Mary, Mother of the Church

Revised from Wikipedia

Mother of the Church (in Latin Mater Ecclesiae) is a title, officially given to Mary during the Second Vatican Council by Pope Paul VI. The title was first used in the 4th century by Saint Ambrose of Milan, as rediscovered by Fr. Hugo Rahner. Hugo Karl Erich Rahner, S.J. was a German Jesuit, noted theologian, and Church historian,. Fr. Hugo Rahner showed that Mariology was originally ecclesiology; the Church is like Mary. The Church is virgin and mother, she is immaculate and carries the burdens of history. She suffers and she is assumed into heaven. Slowly the Church learns that Mary is her mirror, that she is a person in Mary. Mary, on the other hand, is not an isolated individual, who rests in herself. She carries the mystery of the Church.

Pope Benedict lamented that this unity of the Church and Mary, brought to light by Rahner, was overshadowed in later centuries. A Marian view of the Church and an ecclesiological view of Mary in salvation history leads directly to Christ. It brings to light what is meant by holiness and by God being human.

The title "Mother of the Church" was used by Pope Benedict XIV in 1748 and then by Pope Leo XIII in 1885. The title was also used by Pope John Paul II, and is also found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II stated that overall the title indicates the Blessed Virgin Mary's maternity of Christ's faithful, as deriving from her maternity of Christ in that "Mary is present in the Church as the Mother of Christ, and at the same time as that Mother whom Christ, in the mystery of the Redemption, gave to humanity in the person of the Apostle John. Thus, in her new motherhood in the Spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church, and embraces each and every one through the Church.

The Church has traditionally portrayed the Blessed Virgin Mary together with the apostles and disciples gathered at that first Pentecost, joined in prayer with the first members of the Church. She is invoked as Mother of the Church and the teacher and Queen of the Apostles. Following the title's usage by Leo XIII, it was later used many times in the teachings of Pope John XXIII, PopePaul VI, PopeJohn Paul II, and PopeBenedict XVI. 1

Mary, Mother of the Church in the Catechism

by Deacon Keith Fournier

  1. Paragraph 963: Since the Virgin Mary's role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. "The Virgin Mary ... is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer.... She is 'clearly the mother of the members of Christ' ... since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head." (p 500) "Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church." (p 501)
  2. Paragraph 964: Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. "This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death"; (p 502) it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion: Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, with these words: "Woman, behold your son." (p 503)
  3. Paragraph 965 After her Son's Ascension, Mary "aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers." (p 504) In her association with the apostles and several women, "We also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation." (p 50)
  4. Paragraph 966: "Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." (p 506) The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians: In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death. (p 507) ... she is our Mother in the order of grace.
  5. Paragraph 967: By her complete adherence to the Father's will, to his Son's redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church's model of faith and charity. Thus she is a "preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church"; indeed, she is the "exemplary realization" (typus) (p 508) of the Church.
  6. Paragraph 968: Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace." (p 509)
  7. Paragraph 969: "This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation .... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix." (p 510)
  8. Paragraph 970: . "Mary's function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power. But the Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on men . . . flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it. " (p 511) "No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. 2

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Saint Thomas Aquinas once said “Quarrels arise more frequently when there is no division of the things possessed." However, it would be erroneous to interpret these words as relating only to physical boundaries or personal property. More importantly, they refer to personal, psychological, and spiritual boundaries. Walls exist because sin and disorder exists. Scandals arise, and evil flourishes, where God given rights and societal norms are violated; where the attraction for our passions overrides the respect and love our neighbor is due. As the conservative social historian, Russel Kirk, once said, "Order is the first need of the soul." In the beginning, prior to all creation, God brought order out of chaos. Where there are no boundaries, where rights are violated, where laws are trampled, freedom is destroyed and chaos and evil reigns. And where walls are damaged, and in need of repair, neighbors need to work together to mend those fences and restore proper respect and boundaries.

Recent Additions

Pope Francis Institutes New
Celebration of Mary

Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary by Michaelangelo Buonaroti 1

“Mother of the Church”

Pope Francis has decreed that the ancient devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Mother of the Church, be inserted into the Roman Calendar.

Baruch Hashem!

Hebrew: "Blessed be the Name of the Lord."

Art Links

Building Community

Quick Links

Cartoon: golf ball driving a golf cart

Vision Amid Scandal

Revised from an article by
Dan Burke of the Avila Foundation

As I reflect on the challenges in the Church this past year, it easily draws me to sorrow. Even so, I see a powerful light piercing through the dark clouds onto the valley floor. This light is the light of Christ that no cloud of corruption can permanently obscure. This is a light that never ceases to pierce and dispel the darkness. This is a light that has a name, His name is Jesus. His name and His Church are the reason I exist. He is my purpose, our purpose, our salvation.

As we enter into Advent, the dawn of our salvation, we are reminded of the Light that once came and comes again at every Mass. This Light shined in the darkness then, and it does so now. It breaks the darkness of broken hearts and minds ... It ignites the minds of future priests. It is the light that beckons the hearts of all Christians to noble and holy vocations. These are the lights of God that He has given us to give to the world. 3

See something different

From an Ordination Homily by
Archbishop of Atlanta, John Donohue

In a time when the Church is plagued by scandal and attacked from all sides, it is clear that these men see something different, something noble, something worthy of their lives. 4

'I am wounded by love'

What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and wonderful than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.

- Saint Basil the Great