Many, many years ago, when I was merely 4 years old, I had an experience of my mother’s protection and love that still fills my eyes with tears today.

My mother had a soft, lamb’s wool bath robe that was salmon in color. When I was sick, or frightened, or just in need in some loving, my mother would wrap me in her arms under the folds of this soft robe. She would rock me and hum folk songs of Ireland that her mother had taught her. I never learned the words to these songs, but their melody hummed through her lips, as well as the softness of her robe, always brought me consolation. As I grew, this magical robe became the means through which I would defend the world from the attacks of an evil dragon, as joyfully played by my brother.

I could not help but think of this story as I continue my series on Mary, our Blessed Mother.

One of the titles of Mary that has always caused me to pause and ponder is Mary, Mother of the Church. How can she be that? What does that title mean?

We need to go back to one of the documents of Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations), for an explanation. In paragraph 61, we can read:  “… [T]he Blessed Virgin was in this earth the virgin Mother of the Redeemer, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord. She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ. She presented Him to the Father in the temple, and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace.”

In other words, she physically gave life to Jesus, but her motherhood toward us is different. Her motherhood is of a spiritual nature: she increases the life of grace in us.

You might ask, “What is this grace business all about?” Think of this in this way: as far as we strive to resemble Christ in our life and in our actions, we grow in the life of grace. It was Mary who participated in the life of Christ in a very important way. She carried Jesus in her womb. She stood under the Cross as he hung there. She was present in the Upper Room, praying for the first Christian community, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. Finally, she was assumed body and soul into heaven in imitation of Jesus.

These are the ways in which Mary participated in Christ’s life. Now, what about us? We participate in the life of Christ through his Church by means of the sacraments. We enter into the Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ through the grace of the Holy Spirit. As any good children, we look to Mary to be our role model on how to do this.

Playing with my mom’s bathrobe always made me think of Mary’s Mantle, even though the robe was not blue. This image combines the comforting experience of being wrapped in my mother’s robe, as well as illustrating how God’s grace covers and protects all of us.

Mary is indeed our mother and Mother of the Church. We all should live under her mantle!

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness