Mothers are a gift to the Church and world

Published: May 7, 2019

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 gives this holiday special meaning. "God, creator and lord of the universe, chose to put himself — tiny, needy and helpless — into the nurturing and watchful hands of a human mother. Since then, every act of mothering — both physical and spiritual — in every time and every corner of the world recollects Mary’s." (Our Sunday Visitor, May 7, 2018)

Pope Francis pointed out that the parallels between Mary and others 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."

"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."

The Holy Father added: "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." 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."

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.

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

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. If you prefer to make a card by hand, Life Teen International offers a variety of Scriptures that highlight the role of a mom. And 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 offer prayers for mothers struggling through a variety of challenges as well as blessings.

Mother's Day Prayer

This prayer courtesy of Creighton University's Online Ministries.

"I thank you, Creator of us all, for my mother. I thank you that she gave me life and nurtured me all those years. She gave me my faith, helping me to know you and to know Jesus and his ways. She taught me how to love and how to sacrifice for others. She taught me that it was okay to cry and that I should always tell the truth. Bless her with the graces she needs and which you want to give her today. Help her to feel precious in your eyes today and to know that I love her. Give her strength and courage, compassion and peace. Bless her this day with your love. Amen."