HONORING THE WOMAN WHO GUIDES US
You have a mother. I have a mother. This is our common denominator. And mothers have power. So much so that there is a special day just for these women: Mother’s Day. American culture has set aside this universal typical May day on the contemporary calendar to single out the women who sacrificially and unconditionally have given us life, love and have set aside their own plans for the lives of their children. It becomes a girlie fun tribute of all things feminine: flowers, pastels, brunches, spa days, gift giving and family gatherings for the queen for a day, the queens of our lives. Kids move heaven and earth to get home or get cards and signs of love to moms. For those who have enjoyed healthy, holy mom relationships, there is no greater love or power of influence on the earth to encourage, sway, guide, impart virtue and make you feel like you can do anything. If not your natural birth mother, assuredly, there has been a surrogate woman in your life who has been a sturdy influence.
Our mothers give us the practical blue print for how to navigate this messy thing called life in academic, social and familial settings. Mothers are the heart and soul of a family. They teach, comfort, care for, make a house a home and impart grace and courage for the ups and downs. They don’t need any formal blog called “Scary Mommy” because she has been that – holding the bar high, warning us when we are out of line, breaking wills and rebellion and laying truth smack down when we need to hear it. Moms step in when the heat gets turned up in family life or life in general – they referee, mediate, pray for us, defend, and go without so we have more. They want our best, our advancement and our happiness. They want us to have the best jobs, homes, health, husbands and wives. They want to pass on the good they have stored up so we can use it for our benefit. Good mothers are not so much our friends as they hold a high office of parenthood to form us, not always please us. They do this out of love.
Living in LA, I missed Mother’s Day in Boston last year so I’m flying home this weekend. What I didn’t realize about this particular Mother’s Day weekend is that we have the double-whammy juxtaposition of two celebratory events honoring motherhood. The card buying country is geared for it’s American “Mother’s Day” on Sunday, but if you back that up on Saturday May 13th it’s the feast of Our Lady of Fatima and the 100-year anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearance to peasant children in Fatima, Portugal which opens a watershed Marian year of grace celebrating and calling to mind Mary’s original appearance. This is a rousing reminder to people everywhere about this historic and very real, appearance to simple peasant children.
Raise your hand if you never knew anything about Mary appearing on the earth in the past 100 years. Never learned about it from your parents? Never heard about it at Sunday School? Never Googled it? Blew it off? Ok, hands down. If you think the Catholic faith is boring, old school and for a bunch of men, track with me: The blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, appeared six times to three shepherd children near the town of Fatima, Portugal between May 13 and Oct 13, 1917. This should sort of blow your mind! The Blessed Virgin told the three children that she had been sent by God with a message for every man, woman and child living in our century. Mary appeared at a time when the world was at war and violence – she promised that Heaven would grant peace to the whole world if her requests for prayer, reparation and consecration were heard and obeyed.
As Jesus hung on the Cross and saw his mother and the disciple John, he said to his mother, “Woman behold your son. And John this is now your mother.” (John 19:26) At that moment in time, Jesus put all of humanity under the care of his own Mother. This is why Mary keeps appearing. She has charge over us. If you are a mom or a dad of minor children, you know what that means. You are custodian, parent, and the boss. Mary is the one with charge over us and with a sway with Jesus. She comes to us appealing for us to amend our lives, begin again and follow a life in line with the Gospel. That no one would be lost, Jesus sends his Mother again, and again, and again.
Are we listening? More intense than a nagging mother making you do the dishes, make your bed, pick up your crap on the floor of your bedroom, get home on time etc., the Mother of God, steps in to break the wills of her earthly children to bring attention to the spiritual practices that are the sure way to sanctity, peace in families and ultimately peace in the world. It was so urgent and important that she appeared from heaven and entrusted these simple children with her message that would reverberate for the past one hundred years.
In 1917 war was tearing through the world. Flash forward to 2017: we have this new and horrific form of terrorism called ISIS taking strongholds around the world annihilating men, women and children for no reason. We have North Korea bearing down threats of nuclear war. More troops being aligned and repositioned around the world. And we have a home grown violence: abortion playing out as a contemporary killing field snuffing out lives of the innocent as a form of birth control and a way out of the consequence of free license and a sexually pervasive society that has moved further away from marriage and family life.
