This past Sunday in the United States, we celebrated Mother’s Day. On this day, we honor our mother’s, living and deceased, who made so many loving sacrifices for our benefit. For me, this year turned into, unexpectedly, a particularly treasured observance.
On Saturday morning, the day prior to the holiday, I prepared for the busy weekend ahead by spending some quiet time in prayer. I was certainly not contemplating how much God would reveal to me in the next 36 hours that delivers on the subject of a “Mother’s Love.” First, I celebrated a large funeral for an 89-year-old woman named Lorraine. I did not know her, but as family and friends arrived, it became clear to me immediately that this woman was deeply loved. She was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. There were many tears shed. As I moved through the liturgy, I imagined that her children in the front row were reflecting on the many times their mom had offered them a loving embrace or a comforting meal. I was moved by the outpouring of their emotions.
After the funeral, the local hospital called and asked me to come quickly to sacramentally anoint someone who was dying. I raced up to the hospital Intensive Care Unit where I came upon a woman in her last earthly moments. By her side, were two of her daughters saying goodbye to the mother they loved so much. The mother’s name was Anna. I anointed Anna and prayed with her daughters. I invited them to say…not so much goodbye, but rather “until we meet again.” They so appreciated that. They shared with me some stories of “a mother’s love” filled with laughter, sorrow, nurturing and peace.
As I was leaving the hospital, I ran into a person who asked me to offer her sacramental confession. It turns out she also was a mother. Without offering any details, I can say that she was suffering from regret and shame. She wanted so much to be reconciled to God and her loved ones. We took steps towards that as Jesus offered her the embrace of forgiveness.
By this time, I had to race back to the parish for an afternoon wedding. I was the celebrant for a couple that was already civilly married but now wanted to unite their love before the altar of God. They have two children, a tween daughter and a school-aged boy. As the couple recited their vows, I glanced for a moment at their young daughter who in turn was gazing affectionately at her mother. As children, we often fail to consider the many sacrifices our mother’s make; however, in this sacred moment before God’s altar, I think this young girl had the chance to see how beautiful her mother is and I imagine wanted to be just like her.
At this point in my weekend, although there was more to come, I realized that God was revealing to me something precious. As dusk came upon us, I had the chance to bless the pregnancy of my former youth coordinator who worked for me in the parish. She is ready to give birth any day now to a beautiful boy who already has a name…Joseph.
Sunday arrived…Mother’s Day! I had three baptisms of infants on this day and could not help but see the joy of each of the mother’s as they held their newborns. How firmly they held their children as I poured the sacred water on their heads and how tenderly they caressed them as each began to cry. Also, at our regularly scheduled parish masses, I decided to invite every woman in attendance to carry a red carnation down the aisle to place before the statue of our Blessed Mother Mary. What devotion so many of these women revealed for the woman who is “blessed among all women.” With tears in my eyes, I took a moment to give a great “thank you” to God for the gift of motherhood, especially for the gifts he gave me of my earthly mother, Mary Theresa, who, still in her 80’s, makes continual sacrifices for her children and grandchildren. I thanked Him, too, for my Blessed Mother Mary of Nazareth who never fails to come to my aid. At the end of my earthly pilgrimage, I humbly pray that I will be accepted into God’s embrace where I hope to give thanks eternally for “a Mother’s Love.”
Fr. Michael Harrington, a native of Swampscott, MA, is a Catholic Priest for the Archdiocese of Boston, and Currently the Pastor of St. Mary’s of the Annunciation Catholic Church in Cambridge. In the past he served as The Director of the Office of Cultural Diversity for the Archidiocese of Boston and is currently a Consecrated member of the Institute of Jesus the Priest (the Pauline Family).