As May approaches, I always feel a pang. Not that I want winter to overstay its welcome; I once decided not to apply to an otherwise excellent graduate school simply because it was in Canada, and I didn’t fancy snowfall well into late April.
The real reason for my springtime sorrow is, quite honestly, Mother’s Day.
I didn’t have a good relationship with my own mother, and for the last two decades of her life, I didn’t have any relationship with her at all. Our family was shattered by abuse, mental illness and addiction. Moments of warmth and security were few and fleeting.
In my early twenties, I left home for good — meaning permanently, since the ensuing years, while not without some glimmers, were anything but prosperous and peaceful. Marriage and children never materialized, and given my scars, perhaps that was a blessing for all.
Somewhere in those dark decades, a motherly hand began to clasp my own, unseen but not unfelt. The woman was silent, but strong; she didn’t flinch at my anger and acting out, but regarded me with a deep compassion for my wounds, and a longing to lead me to Someone who could heal them.
I wasn’t a regular in the pews then, but I began to see this woman, or at least reminders of her, throughout my daily life: in the rosary beads a friend gave me, in the long-forgotten holy card that fell out of a book, in the Scripture passage to which I happened to open my Bible.
As I began to return to my faith, I found myself lingering after Mass to spend time with her, kneeling before her image as the Immaculate Conception or the Virgin of Guadalupe — or once, in a mountainside church, simply as a young mother whose serene eyes seemed to gaze into my soul.
Under her touch, the knots of my life began to loosen, and I came to forgive both my earthly mother and myself for our estrangement. In honor of the woman who bore me and the woman who bore my Savior, I took to laying a bouquet of flowers at one of my parish’s statues of Mary each Mother’s Day. I knew she would share them with the mother I prayed had found peace at her side.
But there won’t be any flowers this year. Though our parish church is open for times of prayer during this pandemic, our faces are masked, and our gloved hands bring no blossoms that could contaminate our shrines.
The coronavirus would seem to have blighted even this small gesture, yet this year’s holiday will actually be richer for that loss: I realized more than ever that although we are created in their wombs, mothers ultimately live in us, dwelling in the hearts to which they gave their own flesh and blood, a reflection of Christ himself.
And that’s a bond that no disease, even one that brings the world to a near halt, can break.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103