Saints since the first generation have pondered the close relationship of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit. St. Luke began his Gospel by showing us Mary overshadowed by the Spirit as she conceived the divine Son (Luke 1:35). He began his second book, the Acts of the Apostles, by showing us Mary praying with the Church, calling upon the Holy Spirit to arrive in power (Acts 1:14).
Closer to our own day, St. Maximilian Kolbe spoke of the special relationship between the Holy Spirit and Mary. “They share,” he wrote, “a single motherhood: the divine Maternity of love.”
I am no saint, but I do discuss this relationship at length in one of my own books, “First Comes Love.”
Thus I cannot describe the joy I felt in 2018 when Pope Francis instituted a new feast day — the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church — to be observed on the Monday following Pentecost … the very day after the great feast of the Holy Spirit.
This is a beautiful development, the crown of a long tradition. The Eastern Churches honor Mary as both an “icon of the Church” and an “icon of the Spirit.” Mary’s motherhood is mystically one with that of the Church and the Spirit.
As once she conceived Jesus and mothered him, so she mothers us children of the Church today. By the power of the Holy Spirit, which we received in our baptism, we share the life of Jesus; we share his home (heaven); we share his table (the Mass); and we share his mother (Mary). We are brothers and sisters of her only Son, and so we are her “other offspring” revealed in the Book of Revelation (12:17).
This feast couldn’t have come at a better moment in my own life. Five years before, I had made my first Marian consecration with my family. I renewed it in 2018 on Jan. 1. And the trend continues and intensifies for me, still today. As I grow older, I recognize more keenly my dependence on others, but especially on our mother and especially on the Holy Spirit, the very bond of my consecration.
The honor we give Mary detracts nothing from God. Said the Second Vatican Council: “The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows his power.” Mary is Jesus’ most awesome work. She is the Spirit’s great manifestation.
We need this feast. Can anyone really doubt that? We are experiencing many crises in our society and in our Church. Motherhood is in crisis. The family is in crisis. And good people are feeling dispirited. An increasingly unchurched generation finds itself not liberated, but rather shackled to the deck of a ship that is storm-tossed by waves of opinion and swamped by rumors of phony science.
We need Mary, mother of the Church. When we go to her we gain the Spirit — and all the gifts and fruits of the Spirit. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).