When Mothers Arise

IMG_4465Each year on this day Catholics all over the world remember the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day she was taken body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life. In years past, some families feasted on raspberry shortcake and adorn their statues with rose garlands. Others decorated balloons with images of the Blessed Mother, and launched them heavenward.

Sadly, this isn’t a year for such celebrations. The most recent news reports outlining the depravity of some very bad men at the highest level of the Church has traumatized the Catholic community. The outraged responses are wholly understandable and natural. Sadly, all the outrage in the world is not going to fix this problem.

Last night I attended the vigil Mass at Queen of Peace, delighted to see both my children singing in the choir — something they had reluctantly agreed to after I told them it was the only birthday present I wanted this year. Even so, they grumbled … but they went. As I watched them that night, I was reminded again of the great influence women hold in the lives of their families to inspire goodness in their children.

I also thought about the redemptive power of a mother’s love to make wrongs right, and to guide her children to repentance. While we were in Rwanda, attending an open-air Mass, during communion the religious sisters in front of us left their seats to distribute the consecrated hosts. During that time, a man came and swiped this sister’s purse (pictured above) and tried to make off with it … and was promptly taken into custody by vigilant security. At first he glared about him, defiant. Then, when the sister returned and learned what had happened, she said not a word. She just turned and looked at the man full in the face. He crumbled into a chair and covered his face. Then she sat beside him and began speaking gently to him. (I don’t know what was said — she was speaking in Kinyarwanda). As he was being led away, I thought about the way her mother’s heart had touched him and inspired him to recognize and regret the wrong he had done.

I don’t know exactly how this applies to our current crisis, except to say that a mother’s heart is a powerful force for change. Frankly, I don’t know if it is even possible to exact true justice through the judicial system we have today … I sincerely doubt it, based on our own experiences with the juvenile justice system (ironically, in Pennsylvania). What I do know is that true repentance and conversion is possible only in hearts that are open and unguarded, who love God more than they love themselves. Men who love their Mother enough to be willing to endure any trial in service to her. If there is going to be true change in the hearts of those who lead our Church, it will come only as they are drawn once more to fall in love with God, and with their Blessed Mother. That is where they will find the strength to do what must be done … and to stay the course.

My friends, as we continue to pray for God’s will in this ongoing battle for the souls of both perpetrators and their victims, on this day of the Assumption I will be praying that the love of Our Blessed Mother will arise and blanket the earth afresh, and that we will all find the courage and humility to seek not simply justice, but true healing and reconciliation. Our Lord promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church. We must remember that those gates swing both ways — and that the forces of destruction can come from without as well as from within. Lord willing, so will the forces of healing and reconciliation.

Our Lady of the Assumption, Arise! Spread your mantle of love over us, and pray for us, that we will soon be able to proclaim the Good News with pure and loving hearts. Amen.

Advertisements

“Am I not your mother?” The pressing question of Our Lady of Guadalupe


This photo of Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe is courtesy of TripAdvisor.

Today Catholics all over the world celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the appearances of the Blessed Mother to a poor Indian named Juan Diego shortly after the fall of the Aztec capitol city of Tenochtitlan to Cortez in 1521. Four times she appeared to him, dressed as a pregnant Aztec maiden, calling him her “son” and sending him to the bishop in Mexico City, where she wanted a shrine built.

“My dear little son, I love you. I desire you to know who I am. I am the Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion…”

Reluctantly, he eventually went — but the bishop did not immediately believe him. Returning to the hill where he first met the Lady, he found her waiting for him. Her first words ring down to us through the ages …

“My little son, am I not your Mother? Do not fear.”

Instructing him to gather the roses that had suddenly sprung up on the hillside (out of season), she sent him back to the vision. And when the poor man opened his mantle, the roses had imprinted a miraculous image — and the original tilma with the image has survived centuries of devotion, still on display behind the altar, perfectly preserved, at the basilica.

“Am I not your mother?” This question has new meaning for me right now. I recently started caring for my elderly mother, whose mind is burdened with dementia. There are some times when we don’t know how to reach each other, even while looking right into each other’s eyes. It’s a question I find myself repeating, over and over: “Is this not my mother?”

She is. And yet, not the mother I’ve always known. In fact, some days I think that the mantle has passed from her shoulders to mine.

I wonder, Juan Diego, if you ever looked into the eyes of that Lady and wondered yourself. “Who is this person? And what does she want from me that I haven’t already done? When will she be satisfied?” I understand, more than ever, the desire to escape, to go around the other way. Then, in a flash, I see her again, and I feel a little ashamed of myself. How could I NOT see that she is, indeed, my own?

I will not fear. For she is with me. And so, my Lord, are you.

Mommy Love: Guest Post from Sarah Reinhard (The Love Project, Day 11)

Sarah ReinhardToday’s guest post is from one of my favorite “mommy bloggers,” Sarah Reinhard, who is also celebrating her birthday today — happy day, sweetie! And thanks for sharing a snippet from your newest brainchild — a wonderful resource for pregnant moms.

I had a few years of enjoying young children in the form of younger siblings and nieces and nephews before I was married and started having my own. I thought I was ready for the reality of children saying the darndest things.

