Jesus & Mom

Happy mother’s day, to everyone who either is a mother or has one.

Last night I read something truly sad, in the Atlanta Creative Loafing‘s “Streetalk” column, where local folks get a chance to answer all sorts of ironic or cynical questions and have it printed in this weekly arts-and-entertainment paper. This week’s twisted query was “How did your mother screw you up?” A young woman named Celia offered this heartbreaking response:

She made me watch The Exorcist when I was 5 and told me that was going to happen to me if I didn’t pray. I was devastated. The Exorcist is no longer a scary movie — but every time I hear the soundtrack I do get a little frightened. She also told me that Jesus was watching me at all times, so when I was in a room by myself I was afraid to do something bad. I am now agnostic. And I’m afraid of Jesus Christ.

As Neo would say… “Whoa!” At least in the circles I travel, few people ever seem to talk about how crucially important mothers are to the initial spiritual formation of their children. But as Celia attests, what a mother says (and, I suspect, how she says it) can make a lifetime of difference.

Sigh. My heart goes out to all the Celias of the world, but I’m also impelled to give thanks for all those mothers who communicate by word and example that Christ is the incarnation of love, and that God is the fountain from which issues forth all love. So I think I’ll amend my initial greeting in this post to say: here’s an extra-special “Happy Mother’s Day” wish to all the mothers who manage to rear your children without warping their ability to perceive the love of God.

A Gift for Lorraine
Seven Lessons I'm Learning on the Grief Journey
Completing the Hospice Journey
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Peggy

    My mother has been deceased since 1971. I have no strong negative feelings towards her. She was sick most of my life with physical and possible psychological ailments. I can recall her coming home drunk one night and getting me out of bed (I was about six) and making me kneel beside the bed while she prayed. She evidenced much emotionality such as drunks do. I was embarrassed for her and bored and sleepy. It wasn’t until I was much older that I discovered that her own guilty behavior was at the heart of her spurts of relgiousity. However, she allowed me to find my own spiritual bearings even when the direction confused her and worried her.
    I have never felt any sense of her “presence” with me, not in dreams, not at her burial site. I think parents have less influence on our spiritual lives than we think.