Mary and the Church:
Mother of the Faithful (Spiritual Motherhood)

The charts below are direct quotes from Post-Vatican II Magisterial Documents concerning the theme, Mary, Mother of the Faithful. These teachings of the Catholic Church may prove useful to include in talks, in homilies or for research. For the full title and document data, click on the abbreviation code (for example, BYM leads you to the document, Behold Your Mother). This will also lead you to the complete document on this website or assist you in locating it elsewhere.

For an index of the documents used in the study see: List of Magisterial Documents
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Documents IV. Mary and the Church / 3. Mother of the Faithful (Spiritual Motherhood)
Lumen Gentium, 1964
  • mother of the members of Christ 53
  • joined in bringing about the birth of believers [Augustine: De S. Virginitate, 6, PL 40, 399] 53
  • The Catholic Church taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and devotion as a most beloved mother 53
  • mother of men, and most of all those who believe 54
  • Mary's function as mother of men 60
  • supplications to the Mother of God and of men 68
  • mother to his disciple..."Woman, behold your son" (Jn 19:26-27) 58
  • mother to us in the order of grace 61
  • motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly [Mary's role of mediation] 62
  • By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth 62
  • She cooperates with a mother's love [in the generation and formation of the faithful]. 63
  • our mother [filial love for] 67
Mense Maio, 1965
  • Mother of the Church 7
Christi Matri Rosarii, 1968
  • During the Second Vatican Council we gave our confirmation to a point of traditional doctrine when we gave her the title of Mother of the Church, a title acclaimed by the council Fathers and the Catholic world. 13
  • "clearly the mother of his members," as St. Augustine teaches (De Sanct. Virg., 6: PL 41, 637) 14
  • St. Anselm...: "Can you ever have a greater dignity than to be the mother of those whose father and brother Christ deigns to be?" (Or. 47; PL 158, 945) 14
  • Leo XIII: "Truly the Mother of the Church" (epist. enc. Adiutricem Populi Christiani, Sept. 5, 1895, Acta Leon. 15, 1896, p. 302). 14
  • Hence, in our distress at this terrifying upheaval we do not hope in her in vain. 14
  • Mother of God and of the Church 19
  • Look upon all your sons with motherly love 21
Signum Magnum, 1967
  • the Blessed Virgin Mary who, by the grace of Christ the Redeemer, is the mother of all men 1
  • We then proclaimed the revered Mother of God to be the spiritual Mother of the Church - mother, that is, of all its faithful and of all its sacred pastors [ftn 3: See AAS 57 (1965):1-67 {TPS X, 359 - 402}] - cause for much rejoicing 2
  • We remind all members of the Church of the close and enduring connection between Mary's spiritual motherhood ...[LG 60-65] and the duties of all redeemed men toward her as Mother of the Church. 4
  • "Mother of the Church" [ftn 13: Paul VI, Address to the Council Fathers at the close of the third session, Nov 21, 1964: AAS 56 (1964):1016 {TPS X, 138}] 5
  • He [Christ] designated her the mother not only of John the Apostle but also - it seems legitimate to say this - of the human race, which he somehow represented. [LG 58; Leo XIII] 10
  • Now in heaven she carries on her motherly role, helping to nourish and foster the divine life in the souls of redeemed men. ...God in his wisdom has made it an integral part of the mystery of human salvation. Hence, all Christians must hold to it in faith. 10
  • For although the Virgin Mary enjoys the vision of the Blessed Trinity, she does not forget her children who now are engaged in the "pilgrimage of faith." 11
  • [after Ascension] acting as spiritual mother to the beloved disciple and the newborn Church 19
  • The divine Redeemer bequeathed His own Mother to him as a spiritual inheritance, along with the rich store of grace and virtue that she had accumulated. 32
  • Mary's spiritual motherhood transcends the boundaries of time and space. It is part of the Church's history for all times, because she never ceases to exercise her maternal office or to help us. 33
  • [Immaculate Heart] May it serve as the sign of unity and the spur to brotherhood among all Christians, in the one Church of Christ, which "taught by the Holy Spirit...shows filial devotion to her as a most loving mother." [LG 53] 36
Creed, Paul VI, 1968
  • Mother of the Church[20: LG 53, 56, 61, 63; Paul VI, Alloc in conclusione II Sessionis Concilii Vat. II, AAS, 56 (1964):1016; Exhort. Apost. Signum Magnum, AAS, 59 (1967):465+467] 15
  • continues, in Heaven her maternal role with regard to Christ's members, cooperating with the birth and growth of divine life in the souls of the redeemed.[21: cf. LG, 62; Paul VI, Exhort. Apost. Signum Magnum, AAS, 59 (1967):468] 15
General Catechetical Directory, 1971
  • "mother to us in the order of grace" (LG, 61) 68
  • The Church...venerates in a most special way Christ's Mother, who is also her mother. 68
Basic Teaching for Catholic Education (USA), 1973
  • and also is very close to us as our spiritual Mother 24
  • Mother of the Church, our spiritual Mother 24
Behold Your Mother (USA), 1973
  • The full sense of Mary's role is summed up in the title Pope Paul gave her, "Mother of the Church." (Nov 21. 64) 5 [See also 70]
  • In their [the faithful] birth and development she cooperates with a maternal love. (LG 63) 5

