St. James tells us that “every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” Primarily this passage refers to the Incarnation, yet, secondarily it refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary for she is a perfect gift whom we have received from God. Her sinless life gives each of us the ideal to strive for, and as our heavenly mother, she is the model and standard for all mothers.
We are not surprised that those who live too much in the world attack the Blessed Virgin Mary, for her image of motherhood threatens the current standard that measures success by a paycheck at the end of the week. Consequently, as our society puts everything in dollar amounts, women are pressured to limit the number of children they bear, but this only blurs the understanding of motherhood and deteriorates the respect owed to the femininity in the heart of a woman. To put this another way, by bearing children, a wife not only gains the title of “mother,” but also brings to fruition her inmost femininity. Our Lady also shows that the dignity of women is founded upon their unique gift of bearing children, for her greatest title is that of Mother of God.
The world still has a glimmer of the importance of bringing children into the world by celebrating Mothers’ Day. Normally, the world focuses on remembering our mother this day with a card and gift, but the corollary to the celebration of this day is that it thanks her for her willingness to conceive children. As a result, it is a day in which we not only thank God for all the matriarchs of our family but also for the passing on to us of our Catholic Faith. We know that Our Lord has instituted marriage primarily for the begetting of children, so how blessed are the mothers who have fulfilled God’s plan of perpetuating the human race within the context of holy matrimony. It is a day we celebrate a wife becoming a mother, and we extol her glory in the unique privilege bestowed upon her by Almighty God. With this in mind, Pope John Paul II reminds us that “The mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome” (Familiaris Consortio, #23).
We turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary in this month dedicated to her for the example of the perfect mother. These past decades, some have tried to redefine the role of women in the world, so we always have to go back to the perfect woman whom God has placed in the world to make sure we have not strayed from the truth. We find that as women are seeking to be liberated in this age, Our Lady is still the standard for all truly liberated women. She is the only woman who has been free of the shackles of sin, free of oppression, and free of being dominated. For it is the world and the devil which oppresses, dominates, and puts us into chains, and it is Our Lady who crushes these foes beneath her heel. We note how the world has turned liberation around from being free of sin to having license to sin. In her freedom, the Blessed Virgin Mary finds complete joy and fulfillment by being a mother. Like Our Lady who crushes the head of the devil, among the various duties of a mother is to keep her children safe from the evils of the world. For God expects mothers to watch over and protect her children, to nurture and educate her children, and to give her life as a sacrifice for her children.
It is the duty of a mother to watch over and to protect her household. For a mother must consider it of prime importance to watch over the home and to never allow disrespect or disobedience to go unpunished. Her eagle eye must pay close attention to her children from their youth and especially in their teenage years. If she declines to reprimand them as children and to let them have their way as adolescents, then her children will lose respect for her, for motherhood, and for the dignity of women in general. On the other hand, if children perceive that they are disciplined because they are loved, the daughter will grow up with her mother as a role model, and the son will respect his future wife since he has learned the great value of women through his mother.
Whereas, no one likes to be unpopular with children, discipline will be required at times, and the greatest challenge will be to discipline consistently. There is assistance for mothers to discipline correctly and it stems from her second duty; that is, to nourish and educate her children. If every day a young man visited the home of a young lady, the woman would understand that she has gained the affections of the young man. And if every day, a mother shows loving affection towards a child, the child will understand that he is the object of his mother’s affections, and that she truly cares for him, even when he has to be disciplined. The child will realize that to violate his mother’s love will be to violate his very self. If, at times, he is disrespectful, he will soon acknowledge his fault, beg God for forgiveness, and understand that his mother has already forgiven him.
This will only occur if the mother has also fulfilled her essential duty of teaching her children about God and the world. For this reason more and more mothers have difficulties handing their children over to the public educational system which neglects Catholic morality and the understanding of God’s continual interaction in the history of mankind. A Catholic mother, on the other hand, will ensure that her children receive an education centered on the truths of our Faith, then on all other subjects. By doing so, the child is taught that God comes first to all other things, even over money, entertainment, and sports. The example of the mother is also of grave importance to the education of the child. People aren’t too surprised when an undisciplined mother has children who lack virtue, and St. John Vianney says, virtue quickly passes from the heart of a mother into her children.
But the demands of motherhood are great and seemingly endless. To counteract this life of hardship, the world tells mothers to take plenty of rest and to do fun things apart from the children. But this often produces uneasiness in the hearts of mothers whose enjoyment is to be around their families. So instead of dwelling upon the demands of motherhood and becoming dismayed, it is better to be inspired by its rewards. The reward of fulfilling her motherly duties in a loving manner will not reap immediate results, but the reward of a Catholic mother begins when they grow up and live virtuous lives. At this time they will be like trophies to the world, showing off the accomplishments of a good mother. The greatest joy will be her knowing that they will continue to pray for her when she dies, and that they will one day join her in Heaven.
So mothers have Our Lady in Heaven for their guidance and assistance. She will assist you in raising your children, but motherhood requires that you speak to Our Lady from your heart, as you would your own mother. The Blessed Virgin Mary, in turn, will also enlighten you to become more like her, and how wonderful it is when children learn about their heavenly mother through the life of their earthly mother.
This article originally appeared in the May 2008 edition of the North American District Fraternity Newsletter. To receive their free newsletter by mail, please visit their subscription page.