Nothing, though, could have prepared me for the hilarity—and heartbreak—I have experienced as a mom. From my children’s mouths I’ve heard tender expressions of love but also explosions of anger. They’ve made observations that have lifted my spirits and others that have cut me to the quick.

When Mary and Joseph find Jesus after three days of searching for him (see Lk 2:42–51), they must have had some heat in their words to him. Maybe I’m projecting a bit, but maybe worry is, to some extent, a natural reaction of parents to the experience of losing a child in a crowd or a store.

What I learn from this mystery is how the story continues with him going home and being obedient, even in the face of what seems to be a smart-aleck remark from Jesus—”Didn’t you know where I’d be?” This seems like it would be a prime time to uphold parental authority, but in the silence, I find a lesson in humility.

Jesus was in the Temple all along, though his parents didn’t know it and had to search for him. Their inability to find him didn’t change where he was the entire time.

In the Temple, Jesus was listening and asking questions much like a typical twelve-year-old. Yet he was anything but typical. I find comfort, though, in the idea that he wasn’t born with all the knowledge he needed. In this way, his humanity is expressed in this mystery, as is the quandary of his parents: do they punish him after this or are they so glad to find him that they just let him off the hook?

In this mystery, we can find ourselves at Jesus’s feet, asking for the guidance to be the kind of parent he’s calling us to be. Though it’s early in the journey of parenting this particular child, we don’t have to wait to ask to be able to cooperate with the graces God sends our way in our parenting journey.

This excerpt is from A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, by Sarah Reinhard and is used with the author’s permission. Find out more about Sarah and her writing at SnoringScholar.com.

Weekend Ponderings: Going Up! (Happy Feast of the Assumption!)

ourladyoftherosaryAlthough I haven’t posted to this blog in a while, in honor of the Feast of the Assumption I’ve posted a brief reflection over at “Behold Your Mother” about what the Assumption of Mary says about the destiny of all believers.

Death hurts. It strikes us as vaguely unjust, no matter when it comes. There’s a reason for this: We were made for eternal life, and so death’s victory — even an empiric, temporary one — is in a very real way “unnatural.”

Today we celebrate the fact that death has indeed lost its sting. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, the power of death has no lasting effect on the life of the believer. All of us, like Mary, will one day be reunited — body and soul — in heaven in that eternal communion of love, absorbed in the beatific vision.

Oh what a happy day that will be!

Sitting with Jesus … A Way to Peace

My friend Sarah posted “Our Lady of Medjugorje”  (mostly about Eucharistic Adoration) at “Today’s Catholic Woman”/CE.

“What do you do for a whole hour?” she wondered as she went to her first EA appointment, in the wee hours of the morning. Armed with books and rosary, she went to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament … and found  the peace of Christ waiting for her.

As mothers we often forget to find the peace we need in order to pass it on to our children (who need to get it from us). Sarah’s is a timely reminder of that important fact. “Peace I give to you … not as the world gives, give I to you,” Jesus told His followers. “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

You don’t have to be Catholic to long for a tangible reminder of His presence in your life. If you’re in need of a little peace today, why not go and sit in Jesus’ presence for a while? Take the kids with …. Jesus loves the children!

Weekend Ponderings…

simeon-and-annaIn the coming year, I’d like to spend more time reflecting on the Scriptures through the lens of extraordinary motherhood.

Throughout the Gospels, we encounter figures who are largely hidden, taking center stage for the briefest moments before returning to the shadows. Their reward, you see, was not an earthly one … any more than ours is. And yet, there is much we can learn from them if we only have “ears to hear.”

And so, on this the last weekend of the year, I introduce you to one of the EMs of the Gospel: Anna the Prophetess. From this weekend’s readings, taken from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke:

There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

According to tradition (as recorded in the “Protoevangelium of James” par 7), Joachim and Anne (called “Anna” in this account) took their precious daughter Mary to the Temple at the tender age of three. There she remained, learning to serve God with purity of heart until she was twelve, when her protector Joseph was selected.

In today’s Gospel, we read of Anna — a widow who remained in the Temple after being widowed as a young bride.  When she saw Mary enter with her Son and husband, Anna was irresistibly drawn to the Holy Family. Was it simply the guidance of the Holy Spirit … Or was it something else?

Could it be that, as a young widow, Anna had tended to young Mary in the Temple, as her own spiritual daughter? Did she teach her to pray, and guide the delicate Rose of Sharon to attain full bloom? Was she for Mary … an extraordinary mother? And was it this attachment … that caused Anna to see with the eyes of faith the special calling God had given not only this beautiful young woman, but her Son as well?

Mother’s Helper: Guest Post by Allie O. Williams


“Look what we found!” exclaimed our son, Rob. As the oldest & tallest he was the default spokesman, thrusting a muddy mitt in my face, his fist clutching a clay encrusted hunk of plastic. “It’s Mary and I found it,” cried our littlest neighbor Maggie firmly asserting her role. “But it was in our yard,” hollered our daughter, Elizabeth.

Continue reading