The mystery of woman and motherhood is intimately connected with the mystery of the Church
One of the many things I love about the Easter Season are the daily Mass readings that take us through one of my favorite books of the Bible—the Acts of the Apostles. During these 50 days between Easter and Pentecost (celebrated on May 27 this year) we are invited to ponder not only the mystery of Christ in His Risen humanity, but also Christ in his Mystical Body, the Church. By doing so, we also come to reflect upon something very precious—motherhood.
I am reminded of a story about Pope St. Pius X (1835–1914) and the lesson that his mother once taught him. Shortly after being ordained a bishop, the future pope visited his mother. Son though he was, she greeted him formally, taking his hand and kissing his new episcopal ring. So the story goes, she then offered him her hand with her wedding ring for him to kiss, reminding him that without her ring his would not have been possible.
I love this story because when we celebrate our Catholic faith we also celebrate motherhood, for the Church too is a mother. This intimate connection is such that when the Church is honored and respected, so too is motherhood. Whenever we draw close in fidelity to the Church and her teachings, we also necessarily draw close to Mary. She who is the Mother of Christ is no less the Mother of His Body, the Church. Herein lies the full meaning of the words of Christ upon the Cross: “Behold your mother” (John 19:27).
But it is also true that whenever the Church is vilified and attacked for her fidelity to Christ as His Bride, we also find a corresponding assault upon the dignity of motherhood.
We can see this in the new form of chauvinism that has taken root today. The federal government, seeing itself superior to the Church and less than deserving of Constitutional respect, has created a “speak only when spoken to” type of relationship and forces its will upon the Church and her faithful.
For this reason, I find the Acts of the Apostles so refreshing, for it celebrates the Church as Mother in all of her joys and sufferings. It offers us hope. In the inviting words of St. Lydia to St. Paul in response to the Gospel, we hear the invitation of the Church as a loving mother to all of us: “Come to my house and stay” (Acts 16:15).
Without Mary’s “yes” to God (Luke 1:38), our Redemption would not have been possible. And like any good mother, she recognizes our needs and sufferings and does what a mother does best—she makes things better. Take her hand and she will lead you to the Father’s house (Luke 2:49), where you will find your Bridegroom.
In a season of celebration that also includes Mother’s Day, I thank all of you who are mothers for the many sacrifices unique to your exalted vocation. I thank all who are wives who by their fidelity and love share in the mystery of the Church’s love for Christ. I thank all single women who likewise share in the Church’s longing for Christ like the wise bridesmaids who keep the oil lamps of their faith burning bright (Matthew 25:1-13). And I also thank all consecrated women who through their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience help all of us to become more faithful brides of Christ.
May God bless you all.