May is traditionally dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Besides honoring her in May, we also single out and thank our own mothers for Mother’s Day. It is a good time to reflect on the meaning of this pivotal role.
First of all, the biological conceiving and birthing of a child doesn’t automatically make a woman a mother. Most of us have read or heard stories of women who gave birth and then neglected or abandoned their children.
Like Mary, a mother is someone who says yes to the call to raise her children in love. The primary purpose or vocation of a mother is to nurture and protect her children. She helps to form their values and is a major influence on their emotional and spiritual development.
The instruction during the rite of baptism tells parents that they are the first and primary educators of their children in the faith. This is an enormous responsibility — and a gift.
When I was growing up my mother was very involved in our parish. She belonged to the Sodality and the Altar and Rosary Society. She did everything from washing altar linens to becoming a Eucharistic minister when the laity began distributing Communion. Even into her late 70s, she still brought Communion to patients in the hospital. She often went to daily Mass and took us to special services like novenas.
There is no doubt in my mind that my mother’s devotion and dedication was a great influence on my formation in the faith and ultimately my becoming a Sister of the Holy Cross.
Another attribute of motherhood is a lifelong concern for children. Even though a component of being a mother is letting go of her grown children, a mom never ceases to love and support them in good times and in bad.
Sometimes a woman can do everything right and a child may not respond well. There are families who have one child with problems and another who has entered religious life, yet both were brought up the same way.
Children can cause much sorrow and discouragement, but parents, especially mothers, continue to bestow faithful love. Consider St. Monica who prayed many years for the conversion of her wayward son. He eventually became St. Augustine and a doctor of the church.
And there are those who are spiritual mothers. They may not give physical birth to children but they serve as important mentors or step in when a mother dies or is ill. They can be women who befriend children who lack mothering in their families.
We take our mothers for granted too often, and sometimes we neglect to show them our gratitude. It is important to give our thanks every day, not just once a year. The vocation of motherhood is not always easy and mothers make great sacrifices. Flowers and candy are nice, but most mothers would love a thank you once in awhile. There are many ways to show appreciation to the woman who gave so much for you.
If you never knew your mother or she is deceased, remember that Mary is also your mother. She loves you very much and would like to hear from you.
Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind., and writes “The Cutting Edge.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.