In his Wednesday Audience on September 18, Pope Francis returned to the theme of the Church as our mother. “I like this image a lot,” he explained, “as it seems to me that it tells us not only how the Church is, but also shows us the face the Church, this Church of ours, should increasingly show.”
The message reflects back to the writing of St. Cyprian, Father of the Church, in the early third-century. Cyprian said, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother”.
The Vatican Information Service released the full text of the Pope’s message:
The Pope began by considering what a mother does for her children. First of all, “she teaches us how to proceed in life … she orientates us, she always tries to show us the right path in life in order to grow and become adults. And she does this with tenderness, with affection, with love, always – even when she tries to correct our path because we lose our way a little or take routes that might lead us to a fall”.
“The Church does likewise: she orientates our lives, she offers us instruction on how to walk in the right way. Think of the ten Commandments: they show us the route to follow if we are to mature, fixing certain cardinal points in our behaviour. And these are the fruits of tenderness, of the very love that God gives us. You might say to me: but these are commandments! They are a list of negatives! I would like to invite you to read them, … and then think about them positively. You will see that they concern our way of behaving towards God, towards ourselves and towards others, just as a mother teaches us how to live well. They remind us not to make material idols for ourselves, which then turn us into slaves; to remember God; to respect our parents; to be honest; to respect others … Try to see them in this way and consider them as if they were the words and teachings a mother gives us in order to take a good path through life. A mother never teaches anything that is bad, she wants only what is best for her children, and the same is true of the Church”.Secondly, “when a child grows and becomes an adult … and assumes his responsibilities … he does what he wants, and at times, he may happen to stray away from the path. … A mother always, in every situation, has the patience to continue to accompany her children. She is animated by the strength of love … and even when [her children] make mistakes, she always finds a way of understanding them … to help them. We say that a mother ‘stands up and is counted’ for her own children; that is, she always seeks to defend them”.
“The Church is the same: she is a merciful mother who understands, who always tries to help, to give encouragement even when her children have made mistakes or continue to do so. She never closes the doors of her house to them: she does not judge, but rather offers God’s forgiveness, she offers her love to invite her children to return to the right path and even when they have fallen into the deepest abyss, the Church is not afraid to enter into their darkest night with them in order to give them hope; the Church is not afraid to enter into our night when our soul and conscience are surrounded by darkness, to give us hope! Because the Church is our mother!”
Finally, “a mother also knows how to ask, to knock on every door for her children, without calculation but with love. And I think of how mothers know, most of all, how to knock on God’s door! Mothers pray a lot for their own children, especially for those … most in need, whose lives have taken dangerous or mistaken paths. … The Church does likewise: through prayer, she places the lives of all her children in the hands of the Lord. Let us trust in the strength of prayer of the Mother Church: the Lord never remains indifferent. He always knows how to astonish us when we least expect us. The Mother Church knows this!”
“So, these are the thoughts I wanted to share with you today: we see in the Church a good mother who shows us the path to walk in life, who is always patient, merciful and understanding, and knows how to place us in God’s hands”.