Hail Mary, Mother of the Church!

By Kimberly Bruce

“Can a mother forget her infant” or “be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” asks the Lord. “Even should she forget,” He continues, “I will never forget you” (Is 49:15).

These are comforting words. Even if we have been “forgotten” by our earthly parents, the Lord remembers us — and so does Our Lady!

In 2018, Pope Francis decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should be inscribed into the official General Roman Calendar and celebrated each year on the Monday after Pentecost. This year, that date falls on June 6.

Church birth
Mary is recognized as “Mother of the Church” because she was present with the apostles in the Upper Room on the first Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down upon them, and Christ’s Church was birthed. As the one who birthed our Redeemer, the Head of the Church, Mary correspondingly gave birth to His Mystical Body, the Church:

“In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 968).

In 1964, St. Paul VI declared Mary “Mother of the Church, that is to say of all Christian people,” calling upon Christians to continue to honor and invoke “the Mother of God ... by this tenderest of titles.” Seeing Mary in this light is not new. 

Since the earliest Christian centuries, Mary has been revered as “Mother.” Saint Epiphanius of Salamis, from the fourth century, confirms this holy reverence for her:

True it is … the whole race of man upon earth was born of Eve; but in reality it is from Mary that Life was truly born to the world, so that by giving birth to the Living One, Mary might also become the Mother of all the living. Thus then in a mystical sense Mary is called Mother of the living.

God is a God of love. Not only does He wish to comfort us by communion with Him through prayer, but He sent us His only begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary, to redeem us from sin and death. In continuation of this love, Jesus gave us His most loving mother, Mary. Entrusting her to St. John from the Cross, Christ looked first to Mary and said, “Woman, behold, your son” (Jn 19:26). Then, to His Beloved Disciple, He declared, “Behold, your mother.” Christ thereby entrusted Mary not only to St. John in that moment, but He gave her as “Mother” to all His present and future disciples, as well (see Jn 19:27).

Another Mother
Whether we’ve lost our earthly mothers due to death or abandonment, whether we’ve suffered injustices growing up in our homes, or whether we still retain our mothers on earth, we have been given another mother, the most loving and godly woman of all. As Mary prophetically declared in Scripture, “All generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). She has been given to us in this life as a fount of love, aid, and comfort.

As Mother of the Church, Mary intercedes for the needs and supplications of all her children with God the Father, through her Son. Her influence “flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it” (Catechism, 970).

“She did not lay aside this saving office,” says the Church, “but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation” as our “Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix” (Catechism, 969).

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us! 

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