As you know, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. Although the holiday is secular in its origin, there is much that is sacred about the celebration of Mother’s Day. How fitting then that we celebrate Mother’s Day on a Sunday, when we can offer gratitude to God for the many roles that our mothers and those who act as mothers to us play in our lives.
My mother was a convert to the Catholic faith and my dad often said she had the heart of the faith and passed it on to their children. One of her favorite sayings was, “I had my children as gifts from God to love and cherish.” She did that for each one of us. When I was a child, I had fairly serious asthma. That was in the days before atomizers or other aids to asthma attacks.
In the middle of an attack, Mom would take me in her lap and pray the rosary. Her loving embrace and her dependence on the gift of peace provided from the Blessed Mother helped me to recover my breath and gave me a deep peace. What a gift from a mother! I am a blessed man!
It’s not surprising that my mom looked to Mary as her guide. Mary is the model of all mothers and it’s appropriate that we celebrate Mother’s Day in May, a month set aside by the Catholic Church to honor Mary. Mary is also the first disciple, and there are many lessons we can learn from her about motherhood and being a disciple.
While the Scriptures do not offer us much information about Mary, we can learn so much from her life. First of all, we know that Mary was a woman of deep prayer. In the Nativity story, we hear how Mary “treasured these things in her heart.”
Likewise, we know that Mary faithfully practiced the ritual prayers of her Jewish upbringing and, like any good mother, we know that Mary would have taught her son how to pray. Prayer was an essential habit to Mary and is an essential habit for all mothers and disciples.
A second lesson we can learn from Mary is the importance of placing God’s will before her own. We see this most clearly in the Annunciation, when Mary says “yes” to the will of God to bear his son, Jesus. We know this could not have been easy for a young, unmarried woman, yet Mary set aside her own desires to do what God asked of her. Mary’s willingness to place God’s will before her own also allowed her to put others’ needs before her own, which is the definition of love. Her ability to sacrifice is something all mothers and disciples can learn from.
In learning to accept God’s will, Mary also learned to embrace challenges and difficulties. We see this in the circumstances of Jesus’ birth when, after a long journey, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable, among the animals. We also witness Mary’s strength at the crucifixion when, despite seeing her son tortured and brutally murdered, Mary remains at Jesus’ side until the very end.
How insulting when we view women as delicate and feeble! Mary clearly illustrates the strength that women have, a quiet, yet fierce resolve that is necessary for all mothers and disciples.
Being a mother is one of the most difficult things a woman can do. We need to constantly offer our support, gratitude and prayers for them, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.
In a special way, I encourage you to find ways to support young mothers who are struggling, whether they face an unexpected pregnancy or simply lack the necessary support and resources to provide for their children. If you want to learn more about how to help, I encourage you to check out the column in this issue about Walking with Moms in Need from the staff in our diocesan Office of Pro-Life. (See page 18.)
So as we seek to grow as disciples of Jesus, let us follow the example of Mary and our mothers in being people of prayer, committed to doing God’s will, and accepting of challenges along the way.
And on this Mother’s Day, let us thank God for our mothers and those who have played the role of mother in our lives. May all mothers know God’s deep and abiding love for them. Mary, our Mother, pray for us!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.