New feast day to encourage maternal sense of the Church, Marian piety for the people

  • May 17, 2018

WASHINGTON – The Catholic Church doesn’t often add new celebrations to its pretty full liturgical calendar, but this year’s new feast day, Mary, Mother of the Church on May 21, has Catholics gearing up to mark the day or at least think a little more about Mary.

The new feast day, which will be celebrated annually the day after Pentecost, was announced in a March 3 decree by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. The decree said the Pope approved the celebration because he thought it might “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.”

“It’s great that this feast day has been added,” said Fr. Paul Kavanagh, director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Archdiocese of Edmonton. “I think Pope Francis recognizes the importance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, her association with the Apostles and Christ, and the feast of Pentecost.”

Kavanagh noted that it’s rare that a feast day is added to the universal calendar of the Catholic Church.

Canada has had a long tradition honouring Mary. The country was first consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the 1947 Marian Congress in Ottawa. Last September, to mark Canada’s 150th birthday, the nation was re-consecrated to Mary by Canada’s bishops and its three cardinals — Marc Ouellet, Gerald Lacroix and Thomas Collins.

There are a handful of parishes named Mary, Mother of the Church, in Canada — including two in Manitoba — and in the United States.

Gloria Falcao Dodd, director of academic programs for the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton, Ohio, wrote a paper about the title “Mother of the Church” in 2006. 

Her research shows that a bishop in the 1100s called Mary “Mother of the Church” and Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical on the rosary said that Mary at Pentecost was “in very truth, the mother of the Church, the teacher and queen of the apostles.”

In his speech at the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1964, Blessed Pope Paul VI declared Mary the “most holy Mother of the Church.” And in 1981, the title “Mother of the Church” was given another boost when St. John Paul II had a mosaic commissioned for the outside wall of his papal apartment called Mater Ecclesiae (“Mother of the Church”) in gratitude for his recovery after being shot in St. Peter’s Square. Then, and other times, the pope spoke of Mary as a mediator, or someone who intercedes for us, said Dodd.

That idea of Mary interceding for the Church, as a mother does for her children, is important for Catholics to consider, especially as this new feast falls so soon after Mother’s Day, said Dodd. She also said it is key to understand its placement right after Pentecost, noting that at the time of the original Pentecost, Mary “did what a mother would do — she prayed with and for her children in the upper room.” 

And at Jesus’ crucifixion — when He announced to the disciple John, “behold your mother” about Mary — John symbolizes all of us, the Church, Dodd said.

(With files from Grandin Media)

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