    Spiritual Mother 70-80

  • The Mother of Jesus "our Blessed Mother."... "Mother" belongs to the language of the transmission of life. The reference here is to our life in Christ. 70
  • From earliest Christian times the Church was regarded as "Mother Church." Gradually, Mary's relationship to the sons and daughters of the Church came to be regarded also as that of "spiritual mother." 70
  • Physically mother of Christ the Head, Mary is spiritually mother of the members of Christ. 70
  • She is mother of all men, for Christ died for all. 70
  • Mary is not spiritual mother of men solely because she was physical Mother of the Savior. Nonetheless, the full understanding of Mary's motherhood of Jesus contains also the secret of her spiritual motherhood of the brethren of Christ. 71
  • First came Mary's faith, then her motherhood. Faith is the key also to the spiritual motherhood of Mary. By her faith she became the perfect example of what the Gospels mean by "spiritual motherhood." In the preaching of the Savior, His "mother" is whoever hears God's word and keeps it. All who truly follow Christ become "mothers" of Christ, for by their faith they bring Him to birth in others. 71
  • It is our Catholic conviction that in her present union with the risen Christ, our Blessed Mother is still solicitous for our welfare, still desirous that we become more like Jesus, her firstborn. The Mother of Jesus wishes all ... to reach the maturity of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13; Col 1:28). 78
  • For both Mary and the Church, their motherhood is virginal, that is, entirely dependent on God, not on man. 79

    More on Spiritual Motherhood 72-80
    [includes Lk 11:28, Math 12:46-50, Mk 3:31-35, Lk 8:19-21, St. Augustine - the Father's will, keeping word of God, sower, seed and great harvest ]

  • Our Lady's relationship to Christ the eternal High Priest overflows into her spiritual motherhood of all priests in their call to holiness and ministry. ... 120

    More on Spiritual Motherhood under title:
    Chapter 5, Mary Mother of the Church 113-146 [emphasis on pastoral]

