In the encyclical Marialis Cultus (1974) Pope Paul VI states: "This celebration, assigned to January 1 in conformity with the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome, is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the 'holy Mother . . . through whom we were found worthy . . . to receive the Author of life.' It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewed adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels, and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace. For this reason . . . we have instituted the World Day of Peace, an observance that is gaining increasing support and is already bringing forth fruits of peace in the hearts of many" (no. 5).
A few years ago, Father V. had a wonderful point to make in his homily last year. I shall attempt to paraphrase.
He said, that for practicing Catholics, resolutions at New Years is somewhat redundant. Catholics are always resolving to sin no more, each confession is an acknowledgement of where we have fallen short and we even have an entire season of Lent to come to terms with trying to be better Christians and human beings. And in our quest "to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect" we look to one that God already perfected - Mary. Mary the meek, humble, obedient who always points us towards her son. And that really is a good reason to honor her solemnity and her maternity on this eighth day of Christmas.
Last year, Father quoted Jennifer Fulweiler, former atheist and convert to Catholicism (who runs the blog Conversion Diary which hosts the 7-Quick Takes every week).
This may not be the case for atheists who had a Protestant upbringing, but most of the atheist-to-Catholic converts I know who had no religious background didn’t struggle with the Church’s emphasis on Mary—and many say that it always kind of made sense to them. To me, overlooking Mary was an example of intellectual inconsistency within Christianity: If you believe that there is a great Creator who, in his unfathomable power, brought forth the universe out of nothing ... and you believe that he chose his own ... why on earth would you not freak out about this woman? How unbelievably special would she have to be to be fit for God himself to call her “Mommy”? So when I heard that Catholics place a huge emphasis on the Mother of God, my reaction was basically to shrug and say, “Yeah. Of course.”