reflect this motherly tenderness to all of God’s children.
P.S. There is even a religious order of nuns named Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church. You can read about them on their website here: