TODAY, FOR FIRST TIME, WE CELEBRATE MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH – POPE FRANCIS: THE CHURCH, LIKE MARY, IS WOMAN AND MOTHER

I wrote yesterday about the 14 prelates that Pope Francis announced would be elevated to the College of Cardinals next month. I said that on June 29, those under 80 and eligible to vote would be 6 over the ceiling of 120 set by Pope Paul VI. However, Cardinal Angelo Amato turns 80 before that date so there will be 125 electors, only five over the limit.

Here’s an article with more details and analysis by Register correspondent, and a good friend and talented observer of the Church scene, Matthew Bunson, on the new cardinals that Pope Francis will raise to the red hat on June 29 (the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, is also the same day the Pope traditionally hands the palliums to the new metropolitan archbishops):

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mbunson/francis-new-cardinals1

I’ve been asked quite often about the mosaic of Mary that is located fairly high up on the exterior of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square – about 1 o’clock if the basilica is noon. Many have noted it did not seem to fit in with the architecture of the building. In fact the apostolic palace is a complex of buildings with over 1,000 rooms and halls that date from various historical periods, many of which are, however, from the Renaissance.

The mosaic is indeed more modern and has quite a lovely story. For the story, we enter St. Peter’s Basilica and walk down the left aisle to the very end where we will find the Chapel of the Column. It is just beyond the Prayer Door entrance to the basilica and, most unfortunately, is not available to visitors as this area has been roped off.

Over the altar in the Chapel of the Column is an image of the Blessed Virgin painted on a column from the old basilica. In 1607 the image was placed on this altar designed by Giacomo Della Porta and is framed by stunning marble and priceless alabaster columns. On November 21, 1964, Pope Paul VI bestowed on this image the title of “Mater Ecclesiae” – Mother of the Church.

John Paul II had a mosaic reproduction of it set on the external wall of the palazzo facing St. Peter’s Square. St. John Paul’s motto – Totus tuus – all yours – is on this mosaic. He had always wondered how on earth Mary – whom he dearly loved – was not among the 140 statues atop the basilica facade and the monumental colonnades that were designed by Bernini.

When he was shot in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981, the Pope credited the hand of the Virgin – his mosaic Mary – with deflecting the bullet that would have killed him.

TODAY, FOR FIRST TIME, WE CELEBRATE MEMORIAL OF MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH

The Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, on February 11, 2018, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, promulgated a decree stating that the ancient devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Mother of the Church, be inserted into the Roman Calendar. The liturgical celebration, B. Mariæ Virginis, Ecclesiæ Matris, will be celebrated annually as a Memorial on the day after Pentecost.

Images of Mary, Mater Ecclesiae, mother of the Church, by EWTN’s Daniel Ibanez:


Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the congregation, said shortly afterwards that the Pope’s decision took account of the tradition surrounding the devotion to Mary as Mother of the Church, adding that Francis wants to promote this devotion in order to “encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety.”

That decree outlined the history of Marian devotion, especially Mary seen as Mother of the Church:

“As a caring guide to the emerging Church Mary had already begun her mission in the Upper Room, praying with the Apostles while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). In this sense, in the course of the centuries, Christian piety has honoured Mary with various titles, in many ways equivalent, such as Mother of Disciples, of the Faithful, of Believers, of all those who are reborn in Christ; and also as “Mother of the Church” as is used in the texts of spiritual authors as well as in the Magisterium of Popes Benedict XIV and Leo XIII.

“Thus the foundation is clearly established by which Blessed Paul VI, on 21 November 1964, at the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council, declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of the Church, that is to say of all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving Mother” and established that “the Mother of God should be further honoured and invoked by the entire Christian people by this tenderest of titles”.

“Therefore the Apostolic See on the occasion of the Holy Year of Reconciliation (1975), proposed a votive Mass in honour of Beata Maria Ecclesiæ Matre, which was subsequently inserted into the Roman Missal. The Holy See also granted the faculty to add the invocation of this title in the Litany of Loreto (1980) and published other formularies in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1986). Some countries, dioceses and religious families who petitioned the Holy See were allowed to add this celebration to their particular calendars.”

POPE FRANCIS: THE CHURCH, LIKE MARY, IS WOMAN AND MOTHER

By Vatican News

“The Church is feminine,” Pope Francis said in his homily on Monday, “she is a mother.” When this trait is lacking, the Pope continued, the Church resembles merely “a charitable organization, or a football team”; when it is “a masculine Church,” it sadly becomes “a church of old bachelors,” “incapable of love, incapable of fruitfulness.”

That was the reflection offered by Pope Francis during the Mass celebrated in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta for the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. The feast is being celebrated this year for the first time, after the publication in March of the decree Ecclesia Mater (“Mother Church”) by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Pope Francis himself decided the feast should be celebrated on the Monday immediately following Pentecost, in order “to encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety.”

The “motherliness” of Mary

In his homily, Pope Francis said that in the Gospel, Mary is always described as “the Mother of Jesus,” instead of “the Lady” or “the widow of Joseph”: her motherliness is emphasized throughout the Gospels, beginning with the Annunciation. This is a quality that was noted immediately by the Fathers of the Church, a quality that applies also to the Church.

The Church is feminine, because it is “church” and “bride” [both grammatically feminine]: it is feminine. And she is mother; she gives life. Bride and Mother. And the Fathers go further and say that even your soul is the bride of Christ and mother.” And it is with this attitude that comes from Mary, who is Mother of the Church, with this attitude we can understand this feminine dimension of the Church, which, when it is not there, the Church loses its identity and becomes a charitable organization or a football team, or whatever, but not the Church.

No to a Church of old bachelors

Only a feminine Church will be able to have “fruitful attitudes,” in accordance with the intention of God, who chose “to be born of a woman in order to teach us the path of woman.”

The important thing is that the Church be a woman whot has this attitude of a bride and of a mother. When we forget this, it is a masculine Church. Without this dimension, it sadly becomes a church of old bachelors, who live in this isolation, incapable of love, incapable of fecundity. Without the woman, the Church does not advance—because she is a woman. And this attitude of woman comes from Mary, because Jesus willed it so.

The tenderness of a mom

The virtue that primarily distinguishes a woman, Pope Francis said, is tenderness, like the tenderness of Mary, when she “gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.” She cared for Him, with meekness and humility, which are the great virtues of mothers.

A Church that is a mother goes along the path of tenderness. It knows the language of such wisdom of caresses, of silence, of the gaze that knows compassion, that knows silent. It is, too, a soul, a person who lives out this way of being a member of the Church, knowing that he or she is [like] a mother [and] must go along the same path: a person [who is] gentle, tender, smiling, full of love.

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