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Center for Catholic Education at UD

Mater Ecclesiae: Turning to Our Spiritual Mother on the Feast of Pentecost

By Elena Niese

Two Sundays ago on May 23rd, the Church celebrated the climax of the Easter season: the Feast of Pentecost. This feast day, often dubbed the birthday of the Church, commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. By the power of the Holy Spirit, “like the rush of a mighty wind” (Acts 2:2) and as “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3), the apostles were set ablaze with a renewed boldness to proclaim and manifest the Risen Christ in their earthly mission.

But, it was not just the apostles who were present in the upper room. Mary was also with them! Recognizing the need to honor the special role of the Blessed Mother on this day, Pope Francis added a new feast day in 2018 celebrating Mary as Mother of the Church. It is celebrated on the Monday following Pentecost, which this year fell on May 24th. But what exactly does it mean to refer to Mary as the Mother of the Church? And, how can we model Mary’s obedience to the Holy Spirit in this season of Pentecost?

Mary, Mother of the Church

This title for Mary, although only more recently adopted in the past two centuries, has its roots in the early Church Fathers and Sacred Scripture. At the Annunciation, Mary gave her “fiat,” her yes, to her role in establishing the Kingdom of God, the Church, on earth. Again, during the Wedding Feast at Cana, Mary inaugurated Jesus into his public ministry-- the seed of faith which would eventually mature into the first community of believers. Later at the crucifixion, Mary participates in the work of salvation, uniting herself to the ultimate self-gift of her Son. It is only natural, then, that Mary, the Mother of Christ, is also intimately tied up in the birth of Church. Just as Jesus gives Mary to John at the foot of the cross, so, too, is she given to each and every one of us. Pope St. John Paul II expresses this sentiment well as he states:

“The title “Mother of the Church”… reflects the deep conviction of the Christian faithful, who see in Mary not only the mother of the person of Christ, but also of the faithful. She who is recognized as mother of salvation, life and grace, mother of the saved and mother of the living, is rightly proclaimed Mother of the Church.”

Mary, the “New Eve,” is our Spiritual Mother and Mother of the Church. May we never forget to turn to her for motherly guidance and protection in our journey towards Christ!

Mary—Alive in the Spirit

Mary is also a special mentor and guide in manifesting the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Although present when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles at Pentecost, Mary was already deeply tied to the Spirit. At the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel declares unto Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). Mary was filled with and united to the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation so much so that she is often referred to by the title Spouse of the Spirit. Here are some ways that our Lady can help you cultivate the Fruits of the Holy Spirit in this season of Pentecost:

  • Joy: Despite the many hardships Mary endured, she lived a life of exuberant joy in God. She delighted in doing His will and fulfilling the vocation that He had fashioned for her. Mary’s Magnificat, her song of praise, is evidence of this radical joy. Spend some time meditating upon the Magnificat today (Luke 1:46-55), asking Mary to help you emulate her joyful heart.
  • Faithfulness: Although full of grace, Mary was not without suffering and uncertainty. At the Annunciation, Mary did not understand her mission completely, yet still she chose to trust in the Lord. Although witnessing the death of her beloved Son, a sword which Simeon prophesied would pierce her heart, Mary continued in steadfast hope. Mary is a model of the true meaning of faith: to believe even when you cannot understand. Pray with the Seven Sorrows of Mary today, reflecting on Mary’s steadfast trust in the Father despite her circumstances.
  • Peace & Gentleness: As the Mother of God, Mary had an intimate role in raising the child Jesus. She would have wiped his tears when He was hurt, held Him in her arms as He fell asleep, and watched him playing in the yard as she washed the dishes. Mary was a peaceful and gentle mother to Jesus in his earthly life and is a peaceful and gentle mother to you and me, too. Listen to “Mother of God” by The Brilliance today and allow the gentle embrace of our Blessed Mother to fill you with peace.

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Edited by Emily Niese

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