  • title, "Mother of the Church," ... Paul VI... Nov 21, 1964 ... a title "that expresses with wonderful brevity the exalted place in the Church which the Church recognizes as proper to the Mother of God." (John Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology, 1960) 113 [See also 116]
  • What is the special significance of the title "Mother of the Church"? It is based on Mary's being the Mother of God. [her call and free response, her association in Son's saving work, 114 [See also 117]
  • On Calvary, Jesus gave John into Mary's care and thus designated her Mother of the human race which the beloved disciple represented. 115
  • In calling Mary "Mother of the Church," we are reminded that she is also the Mother of unity, sharing her Son's desire and prayer that his body be truly one. 116
  • Mary, Mother of the Church, is universal mother. 123
  • Mother of the Holy Family at Nazareth, Mary is mother and queen of every Christian family. 131
  • because... Mother of all the living, ... guardian of the child in the womb, as well as the child that enters this earth alive. 135
Marialis Cultus, 1974
  • In the mystery of Mary's motherhood they confess that she is the Mother of the Head and of the members - the holy Mother of God and therefore the provident Mother of the Church (cf. Roman Missal, 1 January, Prayer after Communion) 11
  • the spiritual motherhood of Mary towards all members of the Mystical Body 22
  • [understanding the nature of the Church] will also bring the faithful to a deeper realization of the brotherhood which unites all of them as sons and daughters of the Virgin Mary, "who with a mother's love has cooperated in their rebirth and spiritual formation," (LG 63) 28
  • the Church and Mary collaborate to give birth to the Mystical Body of Christ since "both of them are the Mother of Christ, but neither brings forth the whole [body] independently of the other." (Isaac de Stella) Similarly the faithful will appreciate more clearly that the action of the Church in the world can be likened to an extension of Mary's concern. [active love at Nazareth, Elizabeth's, Cana, Golgotha - all salvific episodes having vast ecclesial importance] 28

    [regarding ecumenism]

