The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary
Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot
ignore the figure of a woman (cf. Gal 4:4), the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother
of Christ and Mother of the Church.
In some ways this was already present in the mind of the Church from the
premonitory words of Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great. In fact the former
says that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she
cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church, while the latter says that the
birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once
Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body,
which is the Church. These considerations derive from the divine motherhood of
Mary and from her intimate union in the work of the Redeemer, which culminated at
the hour of the cross.
Indeed, the Mother standing beneath the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), 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. She thus became the tender
Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit. Christ,
in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his
Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.
As a caring guide to the emerging Church Mary had already begun her mission
in the Upper Room, praying with the Apostles while awaiting the coming of the Holy
Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). In this sense, in the course of the centuries, Christian piety has
honoured Mary with various titles, in many ways equivalent, such as Mother of
Disciples, of the Faithful, of Believers, of all those who are reborn in Christ; and also
as “Mother of the Church” as is used in the texts of spiritual authors as well as in the
Magisterium of Popes Benedict XIV and Leo XIII.
Thus the foundation is clearly established by which Blessed Paul VI, on 21
November 1964, at the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican
Council, declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of the Church, that is to say of
all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving
Mother” and established that “the Mother of God should be further honoured and
invoked by the entire Christian people by this tenderest of titles”.
Therefore the Apostolic See on the occasion of the Holy Year of Reconciliation
(1975), proposed a votive Mass in honour of Beata Maria Ecclesiæ Matre, which was
subsequently inserted into the Roman Missal. The Holy See also granted the faculty
to add the invocation of this title in the Litany of Loreto (1980) and published other
formularies in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1986). Some
countries, dioceses and religious families who petitioned the Holy See were allowed
to add this celebration to their particular calendars.
Having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion
might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors,
religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety, Pope Francis has
decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should
be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost and be now
celebrated every year.
This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must
be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic
Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin
who makes her offering to God.
The Memorial therefore is to appear in all Calendars and liturgical books for
the celebration of Mass and of the Liturgy of the Hours. The relative liturgical texts
are attached to this decree and their translations, prepared and approved by the
Episcopal Conferences, will be published after confirmation by this Dicastery.
Where the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, is
already celebrated on a day with a higher liturgical rank, approved according to the
norm of particular law, in the future it may continue to be celebrated in the same way.
Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
From the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the
Sacraments, 11 February 2018, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes.
Robert Card. Sarah