Pope Francis has made the ancient devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary a new annual celebration in the Roman Calendar: the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.
In a decree published by the Vatican last Friday, Pope Francis declared a new liturgical celebration B. Mariæ Virginis, Ecclesiæ Matris, Latin for Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, will be celebrated annually the Monday following Pentecost. This year, it falls on May 21st. Being an official Memorial, the celebration will include its own readings.
The decree was signed on February 11th, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, its prefect Cardinal Sarah noted that Pope Francis’ decision was rooted in the the ancient tradition surrounding the Virgin Mary as the Mother of the Church. Cardinal Sarah said the supreme pontiff hopes 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 decree revisits and reaffirms the history of Marian theology and writings of the Church Fathers on the importance of Mary both to the life of Christ and to the Church.
“[Saint 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 [Saint 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.”
Read the full decree instituting the celebration of the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church on the Vatican’s website here.