In the year 2018, Pope Francis decreed that the ancient devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Mother of the Church, be inserted into the Roman calendar. He raised the celebration of Mary Mother of the Church from the rank of a votive mass to an obligatory memorial to be celebrated a day after Pentecost. The Holy Father wished to promote this devotion in order to “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”.
The Church has several ranks of celebrations; there are Solemnities, Feasts, Memorials and Votive masses. Votive masses are celebrated for special intentions and are optional but by raising this feast to an obligatory memorial the Holy Father has highlighted this title of Our Blessed Mother as a 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.
History of this celebration
The veneration of Mary as Mother of the Church goes back to St Augustine (354 – 430) and St Leo the Great (440-461). St. Augustine 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 St. Leo the Great 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.”
On 21 November 1964, at the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council Pope (Saint) Paul VI declared Our Blessed Mother as the ‘ 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”.
In 1975 during the Holy Year of reconciliation, the Church inserted the votive mass of Mary the Mother of the Church into the Roman Missal. In 2018 this votive mass (or mass for a special intention) was raised to a obligatory memorial by Pope Francis.