It is a truth once universally acknowledged that mothers deserve praise. They carry us in their bodies for nine months, beginning the nurturing that will last through adulthood and beyond. They give birth, a remarkable feat we take for granted. They nurse and cleanse and cuddle and teach. They sing and comfort and discipline and protect. They love us. They reflect and deflect the world out there, good or ill.
May is Mary’s month. We honor Our Lady Mary, Mother of Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the world. We have painted her portrait and gilded her image and lit candles before her as we pray for intercession, for help here on Earth, help with our own mothering, our own families.
Not all mothers are good and kind and loving. Not all mothers have or desire the gift of mothering, but one hopes they might try. Some mothers abandon their children; some curse them; some abort their babies before they take their first breath. Some mothers, as their children grow to adulthood, scorn their choices and beliefs. Some mothers call these choices and beliefs deplorable, following the siren songs of the times.
It was my fortune to have a good mother who raised my sister and I in an intact family, with our father present in our lives. We had a childhood of pleasant memories: swing sets and slides and tree forts; piano lessons; baking oatmeal cookies; riding the bus to school and returning home to a mother who created a stable and safe homelife. There were lots of books and reading to one another and singing together. I am grateful.
There are also women who are good mothers, who mother, who aren’t biological mothers. I found this to be true in parish life. As a single parent with a four-year-old son these older women mothered us, at a time when my own mother was unavailable. The church breathed life into our fragmented family. The women embraced us. We were not alone.
Today, I recall these women: Elizabeth, Willa, Janet, Lucille, Cathy, Kay, and many more. Most have passed into Eternity, and it is my turn to mother those younger than I in our parish. It is my turn to offer concern and care and prayers for these adopted children of mine in the family of God. It is my turn to love the next generation, to mentor, to show the way to Eternity.
These many mothers, all the women of the Church, Mary’s beloved, offer answers to life’s perplexities in their soft embraces and welcoming smiles. They open hearts to God, to His Son, allowing the Holy Spirit to work within the parish family as we pray, sing, and say the holy words learned by heart, words residing in our hearts. We sing and speak as one voice, in this, His, creation, the Church, the Bride of Christ.
The Church is also Mother Church. She embraces her children, protecting them from storms outside and fortifying them to re-enter the tempestuous world. The Church an ark, a boat sailing through the world in and through time. The ark carries its precious cargo, its faithful, within, as a mother carries new life in her womb. The Church is a mother, creating a safe and loving home.
In our world today families fragment as mothers no longer mother. Fathers father and flee, leaving mothers to parent alone. Mothers and fathers, upon conceiving children, often abort them, with little understanding as to what they have done, taken a human life, a tiny innocent baby.
And so we celebrate mothers, mothers who truly mother us all, with their example and their devotion, with their selfless sacrifice and their love. We celebrate those who choose life, who understand the immense honor of carrying life within, bearing and birthing, caring and nurturing. To be a mother is a great joy, for love is unconditionally promised and greatly rewarded. We birth the new generation, the future of mankind. We nurture these children, raise them up if they fall, so that they desire to choose life and not death, to fill them, full-fill them, with the love and life and light of God, as they travel the way to Eternity.