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Have your mother prayed for by Fr. Altman in our Mother’s Day Spiritual Bouquet

EDINBURGH, Scotland (LifeSiteNews) –– If you wanted children but they never arrived, Mother’s Day may be the hardest day of the year.  

That’s how I used to feel about it, and as British Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday) falls during Lent, I have Mother’s Day twice a year. There’s no ignoring it: the first instance is always mentioned at Mass and the second is heralded by emails from a Canadian florist reminding me to send my Toronto mother some pricey blooms. Therefore, I have worked out over the years how to enjoy Mother’s Day – or, at least, to stop feeling sorry for myself.  

First, I remember that I am blessed that my mother, despite a shocking health hiccup when she was 50, is still alive and that we get along well, despite the distance and our differing views on various matters. Second – or maybe first, since British Mothering Sunday invariably precedes Mother’s Day in North America – I remember that I am also blessed with a gentle Scottish mother-in-law for whom I must buy a card and a stamp and whose son I must remind to send the flowers or – better yet – buy the train tickets and reserve the table. Depending on my mood – which is noticeably better in recent years – I may also wish the various mothers among my family, friends, and acquaintances a happy Mother’s Day. They always seem to like this, and their appreciation gives me a lift.  

I have also, when feeling particularly miserable about being childless, thought and written about the concept of Spiritual Motherhood and felt deeply grateful to St. John Paul II for his writings on the subject (see Dignitatis Mulierem, for example). Although we traditionally associate spiritual motherhood with women religious, the very concept of the godmother (and I am the godmother of four) underscores that all women are called to be spiritual mothers in some sense. Indeed, God asks all adult women to be mothers, just as he calls all men to be fathers, in their community. As older women are pitted against younger women all too often in this valley of tears – the former often bullying the latter – it is very important for us to be faithful to this maternal call.  

Incidentally, you may find it consoling – especially if you are not on good terms with your literal mother – to reach out to women who have been true spiritual mothers to you. They might be your favorite high school teacher, now traceable through social media, a mentor at work, a beloved aunt, or some other female relation. As we are bound by the Fifth Commandment to honor our parents, I would counsel sending a card or flowers to even an abusive mother, while staying safely away (if necessary), enjoying the company of a woman or women who have fostered you in some way instead.  

Scripture has also provided me with comfort on emotionally rocky Mother’s Days. Happily, the Epistle for British Mothering Sunday – the Fourth Sunday in Lent – in the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) is always Galatians 4: 22-31, which contains a verse which, taken in its literal sense, orders barren women (like me!) to be of good cheer: “Rejoice, thou barren, that bearest not: break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband.” Well, I do have a husband – for whom I am very grateful – but I am always intrigued by this promise of children in my desolation. 

Although I have been assured that this verse is not really about the literally childless, I have chosen to take it seriously. I continue to pray for these many children, even though I am too old to conceive them. The exciting news is that these prayers have not gone unanswered.  

For example, my husband and I have been called upon several times to give houseroom to young Catholics who have been unfairly ousted by a landlord or unsympathetic housemates, or have fallen ill, or have arrived in Edinburgh overly optimistic about the rental market. This has meant, incidentally, that the night of my husband’s make-or-break brain surgery, I was not alone as I cried at home.  

God has answered in other ways, too. Recently, I was asked to be more involved in the life of the child of one of my siblings, and that has grown to regular epistolary correspondence with two other young relations. And the parents of my godchild in Poland – where godparents are a bigger deal than in Britain, I assure you – regularly send me photographs and news and expect me to be active in her life. In fact, her mother ordered me to pray for her every day; this reminded me to pray for my other godchildren. Most recently I was held to a casual remark I dropped about how nice it would be to host waltzing parties for young people in my TLM community. Thus, just two weeks ago, I found myself – greying and squashy – applauded by 19 members of the younger generation. What a gift. 

This Mother’s Day, as it happens, I will be hosting another waltzing party, and thus “many will be the children of the desolate” although I will not feel desolate at all. I wish all mothers – spiritual as well as physical – a very Happy Mother’s Day, and I hope God sends you all the children you pray for.   

Have your mother prayed for by Fr. Altman in our Mother’s Day Spiritual Bouquet

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Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and has contributed to Catholic World Report. Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013). Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.