The Joy and Gift of our Mothers
To all of the mothers in our community: Happy Mother’s Day! To readers who are celebrating with their mothers today, I hope these festivities are filled with joy. To those readers who join me in remembering in prayer our mothers who have gone before us, we pray that they have joined our Lord in the fullness of eternal life.
It is no surprise that Mother’s Day is one of the most popular holidays, not only for the obvious love we bear for our mothers, but more so because of the deep-seated resonance motherhood has in our minds and hearts.
The human experience begins in the relationship of mother and child. Motherhood also marks the life of the Church in a spiritual sense.
In his apostolic letter “On the Vocation and Dignity of Women, Saint John Paul II said, “Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb. The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and ‘understands’ with unique intuition what is happening inside her. In the light of the ‘beginning,’ the mother accepts and loves as a person the child she is carrying in her womb. This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings – not only towards her own child, but every human being – which profoundly marks the woman’s personality” (Mulieris Dignitatem, 18).
While we each have our own personal mother whom we love, there is also a mother whom we share in common – humanity’s first mother and model for all others. The great Catholic evangelist Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote, “If fatherhood has its prototype in the Heavenly Father, Who is the giver of all gifts, then certainly such a beautiful thing as motherhood shall not be without some original Mother, whose traits of loveliness every mother copies in varying degrees” (The World’s First Love, 189 (2010)).
That original mother is Mary, the Mother of God. “She existed in the Divine Mind as an Eternal Thought before there were any mothers. She is the Mother of mothers – she is the world’s first love,” said Archbishop Sheen (Id., 17).
Pope Francis in his recent apostolic exhortation writes beautifully of what Mary can teach mothers, in particular mothers who find themselves in very challenging situations. The treasury of Mary’s heart, he said, “contains the experiences of every family, which she cherishes. For this reason, she can help us understand the meaning of these experiences and to hear the message God wishes to communicate through the life of our families” (Amoris Laetitia, 30).
Here I would like to join the Pope in commending to our Blessed Mother those women who are facing hardships, raising children alone, coping with sickness, caring for both children and aging parents, living with financial uncertainty or just juggling family, work and all of life’s responsibilities. Although singular in the order of grace, we look to Mary not as some model of perfection that is unattainable, but as the mother who comes with maternal concern to help mothers and all of us in our difficulties, particularly in obtaining for us the favor of her Son Jesus.
The Virgin Mary is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and the Redeemer, and she is also “the mother of the members of Christ,” that is, she is the Mother of the Church, taught the Second Vatican Council. “She is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity” (Lumen Gentium, 53).
To all mothers this month – those women who gave birth to us, those who raised us, and also the woman Jesus called “mother” and who now calls all of us her children in the Spirit – we express our great love, affection and gratitude for all that they have done and continue to do. Praise be to God for the blessings of our mothers.