Here below is a translation of Pope Francis’ general audience catechesis, delivered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 3rd.
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the previous catechesis, we were able to point out several times that you don’t become Christian by yourself, through your own efforts, on your own, but by being born and nurtured in the faith in the midst of the People of God, that is the Church. In this sense the Church is a true mother, our mother Church – it’s nice to say so, eh? – a mother who gives us life in Christ and in the communion of the Holy Spirit, brings us into a common life with all our brothers and sisters.
1. In this, her motherhood, the Church has as its model the Virgin Mary, the highest and most beautiful model that can be. The first Christian communities have already highlighted this and the Second Vatican Council expressed it in an admirable way (cf. Const. Lumen Gentium, 63-64). Mary’s motherhood is certainly unique, singular, and was accomplished in the fullness of time, when the Virgin gave birth to the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. And yet, the Church’s motherhood places you right in continuity with that of Mary, as its prolongation in history. The Church, in the fruitfulness of the Spirit, continues to generate new children in Christ, always listening to the Word of God and in obedience to his plan of love. The Church is mother. The birth of Jesus in Mary’s womb, in fact, is a prelude to the rebirth of every Christian in the womb of the Church, since Christ is the firstborn of many brethren (cf. Rom 8:29). And our first brother is Jesus, born of Mary, who is the model for all of us born into the Church. We understand, then, how the relationship that unites Mary and the Church is as deep: looking to Mary, we find the most beautiful and tender face of the Church; looking to the Church, we recognize the sublime features of Mary. We Christians are not orphans, we have a mom, we have a mother and this is great. We are not orphans. The Church is mother, Mary and mother.
2. The Church is our mother because she has delivered us in Baptism. Whenever a child is baptised, he becomes a son of the Church, from that day, he is in the Church which cares for him as a caring mother, she makes us grow in faith and shows us, with the power of the Word of God, the way of salvation, defending us from evil.
The Church has received from Jesus the precious treasure of the Gospel, not to keep it for herself, but giving it generously to others – as a mother does. In this service of evangelization the maternity of the Church is shown in a particular way — committed, as a mother, offering her children the spiritual nourishment that feeds and makes fruitful the Christian life. All, therefore, are called to welcome with an open mind and heart the Word of God that the Church dispenses every day, because this Word has the ability to change us from the inside. Only the Word of God has this capacity to change us for the better from the inside out, from our deepest roots — this powerful Word of God. And who gives us the Word of God? The mother Church, she gives her children this word, raising us throughout our whole life with this word. And this is great, it’s mother Church who, with this word, really changes us from the inside. The words that mother Church gives us transform us, making our humanity beat not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
In her motherly care, the Church strives to show believers the way to go to live a fruitful existence of joy and peace. Illuminated by the light of the Gospel and upheld by the grace of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, we can orient our choices towards the good and pass, with courage and hope, moments of darkness and more tortuous paths. The path of salvation, through which the Church guides us and accompanies us with the power of the Gospel and the support of the Sacraments, gives us the ability to defend ourselves from evil. The Church has the courage of a mother who knows that she must protect her own children from the dangers resulting from the presence of Satan in the world, to bring them to the encounter with Jesus. This defence also consists of a call to vigilance: be on guard against the deception and seduction of evil. Because even if God has conquered Satan, his temptations always return. We know this, we are all under attack. It is not for us to be naïve, but to be vigilant and stand firm in the faith, not to resist the advice of a mother, resist the help of mother Church. A good mother always accompanies her children in difficult moments.
3. Dear friends, this is the Church: this is the Church that we all love, the Church that I love. A mother who has at heart the welfare of their children, that has the capacity to give life to her children. We must not forget, however, that the Church is all the baptized – not just priests or bishops, no we all are. We are all in the Church, we are all children, also other Christians .We, all the baptized, men and women, together are the church. How many times in our life do we not give witness to this motherhood of the Church, to this maternal courage of the Church! Let us entrust ourselves to Mary, then, because she will teach us to have her same maternal spirit towards our brothers and sisters, with the sincere ability to accept, forgive and inspire confidence and hope.[Original: Italian] [ZENIT working translation]