Mother’s Day and the “Joy of Love”
The opening sentence of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, offers the perfect context for Mother’s Day: “The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.”
The first and most immediate human relationship we experience is with our mothers. With God, they give us life and by their faith and love, mothers help welcome Jesus into our homes and into the hearts of our families. The family home has historically had a pride of place in the shaping of the Christian community and, as guardians of the hearth, mothers have played a privileged role in passing on the faith by instruction and living witness. In this very real way, the love of mothers reflecting Christ’s sacrificial and unconditional love brings joy to their families in their homes and also to their extended families of faith in our churches and parishes.
Like our Blessed Mother Mary in her experience of daily life in the Holy Family, today’s mothers “are asked to face their family’s challenges with courage and serenity, in good times and bad, and to keep in their heart the great things which God has done,” says Pope Francis (Amoris Laetitia, 30). And in living this maternal vocation, mothers are not alone. The Lord walks with them and the Pope emphasizes the importance of priests and members of the Church in also accompanying mothers and their families as they make their journey in life through all of its ups and downs. Mothers who face difficulties like divorce and being single parents, or realities like poverty, illness and other challenges as described in Chapter Two of Amoris Laetitia, especially need the love and support of our faith communities.
Pope Francis’ pastoral heart can be seen in how he describes the impact that mothers have on children: “A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place. This helps the child to grow in self-esteem and, in turn, to develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy” (Id., 174).
On this special day, we express our love and affection for our mothers, the women who carried us, nurtured us, raised us, tended to us when we were sick, and made sure we were fed and clothed and cleaned, the women who will forever be our mothers, even when they have gone ahead to reside with God in heaven. To them, let us echo the simple, heartfelt words of Pope Francis: “Dear mothers: Thank you! Thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world” (Id.).