Grow in the love of the Blessed Mother

with this free eBook, Behold Your Mother
We hope that this special resource will help remind you of a different aspect of our Mother, opening your heart and drawing you closer to her maternal arms and also to her Son, Jesus Christ. We trust that the following pages will bring your heart closer under her mantle, as we share a few of the beautiful and befitting names bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Why do we celebrate Mary, as Mother of the Church? (continued from above)

The popularity of the specific expression “Mother of the Church” grew especially in the 20th and 21st centuries. In 2018 Pope Francis added a feast day under this title for the Monday following the solemnity of Pentecost – considered the birthday of the Church. This year, the memorial is on May 24.

What does Mother of the Church mean?

Pope St. John Paul II said,

The title “Mother of the Church” … reflects the deep conviction of the Christian faithful, who see in Mary not only the mother of the person of Christ, but also of the faithful. She who is recognized as mother of salvation, life and grace, mother of the saved and mother of the living, is rightly proclaimed Mother of the Church.

What feast day is the Monday after Pentecost?

The memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, is celebrated the Monday after Pentecost. On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the birthday of the Church, and on the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, Catholics celebrate the fact that Mary, as the mother of Our Lord, is intrinsically linked to the Church as her mother.

What does Mater Ecclesiae mean?

Mater Ecclesiae is Latin for “Mother of the Church.”

“[Mary] is mother wherever [Jesus] is Savior and head of the Mystical Body.” – The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 973)

Is the title “Mother of the Church” found in the Bible?

The title “Mother of the Church” is not found in Sacred Scripture, but Pope St. John Paul II covered several ways that the Bible alludes to this title:

Although the title “Mother of the Church” was only recently attributed to Mary, it expresses the Blessed Virgin’s maternal relationship with the Church as shown already in several New Testament texts.

Since the Annunciation, Mary was called, to give her consent to the coming of the messianic kingdom, which would take place with the formation of the Church.

When at Cana Mary asked the Son to exercise his messianic power, she made a fundamental contribution to implanting the faith in the first community of disciples, and she co-operated in initiating God’s kingdom, which has its “seed” and “beginning” in the Church (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 5).

On Calvary, Mary united herself to the sacrifice of her Son and made her own maternal contribution to the work of salvation, which took the form of labour pains, the birth of the new humanity.

In addressing the words “Woman, behold your son” to Mary, the Crucified One proclaims her motherhood not only in relation to the Apostle John but also to every disciple. The Evangelist himself, by saying that Jesus had to die “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn 11:52), indicates the Church’s birth as the fruit of the redemptive sacrifice with which Mary is maternally associated.

The Evangelist St Luke mentions the presence of Jesus’ Mother in the first community of Jerusalem (Acts 1:14). In this way he stresses Mary’s maternal role in the newborn Church, comparing it to her role in the Redeemer’s birth. The maternal dimension thus becomes a fundamental element of Mary’s relationship with the new People of the redeemed. (General Audience, September 17, 1997)

How did Mary become the Mother of the Church?

The Father chose Mary from among all women to be the mother, according to human nature, of His Divine Son. As she is Mother of Christ in the natural order, she is also the Mother of His Mystical Body, the Church, of which He is the Head in the order of grace.

In the Book of Hebrews 2:9-13, the author makes it clear that Jesus is our brother:

[W]e see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for every one.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

I will proclaim thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee.”

And again, “I will put my trust in him.”

And again, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” (emphasis added)

Since Jesus is our brother, and Mary is His mother, it follows that Mary is our mother as well.

Finally, when Jesus was on the cross, we see the tender moment when He gave Mary to the Apostle John. In the Gospel of John 19:26-27, we read:

When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Thus, the Tradition of the Church, coming from the Apostles, teaches us to understand that the Lord was entrusting all of His disciples to Mary, in the person of St. John.

“You are the mother of justification and of the justified, the Mother of reconciliation and of the reconciled, the mother of salvation and of the saved.” - St. Anselm

What is the role of the Virgin Mary in the Church?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 964-965) teaches us,

Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. “This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death”; it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion:

Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: “Woman, behold your son.”

After her Son’s Ascension, Mary “aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers.” In her association with the apostles and several women, “we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation.”

Also, Pope St. Paul VI, in “Credo of the People of God,” said the following:

Joined by a close and indissoluble bond to the Mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption, the Blessed Virgin, the Immaculate, was at the end of her earthly life raised body and soul to heavenly glory and likened to her risen Son in anticipation of the future lot of all the just; and we believe that the Blessed Mother of God, the New Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ’s members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.
“We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ.” - Pope St. Paul VI

Why is the Church herself called Mother?

At a General Audience in 2013, Pope Francis explored the meaning of the Church being our “Mother.”

Among the images that the Second Vatican Council chose to help us understand the nature of the Church better, there is that of “mother”: the Church is our mother in faith, in supernatural life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, nn. 6,14,15,41,42). It is one of the images most used by the Fathers of the Church in the first centuries and I think it could be useful for us too. For me it is one of the most beautiful images of the Church: Mother Church! In what sense and in what way is the Church mother? We start with the human reality of motherhood: what makes a mother?

