Today, May 21, 2018, marks the first celebration of the Feast of Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, instituted early this year by Pope Francis.
The announcement came in a decree issued March 3, 2018, by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It was signed by its Prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah.
“The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman (cf. Gal 4:4), the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.,” according to the decree.
“This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God.”
On March 27, 2018, the same Congregation clarified that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, must be celebrated by everyone, beginning this year.
The “Notification” from the Church’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments clarified that the new Obligatory Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, must be celebrated in the Ordinary form of the Roman Rite beginning in 2018. The new feast is to be observed on the Monday following Pentecost.
The notification, signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation, notes that an exception still exists, in accordance with the rubrics in the Roman Missal: “Where the Monday or Tuesday after Pentecost are days on which the faithful are obliged or accustomed to attend Mass, the Mass of Pentecost Sunday may be repeated, or a Mass of the Holy Spirit may be said.”
Nevertheless, the document insists, “all else being equal, the Obligatory Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church is to be preferred.”
Because Pentecost is a movable feast, tied to the celebration of Easter, it is possible that the new Memorial could coincide with another Memorial of a Saint or Blessed; and when this happens, the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, will take precedence.
The new feast was inserted into the Universal Calendar for the Latin Church earlier this year by Pope Francis, in a decree dated February 11, 2018 – the 160th anniversary of the apparition of Mary at Lourdes. Previously, permission to celebrate a feast of Mary had been extended to Poland and Argentina, as well as St Peter’s Basilica, and several Religious Orders and Congregations.
The title of “Mother of the Church” was famously bestowed on the Blessed Virgin Mary by Blessed Pope Paul VI during the Second Vatican Council. The understanding of Mary’s motherhood has developed in the decades following Vatican II, especially as the Church has reflected on the Council’s teaching about Mary in chapter 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium).
Here is the Vatican-Provided Translation of the Decree:
The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman (cf. Gal 4:4), the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.
In some ways this was already present in the mind of the Church from the premonitory words of Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great. In fact the former says that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church, while the latter says that the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church. These considerations derive from the divine motherhood of Mary and from her intimate union in the work of the Redeemer, which culminated at the hour of the cross.
Indeed, the Mother standing beneath the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit. Christ, in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.
As a caring guide to the emerging Church Mary had already begun her mission in the Upper Room, praying with the Apostles while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). In this sense, in the course of the centuries, Christian piety has honoured Mary with various titles, in many ways equivalent, such as Mother of Disciples, of the Faithful, of Believers, of all those who are reborn in Christ; and also as “Mother of the Church” as is used in the texts of spiritual authors as well as in the Magisterium of Popes Benedict XIV and Leo XIII.
Thus the foundation is clearly established by which Blessed Paul VI, on 21 November 1964, at the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council, declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of the Church, that is to say of all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving Mother” and established that “the Mother of God should be further honoured and invoked by the entire Christian people by this tenderest of titles”.
Therefore the Apostolic See on the occasion of the Holy Year of Reconciliation (1975), proposed a votive Mass in honour of Beata Maria Ecclesiæ Matre, which was subsequently inserted into the Roman Missal. The Holy See also granted the faculty to add the invocation of this title in the Litany of Loreto (1980) and published other formularies in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1986). Some countries, dioceses and religious families who petitioned the Holy See were allowed to add this celebration to their particular calendars.
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
This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God.
The Memorial therefore is to appear in all Calendars and liturgical books for the celebration of Mass and of the Liturgy of the Hours. The relative liturgical texts are attached to this decree and their translations, prepared and approved by the Episcopal Conferences, will be published after confirmation by this Dicastery.
Where the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, is already celebrated on a day with a higher liturgical rank, approved according to the norm of particular law, in the future it may continue to be celebrated in the same way.
Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.
From the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 11 February 2018, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes.
Robert Card. Sarah Prefect
+ Arthur Roche Archbishop Secretary[Original text: Latin]
Here is the full Vatican-provided text of Cardinal Sarah’s Notification:
On the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church
Following the inscription of the Obligatory Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church into the Roman Calendar, which must already be celebrated by everyone this year on the Monday after Pentecost, it seemed opportune to offer the following directions.
The rubric found in the Roman Missal after the formularies for the Mass of Pentecost, “Where the Monday or Tuesday after Pentecost are days on which the faithful are obliged or accustomed to attend Mass, the Mass of Pentecost Sunday may be repeated, or a Mass of the Holy Spirit, may be said” (Missale Romanum, p. 448), is still valid because it does not derogate precedence between liturgical days whose celebration are solely regulated by the Table of Liturgical Days (cf. Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n. 59). Likewise, precedence is regulated by the norms on Votive Masses: “Votive Masses are in principle forbidden on the days on which there occurs an Obligatory Memorial, on a weekday of Advent up to and including 16 December, on a weekday of Christmas Time from 2 January, or on a weekday of Easter Time after the Octave of Easter. However, for pastoral reasons, as determined by the rector of the church or the Priest Celebrant himself, an appropriately corresponding Votive Mass may be used in a celebration of Mass with the people” (Missale Romanum, p.1156; cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 376).
Nevertheless, all else being equal, the Obligatory Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church is to be preferred. The texts of the Memorial were attached to the Decree along with indications for the readings, which are to be held as proper because they illuminate the mystery of Spiritual Motherhood. In a future edition of the Ordo lectionum Missæ the rubric at n. 572 bis will expressly indicate that the readings are proper and, even though it is a Memorial, are to be adopted in place of the readings of the day, (cf. Lectionary, General Introduction, n. 83).
In the case where this Memorial coincides with another Memorial, the principles of the Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and Calendar are to be followed (cf. Table of Liturgical Days, n. 60). Given that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church is linked to Pentecost, as the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary is similarly linked to the celebration of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, then, in the case where it coincides with another Memorial of a Saint or Blessed, and following the liturgical tradition of pre-eminence amongst persons, the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary is to prevail.
From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 24 March 2018.
Robert Cardinal Sarah
+ Arthur Roche