Painting: Federico Barocci, “Madonna del Popolo”, 1579
“Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church.”
The Monday after Pentecost will be different this year, and I’m delighted. That’s because the Catholic Church will be celebrating a new memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary on that day.
On Saturday, March 3, 2018, Pope Francis declared that, henceforward, the Monday after Pentecost Sunday will be celebrated as the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. The Memorial will be observed annually and has been added to the General Roman Calendar, the Roman Missal, and the Liturgy of the Hours. The Holy Father’s wishes for this new feast day is that it will foster Marian piety and the maternal sense of the Church
The official decree was published March 3 in a letter from Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
In his letter of decree, Cardinal Sarah wrote, “… Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church, while the latter says that the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church.”
Cardinal Sarah also pointed out that Mary’s mission began in the Upper Room as she prayed with the Apostles in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit, as her Son had promised. Pentecost was the birth of the Church – the Mystical Body of Christ. As mother of Christ, the Head of the Church, she also is the Mother of the Church.
This has made perfect sense to me, and as Pentecost approaches each year, I’ve found myself thinking more about Mary than about the Apostles. That’s not to say that their Pentecost experience was anything less than astounding – of course it was! But more than that, I find myself zeroing in on the Blessed Mother and what her reaction might have been when, and especially after, the Holy Spirit had descended.
Mary had been waiting in the Upper Room with the Apostles, her Son’s closest friends. As any good natural mother, she would have loved them because he loved them. She would have wanted the best for them and likely had high hopes for them because of their closeness to him. She would have loved them despite their failure to stand by Jesus when things turned terrible and he was arrested, tortured and crucified. They, on their part, would have loved and honored her because she was the mother of their best friend.
Surely the Spirit’s descent was magnificent. But what about what happened afterward? Her Son’s friends – the ones who had turned on him – are suddenly and deeply converted. They lost their fears, put themselves aside, and bravely stepped out into the streets to proclaim the Good News. This is what Mary’s Son had worked all his life for, what he surrendered himself for, what he died for. These cowards were now bold, courageous men who were fulfilling her Son’s dream! When I picture this scene, I see Mary as the proud Mama, glowing with joy, elated over the transformation in the Apostles, and cheering them on as they went forth.
She was, after all, the Mother of the Church. The Apostles were the original ministers of that Church – her Son’s Mystical Body. Mary’s joy is our joy, too. I’ve relived that joy each year in my meditation. Now to have the entire Catholic Church join in that joy by celebrating the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church makes me truly ecstatic.