Mother’s Day isn’t really a thing in Rome. They are aware of it – American culture is pervasive, after all – but they aren’t ready to adopt it. Not because they don’t love their mothers – seriously, look at the respect an Italian grandmother gets form her clan – but because to them, the day seems superfluous. Isn’t every day a day in which you should give particular honor and respect to the mothers in your life? (I again refer you to an Italian grandmother.) This probably says more about the Italian notion of family life than it does the American ideal.
That being said, in the seminary on Mother’s Day, the staff would post signs reminding us that it was, in fact, Mother’s Day…and that Rome was 6 hours ahead of the east coast, 5 ahead of central, and so on; and that to avoid overloading the network, we should plan our Skype calls accordingly. Just because we were in Rome did not mean we were exempt from this American holiday.
I don’t need to remind you that today is Mother’s Day. But do I need to remind you that this entire month belongs to your Blessed Mother? The ancients often had recourse to various goddesses during the month of May, praying for a fruitful growing season. As paganism came to an end in Europe, the need for prayers for a good growing season and an end of winter remained. At the same time, as Christianity became more entrenched in the culture, devotion to Mary spread. A common practice was to devote 30 days of prayer to her. Eventually, the two practices merged – who better than Mary, after all, to intercede on behalf of those looking for a fruitful harvest? All she did was give life to the Savior of mankind. In many places, these practices became very formalized – May Crowning; Marian processions; public recitation of the Rosary, and so on.
In his 1965 encyclical Mense Maio, the prophetic Pope Paul VI included this plea for Mary’s help:
“May she who experienced the cares and hardships of earthly life, the weariness of daily toil, the hardships and trials of poverty, and the sorrows of Calvary, come to aid the needs of the Church and the human race. May she graciously lend an ear to the devout pleas of those all over the world who beg her for peace. May she enlighten the minds of those who rule nations. And finally, may she prevail on God, who rules the winds and storms, to calm the tempests in men’s warring hearts and grant us peace in our day. What we seek is true peace grounded on the sturdy foundations of justice and love—on a justice which recognizes the legitimate rights of the weak as well as those of the strong; on a love which keeps men from falling into error through excessive concern for their own interests. Thus each person’s rights may be safeguarded without the rights of others being forgotten or violated.”
This May, find a way to make Pope Paul’s prayer yours. And find a way to honor the Blessed Mother each day. She’s not just our Mother – she’s your Mother. And she deserves it.
Happy Mother’s Day!