The Roman Catholic Church observes today, June 1, the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church in celebration of the Blessed Mother’s important role as the Mother of the Church and as a way to foster Marian piety and the maternal sense of the Church.
On March 3, 2018, Pope Francis approved and announced the new celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. It is a universal, required Memorial to be celebrated every year on the Monday after Pentecost.
“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,” Cardinal Sarah said.
“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, the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church,” he added.
The church has always respected and honoured Mary. Believers have called upon Mary to intercede with her Son, Jesus, since she has always been close to Him. It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that Mary was assumed into heaven with both her body and soul and is ever at Jesus’ side, and she presents her motherly concerns for all who believe in her Son.
We are blessed to be able to celebrate this new memorial on the day after Pentecost. How fitting is it that on the day after the celebration of the beginning of the church and the descent of the Holy Spirit, that we gather and ask Mary to continue to guide us, the church, in fulfilling our role of proclaiming the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, using words. Mary is a great example of one who did just that. We only have four times in the Gospel where Mary speaks, but her actions model what it means to be the first disciple of the Lord Jesus. We can learn from the four occasions of her speaking out.
The first time Mary is quoted is during the Annunciation when she says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38). In this she humbly submits to GOD’s will of being the Mother of the Saviour. She does not fully understand what it entails, but she is willing to do what GOD is asking of her.
The Visitation is the second time Mary’s voice is heard. After a short dialogue between herself and her aging cousin, Elizabeth, Mary then proclaims the beautiful prayer called the Magnificat. In the prayer she exclaims, “My soul proclaims the glory of the Lord and my spirit rejoice in GOD my saviour. . .” (Luke 1: 46-55). She declares how great is GOD and she gives thanks for all that GOD is doing in her life. She also demonstrates her gratitude to GOD and her profound sense of humility by staying and helping Elizabeth for three months. She who is to be the Mother of the GOD-Man, Jesus, focuses not on herself but on assisting someone who needs her help.
The next time we hear Mary speak is when her youthful Son stays in the Temple in Jerusalem while Mary and Joseph look for Him for three days. Her words to Jesus are: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2: 48). She demonstrates her loving concern for Jesus and willingness to help Him look intently on what He needs to focus.
Mary’s last quoted words in the New Testament are at the wedding feast at Cana. There she simply mentions that there is no more wine. She then speaks to the servants saying, “Do whatever he tells you” She knows that Jesus will assist and that the servers need to do what is asked of them by Jesus” (John 2: 5).
Mary’s words and her actions throughout the life of her Son, Jesus, demonstrate her connection with Jesus and with those to whom He ministers. She is filled with humility and loving actions. These virtues continue to be manifested throughout the New Testament as we hear in today’s readings. And they do not stop there. Mary is still interceding for the Body of Jesus – her Son and all who are joined to Him. Thus we can call upon Mary as the Mother of Church as we celebrate today.
The Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, has been added to the General Roman Calendar, the Roman Missal, and the Liturgy of the Hours.