Happy Mothers’ Day! Beyond the flowers, candy, cards and presents, it is important to tell your mother “thank you.” This extends not only to your birth mother, but also to all those who have nurtured and sustained you whether they be aunts or grandmothers or teachers or whoever. Happy Mothers’ Day to all who nurture, educate, and help us grow. Mothers who balance both a career and child-rearing are taking on quite a lot, often more than two full time jobs! It is amazing that so many do so well in fulfilling both roles. We all owe mothers a debt of gratitude. Happy Mothers’ Day!
Mothers (and Fathers) have always had a difficult task, but today the demands and expectations for what a parent should be are so high, and so all-encompassing, as to seem almost impossible to fulfill. Since they are human, no mother is perfect. Every mother has, somewhere along the line, in spite of all the love that is in her heart, been too tired, too distracted, too confused, too ill-equipped, too inexperienced, too uneducated, to be the perfect mother at all times. And some mothers have been downright controlling, vindictive or even abusive. Not every woman is fit to be a mother. And those in their charge have suffered.
On this Mothers’ Day, perhaps the best gift you can give your mother is really a gift to yourself: the gift of forgiveness. By letting go of bitterness, hurt, bruised and damaged feelings, resentment, and losses, you not only forgive your mother but also free yourself. This is a gift much greater than any amount of flowers, candy, or sentimental cards. It is a gift you can give not only to the living, but also to mothers and grandmothers who have died. Forgiveness is a wonderful gift to give on Mothers’ Day, or any day of the year.
We have not only a physical and biological mother, but also a spiritual mother. That mother is the Church, or in the traditional phrase, “Holy Mother Church.” As anyone who has read a newspaper or listened to TV or radio in the last several years well knows, the Church has been far from a perfect mother. Sin is an aspect, an all too prominent part, of the Church on Earth. So it has been from the beginning (read the letters of St. Paul), and so it will be till the Lord comes again. The clergy sexual abuse, the financial malfeasance, and other scandals should not be unexpected, even though they are disheartening and discouraging. A wise old priest and former president of the Paulist Fathers once told me that when you see the church doing stupid and inhuman things it “is like seeing your mother drunk.” It is embarrassing.
What are we to do? No more than we can change the fact that we are our mothers’ children can we change the fact of our spiritual bond to the Church. Giving in to feelings of hurt, bitterness, resentment, anger, and desires for revenge will hurt ourselves as much as anyone else. Working through to forgiveness frees us to grow as spiritually mature people. The Church needs reform. The Church needs to listen. We need to work for the protection of children and all people. We need bishops who are shepherds, not careerists. Fortunately, Pope Francis gets it and is appointing men who are shepherds.
And we also have our part to play. We also need, like adult children of alcoholics, to not collude in lies, but to take responsibility for our own actions, and especially to open our hearts and souls to forgiveness. Being responsible, adult, loving children of the Church is the best gift we can give our “Holy Mother Church.”