Pope Pius XI recognized that mothers often have a difficult time and wanted to give them hope.
In 1931, the Catholic Church was celebrating the 1,500th anniversary of the Council of Ephesus (431), where the Church affirmed its belief that the Virgin Mary was to be known as the “Mother of God” (Theotokos).
Pope Pius XI wanted to honor that anniversary and issued an encyclical letter titled Lux Veritatis. In it he reviewed the history of that council and affirmed its role in lifting up the Blessed Mother.
He also wanted to establish a liturgical feast honoring this belief of the Catholic Church, calling it the feast of the “Divine Maternity,” also known as the “Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
The feast would initially be fixed on October 11, but after the Second Vatican Council it was moved to January 1, associating the feast more with the birth of Jesus Christ.
One of the reasons why Pius XI wanted to commemorate Mary’s motherhood in a more universal way was to give encouragement to mothers.
He explained in his encyclical that Mary’s divine maternity raised up the dignity of all mothers and should give them hope during times of difficulty.
But in a more special manner it is fitting that those mothers of modern times, who, annoyed by their own children and their marriage … may look up to Mary and meditate intently on her who has raised this grave duty of motherhood to such high nobility. For in this way there is hope that they may be led, by the help of grace of the heavenly Queen … [to] be stirred up to follow after the wondrous praise of her virtues, by every effort in their power.
Pius XI also believed that this celebration of Mary’s motherhood would provide a potent antidote to any evils in society that downgrade the family.
If all these things prosper according to Our purpose, that is to say if the life of the family, the beginning and the foundation of all human society, is recalled to this most worthy model of holiness, without doubt We shall at length be able to meet the formidable crisis of evils confronting Us, with an effective remedy. In this way, it will come to pass that “the peace of God which passeth all understanding” may “keep the hearts and minds” of all (Phil. iv. 7), and that the much desired Kingdom of Christ, minds and forces being joined together, may be everywhere established.
Motherhood isn’t easy, and if anyone can relate, it’s Mary. She may not have had a “difficult” child, but her life was filled with thorns that would culminate in the sacrifice of her own son on the cross.
For those moments when you aren’t thrilled with being a mother — and everyone has them! — look to the Blessed Mother and ask her for help.
The Oldest hymn to Mary Mother of God