Victoria Day and Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church


The May 24th weekend is here! It’s the unofficial start of the summer season! What are your plans? Are there traditions that you and your family and friends follow? Are you going to open your cottage? Will you go fishing? Are you staying close to home? Do you have to work on this holiday?

Will you sit on your balcony or in your back yard and read a novel or daydream about summers past? Are there plans for a BBQ? Given the weather this year, in many parts of the country, let’s hope that there is no snow to shovel!.

I offer two of my favourite Queen Victoria quotes.

“The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.”

Give my people plenty of beer, good beer, and cheap beer, and you will have no revolution among them.

This year, the holiday coincides with a brand new celebration established by Pope Francis. On the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes earlier this year, he decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, be inserted into the liturgical calendar on the Monday after Pentecost (also known as Whit Monday) and to be celebrated every year.

A liturgical note: A “memorial” is a lower-ranked feast day. Celebrations of feast days in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church are distinguished according to their importance and named either as solemnities, feasts or memorials. I would think that most of us tend to just say feast day.

The Gospel reading for the new celebration is John 19:25-31, which recounts how from the cross Jesus entrusted Mary to his disciples as their mother and entrusted his disciples to Mary as her children.

Francis approved the decree after “. . .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.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah noted in a brief commentary that Blessed Paul VI in 1964 had formally bestowed the title of “mother of the church” on Mary, but that recognition of her maternal care for the church and for believers had already spanned centuries.

The church calendars of Poland, Argentina, St. Peter’s Basilica and some religious orders already set aside the Monday after Pentecost as the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.

Honoring Mary as mother of the church on the day after Pentecost also highlights for Catholics that Mary was present with the disciples on Pentecost, praying with them as the Holy Spirit descended. 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.”

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

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