As we spend time this month reflecting on the Queen of heaven and earth, we beg her for her intercession and assistance in being the children of God that we were made to be. She is a model for all women, and reflects the beauty of God through her life. Since this is the month to also honor our earthly mothers, what can we learn from Mary, from her humble and passionate life, about motherhood? Women, especially mothers, are one of the most self-critical groups of people. If we only knew the true standard by which to measure ourselves, our lives would be more peaceful, more hopeful, more full of grace and love.
1. You will make mistakes and it’s okay.
Mary was without sin, and on the way back from the Temple for Passover, she could not find Jesus, not for a few minutes but for a few days! She and St. Joseph did find him eventually and all ended well.
How often do mothers beat themselves up with every little mistake they make? One forgetful moment or miscommunication and they take themselves into an internal mental lashing at how awful they are at this mothering thing. Yet, through Mary’s example, we can see that it is okay. No, you are not perfect. God did not make you perfect; however, He did give you everything you need to be the best mom for your children! We must learn to love ourselves and be at peace even with our mistakes, having faith that God made you a mother and He does not make mistakes!
2. Motherhood is risky; mothers are courageous.
When Mary said "yes!” to God, she took a great risk. She didn’t know what her own mother would say, what Joseph would think or how the people in her town might react. God asked her to accept new life and she said "yes!” She knew the risks and yet trusted in our Lord.
When a woman is open to life, she says yes to our Lord. Pregnancy is not easy. For some women, it is even quite risky. Also, raising a new child takes a risk. You do not know what will happen in this child’s life or if illness will come or if tragedy will strike. Yet, God asks a woman to be open to life. It’s okay to have a little fear; you are not alone. You show great courage just by accepting motherhood! Yet, when we trust God, He always provides for us.
3. It’s not about what you can do, but how deeply you love.
Our society speaks often of "having it all.” A woman, they say, can "have it all!” She can be a mom, have a career and do whatever her heart desires. She just has to work a little harder and put on that SuperMom cape. Yet, this creates a different focus of motherhood than Mary teaches. The SuperMom cape mentality focuses only on the mother and all she can do.
A holy motherhood focuses on both mother and child and their relationship. It is not bound to what she can accomplish, but is rooted in how deeply she loves her child. This love is a gift of self to her child. In the Gospels, Mary doesn’t draw attention to herself, but through her love, her life points always to her Son. This is not a false humility of lowering oneself, but an honest, simple humility of immense love. The joy that rises from such love shines so much brighter than any SuperMom cape we could create.
4. It’s healthy to let go.
After reading this passage in scripture, "And it was reported to Him, 'Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.' But He answered and said to them, 'My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.'" (Luke 8:20-21), one might think Jesus was very rude to His mother. Mary would have every right to feel slighted or annoyed at how He seemed to dismiss her without even a second thought. She was His mother after all! Yet, Mary knew that she had to let Him go. As a man, His life extended beyond her.
We raise our children to be strong, confident, independent adults. There might be a temptation to create an environment where that grown child will always need you, but this only makes them weak.
Allowing them to grow up, may be one of the most difficult elements of motherhood, and can even be quite an emotionally painful transition. Yet, as a well-adjusted woman or son of God, your child will have more respect and love for you. The more you empty yourself in love at every stage of motherhood, the more God can fill you!
5. It’s okay to admit that you can’t do this alone.
You need God; you need your husband; you need others. Again, our society is extremely autonomously focused. You can do it! You can achieve it! Yet, real love is the giving of self; it involves a communion of persons. Mary didn’t receive her orders from God and ride alone into the sunset to bring the Savior to the world. She depended on her mother, St. Anne; on St. Joseph; and she raised Jesus in her Jewish community.
Mothers (indeed all people) need to learn again how to ask for help and how to accept it. You don’t need to take on every challenge alone! Holy motherhood is not isolated but connected. God has placed people in our lives who are willing to help us on this journey, if we but let them!
6. Mothers give life and love, but they must first receive it.
In his encyclical On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, Pope St. John Paul II explains that women must strive to imitate Mary in every way, especially in being "full of grace.” John Paul II said that Mary literally embodied that statement as grace is the life of God in our soul and she held the life of God physically in her womb. She then gave Him to the world.
John Paul II encourages women to receive the gift of God’s life and love within them and then give that life and love to their children and to the world. In a mystical way, he explains, women have a natural receptivity to God’s love. Women are made to be better receivers of God’s love. If women can embrace their womanly gifts and be open to His love, they can bring God’s love to the people around us in a profound way.
7. Motherhood is not limited to physical children; it is the vocation of every woman!
At the foot of the cross, Jesus gave his mother to the world and entrusted all of God’s people to her. Here Mary teaches us that motherhood is not limited to our physical children. Every woman is called to motherhood. John Paul II said that a woman’s womanhood is who she is but her motherhood is her mode of being in the world. As women live out their authentic womanhood in the world, they are living out their vocation of motherhood.
Let every woman rejoice and celebrate her motherhood in following the example of our Blessed Mother during this beautiful month of May!