Tuesday, April 30, 2013
By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
A priest once told me one of his worst experiences as a celebrant was walking down the aisle to celebrate Mass and seeing all the mothers wearing corsages. It was only then that he realized it was Mother’s Day. He had prepared his homily based on the readings of the day and had made no connection to the revered U.S. holiday. Luckily, he could think fast and successfully winged it.
A different Mother’s Day story from the pews has also stayed with me, told to me by a Mom whose life was changed by a parish priest’s advice one May morning. Said the celebrant: All you mothers who are estranged from your children, call them.
The woman went home, called her married daughter who hadn’t spoken with her in months, and said, “I want to see you.” Later that day, the young woman showed up at her mother’s. She carried the birthday card she had bought but not sent, the Valentine’s Day card she had bought but not sent, the Easter card she had bought but not sent, and the Mother’s Day card she purchased a few days before.
The mother was flabbergasted. As she had stewed in the pain of absence from her child, she never imagined her daughter was pining for her. She never imagined that her poised young adult daughter didn’t know how to overcome stubbornness and reconcile.
The daughter was angry, the mother learned, because Mom sold the family home after her husband died. It was a logical move for the widow with adult children, who no longer needing the big house where she and her husband had raised six kids. But the sale was something the young woman grabbed on to, to focus her anger at her father’s death. It wasn’t logical; it wasn’t fair; but it was real.
Mother and daughter talked it out; and the mother finally said, “Don’t ever do that to me again.” The daughter was relieved enough to know she didn’t want such a separation ever again either.
I don’t know the priest, but his homily was inspired. We all know the commandment, “Honor thy father and mother.” We’ve also been schooled to respect our elders. But we also know reality. Older people may have less energy than the young, but they have more resources, such as life experience. They don’t have to establish their identities, they’ve long been set. In their sixties they can chuckle at things they would have died for when they were in their twenties. By their seventies they can laugh at nearly everything. Given all the knocks from life they’ve encountered, they have a perspective that increases with age.
Hurts abound, of course, and they can paralyze relationships if we let them. I think my friend’s Mother’s Day story may hold a message for all.