  • Leo XIII, who wrote that the cause of Christian unity "properly pertains to the role of Mary's spiritual motherhood. For Mary did not and cannot engender those who belong to Christ, except in one faith and one love: for 'Is Christ divided?' (I Cor. 1:13) We must all live together the life of Christ, so that in one and the same body 'we may bear fruit for God' (Rom. 7:4)." (UR 20) 34
  • the loving Mother 56
Gaudete in Domino, 1975
  • in Christ, the Mother of all
Sharing the Light of Faith (USA), 1979
  • Mary is close to us as our spiritual mother. 106
  • The Church recognizes her as loving mother [ftn 46: cf. Church LG 52-59] 106
  • special love and veneration due her as mother of Christ, mother of the Church, and our spiritual mother 106
Redemptor Hominis, 1979
  • We owe a debt of special gratitude to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, who expressed this truth [that the Church is a mother and needs a mother] in the Constitution Lumen Gentium with the rich Mariological doctrine contained in it. Since Paul VI, inspired by that teaching, proclaimed the Mother of Christ "Mother of the Church," and that title has become known far and wide, may it be permitted ... to turn to Mary as Mother of the Church at the close of these reflections which it was opportune to make at the beginning of his papal service.
  • Mary is Mother of the Church because, on account of the Eternal Father's ineffable choice and due to the Spirit of Love's special action, she gave human life to the Son of God, "for whom and by whom all things exist" and from whom the whole of the People of God receives the grace and dignity of election.
  • Her Son explicitly extended his Mother's maternity in a way that could easily be understood by every soul and every heart by designating, when he was raised on the Cross, his beloved disciple as her son.
  • The Holy Spirit inspired her to remain in the Upper Room, after our Lord's Ascension, recollected in prayer and expectation, together with the Apostles, until the day of Pentecost, when the Church was to be born in visible form, coming forth from darkness.
  • Later, all the generations of disciples, of those who confess and love Christ, like the Apostle John, spiritually took this mother to their own homes, and she was thus included in the history of salvation and in the Church's mission from the very beginning, that is from the moment of the Annunciation.
  • Accordingly, we who form today's generation of disciples of Christ all wish to unite ourselves with her in a special way. We do so with all our attachment to our ancient tradition and also with full respect and love for the members of all the Christian communities.
  • The special characteristic of the motherly love that the Mother of God inserts in the mystery of the Redemption and the life of the Church finds expression in its exceptional closeness to man and all that happens to him. It is in this that the mystery of the Mother consists. Final paragraph
Catechesi Tradendae, 1979
  • "the mother and model of catechists" 73
Redemptoris Mater, 1987
  • [Church] venerates [Mother of Christ] as her beloved Mother 2
  • In that same faith she discovered and accepted the other dimension of motherhood [spiritual] revealed by Jesus during his messianic mission. 20
  • the Cana event outlines what is actually manifested as a new kind of motherhood according to the spirit and not just according to the flesh, that is to say Mary's solicitude for human beings, her coming to them in the wide variety of their wants and needs. 21
  • a symbolic value: this coming to the aid of human needs means, at the same time, bringing those needs within the radius of Christ's messianic mission and salvific power. Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. She puts herself "in the middle," that is to say she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. 21
  • And "this maternity of Mary in the order of grace ... will last without interruption until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect." (LG 62) 22 [See also 38, 40, 44 ]
  • (Jn. 19:25-27)... the "testament of Christ's Cross" says more. ... if Mary's motherhood of the human race had already been outlined, now it is clearly stated and established. 23 [See also material cooperation 39, 44]
  • In accordance with the eternal plan of Providence, Mary's divine motherhood is to be poured out upon the Church, as indicated by statements of Tradition, according to which Mary's "motherhood" of the Church is the reflection and extension of her motherhood of the Son of God. (Leo the Great) 24
  • Jesus Christ prepared her ever more completely to become for all people their "mother in the order of grace." [(cf. Lk. 11:28; 8:20-21; Mk. 3:32-35; Mt. 12:47-50), Gospel of John (cf. 2:1-12; 19:25-27)] 39
  • [generates new life, much more than model and figure] For, "with maternal love she cooperates in the birth and development" of the sons and daughters of Mother Church. The Church's motherhood is accomplished not only according to the model and figure of the Mother of God but also with her "cooperation." 44 - cooperated ... with a maternal love (LG 63)
  • "Woman, behold your son" .... (Jn 19:26-27) They are words which determine Mary's place in the life of Christ's disciples and they express - as I have already said - the new motherhood of the Mother of the Redeemer: a spiritual motherhood, born from the heart of the Paschal Mystery of the Redeemer of the world. 44
  • Her motherhood is particularly noted and experienced by the Christian people at the Sacred Banquet - the liturgical celebration of the mystery of the Redemption - at which Christ, his true body born of the Virgin Mary, becomes present. 44
  • Of the essence of motherhood is the fact that it concerns the person. Motherhood always establishes a unique and unrepeatable relationship between two people: between mother and child and between child and another ... in a unique and unrepeatable way.... [suggests explanation for singular in Behold your son] 45
  • Mary's motherhood, which becomes man's inheritance, is a gift: a gift which Christ himself makes personally to every individual. The Redeemer entrusts Mary to John because he entrusts John to Mary. At the foot of the Cross there begins that special entrusting of humanity to the Mother of Christ, which in the history of the Church has been practiced and expressed in different ways. 45
