May is traditionally dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Besides honoring Mary in May, we also single out and thank our own mothers on Mother's Day. It might be a good time to reflect on what it means to be a mother.
First of all, the biological conceiving and birthing of a child doesn't automatically make a woman a mother in the true sense of the word. Most of us have read or heard stories of women who give physical birth to children, only to neglect or abandon them.
Like our Blessed Mother Mary, a mother is someone who says yes to the call to raise her children in love. The primary role or vocation of a mother is to nurture and protect her children. She helps to form their values and is a major influence on their emotional and spiritual development. The instruction in the rite of baptism tells parents that they are the first and primary educators of their children in the faith. Being a parent, a mother, is an enormous gift and responsibility.
When I was growing up, I remember my mother being very involved in our parish. She belonged to the Sodality and the Altar and Rosary Society. She did everything from washing altar linens to becoming a eucharistic minister when the laity began distributing Communion.
Even into her late 70s she still brought Communion to patients in the hospital. She often went to daily Mass and took us to special services like novenas. There is no doubt in my mind that her devotion and dedication was a great influence on my formation in the faith and ultimately my becoming a Sister of the Holy Cross.
Another attribute of motherhood is their lifetime concern for their children. Even though a component of motherhood is letting go of their grown children, mothers never cease to love and support them in good times and in bad.
Sometimes a mother can do everything right and a child may not respond well. There are families who have one child with problems and another who has entered religious life, yet both were brought up the same way.
Children can cause much sorrow and discouragement, but parents, especially mothers, continue to bestow faithful love. Consider Saint Monica who prayed many years for the conversion of her wayward son who eventually became Saint Augustine and a doctor of the Church.
And there are those who are spiritual mothers. They may not give physical birth to children but serve as important mentors. These are often those who step in when a mother dies or is ill, or they can be women who befriend children who lack mothering in their own families.
Often we take our mothers for granted and neglect to show them our gratitude. It is important to show our thanks every day not just once a year. The vocation of motherhood is not always easy and often mothers make great sacrifices for their children. Flowers and candy are nice, but most mothers would just like a thank you once in awhile throughout the year. There are many ways to show our appreciation.
And if you never knew your mother or she is deceased, remember that Mary is also your mother and loves you very much.
Sr. Margie Lavonis, a freelance writer, is a Sister of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Ind.