Tag Archives: liturgical calendar

Mary “Mother of the Church”officially added to Roman Calendar


on the celebration
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mother of the Church
in the General Roman Calendar

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

+ Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretary


The comment on this new memorial for Mary, Mother of the Church by Robert Cardinal Sarah.

The Memorial of Mary “Mother of the Church”

With a Decree dated 11 February 2018, the 160th anniversary of the first apparition of the Virgin at Lourdes, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments implements the decision of Pope Francis, requiring that the Memorial of the “Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of the Church” be inscribed in the General Roman Calendar. Attached to the Decree are the relevant liturgical texts in Latin for the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and the Roman Martyrology. The Episcopal Conferences will approve the translation of the texts they need and, after receiving their confirmation, will publish them in the liturgical books for their jurisdiction.

The new celebration is briefly described in the Decree itself which recalls the eventual maturation of liturgical veneration given to Mary following a better understanding of her presence “in the mystery of Christ and of the Church”, as explained in Chapter 7 of Vatican II’s Lumen gentium. Indeed, with good reason, in promulgating this Conciliar Constitution on 21 November 1964, Blessed Paul VI wished to solemnly bestow the title “Mother of the Church” upon Mary. The feeling of Christian people through two millennia of history has cultivated the filial bond which inseparably binds the disciples of Christ to his Blessed Mother in various ways. John the Evangelist gives explicit witness to such a bond when he reports the testament of Jesus dying on the Cross (cf. Jn 19:26-27). Having given his Mother to the disciples and the disciples to his Mother, “knowing that all was now finished”, the dying Jesus “gave up his spirit” for the life of the Church, his Mystical Body: indeed it was “from the side of Christ as He slept the sleep of death upon the Cross that there came forth the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n.5).

The water and blood which flowed from the heart of Christ on the Cross as a sign of the totality of his redemptive offering, continue to give life to the Church sacramentally through Baptism and the Eucharist. In this wonderful communion between the Redeemer and the redeemed, which always needs to be nourished, Blessed Mary has her maternal mission to carry out. This is recalled in the gospel passage of John 19:25-31 which is recommended for the Mass of the new Memorial, which had already been indicated, together with readings form Genesis 3 and Acts 1, in the Votive Mass “de sancta Maria Ecclesiæ Matre”, approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1973 in view of the upcoming Holy Year of Reconciliation of 1975 (cf. Notitiæ 1973, pp. 382-383).

The liturgical commemoration of the ecclesial motherhood of Mary had thus already found a place among the Votive Masses of the editio altera of the Missale Romanum of 1975. Then, during the pontificate of Saint John Paul II, the possibility was granted to Episcopal Conferences of adding the title “Mother of the Church” to the Litany of Loreto (cf. Notitiae 1980, p. 159); and on the occasion of the Marian Year the Congregation for Divine Worship published other Mass formularies for Votive Masses under the title of “Mary, Mother and Image of the Church” in the Collectio missarum de Beata Maria Virgine. In the course of the years the insertion of the celebration “Mother of the Church” into the proper calendars of some countries, such as Poland and Argentina, on the Monday after Pentecost was also approved. In other cases the celebration was inscribed in particular places such as Saint Peter’s Basilica, where Blessed Paul VI proclaimed the title, as well as in the Propers of Religious Orders and Congregations.

Given the importance of the mystery of Mary’s spiritual motherhood, which from the awaiting of the Spirit at Pentecost has never ceased to take motherly care of the pilgrim Church on earth, Pope Francis has decreed that on the Monday after Pentecost the Memorial of Mary Mother of the Church should be obligatory for the whole Church of the Roman Rite. The connection between the vitality of the Church of Pentecost and the maternal care of Mary towards it is evident. In the texts of the Mass and Office the text of Acts 1:12-14 throws light on the liturgical celebration, as does Genesis 3:9-15,20, read in the light of the typology of the New Eve, who became the “Mater omnium viventium” under the Cross of her Son, the Redeemer of the world.

The hope is that the extension of this celebration to the whole Church will remind all Christ’s disciples that, if we want to grow and to be filled with the love of God, it is necessary to plant our life firmly on three great realities: the Cross, the Eucharist, and the Mother of God. These are three mysteries that God gave to the world in order to structure, fructify, and sanctify our interior life and lead us to Jesus. These three mysteries are to be contemplated in silence. (cf. R. Sarah, The Power of Silence, n.57).

Robert Card. Sarah
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Bearing the weight of Christian life: the liturgical’s calendar interruptions

Yesterday afternoon I was listening to a Catholic theologian giving what I thought was a fine presentation on a theology of work. He, like many Catholics, made an error that I am particularly sensitive to when it comes to Catholic Liturgy. The professor spoke of Ordinary Time in the clichéd way we often think of this period and thus distorts what we live liturgically. Ordinary Time is not distinguished by common, normal or nothing special. The Church understand the meaning of Ordinary Time as being a period of liturgical time that takes us through the ordered unfolding of the life of the Messiah in the kerygma, and orderliness of our sacramentality in word and season. Therefore, we say with liturgical precision that there is no Ordinary Time in Catholic Liturgy. There is a distinct connection of having Christmas near the shortest day of the year and Easter in the springtime. Hence, it is more accurate to say, Sundays through the Year. But that does not hold currency these days in the Church. Catholics live their life of faith different from those the evangelical Christian communities but we honor a liturgical time with those who are Orthodox and Anglican Christians.

Time has come, I believe , to come some resolution in favor of a more authentic exposition of faith in our liturgical living: Father Richard G. Cipolla, a friend and former colleague, penned this homily that was reposted on Rorate Coeli blog, “Epiphany and the Unordinariness of Liturgical Time.” 

