Saturday, May 8, 2010

A mother's love...


As we gather this weekend, we celebrate a very familiar secular holiday – of course, Mother’s Day. I recently came across the history of Mother’s Day and it is very interesting. Mother’s Day originated in America in 1872 by a woman named Julia Ward Howe. She is perhaps better known for a song she wrote, The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Ms. Howe lived through the horrors of the Civil War and saw around her the suffering and grief of mothers who lost their children to the war. Her idea was to create a special Mother’s Peace Day, a day where women would work together for peace. Over the years this original impulse of Mother’s Day has been lost, but certainly there could be no better time given the state of our world for this original intent of the day to be revived.

Today, Mother’s Day has become a day to say “thank you” to our Mom’s for all that they have done and continue to do for us; or to pray in gratitude for the life of mothers who perhaps are no longer with us. For people who are so defined by their self-less giving to others, it is our day to give to them. And we know how much we need to be grateful for our mothers and how much we need to support the very idea of motherhood. In our world today, the traditional understanding of the family is something that is becoming more and more rare. While many Mom’s excel in the workplace, we don’t always have an appreciation for the Mom who wants to embrace that more traditional model of mothering. I came across a little story this week that puts things in an interesting perspective.

Listen to this mother who writes, “I was sick of hearing the phrase, ‘just a mother’ when others would speak of my occupation. ‘Oh, you’re just a mother’ they would say as they told of stories of their career successes. Well, I found myself in the same situation one day when I was at our town hall. The clerk, obviously a career woman, poised, efficient and possessed of a high-sounding title like ‘official interrogater’ or ‘town registrar’ asked, ‘And what is your occupation?’ I don’t know where they came from but all of a sudden the words popped out of my mouth, ‘I am a research associate in the field of child development and human relations.’ The clerk paused, pen frozen in mid-air. I repeated the title slowly, ‘I am a research associate in the field of child development and human relations.’ The clerk wrote my pompous title in bold black ink on the official questionnaire. The clerk said, ‘Might I ask just what you do in your field?’ I replied, ‘I have a continuing program of research, in the laboratory and in the field. Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the Humanities, and I often work fourteen hours a day for the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are in satisfaction rather than just money.’ There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice. She completed the form, stood up, and personally escorted me to the door. As I drove into our driveway, buoyed by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by three of my lab assistants, ages 13, 7, and 3. And upstairs I could hear our next experimental model, six months old, in the child development program, testing out a new vocal pattern.”

Motherhood is by far the most challenging and the most rewarding occupation there is. As we look around at our world and ask what kind of a society we hope for, it seems that what our world needs more of are the values that we associate with women and particularly with mothers. We need a world that values the preciousness of life and of being life-giving, one that is nurturing and compassionate and gentle; rather than a society that defined as a culture of death, destroying life, full of greed, selfishness and a lust for power, position and possessions. There is a lot that our world can learn from mothers.

In so many ways, mothers are the model Christian disciple. In our daily Mass readings since last Sunday, Jesus has been continually defining His disciples, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The characteristic of a Christian is that of love. Well, mothers have certainly gotten that message. Mother’s are an embodiment of love – they love without restriction, without reservation, without counting the cost. I think of the wonderful hymn, Gentle Woman, which says, “Gentle woman, peaceful dove; Teach us wisdom; teach us love.” That is what our spiritual mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, does so well. Mary, like any good mother, knew her son well. As a good mother she did her best to protect Him, lead Him, and guide Him towards the things that are happy and good and holy. As a good Mother, she played a critical role in building up the kingdom of God. Just as our Blessed Mother Mary had a unique role in shaping the life of her Son, so every mother is called to shape the religious life of their own children. All mothers nurture their children in the light of faith so they can truly discover their identity in God’s sight. For most of us, this is what our own mothers have done so well for us.

So, let us all give thanks to God this day for the gift of our mothers in this life and the gift of our spiritual mother Mary. May we learn from them the ways of love that they have learned so well from Jesus.

Let us end with a prayer for our mothers. Please turn towards your mother – or any mother near you – now and extend your hands over them in prayer. “Loving God, as a mother gives life and nourishment to her children, so you watch over your Church. Bless these women, that they may be strengthened as Christian mothers. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. Grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a profound spirit of respect. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Happy Mother’s Day and may God give you peace.

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