Bishop's Column

Mater Ecclesiae - Mary, our mother, and mother of the Church

By Bishop James Conley 

Last Saturday, Pope Francis added a new feast to the Church’s calendar. The memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church will be celebrated the Monday after Pentecost.

In a letter announcing the new feast, Cardinal Robert Sarah wrote that “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.”

We need Mary to grow close to Christ. She is the mother of Christ, our Redeemer, and the mother of his body, the Church.

“Mary,” Cardinal Sarah wrote, “is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she cooperated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church.”

She became mother to each one us when we were reborn in Christ, at our baptism. She intercedes for us, she guides us, and she inspires us. Her life is a witness to the mystery of Christian discipleship because Mary is the first disciple of the Lord.

There is probably no better way to grow close to Mary than to begin the daily practice of the rosary. The rosary invites us to reflect upon the mysteries of Christ’s life through the eyes of Mary, and through her intercession. The rosary allows us to accompany Mary on her life of obedience to the Lord.

When I converted to the Catholic Church at age 20 during my junior year in college, one of the gifts I received upon my reception into the Church was a beautiful, black-beaded rosary. I didn’t know how to pray the rosary at all, but I was fascinated with this unique form of prayer. I quickly learned how progress through the beads while reciting the prayers and meditating on the mysteries of Our Lord and Our Lady. That was over 40 years ago and I am still fascinated with the beauty of this uniquely Catholic devotion and I try to pray the rosary every day.

Earlier this year, we began an 18-month ‘Eucharistic Family Rosary Crusade’ in the Diocese of Lincoln. This rosary crusade invites every family, every priest, every sister, and, indeed, every Catholic in our diocese to commit to praying the rosary.

The rosary is a powerful tool for families, and praying with it is an investment of time with extraordinary returns. Taking a few minutes to pray each day witnesses to children their own parents’ discipleship of the Lord.

A family rosary reminds us to turn off our screens and devices, and to turn to the Lord, and to one another. And the rosary, through the invocation of Mary’s intercession, protects us from evil.

Praying a family rosary can strengthen marriages, unify parents and children, and help to bring a few minutes of peace and order to the chaos and busy-ness of family life. It may seem impossible to busy families, but it really isn’t. Even beginning with a decade of the rosary each night is a way to invite the Lord, and our blessed mother, into our homes.

On March 19, as a part of our ‘Rosary Crusade,’ I invite you and your family to pray the rosary with me at St. Teresa Parish in Lincoln. We will pray before the presence of Christ, in adoration of the Eucharist, “Love Made Visible.”

Later, on April 29, I invite you to a rosary chain around the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We’ll pray together for our families, for our community, and for our Church.

And we will pray for the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church—Mater Ecclesiae —and mother of each of one of us, followers of her son.

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