Monday’s New Memorial: Mary, Mother of the Church

In early March this year it was announced 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, is to 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 was 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 on the new memorial, 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. This post is based on an early post when the new memorial was first announced.

10 comments

  1. Just what the church needs most, another Marian feast. Paul’s imposition in defiance of the council was bad enough, why compound it now?
    Mary, Untier of Knots, pray for us.

  2. I am a little hesitant about this new memorial. I’m afraid, the fact that this is a local feast from Argentina, adds a little to my unease. I wonder if it is needed. Surely there is already a rich enough selection of Marian feasts in the general and national calendars. The US has just added a whole slew of Marian Feasts for use in Spanish in the new Spanish edition of the Roman Missal, basically adopting every Marian feast in use in Latin America. As a pastoral resource, the Collection of Masses of the BVM provides a rich selection of devotional Marian commemorations that are in tune to the Church’s year and can be used at the discretion of the presider. I would have been happier if the new commemoration was added to this collection to be used on any day after Pentecost. Our calendar is already becoming overloaded. Maybe we should introduce a rule that every time a feast is added another should be deleted from the General Calendar.
    Although this is also a typical move of Pope Francis, to employ an element of Catholic devotional piety that doesn’t sit well with either liberals or conservatives. The conservatives are worried that it gets in the way of the Octave of Pentecost. There was an interesting historical analysis of Vatican II’s declaration of Mary as Mother of the Church over at the NLM by Matthew Hazell when the memorial was announced: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2018/03/the-blessed-virgin-mary-mother-of.html#.WwJ2iC8ZOJZ

  3. Interesting to note that Rome has got the Responsorial Psalm wrong for this day.

    They specify:
    Psalm 87:1-2, 3 and 5, 6-7
    R/. Glorious things are told of you, O city of God.

    as replicated on the US and E&W Bishops’ websites.

    This error clearly originates in the Latin.

    “Glorious things are told of you…..” is Gloriosa dicta sunt de te civitate Dei (as in “Glorious things of thee are spoken, / Zion, city of our God”), but what ought to have been specified is Gloriosa dicta sunt de te Maria as in the Communion antiphon on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (“Glorious things are told of you, Mary, for he that is mighty has done great things for you”), where it is paired in the 1974 GR with verses from the Magnificat. One can easily imagine a Roman functionary seeing only the opening words Gloriosa dicta sunt on someone’s list and simply selecting the wrong one.

    More than a few people, it seems, have said that they can’t understand how the specified psalm connects with the readings, and have instead opted for the Magnificat. How right they are!

    1. I’m not sure that that is an error – the responsorial psalms (unlike the Entrance/Communion antiphons) often eschew the adaption of the psalm verse in such an explicit manner, which also has the advantage of standardizing the responses. As for the people who can’t see how the psalm is connected in an accommodated sense….I’m sure someone can easily point it out to them. The parallel (well attested in the tradition as well) seems fairly straightforward to me, especially in the countries with the Grail Psalter translation: Zion–Church–Mary, “Zion shall be called mother…for all shall be her children”,”these are her children…in you all find their home”, etc., etc.

      In any event, the Responsorial Psalm and verse is the existing responsorial psalm from those in the Lectionary of the Masses of the B.V. Mary, so it has been quite some years.

      Speaking of the E&W Liturgy Office, I cannot understand why a simple Lectionary Supplement could not have been prepared for the new memorial, as was done by the Divine Worship people at the USCCB . It is less than an afternoon’s work – all the texts are found in the lectionary (the Gospel can be extracted from the selection of Holy Week) aside from the Gospel Acclamation – for which they could have simply borrowed the translation in the “Collection of Masses of the B.V. Mary”.

      1. I also don’t think it is an error. The responsorial Psalm for this new memorial has obviously been taken from the 1987 Collectio Missarum de Beata Maria Virgine, and the compilers of the Collectio seem to have taken inspiration from the 1962 MR, where Ps. 86[87]:1-3 (with 133[134]:1) is used as the introit for the Mass of Our Lady, Queen of Apostles (Saturday after Ascension, pro aliquibus locis).

        Ps. 86[87]:1-2, 3, 5 is also used as the Tract for the Immaculate Conception, when celebrated as a Votive Mass after Septuagesima, with the same being true of the Mass pro aliquibus locis of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (27 Nov). In all three of these cases, v. 3 reads Gloriosa dicta sunt de te, civitas Dei.

  4. The ordo for our archdiocese (Chicago) doesn’t list Mary, Mother of the Church for today; today’s entry lists St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Companions, Martyrs. Whether Francis’s announcement came after the ordo had gone to the printer, or it was an editorial oversight, I am not sure. Had I not looked at my Divine Office app this morning, I would have prayed the wrong set of prayers this morning. As it happens, today (first day of a new season) is a day that I, and others, are particularly likely to go to an aid like an ordo to figure out where to set our ribbons, so the ordo inaccuracy is especially unfortunate.

    I guess St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions gets superseded for this year only, as the date of Pentecost hops around from year to year.

  5. I realize this note is too late for this year, but in the spirit of better late than never: Paul Inwood mentions texts for the memorial at the bishops websites for the US and England & Wales. For those of us in the US, the URL is here:

    http://www.usccb.org/about/divine-worship/liturgical-calendar/mother-of-the-church.cfm

    It notes that there already is a mass formulary in the Missal for Mary, Mother of the Church; it gathers together the assigned mass readings for the day into .pdfs in both English and Spanish that could be printed up and used for proclamation; and it provides instructions for the Office of Readings, Morning and Evening Prayer, including assigning and providing a prayer for the day in English. And it notes that any other proper prayers for the Hours in English will be included in the second edition of the Liturgy of the Hours.

  6. The liturgical texts, in Latin, are found at:
    http://www.cultodivino.va/content/cultodivino/it/documenti/decreti-generali/decreti-generali/2018/de-beata-maria-virgine-ecclesiae-matre/adnexus.html

    Note that a clarification after the degree from the CDWDS said that the readings given are, in fact, proper.

    The text of the 2nd reading for the office of readings is taken from Bl. Paul VI speech toward the end of the 3rd session of the Council, and a translation of the entire speech is found at:
    https://www.ewtn.com/fatima/papal-documents/pope-paul-VI/1964Paul6.htm

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