Today we welcome new contributor Hannah who reflects on Mother’s Day mass, which is often very painful for those who are experiencing infertility. If you are experiencing infertility or pregnancy loss, please consider joining us on our Springs of Hope virtual Mother’s Day retreat, which begins today.
As a young grade school teacher, I was so lucky to have a thoughtful principal for a boss! Every year for Mother’s Day she gave all the teachers a gift bag with little school supplies or pretty or cute things depending on whatever theme she had picked for that year. Inside, she always included an official “Happy Mother’s Day” card, which read, “Thank you for taking such good care of our kids!” What a great experience that was to have someone recognize all of our “motherhoods.” This was before I was married, and I did feel like a mother because I was surrounded by other “mothers” who all worked out of a devotion of committing our hearts and souls into the care of the kids who were in our charge. When I married, we went through eight years of infertility and turmoil stemming from complications of endometriosis. Aside from my childbearing years being marked by physical pain, my heart was simply wrenched out of my body time after time, as I found I was not able to carry a baby.
For years we attended a Saturday evening Mass sponsored through the Archdiocese that had become like a small faith sharing community. Everyone knew our story and prayed for us constantly throughout the years, because if my memory serves me right, I went to Mass every week and quietly sobbed because I was not able to have a baby. I would try to open my mouth to pray, but tears would flow down my cheeks instead. Looking back, my tears in those moments of utter despair, I think, were my best prayers.
After eight years, and lots of prayers (and bed-rest in the final month of pregnancy), I was able to bring my daughter to full-term. A little over a year later, I was pregnant with my son, and this time with several months of bed-rest, and with lots and lots of prayers from everyone I had ever met, my son was born nearly three weeks early – just short of the full term-mark. Then of course, we brought our children to Mass on Saturday nights, and the community has been able to see how they have grown over the years. But there is one Saturday night mass when my children were little that I will never forget.
It all happened one Saturday night before Mother’s Day. Before the final blessing, the priest invited all the mothers to come up to the altar so he could say the Blessing for Mothers. Mothers started filing out of the pews and down the aisle, and I’m sure I was beaming myself, because I was so proud knowing that my children were watching their mother being called up to the altar as I jumped over people in the pew and quickly made my way down the aisle.
I focused straight ahead thanking God for making me a mother as I quickly walked, but when I got up to the altar, I looked back and I saw Sr. Mary, who had been like a mother to me throughout my whole experience of trying to “become a mother.” So I quickly left the altar and grabbed Sr. Mary to bring her up to the altar with me. This was a woman who had spent her whole life as a music teacher singing with kids in grade school and high school. As I started to bring her up to the altar, I saw my friend Claire who had never married but had worked as a nurse in the labor and delivery room her whole career, and I grabbed her by the hand. Then I saw Christine, another nurse and professor who taught college-aged kids to respect life. We grabbed Christine, as I winked at Nancy, who was sitting down at the end of the pew. How many times did I cry at Mass, and there was Nancy who had always been so kind to me. She was always there handing me tissues, rubbing my shoulder and telling me that she was praying for me. I waved her to come with us, and immediately, she got up and followed.
Well it did not take long at all, because everyone I grabbed, grabbed someone else, and they grabbed someone else. No one refused or felt like they did not belong there. They knew they did, and who would refuse a blessing?
In the meantime, Father watched all the women scrambling to care for each other, even in the aisle on the way up to the altar, as he stood holding the book open, ready to say the blessing, for whenever us mothers got it all together. He stood there, and witnessed a “mom conspiracy” as we brought all the women in the church to God for the Blessing of Mothers—because that’s what mothers do. We all understood what was going on. And all the while as Father was standing on the altar watching what was totally out of the routine and the rubrics for blessings, the mothers all fell into this silent conspiracy without anyone organizing, or approving it ahead of time. Everyone knew that each woman absolutely belonged there at the altar for the Blessing of Mothers!
I looked at the women standing there who were indeed all “mothers,” and I noticed that we were not standing in the usual line-up in front of the altar. We were huddled together, holding onto each other. We were the women, the caretakers—the nurturers. We are the ones who hold those we love deeply in our hearts. We pray for each other, we feed and clothe the needy, we care for the aged, we see a neighbor in trouble and we are there. We pick up our friends when life knocks them down. We hand each other tissues and pat the shoulder of anyone who is crying. We comfort each other in our pain because we know deep pain. We pray—a lot—and through our loving ways, we bring others to God. This is what mothers do! We were all a part of motherhood.
I never knew what the priest thought as he had the best view in the church of all the women scrambling hurriedly to bring each other to God for a blessing, but I can tell you that the next year and year after that, and every Mother’s Day since, when it comes time for the Blessing of Mothers for Mothers Day, the priest asks ALL the women in the church to stand for a blessing, and the priest says something to the effect of “all women are mothers, because all women care for others as a mother cares.” He got it too!
Looking back on that one evening, I just can’t help but think that our Blessed Mother looking down from Heaven was just so happy to see all her daughters standing together embracing the blessing of motherhood.
Happy Mother’s Day, mothers, and thank you for sharing your heart and soul with so many!