Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli
True greatness is born in a cradle tended by a loving mother. The long list of those who have recognized this reality includes statesmen, inventors, scientists, preachers and even comedians. Our first president, George Washington, observed that “all I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt and Barak Obama have likewise publicly acknowledged the role of their mothers in making them suited for their lifework.
Artists from Albrecht Durer (1490) to Whistler (1871) have painted exquisite portraits of their mothers. Musicians have skillfully captured their love and esteem for their mothers in song and melody. Violinist Zach De Pue penned “Mama’s Waltz” to remember his mother who died when he was just six. Cesare Andrea Bixio, together with lyrcist Cherubini, immortalized the undying affection of child to mother in the ever popular and tear-provoking Italian song “Mamma.” And, even the comedian Stephen Colbert interrupted his nightly TV routine to deliver a heartfelt tribute to his mother at her passing.
Inventor Thomas Edison once said, “My mother was the making of me.” He was right. The family is the very first school where we learn the lessons of life. And our parents are the best teachers. It is in a loving home, we witness our parents’ love, daily sacrifices, tenderness and their willingness to work through differences; and, we ourselves are formed as selfless individuals. “The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom” (Henry Ward Beecher).
The absence of either a father or a mother in any home is not something to be lauded, but lamented. We need both parents. Against the “flag of freedom” flown over individuals to form whatever type of family they want, Pope Francis has wisely insisted that “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity” (Pope Francis, The Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage, Nov. 17, 2014).
In the family, mothers hold a unique place. From our mothers, we receive the gift of life and a love that sets no limits. From the moment we enter the world through the generous self-sacrificing love of our mothers, they surround us with affection and care. We owe our lives to our mothers and almost everything else that follows. They form us as individuals. They model and pass on faith. They enkindle the gift of faith within us (cf. Pope Francis, General Audience, Jan. 7, 2015).
The love of our mothers sets the foundation stone of who we will become with the gifts that God has given us. Their ever-present attention to us, day and night, for the first three to five years of our lives, molds our minds to think, our imaginations to wonder, our hands to work with others and our hearts to love. “A society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength” (ibid.).
The choice to be a mother is an act of unselfish love. It is truly a life choice. It is choosing not merely to bring another person into the world, but committing oneself to the noble vocation of motherhood for the rest of one’s life. It is the choice to give life and never stop giving. A mother’s heart beats with love for her child from the first moment that she bears her son or daughter within her womb. And, even when death’s cruel hand takes her from sight, her love does not grow cold. Once in heaven, she is one with God, whose “love endures forever” (Ps 136:1). She never stops caring for her child. A mother’s heart resembles most the heart of God. Her love is forever!