As the weather warms and spring flowers begin to bloom, the faithful think of Mary, the Mother of God, and their own mothers as Mother's Day looms near.
For centuries now, the faithful have dedicated to Mary the month of May to commemorate her role in humanity's redemption. During May, many parishes conduct Marian processions and a May Crowning of Our Blessed Mother. Many parishes also have the First Communicants involved in Mary's crowning, with the youth devoutly bringing spring blossoms to Our Blessed Mother.
As a former pastor, of all the ceremonies that took place in the course of a year at the parish, I miss Mary's May Crowning the most. Every year at Chicago's Resurrection Parish in Chicago, we'd have upwards of 100 second-graders participating in our elaborate May Crowning ceremony. And despite the lengthy practice that went into prepping the First Communicants before the ceremony, unexpected things would invariably still happen.
One child would spill the vase of roses upon the sanctuary steps. A toddler, upon seeing his sibling walking up the aisle, would join the procession, tripping four others in the process. A girl, who when placing a crown on Mary, would pull it down too far, thus giving the Blessed Mother a floral neck choker. And there was the child, who did not want to relinquish her rose to Mary's vase and would only do so tearfully because of her own mom's scolding — and on and on!
But, it was all good! The faces of these innocent First Communicants showed their worship of God was sincere. Their gift of spring flowers to Our Blessed Mother moved all in the congregation. Seeing the faith-filled youth would bring many of us back to our own First Holy Communions and May Crownings of years past when we were once young and innocent ourselves.
The innocent faces of the First Communicants bringing their sincere gifts of flowers to Mary would have an additional effect on me personally. It would remind me of Mary's role in helping me to regain the innocence stolen from me during the sexual predation I suffered as a child.
In those very dark years after being preyed upon by a priest, Mary's motherly presence and care I felt while reciting the Rosary were about the only things that gave me any hope. In time, I came to know that in Mary's Son, Jesus, the stain and stink of sexual predation could be fully washed away. And although the memory of the abuse remains, what was once pure and good in my person could be restored by God, thanks to Mary and her tender motherly care.
In his first Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul captures how Mary's Son, Our Lord and Savior, by his passion, death and resurrection, restores everything, even the innocence lost owing to sexual predation: "But now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor 6:11).
One thing that continues to haunt me from sexual abuse is being OCD. When I was abused at age 11, one of the first things I did after the abuse was scrub myself profusely in a bath for a couple of hours to eliminate the smell of the man who abused me. All these years later, I can still remember his stink, and I remain compulsive about bathing.
But, although I remember this evil, it's all good, because in the Blood of Our Lord, I have been "washed clean." The evil of it is remembered, but it no longer controls me. I have been restored in Christ's Blood.
May, in addition to being a month to honor and remember Our Blessed Mother, is also the month to remember our own earthly mothers. Mother's Day, for me, is now bittersweet following my mother's death almost two years ago. But, on Mother's Day, I offer my Mass for my deceased mother and grandmothers. One big consolation I find is to know that these women are now in God's merciful care.
For those of you whose moms are still living, Mother's Day is a day to reach out to your mom and spend some time, even if only on the phone, to catch up and offer her a heartfelt word of thanks for giving you life.
In this post-pill era, it's so important to acknowledge that our own mothers could have chosen not to have us by not conceiving us or not bringing their pregnancies to term. This Mother's Day, give a big, heartfelt thanks to your mom for choosing life — for giving you life.
Lastly, for those of you who are estranged from your mom, living or deceased, Mother's Day can be a day of forgiveness as well as an opportunity to move beyond estrangement. Of all the challenges Our Lord commanded us during the course of His earthly ministry, forgiving those who hurt us is imperative.
Ironically, many of us disciples are better at keeping this command with people outside of our families rather than with people inside our families: our parents, siblings and so forth. I continue to be surprised at how many people (among the regular Massgoers) carry grudges against a parent or a sibling for things that happened decades ago. So, for those of you who may carry a grudge against your mom, this Mother's Day is a time to resolve this malady. With God's supernatural grace and Our Blessed Mother's intercession, all hurts can be forgiven, even the really deep ones.
As a man who has had to seek God's supernatural grace to move beyond anger and hate in response to my own hurts in my life, I don't make this admonition lightly. I can make you this guarantee: If you choose to accept Our Lord's challenge to forgive those who hurt you, you will be blessed with freedom — freedom from hate, freedom to go on with your life and thrive, and freedom from the ball and chain of revenge-seeking.
May is the month set aside for us to remember Our Blessed Mother Mary and our own mothers. I pray that you take time this month to do just this! Say a Rosary or two, and spend some quality time with both of your important moms.