Personal Mother’s Day Reflections from a Mere Male
Speaking with a friend last night (the Vigil of Mother’s Day!) I said that, as my own mother and wife are no longer alive, Mother’s Day tends to pass me by. Afterwards I hoped that I hadn’t seemed dismissive. Although the outward observance no longer happens I do have my own reflections.
I let them develop this morning: firstly as I tuned in to the 8.30am Mass livestreamed from Minsteracres, the Passionist Community in Northumberland where I long to be able to visit again, a place which has been a “Mother” to me for the last fifteen years; then, whilst out for a run, when further thoughts came, just as they always do come, unbidden, sometimes when I’d have been better looking where I was going so I wouldn’t have tripped over, face down in the mud and grit! That did happen recently, but I was then tenderly “Mothered” in the Urgent Care Centre by two nurses and a doctor de-gritting and cleaning up the gash in my elbow!
And so, on this Mother’s Day I thank God for my very dear Mum who kept loving me through the many turbulences I faced her with. Now I believe she is mothering in heaven my baby sister Margaret who died (I was five and I have just a couple of memories).
I thank God for my beloved Carole who kept loving me through plenty of reasons I gave her not to. Now I believe she is mothering our baby Eirlys who died. We named her Eirlys (Welsh for snowdrop) because she was born in lovely Pembrokeshire where I was driving past the sea every day and we swam in it often, revelling in the embrace of the ocean as part of our Mother Earth.
In my amateur psychologising, but also from observation and experience, I believe that there is a “continuum” of femaleness, maleness, femininity, masculinity, motherliness, fatherliness, and sexual orientation; and that any characteristics of our human personality can be anywhere along that continuum, and that these combinations can change, in subtle or considerable ways through life, and we can develop different features or discover aspects of ourselves of which we were not previously aware.
So, I thank God for my childhood pal Jane, close from age six and still in frequent contact until mid-teens. My friendship with her had a different quality from that with my gang of male pals. I couldn’t have articulated that difference at that age but now I see that, for all she was a mischievous “tomboy”, the best word to describe how I related to her is “tenderly”. (And I was in love with her by the age of 11, indisputably!)
Similarly I thank God for a young teenage girlfriend. Through her, to my surprise as a rebellious and boisterous teenage boy I discovered within myself a gentleness I had not known I possessed. I think of that now as her “mothering” it from out of the depths.
Homeschooling two beloved young granddaughters these last months I have felt a little like a mother to them! It ended with a beautiful bunch of tulips from them which I so wanted to last until Mother’s Day. Alas, they shed all their petals yesterday, which told me I was only a temporary mother!
I pray for fathers who have to be both mother and father to their children whose mother has died. May the motherly and fatherly love of God guard and guide them.
That motherly care of God is powerfully portrayed for us in images in the Scriptures. The prophet Isaiah says that, however unlikely it may be that a human mother neglects the baby who needs her to breastfeed, or the baby growing within her womb – even if that should happen, God’s motherly love is even greater, for “I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)
In the fourteenth century Mother Julian of Norwich wrote that, like a child breastfeeding on what is produced by the body and blood of its mother, so we are all fed in the Eucharist on the Body and Blood of Jesus, “our precious Mother”.
In his first letter St John, in his wonderful meditation on the love of God (1 John 4:20) asks us, “How can you hate your brother whom you have seen, and say you love God whom you have not seen?” I wonder if St John might agree the converse with me, that we will not even begin to love God unless we have first seen and loved God’s motherly image and likeness in that brother (and sister, and mother, and girlfriend!).
This day we remember of course Mother Church, founded for us by Jesus, to rear us in the faith by teaching, feeding and correcting us; leading us to grow up to “mature humanity”, a reflection of the sacred humanity of Jesus himself (Ephesians 4:13).
The humanity of us, her children, is also sacred. Sadly, we see how that sacredness in many young people has been sexually trampled on, even by some in high office in “Mother Church”. We ask the motherly compassion of Our Blessed Lady for the healing of those whose bodies and minds and hearts and souls have been so badly wounded.
Of course, it is not only in the Church that terrible things happen – as we have seen in the last few days as a young woman fell victim to someone whom we should be able to trust like we do our Mothers. May Sarah rest in the peace and motherly love of God.
It was the inspired and stunning insight by the biblical writers that we are all created in the “image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26). Therefore all of us, female and male, possess some of God’s motherly love, given to us to give to others.
From the Cross Jesus gave his own mother to St John, and so to us.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, my mother, keep my heart a child’s heart, a heart radiating as your child all its love.