What would Mary say to us now? Would Fatima be more urgent given the state of the world today?
Mary has appeared all over the earth – these appearances, or apparitions, have been investigated and approved by the Church. The apparitions at Fatima freak people out. The messages seem harsh. But isn’t real love, the truth? Mary obviously cares so much that she’s appeared in La Salatte, Kibeho, Knock, Pompeii, Guadalupe, Loreto, Lourdes and many more places around the world. In Fatima, she comes as a mother with an urgent warning calling humanity to turn away from sin, to amend lives, to convert and even make reparation (offer sacrifice and penance for sins), to pray the Rosary daily, to wear the brown scapular and to tell others. There’s talk of sin, a vision of hell that seems right out of a modern day thriller and fierce warnings. As serious and grave as it sounds she’s more compelling and loving sometimes than our own mothers giving a literal countdown to our teenage rebellious selves before we are grounded for doing something so stupid. Our Lady at Fatima doesn’t want to ground us or have us stuck in our stupid ways. She wants to enlighten us and urge us on to a life second to none with her Son. She wants us to live heaven now and by adopting certain practices in our daily lives and she presents to us the ways to achieve this. (Listen to my interviews with Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here and Colin Nykaza here for more about Our Lady of Fatima and Marian devotion)
I was recently interviewed by a priest about Mary and asked why the concepts of sin and hell are lost on our culture. That question really gave me pause because the question does need to be asked but I don’t think the answer is that simple. Yes, sin darkens our own ability to see truth. But it got me thinking. Is it because priests are not preaching and teaching about this? Have we as a Church lost our sense of the mystical elements of our faith? Do we look at the Gospel as a historical event separate from the reality we are living? How come there are so few of us? Is it that an entire generation is basically not going to church, so they don’t hear the messages? Are we not talking to each other and evangelizing the way we should be? Do people know and they are outright rejecting the message?
Our society of more, me and now is clouded by noise, the self and a turning away from heavenly truths with a giant #fail. We are so in the now, we forget that there is an eternity and that our now determines where we will ultimately spend that eternity. Daily mindless grinds, the swirl of the world and sin are the primary distraction and obstacle of separation,
If we are not churched or educated on heavenly realities we can become lost in ourselves and subject to self, ego and even more sinful patterns that impede our relationship with God and make us generally blind to the fact that there’s more to this life. There is an entire life after death, we are born for a purpose, a great destiny – here and beyond. Like our own natural mothers who call attention to the rules, the ways to live a life that will bring our joy, happiness, our heavenly mother does much more than that – her goal is to help us get to Heaven and she holds the keys: prayer, conversion, penance. Sacrifice of chores, hardship of work, suffering and loss offered back to God can bring down His glory. We can blame our family, priests, the church whatever for not knowing about this truth. But it’s time to grow up and take responsibility for our destiny and where we will spend it.
Just as you thank your mother this Sunday for all she has given you in life, you may have hated it when you were a child, the ways she disciplined or kept you in line – you can see now the whys behind all of it. What happened when you didn’t listen? You may eye-roll when the Church points to active and not passive sentimental devotion and the more that you are called to, but it’s true food for the soul and your own advancement – the position that your Heavenly Mother aspires for you to live forever with her Son, Jesus. When God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus passed through Mary. They don’t do anything separately. In the same way, we are permitted to pass through her motherly heart, her heart of fire that burns with love for us.
I pray that this year, you will look with new eyes toward the heavenly reality that God is calling you to Himself. That he’s using his Mother Mary to lead you and guide you, and as she appeared to three peasant children 100 years ago this Saturday, she comes to you now and calls you to a new life, one that will give you the peace that passes all understanding and will make you a bearer of that peace.
This weekend, as you go to honor your earthly mom or the mom-figures in your life, and seek to honor that love, that life-giving force, the sacrifices she or other mom-figures made for you, I pray you will take some serious time to look to your heavenly Mother Mary and ask her to help you align your life under the priority of heaven. Saturday, May 13th is a good place to start.
“O My Jesus forgive us our sins and save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.”
Praying for you+