A hatchling’s search for its mother in the beloved children’s story “Are You My Mother?” explores a universal and timeless question about motherhood worth contemplating this Mother’s Day and throughout the Marian month of May. What does it mean to be a mother? Our Blessed Mother contemplated that question after a divine messenger startled her and announced that she would become the Mother of God. She, a virgin newly betrothed, wondered how the messenger’s news could be possible. But Mary gave her consent, entrusting herself to God without reserve. Her faith and commitment made possible our salvation through the incarnation of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Our own mothers were entrusted with a gift, not of a Messiah, but of a precious child of God. Let’s set the example for our culture by taking time to ponder this wondrousness gift of God’s creation. Of course, life isn’t perfect. Think of the myriad experiences of motherhood on this planet.
Some moms enter motherhood willing and able to be present to their children, making sure they are fed, bathed, dressed, hugged, educated, taught self-discipline and a love for others and for God. Some moms struggle through motherhood. They can’t provide even the basic necessities for their kids and may be unable to care for themselves. Some mothers die giving birth. Other mothers make the agonizing decision to give their child to adoptive parents.
Some women, unable to conceive, know the joy of motherhood through adoption. Still other moms give of themselves to foster children in need of extra TLC. Some mothers raise children with disabilities, navigating waters they couldn’t have possibly imagined, praying the boat won’t sink. Other women become “spiritual mothers,” caring for the financial and prayer needs of children in far-off countries or for nieces and nephews they can dote on. Some grandmothers do the mother gig all over again out of necessity.
Mary knew from early on that her motherhood would entail the deepest suffering. At the presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple, Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce through her own soul. Some amount of suffering goes with the territory for every mom. Think of the mom in the doctor’s office with a sick child, the mom whose kid has a behavior disorder, the mom grieving the loss of a child. How can we reach out to them in their time of need?
Motherhood isn’t limited to suffering. Mary apparently enjoyed a good party. She attended the wedding in Cana in Galilee with her son and told him when the wine ran short. A good many of us may recall fun memories with mom: at the beach, hiking, making cookies, reading stories, playing cards or attending a ball game.
It’s our turn to honor our mothers. Ask a mother-to-be how she’s feeling, and take time to listen. Offer to babysit for moms of young children. Run an errand or offer reassurance when she’s feeling flustered. Help your parish set up events for parents raising children. Advocate for legislation that enhances mothers’ abilities to care for their children, legislation that provides for fair family leave, fair wages for moms working outside the home and for creative and affordable daycare services. Donate to pregnancy support centers and adoption agencies. Visit moms who are in nursing homes or assisted living residences. Pray for all moms — living and deceased — and consider a Marian devotion this month, such as recitation of the rosary.
The hatchling in the children’s story looked for its mother far and wide, mistaking a kitten, a dog, a car and even a piece of construction equipment for Mom. If just one had said “Yes, I’m your mother,” and accepted the responsibilities that accompany that awesome vocation, the hatchling would be content. But the hatchling did find its mother! Motherhood gives children — young and grownup — a sense of belonging, of the sacrificial love that every human being requires in order to thrive. Our Blessed Mother is the model.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor