LAURIE, Mo. — The night before He allowed Himself to be betrayed and executed, Jesus prayed aloud that all who would come to know Him would be made one, just as He and the Father are one.
The next day, while nailed to the cross, He entrusted His beloved disciple to the care of His mother, and vice versa.
“Mary thus became the tender Mother of the Church, which Christ begot on the cross,” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City proclaimed from the outdoor pulpit of the National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church, in Laurie.
“Mary, Mother of Christ, is also Mary, Mother of the Body of Christ — the Church — our mother!” he said in celebrating morning Mass May 29, the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, which coincided this year with Memorial Day.
An ample congregation of local parishioners and Memorial Day visitors to the Lake of the Ozarks gathered in the tiered seating area of the shrine, pausing to thank God for the gift of his mother.
The clear sky, mild temperature and restful breeze made for an almost perfect day for outdoor worship. Strains of “Immaculate Mary” and “Hail Holy Queen, Enthroned Above” echoed through the hills and valleys.
“We gather at this national shrine in order to remember the role of Mary in the story of her Son and in the story of the Church,” Bishop McKnight said. He asked everyone also to remember their own mothers in prayer, “especially those who have gone before us and are deceased.”
The bishop clarified that although Mary was conceived and born without sin, and although the fullness of her grace meant that she was free from sin her entire life — “she was a woman, of flesh and blood, human as we are human, and so we neither worship nor adore her.”
Instead, it’s important to give thanks for her and to honor, love and venerate her.
Bishop McKnight urged all the faithful never to stop seeking Mary’s powerful intercession.
“Especially on this day, may her prayers for us help us to be more faithful and holy members of the Body of Christ,” he said.
In Mary, the bishop emphasized, the Church receives the gift of a mother’s love. “A mother who nurtures, intercedes for, and loves with an unconditional and unflinching love,” he said.
Through her, Jesus joined His earthly family to His spiritual family, with the Blessed Virgin presiding over both as “Mother.”
Bishop McKnight pointed out that Mary has always played an important role in the history of the Church, and that faithful recognition of her role as Mother of the Church dates back to antiquity.
In 1964, St. Paul VI, at the conclusion of the third session of the Second Vatican Council formally declared 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.”
In 2018 Pope Francis decreed the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church would be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost.
The pope did so “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,” said Bishop McKnight.
This annual celebration is a necessary reminder “that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the mystery of the Cross, to the offering of Christ in the Eucharistic banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed — the Virgin who makes her own offering to God,” Bishop McKnight stated.