New Memorial of Mary Approved by Pope Francis

In a possible answer to why Pope Francis recently received Cardinal Sarah in audience, it was announced today that the Congregation for Divine Worship, with the approval of Pope Francis, has added a new memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary added to the calendar. The memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, will be kept on the Monday after Pentecost.

The Blessed Virgin Mary was present at the first Pentecost. It is recorded at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles that, after the Ascension, the following went to the upper room:

“…Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”

Then, after a successor to Judas was selected, the Holy Spirit came down upon those gathered – the apostles, Mary, and other women.

The Decree

The decree issued today is dated Feb. 11, the memorial for the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes. It says in part:

“Having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion 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, Pope Francis has decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost and be now celebrated every year.”

The new memorial will appear in all calendars and liturgical books of the Roman rite around the world. There are three ranks of celebrations in the Roman calendar: solemnities, feasts, and memorials. The latter may be optional or, as in the case of today’s new memorial, obligatory. In common parlance any commemoration is spoken of as a feast – “the feast of Pentecost, the feast of St. Patrick” – though technically the former is a solemnity and the latter a memorial. (This is rather like referring to all Western art music from the Middle Ages through Pärt as “classical,” though technically the classical era was from c. 1750 – 1825.)

The Monday after Pentecost is observed as “Pentecost Monday” or the “Second Day of Pentecost” in many places, with a proper liturgy for the day. It is a holiday in many European countries as well as Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, the Bahamas, Grenada, the Ivory Coast, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Solomon Islands. It is unclear how the new obligatory memorial will affect liturgical practice in these places.

The liturgical texts for the memorial will be translated and approved by episcopal conferences, and then may be published after confirmation by the Congregation for Divine Worship. Pope Francis recently returned approval of liturgical translations to episcopal confirmations, with Rome simply confirming the conference approval, in accord with the explicit wishes of the Second Vatican Council.

“Mary, Mother of God” at the Second Vatican Council

At the Second Vatican Council there was a proposed document “On the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of Men,” which was soon renamed “On The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.” Periti such as Rahner and Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict) raised concerns that it was ecumenically undesirable to have an independent document on the Virgin Mary and to speak of her as the “mediatrix of all graces.” The bishops from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Scandinavia, attentive to these concerns, stated that they would support “mediatrix” but not “mediatrix of all graces.” These bishops also supported including the treatment on the Virgin Mary within the document on the Church, rather than as an independent document – which the Council eventually did. It became chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium on the church, now titled “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church,” without the title “Mother of the Church.”

Vatican II did not refer to Mary as “Mother of the Church,” but said this in chapter 8 of Lumen Gentium:

“Taught by the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church honors her [Mary] with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother.”

The Council did not define “mediatrix,” but simply stated that the title is sometimes employed:

“Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. These, however, are to be so understood that they neither take away from nor add anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator. For no creature could ever be classed with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer…. The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary.”

Then in 1964, at the end of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI formally declared Mary the “Mother of the Church.” The title had been used as early as the fourth century by St. Ambrose, as discovered by Hugo Rahner, and was used occasionally as well by popes in recent centuries.

Cardinal Sarah on Silence

In an accompanying commentary, Cardinal Sarah sounded one of his favorite themes on silence, writing at the conclusion of the commentary:

“The hope is that the extension of this celebration to the whole Church will remind all Christ’s disciples that, if we want to grow and to be filled with the love of God, it is necessary to plant our life firmly on three great realities: the Cross, the Eucharist, and the Mother of God. These are three mysteries that God gave to the world in order to structure, fructify, and sanctify our interior life and lead us to Jesus. These three mysteries are to be contemplated in silence. (cf. R. Sarah, The Power of Silence, n.57).”

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us! Help us to contemplate the mystery of our redemption in silence – and to proclaim it in joyful song!

Featured image: Coptic icon of Pentecost.



  1. Interesting situation for most German-speaking regions where Pentecost Monday still exists: It is celebrated in the Mass (not in the Office), and it is a public holiday, so many churches follow their regular Sunday schedules. In some regions Pentecost Monday is used for Ecumenical services (mainly Catholic-Protestant).

    Our rubrics and customs will become quite complicated now.

