The National Catholic Review
Sep 15 2015 - 8:56am | Vatican Radio

September 15, 2015

Santa Marta

Pope Francis says the church is a mother and must have that loving and tender maternal feeling and human warmth as otherwise all that remains is rigidity and discipline. That was the message at the heart of the pope’s homily on Tuesday (September 15) at the Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta Residence. Tuesday’s Mass was also attended by the C-9 Cardinals who are meeting in the Vatican this week. 

The inspiration for Pope Francis’ reflections in his homily came from Jesus’ words spoken from the Cross to Mary and to the apostle whom he loved when he entrusted each of them to the other’s care. Jesus, he stressed, does not leave us orphaned, we have a mother who protects us.

Jesus doesn't leave us as orphans

“In these times where I don’t know if it’s the prevailing sense but there is a great sense in the world of being orphaned, it’s an orphaned world. This word has a great importance, the importance when Jesus tells us: ‘I am not leaving you as orphans, I’m giving you a mother.’ And this is also a (source of) pride for us: we have a mother, a mother who is with us, protects us, accompanies us, who helps us, even in difficult or terrible times.”

This motherhood of Mary, the pope explained, goes beyond her and is contagious. From it, comes a second motherhood, that of the church. 

Without motherhood, only rigidity and discipline remain

“The Church is our mother. She is our ‘Holy Mother Church’ that is generated through our baptism, makes us grow up in her community and has that motherly attitude, of meekness and goodness: Our Mother Mary and our Mother Church know how to caress their children and show tenderness. To think of the Church without that motherly feeling is to think of a rigid association, an association without human warmth, an orphan.”

“The Church is our mother and welcomes all of us as a mother: Mary our Mother, our Mother Church, and this motherhood are expressed through an attitude of welcome, understanding, goodness, forgiveness and tenderness.”  

“And where there is motherhood and life, there’s life, there’s joy, there’s peace and we grow in peace. When this motherhood is lacking all that remains is rigidity, discipline and people do not know how to smile. One of the most beautiful and human things is to smile at a child and make him or her smile.”

In conclusion, the Pope said “May our Lord make us feel his presence today as well, just as when He once more offered himself up to the Father on behalf of us: (saying) ‘Son, this is your mother!’”


Anne Chapman | 10/1/2015 - 12:37pm

Most mothers do not treat their daughters as less than equal to their sons. Their daughters have the same rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities in the family as the sons. Most mothers encourage their daughters to find and follow a vocation that makes use of their interests and personal talents and gifts, just as they do their sons.

The church is not a "mother". In one sense, it might be seen as a family - of 1 billion individuals. In others it is an institution, bureacratic, and hierarchical. It has no women in any position of authority as far as defining governance and doctrine. But if some wish to use the "mother" metaphor, perhaps they shoudl think about this - too often the institutional church seems to be like the "wicked stepmother" of the Cinderella tales, keeping its daughters as subservient to their brothers. It seeks to limit the roles that its daughters may play in the world, especially in the church, denying women who are called to the priesthood the right to follow that call.

Lynn Thomas | 9/30/2015 - 1:42pm

A mother with only males in positions of authority? Somehow, this image doesn't quite work.