My mother, the Church

Benjamin Being Catholic

Everyone celebrates on Mother’s Day. Some of us celebrate being mothers, and all of us celebrate having mothers. It is easy to slip into Mother’s Day sentimentality, but motherhood is far too wild and dangerous for that.

Motherhood is beauty and glory, shot through with pain; shot through with the pain of labor. Mothers remember how long they were in labor with their children; two hours, five hours, twenty hours. The truth is that the labor pains don’t stop coming.

There is the labor of caring for the totally helpless, and the labor of trying to keep the little ones from killing themselves. There is the labor of forming an unruly monster into a decent human being. A mother spends her whole life in labor, brooding over her child, murmuring prayers and begging grace for this one to come out okay.

Motherhood is labor, and the labor does not end until the children are born into eternity.

This is the secret mystery at the heart of our world. This universe is a throbbing womb, created to birth children into eternal life. We are meant to pushed out, blinking in the unexpected light, where our Heavenly Father waits to catch us. The death and resurrection of Jesus points us towards that narrow opening, towards the eye of the needle. He is the firstborn from the dead, who opened the womb so that we could follow.

Motherhood is an entire life, a lifetime of labor until the child is born into eternity. Motherhood is such a daunting task that God divided up the responsibility. God created fatherhood, and brotherhood, and sisterhood. God shared some of the responsibility, and we all have to help push. This is why we all celebrate on Mother’s Day.

It is the most frightening thing when a person gets stuck, when they stop making progress towards eternity. In these moments it is important not to panic, and not to stop pushing. You just have to push a little more gently, and maybe rock them a bit until they come unstuck.

My mother is the Catholic Church, and I love her more than I know how to say. She is a little old fashioned, and a little odd. She is hopelessly out of touch with today’s styles; she wears long dresses and Nun-shoes. She has many wrinkles and many scars, but her beauty deepens with every year.

She was born in the Middle East, and she still speaks with an accent. She still likes to say her prayers in Latin, Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum...

She is a little different and a little foreign, and nobody understands her. They say she is bossy, they say she is mean; they say she is obnoxious. The rumor is that she has finally lost it.

Her children are fighting among themselves and half of them have stopped talking to her. She cries sometimes about what she did wrong, but she never stops praying. She pushes, and prays, and pushes. She praises God and pushes some more, begging grace for this one to come out okay.

The one thing she wants more than anything else is to see her children in Heaven. And she also loves to see them on Sunday. She really looks forward to Sundays. And she keeps pushing.

Don’t be afraid, the Church is pushing. If you get a little stuck, don’t panic. Come to Confession, and come back for Communion. Keep your face pointed towards the light. Remember that the Church is pushing for you, and she never gives up.

Happy Mother’s Day.