My dear People of St. Mary’s:
Pope Francis continues to be a Pope of “surprises”! On March 3, 2018, Pope Francis inserted a new Feast in honor of the Blessed Mother into the Church’s liturgical calendar. The new feast will be called, B. Mariæ Virginis, Ecclesiæ Matris, which translated means: “Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church”. This feast will be an “obligatory memorial” celebrated every year on the Monday following Pentecost Sunday. Since the Solemnity of Pentecost closes the Easter Season, this means that now each year Ordinary Time will resume with this special Marian feast.
The idea that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of the Church is not new. In fact, St. Ambrose of Milan first used that title for the Blessed Mother in the 4th Century. More recently, on November 21, 1964, at the closing of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Blessed Paul VI formally gave Mary the title that had long been known and used in the Church: “For the glory of the Virgin and our consolation, we proclaim Mary the Most Holy Mother of the Church, that is, the Mother of the whole People of God, both the faithful and the pastors.”
After the assassination attempt on his life in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981, Pope St. John Paul II asked that a mosaic of Mary as Mother of the Church be installed on a building overlooking the site of the shooting. The future saint wanted this done as a tribute to what he believed was Mary’s intercession in saving his life on that day.
Indeed, in his 1987 Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer), St. John Paul explained how Mary is a model of the Church:
Mary is present in the Church as the Mother of Christ, and at the same time as that Mother whom Christ, in the mystery of the Redemption, gave to humanity in the person of the Apostle John. Thus, in her new motherhood in the Spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church, and embraces each and every one through the Church. In this sense Mary, Mother of the Church, is also the Church’s model. Indeed, as Paul VI hopes and asks, the Church must draw “from the Virgin Mother of God the most authentic form of perfect imitation of Christ.” [Redemptoris Mater, ¶27]
Pope Francis is well-known as having a great devotion to Our Lady. Before and after every international trip of his papacy, he prays before the ancient icon of Mary, called Salus Populi Romani (Mary as Salvation of the Roman People). He also consecrated his pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima, and he prays the Rosary every day.
This new feast will be a great reminder to all, not that Mary was the Mother of the Church, but that Mary is and continues to be, the Mother of the Church, and watches over us all.