I have a message to any priests out there, or any clerics at all for that matter, planning your homilies and sermons for tomorrow. At this rate I’m going to miss the homilies written for the vigil Mass, but the ones you’re still putting together for Sunday.
Sunday is Mothers’ Day, at least in the United States. And on Mothers’ Day, it tends to be the unspoken tradition that priests preach on Mothers’ Day rather than the gospel, or say a word about Mothers’ Day before or after they preach on the Gospel, or maybe try to incorporate a Mothers’ Day theme into the Gospel. That last one will be medium-difficult this year, because the Gospel is a short passage of Christ talking about being the Good Shepherd. It’s doable. At least you won’t be trying to incorporate that theme in, say, the story of the swine running off the cliff or the cursing of the fig tree.
There have been debates all over the internet this week about whether you should mention Mothers’ Day in the first place and how. It’s been pointed out that a lot of people who aren’t mothers might be sad if you singled out mothers for praise and blessing, and also that a lot of mothers might be sad if you left any mention of them out on their special Sunday. And I know it’s not strictly a priest’s duty to make sure his congregation isn’t saddened, but it probably shouldn’t be left out of consideration either.
I also know you’re going to get nitpicked and criticized no matter what you do, and I’m sorry about that. Whatever Mass I end up going to, I’ll make it a point to smile and thank you in the handshake line afterwards, because I know you’re doing your best.
There is one thing that you must not do, however. I have no power to stop you, but I’m just going to tell you why it’s a terrible idea.
I have heard of more than one case where, at a Mothers’ Day Mass, a priest had every mother in the congregation stand up. Then he asked all mothers of only one child to sit down. Then he asked all mothers of two to sit down. Then he called out the mothers of three, and then four, and so forth. Finally, there was only one woman standing, the woman who had had the most babies in the whole congregation, and he declared that woman the winner.
Don’t do that.For the love of God, and your congregation, don’t.
You see, in the congregation on any given Sunday, including this one, there are going to be many different kinds of women. All of these women are infinitely precious in the sight of God and infinitely worthy of your respect, because they’re human. Some have had agonizing miscarriages and stillbirths that traumatized them, but never knew the wonder of holding their own living son or daughter and bringing them home from the hospital. Some struggled for years with infertility or waiting to adopt, and are relieved and thrilled to have even one child, but they’re still sad they won’t have a big family. Some are birth mothers who long to see their babies again, but never will. Some have such terrible health problems that it would kill them to have another baby, much as they’d love one, so they have to be extremely careful with their NFP, and this is quite a heavy cross they’re carrying with little support. Some are just not very fertile because God built their body differently.
All of these women are mothers.
They deserve the respect and honor you rightly want to pay to the vocation of motherhood. Motherhood is a glorious thing.
Women who happen to be extra fertile, and have bodies built to pop out child after child without complication, deserve respect too. But they’re not more worthy than any other sort of mother. They are more fortunate in a certain way. That’s good. And it’s good that they said “yes” to God in the way that they did, according to their station in life.
But it doesn’t mean the women with smaller families didn’t say “yes.”
Whether or not you choose to honor Mothers’ Day is up to you. But if it comes up in the homily at all, it’s supposed to be a celebration of all mothers– not a chance to pit women against each other in some kind of bizarre, degrading fertility match. Not a chance to humiliate traumatized people and award the physically healthy.
Spare a thought for the Blessed Virgin– your Mothers’ Day game would have her sitting down first and losing the competition. Yet I’m absolutely certain she’s the best mother there is. Motherhood isn’t really about the quantity of children, at least not in the eyes of Heaven.
As a matter of fact, why not make the whole Mothers’ Day homily about Mother Mary? That would spare you a lot of trouble.
(image via Pixabay)