May is a month we traditionally honor our Blessed Mother and celebrate Mother’s Day. We are given an opportunity this month to honor women. This month of May is also a prime time for us to recognize the maternity of the church — after all, how often do we refer to her as Mother Church?
The older I get, and perhaps, the older my mother gets, the more often I am led to reflect upon the incredible role she played in my life and the life of our family.
There was a sign that hung over the kitchen door where we grew up which read: “There is no greater love a father can give his children than to love their mother.” Of course, that is where all families begin — the love of a father and mother. Their love was and is a response to God’s love in each of their lives. It is the same love that gave birth to my siblings and me. Mom’s love created the atmosphere that made our house a home and at the heart of all she provided for us over the years.
Closely connected to Mom’s love for us was her own love for the Blessed Mother and the church. No Sunday went by without the family attending Mass and then returning home for Sunday dinner. Every meal prayer concluded invoking Our Lady, Queen of Peace. Every liturgical season was marked by various traditions in the home as a means of further catechizing us in the faith.
For example, at Christmas, we baked all kinds of cookies and rolls in preparation for the many family and friends we would entertain on Christmas day and throughout the holiday season. The house was never fully decorated and ready for Christmas until the nativity scene found a notable place for display.
Lent was observed with plenty of trips to church for the Stations of the Cross, confessions, and all the triduum services. Good Friday, after the mandatory period of silence from noon to 3 p.m., we colored Easter eggs as well as decorating eggs for the Easter egg tree. These activities not only helped us focus on our faith, but also provided great quality time together as family.
The summer was filled with activity, gardening, picking berries and fruits, and late summer and fall we would spend seemingly hours on end canning and freezing all that had been grown and gathered. We all had our chores, and Mom was typically the one giving directions, while working harder than everyone else. As we harvested, we not only enjoyed many great meals, but we learned to share what we had with others.
Perhaps most memorable of all is that our home was always a hub of activity. It seems everyone always felt welcome, and we were either entertaining others, or joining others at their homes. No matter when or how many people showed up, Mom always seemed to pull something together for a meal.
The experiences I had growing up, and continued until recently, now that Mom is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, speaks to the importance of family, and the tremendous role of mothers in creating a home, raising a family and passing on the faith.
Likewise, our Blessed Mother is always at work, helping us find our place in God’s family. Mary creates a home for us in the church, supports us in our faith, and faithfully leads us to a closer relationship with her son, Jesus.
Mary’s great love for God allowed her to give her life completely to his will. Her loving obedience created the possibility for the birth of Jesus, and was the avenue for God to give the world our Savior. I wish to encourage all of you to either begin or strengthen this devotion to Mary in your lives.
The month of May reminds us that just as we come from families and need the love and support we find there, we likewise are a part of the family of God, and have an important place in the family of the church.
The family always has and always will play a part in healthy society, and equally true is the role the church plays in a healthy family life. Just as our mothers and the Blessed Mother are always there for us, so too is Mother Church.
We would all do well to rededicate ourselves to more family time in this month of May. Equally important and just as needed is for families to take up again the practice of regular (weekly) attendance at Mass, and greater participation in the life of the church.
Where would any of us be without a mother? Where will any of us finally arrive without Mother Church? Let’s be sure to express our love and gratitude this May not only to our moms, but also to our ‘Mothers,’ Mary and the Church.