    1. I suspect in countries where the Monday and perhaps Tuesday after Pentecost is still devoted to continuing the celebration of the Holy Spirit, the bishops will simply request that the new memorial be placed on the nect available free day on the calendar.

  2. For those who are interested, the Latin texts to be inserted into the Missal, Lectionary, Breviary and Martyrology can be found at the website of the CDWDS:

    Most of the texts already happen to exist in English translation – the Mass formulary, for example, is that of the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, which is in MR3 – so one would have thought this would be a fairly easy memorial for the Bishops and ICEL to prepare. (Still no sign of the Preface for St Mary Magdalene, though, so…)

    1. I’m often drawn to see how they’ve applied the psalmody, and I noticed that Psalm 87 also appears in one of the votive Masses for the BVM. Note the Communion antiphon, “Glorious things are spoken of you, O Virgin Mary, for he who is mighty has done great things for you,” a mash-up of Psalm 87:3 and Luke 1:49.

      The Scripture chosen is a Song of Zion, and the reference in the Old Testament is a longing for a future time of restoration and joy. If this is something of Cardinal Sarah’s hand, a longing for some rosy future, I can’t argue against it.

    2. No preface for Mary Magdelene. How about using the preface for apostles for her………I don’t think it’s incorrect, and it would set the cat among the pidgeons (he chortled in his glee……..).

  3. Per my Spanish breviary that provides the calendars of Argentina, Columbia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, this memorial is already on the liturgical calendar in Argentina on the monday after Pentecost and it is obligatory. But it is not on the other region’s calendars.

    Other interesting Marian days in Argentina include Queen of Peace on Jan 24, Help of Christians on May 24, Our Lady of Mercy on Sept 24, Mary, Mediatrix of all graces on Nov 7.

    Some years this new memorial will conflict with another obligatory memorial that is already on the calendar. In 2020, it will conflict with a St. Justin, Martyr. I assume there is an easy way to solve this as the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a moveable memorial, but I am looking at the table of precedence and I am not seeing anything helpful.

    Also I am very happy about this development and love this title of Mary. One of the parishes in my diocese is called Mother of the Church.

    1. If the same rules are followed as for the Immaculate Heart, then in the years when it coincides with another obligatory memorial, both celebrations become optional memorials.

      I think it might have been better if the celebration had been made optional. In addition to the observation already made above about Pentecost Monday, the addition of new Marian titles to the General Calendar is a retreat from the principles of the revised calendar, under which devotional titles, if inserted, are optional in order to avoid overcrowding the calendar.

      1. “If the same rules are followed as for the Immaculate Heart, then in the years when it coincides with another obligatory memorial, both celebrations become optional memorials.”

        Does “optional” in this case mean “choose one or the other”? I assume that choosing neither and treating the day as a ferial day wouldn’t be a choice?

      2. This has apparently now been clarified:

        The new memorial will supersede any other memorial. Although alluding to the case of the Immaculate Heart, it adopts an entirely different principle. It is interesting that a reference is made to the ordering of celebrations according to “the liturgical tradition of pre-eminence amongst persons” – a criteria of precedence which was in the pre-conciliar rubrics (1961) but not explicitly stated (as far as I know…) in the post-conciliar texts.

        Also interesting is that the Lectionary texts have been declared proper to the memorial – a very rare occurrence for memorials. Even among the handful with proper texts, it is usually restricted to one reading.

  4. The answer to all the problems of the church and the world – another celebration of Mary???

    1. When I see memorials like these start appearing, I assume they will be the first to disappear as part of a calendar revision in 25 to 250 years.

      1. Yes, I can envision a Society of S. Paul VI for the preservation of the real Missale Romanum Of 1970 and that of the First Liturgia Horarum along with the other liturgical books in force at that time and which have never been abrogated.

  5. For as long as I can remember, we LCMS Lutherans have had “St. Mary, Mother of our Lord” on August 15th. Hmmmm

    1. But that has only been since LBW and LW, so late 70’s/early 80’s. And that title is not related to this new memorial in any way.



  6. I think I will still celebrate the Holy Spirit – who gave birth to the Church at Pentecost – as Mother of the Church on Pentecost Sunday.

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