Give thanks for all women on Mother's Day

Published: May 8, 2023

"Dearest mothers, thank you, thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world." — Pope Francis, general audience, 2015

Mother's Day has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States on the second Sunday of May since 1914. But Catholics have been celebrating a sort of mother's day since the first few centuries of the Church. The fourth Sunday of Lent, or Laetare Sunday, traditionally was a time to return to your mother church (home parish) and leave an offering. For this reason, it was also called Mothering Sunday

"The word 'mothering' came to have other associations; it became a feast day for the mothers of families. All the children who were away from home went back on that day to visit their mothers, taking with them 'a present of money, a trinket, or some nice eatable, and they are all anxious not to fail in this custom.' The 'nice eatable' was often a mothering cake." It is easy to see how this ancient tradition might have influenced Mother's Day traditions in the United States.

And devotion to Mary, the Mother of God and our spiritual mother, in the month of May adds deep spiritual meaning to this holiday. "Motherhood has always been a sacred and noble vocation, but Mary raised it to even greater stature when she became the Mother of God. As the mother who is 'blessed among women' (Luke 1:42), Mary gives us the clearest and most inspiring picture of what the ideal mother should look like, and every Christian mother would be wise to take her cues from the one who excelled at motherhood like none other," explained Father Michael Van Sloun for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Pope Francis pointed out that the parallels between Mary and other mothers include love and devotion to their children, of course, but it also includes great sacrifice and suffering. "It is they, mothers, who most hate war, which kills their children. Many times, I have thought of those mothers who receive the letter: 'I inform you that your son has fallen in defense of his homeland ...' The poor women! How a mother suffers! It is they who testify to the beauty of life."

"A society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength," added the pope. And they are also crucial to evangelization. "Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth."

"For all of its joys, motherhood brings with it its share of crosses. Such is the blessing and curse of unconditional love," wrote Our Sunday Visitor agreeing with the pope. "Despite these challenges, though, mothers also serve as a vital part of the antidote, and this is where they can find encouragement and hope."

Each year many parishes ask women to stand and receive a blessing on Mother's Day, which is an "all-too-rare public recognition of the tireless work done by mothers, as well as their willingness to give fully of themselves purely out of their love for their families" pointed out Our Sunday Visitor in this year's editorial about the holiday. But the author went on the point out that many women can be hurt by this event.

"As many mothers proudly stand to receive the priest’s blessing on Mother’s Day, others remain still and seated — conflicted as to whether they deserve to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other moms, or unwilling to reveal publicly the loss they have suffered, or wondering whether they deserve to be called a mother at all." Many in the pews have experienced the death of a child. Others have placed a child for adoption. "The motherhood of these women, however, is undeniable. If life truly begins at conception, which the Church has consistently taught, then so, too, does motherhood."

Other women long to be mothers and for whatever reason it has not happened. Let us remember to pray for all women “who, for whatever reason, might be silently suffering on the inside," and let us ask Mary, the mother of us all, to be with them, offering them the peace and consolation that can be found through her Son."

Springs in the Desert, a Catholic infertility ministry, offers resources for pastors on Mother's Day. "The Church affirms the dignity and innate call of every woman to motherhood. Every woman has the capacity to 'give life' in a variety of ways, all of which are necessary to create a culture of life and a civilization of love." Where would we be without our "foster mothers, godmothers, aunts, spiritual mothers, religious sisters, mentors and those women who see the needs of others and come to their aid?"

The following offer ministries and resources for women who find Mother's Day particularly painful:

  • In the Diocese of Little Rock, Project Rachel offers support groups and retreats for women who have lost a child through abortion. Those interested in learning more may call or text (501) 663-0996 confidentially. 
  • The Apostolate of Hannah's Tears is a Catholic ministry for women who have had a miscarriage, stillbirth, lost a child after birth, struggling with infertility, having a difficult pregnancy or in the waiting process for adoption. 
  • BraveLove is a nonprofit based in Dallas that offers support to women who have placed a child for adoption. It highlights the "amazing act of love and bravery" of birth moms while acknowledging their isolation and grief, which often goes unnoticed by the society around them.
  • Springs in the Desert offers a podcast for women carrying the cross of infertility and pregnancy loss with practical tips on making the day a little easier. Listen to the podcast.

So in every joy and struggle, mothers should look to their patron and ultimate role model who is always there to help. The Bible tells us about many other faith-filled mothers as well. "These ancient women faced some of the same challenges and felt many of the same emotions that mothers feel today," according to Teaching Catholic Kids.

Still looking for a special gift for the moms in your life? You don't have to spend money to show how much you care. Send a spiritual bouquet for Mother's Day and ask Mary to intercede for them. Pray the rosary for your mom(s). The Family Rosary website allows you to create a free, customized Mother's Day e-card where you can detail your prayer goals. Busted Halo offers a virtual Mother's Day retreat designed to deepen the relationship you have with your mom, especially at a time when that relationship is evolving. And the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Creighton University's Online Ministries offer prayers for mothers struggling through a variety of challenges as well as blessings.