  • Paul VI ... Mary is the Mother of the Church, "that is, Mother of the entire Christian people, both faithful and pastors." (Nov 21, 1964) ...
  • "Credo of the People of God," he restated this truth in an even more forceful way in these words: "We believe that the Most Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, the Mother of the Church, carries on in heaven her maternal role with regard to the members of Christ, cooperating in the birth and development of divine life in the souls of the redeemed." (June 30,1968) 47
  • in her new motherhood in the Spirit, Mary embraces each and every one in the Church, and embraces each and every one through the Church. In this sense Mary, Mother of the Church, is also the Church's model. Indeed, as Paul VI hopes and asks, the Church must draw "from the Virgin Mother of God the most authentic form of perfect imitation of Christ." (Nov 21,1964) 47
  • Thus, throughout her life, the Church maintains with the Mother of God a link which embraces, in the saving mystery, the past, the present and the future, and venerates her as the spiritual mother of humanity and the advocate of grace. 47
Ephesus, 1550th Anniversary, 1981
  • She was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a Mother to his disciple, with these words: 'Woman, behold your son!'" [LG 58] 8
Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday, 1988
  • If John at the foot of the cross somehow represents every man and woman for whom the motherhood of the Mother of God is spiritually extended, how much more does this concern each of us, who are sacramentally called to the priestly ministry of the Eucharist in the Church! 3
  • It is worth recalling these scriptural references, so that the truth about the Church's motherhood, founded on the example of the Mother of God, may become more and more a part of our priestly consciousness. If each of us lives the equivalent of this spiritual motherhood in a manly way, namely, as a "spiritual fatherhood," then Mary, as a "figure" of the Church, has a part to play in this experience of ours. 4
  • Thus we are speaking of a characteristic of our priestly personality that expresses precisely apostolic maturity and spiritual "fruitfulness." If the whole Church "learns her own motherhood from Mary,"(RM 43) do we not need to do so as well? 4
The VM in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, 1988
  • mother of the Church, since she is Mother of him who, from the first moment of the Incarnation in her virginal womb, unites to himself as Head his Mystical Body which is the Church (Paul VI, "Allocutio tertia SS. Concili periode exacta" ( Nov 21, 1964): AAS 56 (1964), 1014-1018) 9
To All Consecrated Persons, Marian Year, 1988
  • Mary brings to the Upper Room at Pentecost the "new motherhood" which became her "part" at the foot of the Cross. This motherhood is to remain in her, and at the same time it is to be transferred from her as a "model" to the whole Church, which will be revealed to the world on the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. 21
Mulieris Dignitatem, 1988
  • In their birth and development she cooperates with a maternal love. (LG 63) 22
  • "Moreover, contemplating Mary's mysterious sanctity, imitating her charity, and faithfully fulfilling the Father's will, the Church herself becomes a mother by accepting God's word in faith...." (LG 63) This is motherhood "according to the Spirit" with regard to the sons and daughters of the human race. And this motherhood - as already mentioned - becomes the woman's "role" also in virginity. 22
Veritatis Splendor, 1993
  • Mary is mother of mercy because her son, Jesus Christ, was sent by the Father as the revelation of God's mercy. [The article continues by describing Christ's revelation of the Father's mercy.] (cf. Jn 3:16-18) 118
  • Mary experiences, in perfect docility to the Spirit, the richness and the universality of God's love, which opens her heart and enables it to embrace the entire human race. Thus Mary becomes mother of each and every one of us, the mother who obtains for us divine mercy. 120
  • She understands sinful man and loves him with a mother's love. Precisely for this reason she is on the side of truth and shares the church's burden in recalling always and to everyone the demands of morality. Nor does she permit sinful man to be deceived by those who claim to love him by justifying his sin, for she knows that the sacrifice of Christ her son would thus be emptied of its power. No absolution offered by beguiling doctrines, even in the areas of philosophy and theology, can make man truly happy: Only the cross and the glory of the risen Christ can grant peace to his conscience an salvation to his life. 120
Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 1994
  • Mary ... constantly points to her divine son and she is proposed to all believers as the model of faith which is put into practice. "Devotedly meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church with reverence enters more intimately into the supreme mystery of the Incarnation and becomes ever increasingly like her Spouse." (LG 65) 43
  • Her motherhood, which began in Nazareth and was lived most intensely in Jerusalem a the foot of the Cross, will be felt during this year as a loving and urgent invitation addressed to all the children of God, so that they will return to the house of the Father when they hear her maternal voice: "Do whatever Christ tells you." (cf. Jn 2:5) 54
Evangelium Vitae, 1995
  • Mary, "like the Church of which she is the type, is a mother of all who are reborn to life. She is in fact the mother of the Life by which everyone lives, and when she brought it forth from herself she in some way brought to rebirth all those who were to live by that Life". [Blessed Guerric of Igny, In "Assumptione B. Mariae," Sermo 1, 2: PL 185, 188.] 102
  • As the Church contemplates Mary's motherhood, she discovers the meaning of her own motherhood and the way in which she is called to express it. 102
  • At the same time, the Church's experience of motherhood leads to a most profound understanding of Mary's experience as the incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for. 102
  Spiritual Maternity of Mary: 501, 502 [BB]

501 Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: "The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formulation she cooperates with a mother's love." (LG 63)

963 Since the Virgin Mary's role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. "The Virgin acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer....She is 'clearly the mother of the members of Christ'...since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head." (LG 53; cf. Augustine) "Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church." (Paul VI, Nov 21, 1964)

968 Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. "In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace." (LG 61)

Letter to Women, Beijing Conference, 1995
  • The maternal "reign" of Mary consists in this. She who was, in all her being, a gift for her son has also become a gift for the sons and daughters of the whole human race, awakening profound trust in those who seek her guidance along the difficult paths of life on the way to their definitive and transcendent destiny. 10
  • May Mary, queen of love, watch over women and their mission in service of humanity, of peace, of the spread of God's kingdom! 12
Vita Consecrata, 1996
  • In the Blessed Virgin Mary consecrated persons also find a mother who is altogether unique. Indeed, if the new motherhood conferred on Mary at Calvary is a gift for all Christians, it has specific value for those who have completely consecrated their lives to Christ. 28
  • "Behold your mother!" (Jn 19:27): Jesus' words to the disciple "whom he loved" (Jn 19:26) are particularly significant for the lives of consecrated persons. They, like John, are called to take the Blessed Virgin Mary to themselves (cf. Jn 19:27), loving her and imitating her in the radical manner which befits their vocation, and experiencing in return her special motherly love. 28
  • The Blessed Virgin shares with them the love which enables them to offer their lives every day for Christ and to cooperate with him in the salvation of the world. Hence, a filial relationship to Mary is the royal road to fidelity to one's vocation and a most effective help for advancing in that vocation and living it fully (cf. Proposition 55) 28
  • our Mother 112
Novo Millennio Ineunte, 2001
  • ...I entrusted to her maternal care the lives of the men and women of the new millennium. 11
  • Now I point to Mary once again as the radiant dawn and sure guide for our steps. Once more, echoing the words of Jesus himself and giving voice to the filial affection of the whole Church, I say to her: "Woman, behold your children." (cf. Jn 19:26) 58
Ecclesia in Oceania, 2001
  • I invite you to join me in turning to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church, who is so revered throughout Oceania. 53
  • In churches, chapels and homes, the image of Mary reminds people of her loving presence and her maternal protection. 53
  • With gratitude for the grace of this Special Assembly, I commend all the peoples of Oceania to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin, trusting absolutely that hers is an ear that always listens, hers a heart that always welcomes, and hers a prayer that never fails. 53
  • Mother of the Church, your sons and daughters thank you for your trusting word that echoes through the ages, rising from an empty soul made full of grace, prepared by God to welcome the Word to the world that the world itself might be reborn. 53
Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 2003
  • If we wish to rediscover in all its richness the profound relationship between the Church and the Eucharist, we cannot neglect Mary, Mother and model of the Church. 53
  • With the same maternal concern which she showed at the wedding feast of Cana, Mary seems to say to us: "Do not waver; trust in the words of my Son. If he was able to change water into wine, he can also turn bread and wine into his body and blood, and through this mystery bestow on believers the living memorial of his passover, thus becoming the 'bread of life'." 54
  • Mary is present, with the Church and as the Mother of the Church, at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. If the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist. This is one reason why, since ancient times, the commemoration of Mary has always been part of the Eucharistic celebrations of the Churches of East and West. 57

© This material has been compiled by M. Jean Frisk.
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