First of all a mother generates life, she carries her child in her womb for 9 months and then delivers him to life, giving birth to him. The Church is like this: she bears us in the faith, through the work of the Holy Spirit who makes her fertile, like the Virgin Mary. The Church and the Virgin Mary are mothers, both of them; what is said of the Church can be said also of Our Lady and what is said of Our Lady can also be said of the Church! …

A mother does not stop at just giving life; with great care she helps her children grow, gives them milk, feeds them, teaches them the way of life, accompanies them always with her care, with her affection, with her love, even when they are grown up. And in this she also knows to correct them, to forgive them and understand them. She knows how to be close to them in sickness and in suffering. In a word, a good mother helps her children to come of themselves, and not to remain comfortably under her motherly wings, like a brood of chicks under the wings of the broody hen. The Church like a good mother does the same thing: she accompanies our development by transmitting to us the Word of God, which is a light that directs the path of Christian life; she administers the Sacraments. She nourishes us with the Eucharist, she brings us the forgiveness of God through the Sacrament of Penance, she helps us in moments of sickness with the Anointing of the sick. The Church accompanies us throughout our entire life of faith, throughout the whole of our Christian life. …

A third brief thought. In the first centuries of the Church, one thing was very clear: the Church, while being the mother of Christians, while “making” Christians, is also “made” by them. The Church is not distinct from us, but should be seen as the totality of believers, as the “we” of Christians: I, you, we all are part of the Church. St Jerome wrote: “The Church of Christ is nothing other than the souls of those who believe in Christ” (Tract. Ps 86: PL 26,1084). Thus the motherhood of the Church is lived by us all, pastors and faithful.

Videos on Mary, Mother of the Church

What does the Catholic Church believe about Mary?

The Catholic Church has four dogmas regarding the Blessed Virgin:

  • She is the Mother of God (Council of Ephesus, 431). Read More
  • Her Perpetual Virginity, i.e. maintained throughout her life (Lateran Council, 649).
  • Her Immaculate Conception (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854). Read More
  • Her Assumption into Heaven (Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950). Read More

Do Catholics worship Mary?

No, Catholics do not worship Mary or any creature. To do so would violate the First Commandment. We may only worship God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christ is worshiped, even in His human nature, as He is a Divine Person, the Son.

Catholics honor Mary and ask for her intercession, but this should never be confused with worship. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 970) says,

“Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men . . . 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.” “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer; but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.”

Why is the Virgin Mary important?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 971) says,

“All generations will call me blessed”: “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.” The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.

The Catechism (paragraph 487) makes it clear that our beliefs about Mary are all tied to her relationship with the Lord: “What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.”

“We declare Mary Most Holy Mother of the Church, that is, of all the Christian people.” - Pope St. Paul VI

What are the feast days of Mary and why are they significant?

The feast days of the Blessed Virgin are significant because each one explains something about her place in salvation history. These can be Church teachings concerning her (for example, Mother of God or Immaculate Conception), or her apparitions (such as Fátima or Lourdes), or some particular devotion associated with her (such as, the Carmelite Order honoring her as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel).

Here is a partial list of Marian feast days during the year:

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God – January 1 (Solemnity)
Our Lady of Lourdes – February 11
The Annunciation of the Lord – March 25 (Solemnity)
Our Lady of Fátima – May 13
Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church – Monday following Pentecost
Immaculate Heart of Mary – Celebrated the Saturday following the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel – July 16
Assumption of Mary – August 15 (Solemnity)
Queenship of Mary – August 22
Nativity (Birth) of Mary – September 8
Our Lady of Sorrows – September 15
Our Lady of the Rosary – October 7
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – December 8 (Solemnity)
Our Lady of Guadalupe – December 12

Why do we celebrate the Virgin Mary in May?

The Holy See’s Directory of Popular Piety says the following in No. 191:

… since the month of May largely corresponds with the fifty days of Easter, the pious exercises practiced at this time could emphasize Our Lady’s participation in the Paschal mystery (cf. John 19, 25-27), and the Pentecost event (cf. Acts 1, 14) with which the Church begins: Our Lady journeys with the Church having shared in the novum of the Resurrection, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The fifty days are also a time for the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation and of the mystagogy. The pious exercises connected with the month of May could easily highlight the earthly role played by the glorified Queen of Heaven, here and now, in the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.

What is a May Crowning?

Recognizing that Mary is the Queen of Heaven (compare Israel’s King Solomon and his mother), it is traditional to honor Mary as Queen by crowning her image in her month of May. This represents both her place at Her Son’s side, as well as her maternal concern for the children of the Kingdom, who often appeal to their Queen with the rosary – a crown of “prayers.” Not unfittingly, therefore, when her images are crowned in parishes or families, children are drafted for this purpose, and the crown is one of flowers.

The day of a May Crowning is up to each parish or family. Some people want to celebrate this tradition on the first Sunday of May, while others choose the feast of Our Lady of Fátima. Since Mother’s Day is a secular celebration of motherhood, some want to have the May Crowning on that day, both to give it a spiritual orientation and to honor Our Lady as the Mother of Jesus and our Mother.

The May Crowning can take the form of a procession, hymns, prayers, and of course the crowning of a Marian statue.