..And you yourself a sword will pierce… (NAB, Luke 2:35)
These are the words that Simeon tells the Blessed Virgin Mary when she and Joseph present the infant Jesus in the Temple.
A lot can be said of a mother’s heart. A mother’s love for her children by nature is very strong. Many of you might have heard the stories of mothers who were able to summon up supernatural strength to come to the aid of a child in danger: Moms who are able to lift a car off of a child, block a bullet, run in front of traffic, and give up the last morsel of food. In the tradition of the Church, the prayers and penance of a mother are powerful and pierce heaven. St. Monica is a great example of a persistent and patient woman who continued to pray for her wayward son who became St. Augustine, an early Doctor of the Church. These are some of the extreme examples of heroism. There are also the humble everyday sacrifices that a typical mother makes for her child such as foregoing sleep, changing messy pants, modifying career goals, and sometimes losing her school girl figure to give birth. I have heard a lot of women say that they would rather suffer themselves than see their own child go through pain.
Some Might Feel Inadequate
Many get trapped into the stereotype of what they think that a mother should be. They might get anxious about preconceived notions and become worried that they won’t measure up. Some might base their ideas on TV show examples. But mothers are as unique as there are persons. Many don’t realize that motherhood is a vocation complete with its joys and challenges. And there are many occasions when a heart might find itself bleeding. While the only immaculate mother is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the rest of us in some ways just do the best that we can with what we are given. And of course there are Dads out there who although do not give birth, might take on such tasks for their children for whatever reason in addition to serving as a father.
In psychology a controversial experiment in the 1960s by Harry Harlow demonstrated the importance of maternal attachment. Rhesus monkeys were placed in various groups given terry cloth and wire constructed surrogate mothers with and without an attached bottle. In all instances with or without the food, the monkeys showed preference to the terry cloth dummy. When introduced to a threatening stimulus, the monkeys all clung to the cloth figure for protection and were less distressed in the presence of the cloth models.
As much as an infant needs comfort and love, the typical mother figure’s heart can be very vigilant. If a child eats very little, she worries that the child will be undernourished. If a child eats too much a mother worries that the kid will become overweight. If a child is a home body, the mother worries that the kid needs to get a social life. However if the child is out with friends, the mother this time worries if the child is getting into trouble. Some moms feel guilty about putting their children into daycare. Others worry about keeping them at home too much. No matter what condition, there is a mother out there to fret about it. And sometimes a grandmother too.
As mentioned in my last blog, a major reason that some women might choose abortion is because they feel incapable emotionally and financially for motherhood. Some might have lacked adequate role models themselves. Some might have had motherhood thrust upon them unexpectedly. But no matter what the circumstances, a life is given to them by God. And children received from adoption are also assigned by God.
Back to Simeon
Simeon, the old prophet in the Gospel of Luke had waited in the Temple for the arrival of Jesus. The Scriptures say that it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw Christ. So he was happy to see Jesus and proceeded to sing his famous canticle. However, in the midst of the joy and celebration he tells Mary: “And you yourself a sword will pierce…” (NAB, Luke 2:35). What harsh words for a mother to hear! And indeed, she is to bear witnessing the crucifixion of her Son. In the tradition of the Church, there is veneration to the Heart of Mary because of the sorrow that she has suffered and continues to suffer for her children, the Church. Even the most immaculate heart is not unscathed from bleeding for the sake of her offspring.
How Then can a Mother go on?
We do have some very good examples from tradition, science and those around us. Some how the graces of motherhood come naturally and sometimes even supernaturally especially to those who place their trust in God. Once again we are back to the theme of embracing the sufferings and learning to offer them up. Prayers do work wonders — even the simplest of prayers. Most of all, we are not alone.