Catholic Classroom: Mary, Mother of the Church
Question: Why is Mary the Mother of the Church?
Starting this year, the Church celebrates a new feast on the Monday after Pentecost: the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Mary was given the title of “Mother of the Church” by Bl. Pope Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council, and some countries and religious communities have celebrated the Blessed Mother under this title on the Monday after Pentecost for several years. Just this year, Pope Francis expanded this feast to the entire Church by adding it to the Roman calendar.
We know that Mary is the Mother of God. But how is it that she is also the Mother of the Church? This can be understood through the image of a body. We know that, as a Church, Christ is our Head, and we are the members of his Body (Colossians 1:18). If Mary is the Mother of the Head, then she must also be the Mother of the Body. Scripture confirms her motherhood for us this as Jesus hangs on the cross, nearing death: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he was to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:26-27). In giving Mary to the beloved disciple as his mother, Jesus also gave her as a mother to us.
When we acknowledge Mary as the Mother of the Church, we recognize and celebrate the maternal aspects of the Church that are essential to its existence. The Church herself is considered feminine because she is the life-giving Bride of Christ. The Church can best function as a mother when it recognizes its own Mother and model, the Blessed Virgin.
It is particularly fitting that this new Marian feast day should fall immediately after Pentecost, the birthday of the Church and the moment of dramatic conversion born of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, it descended on Mary as well. The same Spirit affected them in different ways: for the apostles, it kindled the fire that sent them out to preach the Gospel, while for Mary, it helped solidify her role as a tender mother. Today, let us remember in a special way the maternal nature of the Church and our own Mother, Mary.