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A Priest’s Perspective: Our Heroic Mothers

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Ten years ago, my friend was preparing to move to Baltimore. Before the move, she made a request: “Mom is getting a little forgetful. Could you look in on her and bring her Communion?” I agreed and each Friday I met with a remarkable mother of eight who raised her children in the faith, despite being widowed at 45. Every week I visited and every week at least one of her children was with her.

Around Christmas, my friend returned from Baltimore. Upon her arrival, she called to say her mother was nearing the end of her life. I assured her that her mother had received all the possible sacraments. And, realizing it was Saturday night, I offered to bring my Mass kit to her family home and say Mass there. While there, I gave her mother Viaticum and the Apostolic Pardon. After Mass, her children knelt by their mother’s bedside and prayed the Rosary. By morning their mother had entered eternal life. I was privileged to witness their mother’s faith. In fact, their mother, unbeknownst to them, made me promise to help get her children to heaven! She had not just given them life; she generated faith.

OUR MOTHER, MARY

As Catholics we have Mary as our Mother. Before dying, Jesus saw his mother beneath the Cross with the beloved disciple. He said: “Woman, behold, your son!” Jesus asked His mother to care for His disciple as a son. He continued, speaking to the disciple (and to us): “Behold, your mother!” From that hour, the beloved disciple took Mary “to his own home” or rather into his inner life – “eis tà ìdia.” This means introducing Mary, the Mother of God, into the very fabric of one’s being. It is not merely some external practice of piety; it is imitating her faithful surrender to God’s will. Casting our gaze on the Virgin, we can discover the depths of our relationship with our spiritual mother and understand that she intercedes for us with her prayers in the face of challenges.

OUR MOTHER, THE CHURCH

The Church, too, is our mother, generating new life through the font of baptism and nurturing our faith. Last year, Pope Francis spoke about the maternal aspect of the Church:

“A Church that is a mother goes along the path of tenderness. It knows the language of such wisdom of caresses, of silence, of the gaze that knows compassion, that knows silence. It is, too, a soul, a person who lives out this way of being a member of the Church, knowing that he or she is [like] a mother [and] must go along the same path: a person [who is] gentle, tender, smiling, full of love.”

Do we show forth the maternal dimension of the Church? What type of Church do we want to be – a Church of severity, or a Church that generates faith by truly loving her sons and daughters? At St. Ignatius Parish, I am amazed at our Mom’s Ministry. Mothers support each other, and their maternal instincts have lead them to lead the parish in a pro-life initiative that walks with moms in need and assists them in nurturing life. In doing so, they are also generating faith.

MOTHERHOOD, THE VOCATION

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a physician and mother, gave her life so her daughter might live. St. Gianna wrote: “Every vocation is a vocation to material, spiritual and moral maternity, because God has placed in us the instinct toward life. To prepare
oneself for one’s vocation means to prepare oneself to be a giver of life. There are many difficulties, but with the help of God we must always walk without fear, so that if in the battle for our vocation we must die, that would be the most beautiful day of our life.”

While St. Gianna literally died for her maternal vocation, mothers everywhere die to self, making extraordinary sacrifices for their children so they can experience life in abundance. None of them are “just a mom;” they are extraordinary.

Father Earl K. Fernandes is the pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Cincinnati and holds a doctorate in moral theology from the Alphonsian Academy in Rome.

This article appeared in the May 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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