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Maternal Solicitude and the Abdication
In my post on Mary and Benedict XVI’s abdication, I made a few remarks about Benedict’s entrustment of the Cardinal Fathers to the maternal solicitude of Mary. I was listening to Relevant Radio the other day while traveling in my car, and I was struck that they used Benedict’s phrase, “maternal solicitude” when encouraging listeners to pray for the Holy Father. During the course of a long drive, I was afforded the opportunity to reflect further on Benedict’s description of Mary.
Mary is the Mother of God and Mother of the Church. She is the mother of those who are members of the Church. Think about your own mother. For most, their mothers are loving, kind, and concerned about their child. They do not want to lose their child while shopping or have their child burn their hand on the stove. Mother’s care about their children; they want what is best for them. Mother’s want their children to do well in school so they make sure their children are doing their homework, are reading, and studying for school. They want their children to succeed; to go to college and to have a good life. It breaks a mother’s heart to see their child walk away from their Catholic faith; to stop practicing religion all together. With even greater maternal solicitude, the mother prays fervently for her children. She desires her son or daughter to gain eternal life. To summarize, they love their children so much, that they look out for their children. This is maternal solicitude.
If our earthly mother’s love their children so much, think about how much more, Mary, the Mother of God, of the Church, and of us, cares about her children. She knows the important role the Church has in society. With great love for the Church then, Mary prays for the Church, and desires the Church to obey its supreme Shepherd, Christ the Lord. She desires for the Church to listen to the Holy Spirit and to act accordingly. This is why Benedict XVI entrusted the Cardinal Fathers to the maternal solicitude of Mary—because she is our mother and wants only what is best for the Church. Like a mother, she is praying for her children, and walking with the Church during this time.
Other uses of the phrase “maternal solicitude”
Benedict XVI’s use of the phrase was not the first time when he entrusted the Cardinals to Mary’s maternal solicitude. He did so at least one other time, three years earlier on February 11, 2010.
On the Memorial of the apparitions in Lourdes, where Mary chose to manifest her maternal solicitude for the sick, the Liturgy appropriately echoes the Magnificat, the canticle of the Virgin who exalts the wonders of God throughout salvation history: the humble and the poor, like all who fear God, experience his mercy which overturns earthly destinies, thus showing the holiness of the Creator and Redeemer. —18th World Day of the Sick February 11, 2010
John Paul II
John Paul II used the phrase often.
She who once spoke in song, later spoke in this Image, manifesting through it her maternal presence in the life of the Church and of the motherland. The Virgin of Jasna Gora has revealed her maternal solicitude for every soul; for every family; for every human being living in this land, working here, fighting and falling on the battlefield, condemned to extermination, fighting against himself, winning or losing; for every human being who must leave the soil of his motherland as an emigrant; for every human being. —Homily of John Paul II Czestochowa – Jasna Gora, 4 June 1979
Next Sunday, I will go to Bosnia and Herzegovina to strengthen in the faith the Catholic community there which is committed to an important process of reconciliation and agreement. I ask you to accompany me with your prayer on this apostolic journey, which I entrust to the maternal solicitude of the Blessed Virgin. —General Audience of John Paul II, 18 June 2003
Commending your deliberations to the intercession of Saint Vincent de Paul and to the maternal solicitude of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, I pray that your Assembly may be enlightened and guided by the Spirit of wisdom, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the members of your Congregation. —Letter of John Paul II to the Members of the Congregation of the Mission, 18 July 2004
For all these goals, I invoke from Heaven, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, an abundance of light and strength. In particular, I ask her to watch over each one of you and over your confreres with maternal solicitude, and I wholeheartedly impart an Apostolic Blessing to you all.
—Address of John Paul II to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, 24 September 2004
Maternal Solicitude as an Attribute of the Church
What can be said of Mary, can also be said of the Church. This is true for the Church’s role as mother of the faithful. Vatican II and John Paul II described the Church’s maternal solicitude, taking Mary as her example.
Let us have recourse to God through Christ, mindful of the words of Mary’s Magnificat, which proclaim mercy “from generation to generation.” Let us implore God’s mercy for the present generation. May the Church which, following the example of Mary, also seeks to be the spiritual mother of mankind, express in this prayer her maternal solicitude and at the same time her confident love, that love from which is born the most burning need for prayer.
—Dives in Misericordia, #15, 30 November 1980.
In each of these elements, in each field-both of contemplation, so fruitful for the apostolate, and of direct apostolic action-the Church’s constant blessing accompanies you, as does at the same time her pastoral and maternal solicitude, with regard to the spiritual identity of your life and the correctness of your activity in the midst of the great universal community of the vocations and charisms of the whole People of God.
—Redemptionis Donum, #15, 25 March 1984
5. While the Church shows motherly concern and solidarity for her sons and daughters, at the same time she stands before them. The Mater is also Magister; she has the authority to bring up and teach her children, and so lead them to salvation. Mother Church gives birth to her sons and daughters; she nurtures and educates them. She gathers her children together and sends them out, all the while assuring them that they are safe in her motherly bosom. At the same time she is saddened by those who have fallen away and holds the door open to reconciliation, which is her constant concern. You Pastors have a particular responsibility in this regard: as “fathers of your communities”, you have the right and duty to exercise the Church’s “maternal authority”, as the Second Vatican Council put it so clearly: in their preaching, the Bishops should “proclaim the maternal solicitude of the Church for all people, whether they be Catholics or not, and should be especially solicitous for the poor and weaker brethren…. Since it is the mission of Church to maintain close relations with the society in which she lives, the Bishops should make it their special care to approach people and initiate and promote dialogue with them. These discussions on religious matters should be marked by charity of expression as well as by humility and courtesy, so that the truth may be combined with charity, and understanding with love. The discussions should likewise be characterized by due prudence allied, however, with sincerity, which by promoting friendship is conducive to union of minds” (Christus Dominus, n. 13).
20 November 1999
When it is animated by lay and consecrated persons that live the same educational mission in sincere unity, the Catholic school shows the face of a community that tends towards an increasingly deeper communion. This communion knows how to be welcoming with regard to people as they mature, making them feel, through the maternal solicitude of the Church, that God carries the life of each son and daughter of His in His heart. It knows how to involve young people in a global formation experience, to direct and accompany, in the light of the Good News, their search for meaning, even in unusual and often tortuous forms, but with an alarming urgency. A communion, finally, that inasmuch as it is based on Christ, acknowledges Him and announces Him to each and everyone as the only true Master (cf. Matt 23:8).
Congregation for Catholic Education, Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful, #55, 8 September 2007
269. The Ordo unctionis infirmorum cumque pastoralis curae provides for the communal celebration of the Anointing of the Sick, especially on the occasion of a pilgrimage to a shrine(388). Such is perfectly in accord with the nature of the Sacrament: obviously, where the imploration of the Lord’s mercy is more intense, there too will the maternal solicitude of the Church be more sought by her children who, through sickness or old age, begin to be in danger of death(389).
There are countless other references. I direct you to this search of the Vatican website.
Let us entrust the Church to Mary’s maternal solicitude, so that the Church can continue its mission with great concern.