May is the month of Mary and also celebrates Mother’s Day. In this edition we give tribute to mothers – both heavenly and earth-bound ones.
I remember the time my class teacher, Mrs Gardner, had each of us write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. She pinned our responses up on the back wall. It was with great excitement that I read the others’ aspirations. It felt like looking into a crystal ball, peering at future versions of our nine-year-old selves. We were told and I didn’t doubt that we could do whatever we wanted to do, and the sky was the limit!
At the time I wanted to be a teacher, and there were two of us future ‘teachers’ up on the wall among a motley crew including a doctor, an astronaut and a few football players. One of the girls, Catherine, had written that she wanted to be a mother, and I couldn’t understand it. Why would you pick that, I thought, when there was a whole world full of interesting jobs to choose from?
That lunchtime I wanted to know, “Don’t you want to be anything special when you grow up?” “Being a mother is special,” she replied.
Now I just think how beautiful that was, and sometimes wish I had discovered the truth of it myself, if not at age nine, then at least a little sooner than I did.
Motherhood is a most precious gift as well as a call to service and a means through which God speaks in and through a woman. Motherhood is not only the gift that a mother is to her children, what she does for them in birthing and raising them, but it is God’s gift to her, it is the way he changes her.
The change is painfully felt sometimes. There’s the pain of childbirth itself, the loss of dreams or sense of identity, the adjustment to having a totally dependent person to care for, and worry over children as they face their own challenges.
Motherhood can be a dark path at times, especially if we mothers see ourselves, our sisters or friends yearning for a child or grieving the loss of one, or struggling to look after children. At other times it is all joy. What are we to make of these ups and downs?
Mary, the Mother of God, is a great help to mothers longing to understand the meaning of motherhood and follow their path with fullness of joy and freedom from anxiety. She who pondered in her heart the events of her life along with the Word of God helps them to see their daily lived motherhood more deeply and beautifully in the context of Christ.
For me, a newly budding camelia shrub after days of rain, an offering of half-chewed toast from a grubby hand, a squabble between siblings, a sink full of hot soapy water and dirty pans – all are food for meditation on God’s word and presence and the way God that is working in my life.
Mothers are also a gift to society, contributing to the building of the kingdom of God on earth. Blessed John Paul II said that motherhood “shows a creativity on which the humanity of each human being largely depends; it also invites man to learn and to express his own fatherhood. Thus women contribute to society and to the Church their ability to nurture human beings.”
“A mother is the most important person on earth. She cannot claim the honour of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any Cathedral – a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to heaven…what on God’s earth is more glorious than this, to be a mother?” – Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty
For those suffering on Mother’s Day
Mother’s day is for mothers, a day to thank our mothers for all they do or have done for us. But beyond the glossy greeting card images, it can bring painful or complicated feelings for many.
Some are grieving the loss of their mothers, others an image of the relationship with their mother they wish they had, some grieve the loss of children, or the opportunity to conceive and bring to birth a child.
Some mothers feel completely unappreciated by their children, or are unable to see them on the day for some reason. For these, the day can be salt on a wound that never fully closes. It’s good to remember to pray for them, and if appropriate, offer a small gesture to let them know they are not forgotten.
- Pope John Paul II’s address at the international Women meeting December 1996
- Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty
This article featured in the May 2011 edition of CathFamily E-Magazine.
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