Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, many mothers pause to thank God for the blessing of their children, perhaps even in a bigger way than they usually do each day.
After all, Mother’s Day is a special occasion set aside to celebrate mothers. In my case, I’m blessed with five children on Earth and three in heaven.
At this time of year, when I look at my lilac bushes ready to burst into bloom, I can’t help but remember my mother and reminisce the bountiful fragrant lilacs that lined our back yard when I was growing up. My grandmother was a part of that picture, too — she was always nearby and beaming with a grandmother’s love. We all spent many a spring day out in the yard together.
My mother, Alexandra Mary Uzwiak Cooper, was born in the springtime of 1920. But for a few minutes after she let out her first cry the doctors and nurses weren’t sure whether she was a boy or a girl because she was extremely tiny, weighing only one-and-a-half pounds. But just as soon as they could determine that she was a girl, my grandparents requested that the hospital chaplain baptize my mother on the spot. They wanted to be sure that she would have her “ticket to heaven,” should she not survive.
As diminutive as my mother was, when the sacramental water of baptism was poured over her petite head, she was immediately initiated into the Church and received the great gift of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
My grandparents had surely been using and living their theological virtues — having had faith in the transforming sacrament of baptism, hoping in God that their tiny baby would survive, and loving my mother endlessly as they cared for her physical and spiritual needs.
My mother indeed lived to tell the tale, the theological virtues blossomed in my mother’s heart and soul, and she grew up and married. Through her openness to life she bore eight children of her own, passing on the virtues.
Hoping, praying, loving
Mothers receive no guarantees regarding the little lives they “sign up” for by opening their hearts to their Creator with their “yes” to life. Yet a mother’s heart always remains hopeful and she puts one foot in front of the other each day in faith to love and provide for the children God blesses her with.
Some mothers have never held their precious babies in their arms because they were lost to miscarriage. Others have only been permitted fleeting moments to hold and kiss their babes born with serious birth defects before they passed on to eternal life. As well, some mothers suffer the pain of losing their baby when he or she is stillborn. None of this makes them any less of a mother in God’s eyes nor should it in ours. They have sacrificed for their babies and love them dearly. Blessed Pope John Paul II called these mothers “heroic.”
Three of my children were miscarried. I chose to hope that they were carried by the angels to the arms of Jesus and Mary. One of my pregnancies was very precarious, requiring that I stay still on complete bed rest for almost all nine months. When my doctor told me that I would most likely lose this baby, too, I chose to hope and pray instead, even asking Mother Teresa, whom I knew at the time, for her prayers.
Mother Teresa sent me a blessed miraculous medal and instructed me to wear it and to ask Mary to take care of the baby and me. She told me to pray, “Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a mother to me now.” I really like that key word “now.” That sure was when I needed her help. I clung to hope and had faith that Mother Mary would see me through — and she did! That baby is now almost 22 years old and is named Mary-Catherine.
It was only appropriate to pray to Our Blessed Mother, for she lived the virtues of faith, hope and love in an exemplary way. Even as a young Jewish girl, Mary prayed and hoped for the Messiah, having complete faith that God would keep his promises. She had no idea at that time though that she was to be the chosen mother of God.
|An old photo of the author’s mother as a child, center, and her family. Courtesy of Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle
Later on, Mary offered her courageous “Yes” to God when the Angel Gabriel announced to her that she would become Jesus’ mother (see Lk 1:26-29), having complete faith that God’s will would be accomplished through her.
A short time later, Mary’s loving heart sent her on a journey “in haste” into the hill country to help her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant as well (see Lk 1:39). We know that Elizabeth’s baby, St. John the Baptist, leaped in her womb upon Mary’s arrival. Elizabeth praised Mary for her great faith. Mary responded by praising God, glorifying him for his holiness, justice, and mercy through the humble words of the Magnificat.
When mothers experience fear in the circumstances that beset them or find it difficult to trust God, they can draw strength meditating on Mary’s faithful trust in God. And as mothers experience the deep joys within their vocation of mothering, they can feel an affinity with another Mother — one who has also experienced this profound joy in mothering Jesus.
Mother Mary was no stranger to unfathomable suffering and can help us with our intense sorrows, too. Let’s not hesitate to approach Mary in prayer often for support in our mothering.
She is much closer to us than we might imagine and is waiting for us to reach out to her in prayer. She will, indeed, bring us closer to her Son Jesus.
Mary, Mother of Jesus, be a Mother to me now.
Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is an EWTN TV host and author of several books, including Catholic Mom’s Café: 5-Minute Retreats for Every Day of the Year (OSV, $14.95).