Another Mother’s Day
Last Sunday (May 8) was Mother’s Day. You could tell it was Mother’s Day because a larger than normal number of guys showed up at Mass (husbands and sons) and most were nicely dressed.
Mother’s Day is a day when Hallmark, florist shops and restaurants make a lot of money. I am certain that mothers appreciate the cards, flowers, dinners and other special ways to mark the occasion. They also deserve the recognition.
It must be a challenge for a woman to carry a child within her womb for nine months, endure childbirth, devote countless hours to looking after her son or daughter’s basic needs (feeding, changing diapers, washing, dressing etc.). I recall at a social gathering the mother of a four-month old infant saying the thing she wanted most in life at that time was seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. Once the child becomes more independent mothers continue to worry about his or her well-being. Do they look both ways before crossing the street? If a stranger approached them, would they know how to respond? At a party, would they get into a car with a friend who had too much to drink?
Mother’s Day has taken on a new meaning for me after the death of my mother in 2010. It provides a chance to recall all the sacrifices she made for me growing up. Unfortunately, I can no longer thank her for them. The day is also an opportunity to appreciate the role mothers play in the lives of their families, parishes and communities. I communicate this message in my sermons and whenever I get the chance to individual mothers.
Recently, I recognized there was something else I could do on Mother’s Day. As a child, I understood the commandment “Honour your father and mother” to mean obedience. When she tells you to clean up your room; do it. Later, I thought it meant show her respect. If she wants something done a particular way (even when you know how to do it better) do it her way. Now, I have come to realize it also means live by the values she taught you because they came through her. I can bring honor to her (and my father) by continuing the example they provided for me. Through me other people will discover the kind of people they were.
I recognize I am neither my father nor mother. I am a unique person and should strive to be the individual God created. Yet, everyone is also shaped by their experiences with other people. I was blessed with a happy childhood. My parents instilled in me (and my brother) certain values so we would develop what was called back then “character”. As I grew up, I encountered many people who did not share my good fortune. Their parents either did not care what values they instilled in them or passed on less desirable qualities. Occasionally, I met parents who tried to instill the proper values but their child resisted them. Human free will means we become the people we choose to be. Since I do not have to honour my parents by living by their values, it is my decision. Although at times it can be a challenge, I do so gladly.
I often wonder if parents (especially mothers) realize how much they influence the character of their children. My brother played competitive hockey for many years. Since my mother never drove the car, other parents would take him to out-of-town games when my father worked the night shift. These parents would often tell my mother how well-behaved her son was upon their return. Based on what occurred at home, my mother was somewhat surprised by the comment.
Those in ordained ministry or undergoing formation for it likely appreciate the role mothers play in the family and larger community. Their words about motherhood should not sound like something from a Hallmark card. One way to avoid this problem might be to consider the role their own mothers played in their lives, especially by instilling the values necessary to become a good Priest.
I can honour my mother by being the kind of Priest and son she raised.