She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Saviour in giving back supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace.

Lumen Gentium 61

Today, the Monday after Pentecost, is the celebration of the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. This feast was added to the liturgical calendar in 2018 by Pope Francis, and is now celebrated throughout the world in the Roman Rite. The implementation of this feast is a demonstration of the development and continuity between Francis and his immediate predecessors, beginning with Pope Saint Paul VI, who declared the importance of this title in his 1964 address at the close of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, in which he promulgated the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium:

Therefore, for the glory of the Virgin Mary and for Our own consolation, We proclaim the Most Blessed Mary Mother of the Church, that is to say of all the people of God, of the faithful as well as of the Pastors, who call her the most loving Mother. And We wish that the Mother of God should be still more honored and invoked by the entire Christian people by this most sweet title.

This is a title, Venerable Brothers, not new to Christian piety; it is precisely by this title, in preference to all others, that the faithful and the Church address Mary. It truly is part of the genuine substance of devotion to Mary, finding its justification in the very dignity of the Mother of the Word Incarnate.

We trust then, that with the Promulgation of the Constitution on the Church, sealed by the Proclamation of Mary as Mother of the Church, that is to say of all the faithful and all the Pastors, the Christian people may, with greater ardor, turn to the Holy Virgin and render to her the honor and devotion due to her.

As for Ourselves, just as at the invitation of Pope John XXIII We entered the Council hall, along with “Mary, the Mother of Jesus,” so at the close of the third session We leave this Temple with the most holy and sweet name of Mary, Mother of the Church.

Paul VI stressed this point definitively in his apostolic exhortation Signum Magnum, writing that the doctrine of Mary, Mother of the Church “is a most consoling truth which, by the free consent of God the All-Wise, is an integrating part of the mystery of human salvation; therefore it must be held as faith by all Christians.

Pope Saint John Paul II elaborated on why Paul promulgated this teaching definitively in 1978. He explained how the Church has grown to greater awareness of Mary’s role as Mother of the Church:

“He called her so in a solemn way, and began to call her by that name, with this title, but above all to invoke her to take part as Mother in the life of the Church: this Church which, during the Council, became more deeply aware of her own nature and her own mission.”

Pope Francis invokes this title often, and typically entrusts the faithful to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church in his addresses and audiences. It is therefore not surprising that he would establish a feast in honor of this important title of Our Lady.

In his first major document as pope, the June 2013 encyclical Lumen Fidei, Francis closes with this prayer:

Prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith

Mother, help our faith!
Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.
Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise.
Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.
Remind us that those who believe are never alone.
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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