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Motherhood in Imitation of Our Lady

Bishop Paul S. Loverde
Bishop of Arlington, Virginia

Published in the Catholic Herald, Arlington, VA

5/13/09

During this month of May, we honor our mothers and, indeed, the Mother of us all, the Blessed Virgin Mary. As Pope Benedict XVI teaches us, “In her we see the Christian life set forth as a youthfulness of the heart, as beauty and a waiting readiness for what is to come” (Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek That Which is Above, pg. 95). So too, our own mothers express willingness to give their hearts completely to their children all the while discerning God’s will.

As a young pregnant woman, Mary certainly understood the many challenges that accompany motherhood. Despite all of the temporary obstacles and frustrations, it is clear that mothers have a unique and ultimately joyful role in cooperating with the will of God. Saint John reminds us, "When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world." (John 16:21). We all know courageous mothers who have limited or even non-existent resources, who are alone, without support from families or friends, and who bravely recognize the sacredness of life as they echo Mary’s “yes” to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation. These women celebrate the call to motherhood, heroically embracing the irreplaceable vocation God has given them.

Motherhood comes in various forms. In addition to women who are natural mothers, other women adopt children each year through the assistance of Catholic Charities or other organizations. Children find loving homes with mothers who “carry out with dedication and fidelity their daily service in the family, the Church, and society” (Pope Benedict XVI, At the Shrine of Bonaria in Cagliari, 8 September 2008). Other women, such as grandmothers, aunts, volunteers or benefactors, fulfill their vocations by loving and mentoring children. We recall Mary's fiat, that moment when she said “yes” to God's will in her life — to be the Mother of Christ. God calls each woman to a unique vocation and every woman has the opportunity to respond, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

In this Easter Season, I have the profound privilege to confirm young men and women across the diocese. In this final Sacrament of Initiation, following Baptism and Holy Eucharist, it is clear how much they have learned about their faith. We know that education begins in the home and that parents have the primary influence on their children's knowledge of the faith, both through their instruction and their example. Think of all that Mary must have taught Jesus as a child in Nazareth! Her words to the servant, “Do whatever he tells you,” at the wedding at Cana demonstrate the love and effort that went into raising Him according to the Will of God the Father (John 2:4). It is a mother's vocation, which Mary perfectly fulfilled, to lovingly show her children the way of virtue and faith, preparing them to carry out their own calling in the world.

While the joys of motherhood are many, loving one's children often comes with moments of suffering. Recall again the words to Mary, “and you yourself a sword will pierce” (Luke 2:35). Mothers often experience pain: whether it be because children are far away from home, have quarreled with their families or have fallen away from the faith. We know all too well that when we love someone deeply, we endure the hurt along with them. Remember that you are not alone in this suffering – many parishes have support meetings and Rosary groups for mothers; the parish is the perfect environment to find encouragement and community with other mothers. Catholic Charities offers a variety of services, including family and individual counseling. For more information about the many resources the Church has to offer, please visit Family Life at www.arlingtondiocese.org and Catholic Charities at www.ccda.net as well as your parish Web site. During this month of May, I urge everyone, but especially mothers, to unite your sorrows with Mary at the foot of the cross. During the Passion, Mary was with Christ, praying through His agony. Before He died, Christ gave Mary to us as our Mother. We can be certain that she will be our advocate with Christ.

There are many opportunities to observe this Marian month and to ask for Mary's intercession. The Rosary is a powerful weapon of prayer, which we can pray by ourselves or as a family, asking for Mary's guidance and protection. You could celebrate this Marian month by making a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in nearby Washington D.C. This church is a national sanctuary for prayer and pilgrimage – how fortunate that we are so near to it! The Shrine has many chapels to Mary, including our Lady of Pompeii, dedicated this past October. This chapel contains the first artistic depiction of the Luminous mysteries within the Shrine, and would be a wonderful place for prayer. For more information about the Shrine, you can call 202-526-8300 or visit www.nationalshrine.com.

As we honor our own mothers this month, let us not forget to pray to Mary for them as they strive for virtue in imitation of her, who is the Blessed Mother of us all. Let us keep in mind the words of the Salve Regina, “Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.”


 

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