Monday, May 21, 2018

Mother of the Church: the Church's Newest Feast!

Blessed James Alberione used to say that Mary received two Annunciations: one from the Archangel Gabriel, bringing "who told her of her Divine Motherhood as regards Jesus Christ, and one from the crucified Jesus Christ, who told her of her Universal motherhood as regards his Mystical Body the Church." We celebrate Mary, Mother of God, on January 1 (the Octave of Christmas), but until this year, there was no feast to honor Mary, Mother of the Church.

In a decree dated February 11 (Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes) but announced in early Lent, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments announced the insertion of a new memorial into the Roman calendar. Although the title "Mother of the Church" had been recognized at Vatican II (where it stirred up a bit of controversy at first), added to the litany, and provided with a Votive Mass, there was no set day for the universal Church to honor Mary by this title; it was left  up to the devotion of the various local communities, one option among very, very many. 
A medieval image can still be seen on
a column in St Albans Cathedral.

Now, thanks to Pope Francis, that has changed. The Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church will now appear on the liturgical calendar every year on the Monday following Pentecost.

The Collect (what we used to call the "Opening Prayer") for this feast is not what you might expect on the day after Pentecost, the "birthday of the Church." Instead of seeing Mary among the Apostles and disciples in the Upper Room surrounded by tongues of fire, the Collect (along with the Gospel for the feast) takes us back to the scene the Apostle John sees as the real "birthday of the Church": the Crucifixion. The dying Jesus, choking out every word as he suffocates on the Cross, turns Mary's attention to John as he says, "Woman, behold your son." And then to the Beloved Disciple (that's you! that's me!), "Behold, your mother" (Jn 19:26-27). Moments later, he "bowed his head and handed over the Spirit" (Jn 19:30b). Old Simeon's prediction had come true: "Your own soul will be pierced with a sword, that the thoughts of many hearts [our hearts!] may be revealed" (Lk 2:34-35).
Download a powerful reflection on this important Gospel from the forthcoming book, Mary, Mother of Apostles:

Late this summer we will be releasing this new book about Mary's role in the Church. Written by Father Giuseppe Forlai, a member of the Pauline Institute of Jesus the Priest (and translated by your favorite Nunblogger), it draws from the great Marian writings of the influential "French School" (people like St Louis Grignion de Montfort) as well as from Blessed James Alberione.
This is not light reading, but substantial enough to bring to your time of adoration because it really sheds light on Mary's place in our relationship with Jesus. (I highly recommend it also for people involved in ministry, for whom it can be hard to find suitable books about Our Lady.)

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