Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day to My Two Mothers...

Virgin Mary with infant Holy Child Jesus
Artist: Mark Sanislo

Today my thoughts turn to my two mothers: My birth mother, Rose, who passed into eternity two years ago, and my spiritual mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

My Mother Rose

My mother always wanted to have a dozen kids.  She beam from ear to ear upon seeing a large family.  Some years ago, in a previous parish I sometimes went to for Mass, she would marvel at a family that started coming to Mass with 9 children, and got all the more excited when we saw the mother come to Mass with yet another newborn.  For Mom, movies like "Cheaper By the Dozen" and "Yours, Mine and Ours", were among her favorites.  She loved children, but it was not meant for her to have more than three.  

Mom was never bashful about telling people, and reminding me in a joking manner, that I  ended the streak.  I gather from her explanations that I came into the world with such gusto that doctors were left with no choice but to do a hysterectomy.  It was disappointing for her.  Before and after my brother, the second oldest, she lost two babies to miscarriage.  Years later whenever she would recount this you could see the sadness in her eyes, followed by her characteristic expression, "oh well.... oh well, oh well".  She was resigned to the fact that God had other plans, but such pain can never fully be mitigated.  In recent years I have made it a habit to give Mom flowers on her birthday, and on Mother's Day with a simple message: Thanks Mom, for the gift of life! 

My Spiritual Mother, Mary

While my mother was devoted to Mary, it was my father's devotion to the Mother of God which ultimately led all of us to regard her as our spiritual mother.  I grew up in the 70's - a time in which Marian devotion fell either into neglect or attack in many quarters.  All that Mary stood for was in conflict with the feminist movement.  In my childhood parish, like many in the US, the Rosary and other Marian prayers were considered passé. 

Yet, who could be a greater sign of strength than Mary, who at such a young age didn't hesitate to say, "Yes!" to the Angel Gabriel, even though her pregnancy would raise many questions?  She shows us that strength is not found exclusively in muscle or in how well a woman can "man-up". Strength is manifested in giving up our own will for the will of God. 

Thankfully, Marian devotion, along with  Eucharistic devotion is on the rise, thanks in large part to Blessed John Paul II. 

I leave you with something from the Redemptoris Mater - the Encyclical written by Blesssed John Paul II on March 25, 1987 at New Advent.

22. We can therefore say that in this passage of John's Gospel we find as it were a first manifestation of the truth concerning Mary's maternal care. This truth has also found expression in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. It is important to note how the Council illustrates Mary's maternal role as it relates to the mediation of Christ. Thus we read: "Mary's maternal function towards mankind in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ but rather shows its efficacy," because "there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5). This maternal role of Mary flows, according to God's good pleasure, "from the superabundance of the merits of Christ; it is founded on his mediation, absolutely depends on it and draws all its efficacy from it."(44). It is precisely in this sense that the episode at Cana in Galilee offers us a sort of first announcement of Mary's mediation, wholly oriented towards Christ and tending to the revelation of his salvific power.

From the text of John it is evident that it is a mediation which is maternal. As the Council proclaims: "Mary became "a mother to us in the order of grace." This motherhood in the order of grace flows from her divine motherhood. Because she was, by the design of divine Providence, the mother who nourished the divine Redeemer, Mary became "an associate of unique nobility, and the Lord's humble handmaid, " who "cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the Savior's work of restoring supernatural life to souls."(45) And "this maternity of Mary in the order of grace . . . will last without interruption until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect."(46)

23. If John's description of the event at Cana presents Mary's caring motherhood at the beginning of Christ's messianic activity, another passage from the same Gospel confirms this motherhood in the salvific economy of grace at its crowning moment, namely when Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, his Paschal Mystery, is accomplished. John's description is concise: "Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother: 'Woman, behold, your son!' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (Jn 19:25-27).

Undoubtedly, we find here an expression of the Son's particular solicitude for his Mother, whom he is leaving in such great sorrow. And yet the "testament of Christ's Cross" says more. Jesus highlights a new relationship between Mother and Son, the whole truth and reality of which he solemnly confirms. One can say that if Mary's motherhood of the human race had already been outlined, now it is clearly stated and established. It emerges from the definitive accomplishment of the Redeemer's Paschal Mystery. The Mother of Christ, who stands at the very center of this mystery -- a mystery which embraces each individual and all humanity -- is given as mother to every single individual and all mankind. The man at the foot of the Cross is John, "the disciple whom he loved."(47) But it is not he alone. Following tradition, the Council does not hesitate to call Mary "the Mother of Christ and mother of mankind": since she "belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all human beings . . . Indeed she is 'clearly the mother of the members of Christ . . . since she cooperated out of love so that there might be born in the Church the faithful.'"(48)

And so this "new motherhood of Mary," generated by faith, is the fruit of the "new" love which came to definitive maturity in her at the foot of the Cross, through her sharing in the redemptive love of her Son.

I would also like to extend a very happy and blessed Mother's Day to all mothers reading this blog.

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