Father Cipolla’s thinking is challenging and desirous of advancing a renewal of Catholic liturgical praxis for theological reasons and not idealogical ones. The liturgical calendar is not unimportant. Quite the opposite: as the author indicates, the calendar serves the sacred Liturgy in that it helps to bear the weight of what has been given to us by the Lord and the saints. Hence, our living of liturgical  time forms and informs our Christian life and how we live in the world in which find ourselves and how live with others. Do we have the shoulders to carry the lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi tradition well into the 21st century?

Father Cipolla is a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport who came into full communion with the Catholic Church with his wife and two children; he retired from years of teaching but he a curate at St Mary’s Church, Norwalk, CT.

EpiphanyOne chapter of Dom Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy is named “The Sanctification of Time”.  This chapter shows how the Liturgical Calendar of the Church sanctifies time.  The Liturgical Calendar does not provide merely an overlay of secular time.  The Calendar is part of the recognition of the radically irruptive event of the Incarnation that changes time and space and reality forever.  Of course this includes the celebrations of the feasts of the Saints, those specific celebrations of the making real of the grace of God in the lives of those who open themselves up in a total way to this grace, above all in the Blessed Virgin Mary.  But the foundation of the Liturgical Calendar is the cycles that celebrate the Mysteries of the Birth, Life, Death,  Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Christmas cycle, which we are celebrating at this time, gives ultimate meaning to the secular, physical time when the days are becoming longer, a bit more light each day.  In the Christmas cycle we celebrate the coming into the world of the Light that shines in the darkness.  We celebrate the making flesh of God in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the birth of her child whose name is Jesus—he who comes to save. The climax of this cycle has always been the Epiphany, a feast older than Christmas, a feast that celebrates the fact that the event and the person of the Incarnation embraces not only time and space but embraces all the peoples of the world.  And the feast of the Epiphany proclaims in its three-fold way the answer to the seminal question asked in the Gospels: who is this man Jesus?  He is the one who is worshipped as God. He is the one who is the Son of God in whom his Father is well pleased.  He is the one who changes water into wine, for he is the Lord of creation itself.

One of the saddest and most deleterious effects of the changes in the structure and content of the Liturgical Calendar in the post-Conciliar reform is the lack of understanding of the sanctification of time by the feasts and fasts of the Church.  The introduction, at least in English, of the term, “ordinary time”, contradicts the fact that after the Incarnation there is no “ordinary” time. There is only the extraordinary time that has been brought into being by the insertion of the dagger of the Incarnation into ordinary time.  Now we know that the term “ordinary time” is a poor translation of the Latin term for “in course”.  But even this does not take away from the fact of the impoverishment of the Liturgical Calendar that has been effected by taking away the Sundays after the Epiphany and the Sundays after Pentecost.  The traditional way of naming these Sundays understood that these two feasts, Epiphany and Pentecost, are the climaxes of the Christmas and Easter seasons, the seasons that celebrate the event and meaning of, respectively, the Birth, and the Death and Resurrection of Christ, and therefore these feasts become the touchstone, the source of reality of the Sundays of the Church Year.

One of the marks of the Novus Ordo form and its calendar that is striking evidence of its incapacity to bear the weight of the Catholic Tradition is its source in a committee.  Something organic has nothing to do with a liturgical commission or consilium or committee.  As soon as one thinks that the Liturgy can be treated as a mere text to be updated, the possibility of worship is severely lessened.  That is what the Protestant reformers thought.  They rewrote their Mass texts to suit their ideology.  And, for the most part, liturgical worship died in those churches.  And where it did survive, as in Anglicanism, it did so thanks to both an innate conservatism and finally to a revival in the 19th century of a more Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.

The whole question of what happened and how it happened with respect to the Novus Ordo rite vis a vis the imposition of a particular ideology based on the scholarship du jour,  and the personal predilections of those in charge of the post-Conciliar reforms,  is a conversation that has not been allowed to happen by those “in charge” of such things in Rome.  There is no doubt that such a conversation will be had and must be had, for the good of the Church.  But that will come inevitably in time.

But surely, the question of the Liturgical Calendar and the mistakes made in its Novus Ordo formulation can be discussed now.  The imposition of a pre-conceived “orderliness” that demands that the Christmas season end with the feast of the Epiphany and with no time for the Octave to reflect on this seminal feast must be revisited.  This is compounded when the feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on a Sunday.  The irony here is that one of the battle cries of the reform of the Calendar was the restoration of the primacy of Sunday in the Liturgical Year.  Surely we can now see the foolishness of the possibility of celebrating the Epiphany as early as on January 2, four full days before the actual feast that is celebrated in those parts of the Western Church still on January 6 and celebrated on that day by our Orthodox brethren throughout the world with the solemnity it deserves.  It is foolish as well to celebrate this feast after January 6, as if it is irrelevant to the sanctification of time when any feast is celebrated, for the guiding principle in this reform is the convenience of the people: it is more convenient for the people to celebrate the Epiphany on Sunday rather than the interruption of having to go to Mass on a weekday.  But it is precisely the interruption that is the point.  The irruption of the Incarnation demands such an interruption, demands such an “inconvenience”, for it is a reminder of the sanctification of time itself to those of us who forget that time and space and the world and our lives and our future have been radically changed by the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

It may be too much to hope that a real conversation about the Liturgical Calendar of the Novus Ordo form will take place soon. But surely we can hope that our Bishops will soon see the deleterious effect of moving the Epiphany and other major feasts of our Lord to Sunday and will put an end to this practice.  For this, let us pray.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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