In the Fourth Century, St. Ambrose of Milan used a beautiful title for the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Mother of the Church.” This title was officially used by Pope St. Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council.
In 2018, Pope Francis added a new feast to the Roman Calendar to be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost: the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.
What does this title mean? What does it mean that Mary is the Mother of the Church? A very good outline can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 963-975. She is united with her Son, the prayer of the Church is devoted to her, and she is the vision of our future.
United With Her Son
First, Mary is united with her Son. In fact, Mary’s role in the Church flows from her union with Christ and cannot be separated from it. She brought the Word made flesh into the world through her free cooperation. She provided Jesus with His human body. She was there as He grew. She was present at His first public miracle. She was there at the Passion and at the foot of the Cross, alongside the Redeemer. She was there when they laid Him in the tomb. She was there at His Resurrection, His Ascension, and was in the Upper Room with the Apostles at Pentecost.
She was the first and greatest disciple of Jesus Christ. She participated in the Redemption in the world. As a result, united so singularly with her Son, at the end of the course of her earthly life she was taken up, assumed, body and soul into Heaven.
By the grace of God, the Virgin Mary is our model of faith and charity. Jesus, by His saving work, restored to mankind supernatural life in souls. By Mary’s participation in this saving action, she became the new Eve, the new mother of all the living. In the order of grace, she is the mother of each and every person. She is our Advocate and Helper, pointing us always to her holy Son.
Aside from being the mother of every person, this connection is even more perfected in the baptized members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Through the life-giving waters of Baptism, we are entered into union with the Son of God and Son of Mary. And therefore, Mary’s motherhood becomes more perfect in our lives. She is the Mother of the Church.
The Prayer of the Church
Mary, Mother of the Church is honored in the prayer life of the Church. Even before Pope Francis officially added this feast to the Roman Calendar, the Church everywhere and always has had great affection and veneration for the Blessed Virgin. As Mary herself foretold: “All generations will call me blessed (Lk 1:48).” Devotion to the Blessed Virgin is part of Christian worship. Out of love for the Lord, we honor His and our mother.
The Mother of God, the Theotokos, is not adored. Adoration belongs to God alone. However, she is greatly respected or venerated. We fly to her protection in danger and in all of our needs. There are a great many devotions to the Blessed Mother, including many beautiful Eastern prayers and, most notably in the West, the rosary. There are also many Marian liturgical feasts throughout the year. Each of these feasts draw us into the mystery of Mary which in turn brings us immediately to the mystery of Christ and the Gospel.
Eschatological Icon of the Church
The eschaton is the final event in the divine plan for the world. It is the end of time as we know it. It is the beginning of eternity when all the living and the dead will be judged and the resurrection of the body will take place. Of course, Mary has foreshadowed this glorious event in her glorious Assumption. She goes before us as a model.
Mary, Mother of the Church is the eschatological icon of the Church. Even still on Earth, she shows us an image of the Church in eternity, praising God and cooperating with Him for all eternity.
In the origin, mission, and destiny of Holy Mother Church we can find no better model and example than Blessed Mother Mary. Even now in Heaven, the Mother of the Church awaits the entire Church’s coming to join her in the communion of saints and the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. For us still here on our earthly pilgrimage, Mary is a sign for us of the certain hope and comfort of Heaven.
How To Celebrate Mary, Mother of the Church
The best way to honor the Blessed Mother is to speak with her and grow in relationship with she who loves you with a Mother’s perfect love. Here are a few ideas:
Pray the rosary with your family.
Sing one of the beautiful hymns of honor to our Blessed Lord’s Mother.
Memorize and sing the chant that is associated with the time after Pentecost until Advent: the Salve Regina.
If you have a statue of Mary, place it somewhere prominent and put flowers at her feet or a crown on her head.
Pray a novena. Perhaps pray a Novena to the Immaculate Heart of Mary to end on the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church or any other day to honor Mary.
Share the Miraculous Medal of our Lady.
Read a book about Mary, such as True Devotion toMary by St. Louis Marie de Monfort.
Pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Learn about and be enrolled in the Brown Scapular of the Carmelites.