Earlier today the Vatican released a degree from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline in the Sacraments formally announcing the addition of a new Memorial to the Roman Calendar. The Memorial in honour of ‘Mary, Mother of the Church’ is to fall each year on the Monday after Pentecost. This year the Memorial will be universally celebrated on May 21st. The official prayers and texts have been released in Latin and will be translated and released soon by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
The title “Mother of the Church” was given to the Blessed Virgin in 1964 during the Second Vatican Council by Blessed Pope Paul VI. In a letter published by Cardinal Sarah announcing the addition to the Roman Calendar the Cardinal explains that the Holy Father wishes the celebration to encourage growth in “the maternal sense of the Church” and deepen our affection and piety to our Blessed Mother.
Whilst the title was officially given to Our Lady in the 20th century, the Church has long held the Blessed Virgin to be our (the faithful) Mother. St. Augustine referred to Mary as ‘the Mother of the members of Christ’ who co-operated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church. There is no doubt that through the witness of Our Lady as she followed her Son through all of the key moments of his life and subsequent Passion, Death and Resurrection, she inspired the followers in her faith and trust in her Son. The decree also refers to Mary’s role at Calvary as she stood at the foot of the Cross. There she became the Mother of the Church when she:
“accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal.” (The decree)
The decree represents an occasion of great joy for the Church as we reflect upon Our Lady’s maternal care for us. The picture associated with this article depicts Mary, Mother of the Church gently enfolding the faithful within the protection of her mantle. This new feast day represents a wonderful occasion to annually review our own echoing of the maternal discipleship of Our Lady in our own lives.
Let us give thanks to Almighty God for such a great gift to the Church.