With a new baby born last August, this will be my first Mother’s Day as a mom of four. I am hoping for crayon-scrabbled construction paper cards crafted by my children and maybe breakfast in bed. What I hope I don’t have to do is stand up to be acknowledged at Mass. Do I want to be celebrated? Sure! But Mass is not the place for moms to be applauded on Mother’s Day.
Last Mother’s Day I texted a close friend after the early Mass to warn her that moms had been asked to stand for a special blessing. I knew she was planning to attend a later Mass, and after her two recent losses (with no living children), I could not bear the idea of her being caught off guard by the request. I hated that she would have to make the agonizing decision of whether she “qualified” to stand with the other moms or to sit while the moms of living children stood to be applauded. Another beloved friend who longs to get married and start her own family shared that last year as the women around her were asked to stand and flowers were passed down the pew to celebrate them, she sat and wept. The grief was too much.
Do I want to be celebrated? Sure! But Mass is not the place for moms to be applauded on Mother’s Day.
While kind and well-intentioned priests surely desire to encourage mothers in the daily self-gift of caring for children—something that we need in a culture that is increasing anti-child and anti-mother—Mother’s Day is already difficult for women who long to be moms or have lost children in miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a child after birth. And these women do not make up a small percentage of the women in the pews.
With one in four pregnancies ending in a miscarriage, for instance, the church is full of grieving women. Do we need to add to their pain as they come to faithfully fulfill their Sunday obligation and find solace in the Blessed Sacrament? And perhaps more to the point, is the Mass the place to give special acknowledgements to anyone save God, Our Lady and the saints? While it is the priest’s job to offer the sacraments, it is not his job to make my Mother’s Day special. The Mass is offered so that we may give proper worship to God and receive Our Lord in the Eucharist. Why do we feel the need to bring secular “holidays” originating in the 20th century into the sanctuary at all?
A prayer for God’s blessing on mothers, spiritual mothers, godmothers and all women who long to be mothers is a beautiful thing.
As a sleep-deprived, homeschooling mom with wonderfully loud children who fill my heart with joy while simultaneously exhausting me, yes, I would like my hard work and sacrifice to be acknowledged and appreciated, but not at Mass on Mother’s Day. Instead of singling out moms to stand and giving them flowers, why not offer a prayer when all parishioners are standing during the Prayers of the Faithful or at the end of Mass. A prayer for God’s blessing on mothers, spiritual mothers, godmothers and all women who long to be mothers is a beautiful thing. But we do not need to ask moms to come forward and clap for them.
But, as I discovered when voicing these thoughts on Twitter, the idea of not singling out moms with a special acknowledgement on this most Hallmark of days infuriates some who interpret the omission as so much politically correct handwringing that refuses to celebrate anyone at risk of offending someone. “We need special ceremonies to honor moms,” they say. Those folks will be glad to hear that at every baby’s baptism there is a blessing for the mother. The ancient tradition of the Churching of Women could also be popularized once again to bless and honor women after giving birth. The church already has ceremonies, ancient and beautiful, to acknowledge and bless mothers. There is no need to insist on observing a liturgically unnecessary secular holiday at Mass—a day that is already painful for many.
In May, the same month we always celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States, the church honors Mary, the mother of our Lord. She is mother to the motherless, and she understands the agony of losing a child. Rather than asking moms to stand, wouldn’t we do better to celebrate Our Lady on Mother’s Day as the model of motherhood to encourage moms in the trenches as well as the whole Christian community to emulate her in her humility, sacrificial love and maternal compassion?
Pray for God’s blessing on mothers (heaven knows, we need it!), but toss the applause for a non-liturgical “holiday” that is already a trial for many. May Mother Mary be a mother to the sorrowful, now and always.