Pope Francis reflected on the theme of maternity during his weekly Angelus address. According to the Holy See, over 50,000 faithful packed St. Peter’s Square to listen to the Holy Father’s weekly catechesis on the Church during the Year of Faith.
The Pope began his catechesis explaining that the image of the Church as a mother “is for me one of the most beautiful images of the Church.”
“What does a mother do?” he asked.
“First and foremost a mother gives life, she carries her child in the womb for nine months and then introduces him to life, she generates him.” The Holy Father told the faithful that the Church does the same; the Church generates us in faith by the work of the Holy Spirit who renders her fruitful.
While acknowledging that faith is a personal experience, the Pope said that faith is received from others such as a family or community. “A Christian is not an island!” the Pope exclaimed.
“We do not become Christians alone and by our own efforts, but rather faith is a gift from God that is given in and through the Church. And the Church gives us life in Baptism: that is, the moment in which she enables us to be born as children of God, the moment in which she gives us life in God, in which she generates us as a mother.”
Unlike belonging to a society, a team or an organization, Pope Francis explained that belonging to the Church is a living bond, like one has with their own mother.
Referring to the date of one’s baptism as the date of their birth to the Church, the Holy Father gave all present the task to look for their date of baptism, saying that it is good “to celebrate it, to thank the Lord for this gift.”
“Do we love the Church as one loves one’s mother, knowing even understanding her flaws? All mothers have flaws, we all do. But when we speak of the defects of the mother, we overlook them, we love them as they are. And the Church has her flaws, as well. Do love her this way, like a mother? Do we help her to be more beautiful, more authentic, according to the Lord? I leave these questions with you. But do not forget your homework? Look for the date of your baptism, to have it in your heart and celebrate it.”
A Church that Nurtures
Pope Francis posed several questions, engaging the faithful to contemplate on their continuing relationship with the Church. The Pope asked whether they feel that their relationship is a formal one or vital one.
Drawing once again on the example of a mother, the Holy Father stated that mother does not limit herself to giving life but the care of her children.
“She gives them milk, she nurtures them, she shows them the path of life, she accompanies them,” the Pope said. ”She also knows how to correct them, to forgive, to understand; she knows how to be close to them in times of illness and suffering. In short, a good mother helps her children to come out of themselves, not to stay comfortably tucked under the maternal wing.”
The Church, he went on to say, does the same with us by accompanying our growth in faith with the Word of God and nurturing us with the Sacraments. “She nourishes us with the Eucharist, she brings us God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, she supports us in times of sickness through the Anointing of the Sick. The Church accompanies us in all our life in faith, in all our Christian life,” the Pope said.
Concluding his address, the Holy Father said that while the Church ‘makes’ Christians, She is also ‘made up’ of Christians. Addressing those who state their belief in God while denying their belief in God, the Holy Father said that such a belief means “that you do not believe in yourself, which is a contradiction.”
“We are all the Church: from the recently baptised child to the bishops, to the Pope; we are all Church, and we are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all called to collaborate in the birth of faith in new Christians, we are all called upon to be educators in faith, to proclaim the Gospel. … We all participate in the maternity of the Church we are all the Church so that the light of Christ may illuminate the furthest reaches of the Earth. Long live the Holy Mother Church!” the Pope concluded.