Mother’s Day, and Mary

Upwards of 40 countries celebrate mothers at some point during each year.

America’s Mother’s Day doesn’t seem to connect with Phrygia’s cult of Cybele or Japan’s Haha no Hi, apart from being a recognition of motherhood.

Our Mother’s Day has roots in my country’s civil war. Ann Jarvis organized a committee in 1868, promoting “Mother’s Friendship Day.” The idea was “to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War.”

On May 8, 1914 the U.S. Congress said the second Sunday in May should be Mother’s Day. President Wilson made it official the next day, and World War I started on July 28, 1914.

I’m not sure why America’s Congress picked the second Sunday of May for Mother’s Day.

Oddly enough, I’ve never run across claims that Mother’s Day is a plot to subvert America’s Protestant purity with our ‘foreign’ ways — or seen someone make a connection between President Wilson’s proclamation and Word War I.

Don’t laugh. Mother’s Day and Catholic beliefs have common elements, and there are stranger conspiracy theories.

May, Mary — and Maria Monk?!

May is a month traditionally studded with (Catholic) devotions to Mary. We think she’s special. I’ll get back to that.

Ann Jarvis was the daughter of a Methodist minister. As far as I know she had nothing to do with the Catholic Church. But a conspiracy theorist could call that a lie spread by agents of Pope Pius IX.

I think an international ‘Mother’s Day plot’ makes a little more sense than the 1836 “Maria Monk” bestseller. Echoes of the lurid tale of deadly secrets and a secret tunnel were still echoing in my youth, a half-century back now.

Several investigations turned up zero evidence that the tale was true.

Some conspiracies have been real, but I’m pretty sure something as big as a ‘Mother’s Day Conspiracy’ would long since have been unmasked.1

Ephesians and Diapers

‘Family’ is very important to Catholics, or should be. The Catechism devotes more than two thousand words to discussing what a family is, and how families should work. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 22012233)

We all have duties: children and parents. (Catechism, 22142220, 22212231).

When I married my wife, I knew what I was signing up for. Ephesians 5:2225 says that as her husband, I must love my wife “even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her.”

That sets a high standard, since our Lord washed the disciples’ feet and walked to Golgotha. (John 13:47; Matthew 27:33)

Considering what my duty might require, I didn’t mind cleaning diapers now and then.

Queen, Yes: Passive, No

As the mother of our Lord, Mary has a prominent place in the Catholic Church.

That’s “prominent,” not “top.” She is, in a sense, our mother. (Catechism, 484507, 963972)

I think that makes sense. Jesus is God’s son. Mary is our Lord’s mother. (Luke 1:2628; John 1:14)

We’re told that God wants to adopt us. All of us. (John 1:1214, 3:17; Romans 8:1417; Peter 1:34; Catechism, 2730, 52, 1825, 1996)

I accepted the offer, which makes me a part of the family — along with everyone else who makes the same decision.

Seeing Mary as our adopted mother? Like I said, I think that makes sense.

One of Mary’s titles is Queen (or Lady) of Angels, which is where my parish church got its name.

In movies like “Knights of the Round Table,” queens don’t do much other than stir up trouble: intentionally or not. My guess, based on the number of verified Marian apparitions over the last two millennia, is that Mary is nowhere near as passive as that.

The one at Fatima, starting May 13th, 1917, may be the best-known these days. Francisco and Jacina Marto were recognized as Saints recently.2

As a Norwegian-Irish American whose mother is as ekte norsk as you’re likely to find, I have no trouble thinking of a woman as a sort of 12-star general. There’s probably a post lurking around that idea.

We see Mary as a Saint, someone who “practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace.” (Catechism, 828)

Some of the world’s 1,100,000,000 or so living Catholics may think Mary is a goddess. That is a very bad idea, and strictly against the rules. (Catechism, 21122114)

A Woman of Few Words

Let’s remember that Mary was quite likely in her teens when Gabriel said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Gabriel did most of the talking, mostly responding to Mary’s question; and reassuring her. (Luke 1:2638)

I don’t think that means Mary is timid or diffident.

She had the guts to accept an assignment that would be extremely difficult to explain to her family, friends, and neighbors. All things considered, Joseph took the news that his wife-to-be was pregnant rather well. (December 18, 2016)

Years later, Mary had this conversation with our Lord:

1 On the third day there was a wedding 2 in Cana 3 in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.

“Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.

“When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’

“(And) Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.’

“His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.'”
(John 2:15)

“Do whatever he tells you” is pretty good advice: and that’s another topic.

Somewhat-related posts:

1 Conspiracies, psychology, and statistics:

2 Fatima, background:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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2 Responses to Mother’s Day, and Mary

  1. Peggy Haslar says:

    I read that Anna Jarvis came to regret creating Mother’s Day because of the charlatans who commercialized it: florists and the lot who profited within just a few days of its inception. Always wondered about the Mary connection and assumed that May was chosen because of her. It’s a great connection even though not intentional.

Thanks for taking time to comment!