Motherhood: Gifting Ourselves and Others
By Susan Ciancio
In Mulieris Dignitatem, St. John Paul II writes:
“Motherhood implies from the beginning a special openness to the new person: and this is precisely the woman’s ‘part.’ In this openness, in conceiving and giving birth to a child, the woman ‘discovers herself through a sincere gift of self.’”
Within the next week, we celebrate two very special days with one thing in common. First, we celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday. Then, on May 13, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
Motherhood is a beautiful gift from God. St. John Paul said it perfectly when he said that, in being a mother, a woman “discovers herself through a sincere gift of self.”
How many of us, before becoming mothers, were scared, selfish, or just focused on material or worldly things? But then we saw the baby on the sonogram, we felt him kick, and we gave birth to the most amazing gift imaginable. We hold that baby, and our lives change forever. We find joy in chubby little toes. We find thrills in first words. We find happiness in a smiling face.
Suddenly life takes on a whole new meaning. Things that were once important are no longer as important.
We have become a superhero.
Yes, every mom is a superhero in her child’s eyes. And we thrive on that. Indeed, we come to crave that. We love being the one who can stop the tears, soothe the bad moods, and make our children erupt in laughter. We love teaching them new things, learning with them, and watching them explore. We love watching them grow and gain independence, yet we watch in fear when they drive off in the car, and we whisper prayers of thanks every time they return home. And we’re both happy and sad when we drop them at college and come to realize that their new “home” is no longer with us.
We feel all these emotions because we have given a not-so-small piece of ourselves away to our children. And when they leave, we feel an emptiness. That is what St. John Paul II meant when he said we give the “sincere gift of self.” As moms, we gain a whole new identity. We are still ourselves (and we definitely need to be!), but we are now Ally’s mom, Matthew’s mom, or Anthony’s mom too.
As our children grow, we go from being superhero to role model. Our words, actions, and tales of our experiences serve as guides for our children. We want to raise them to be steadfast in their faith, to care for others, to speak and act kindly, and to treasure the same values we do because we understand that these gifts have been given to us by God. And we know that we are charged with nurturing not only their bodies and their personalities, but their souls as well. It’s our job to help them get to heaven. It’s our job to help them want to get to heaven.
In this task, we often use our own mothers as role models, but there’s one very special mother we should never forget about—one mother we can always turn to when we feel stressed, confused, happy, or any of the other range of emotions we feel as moms. Our Blessed Mother.
Mary was a loving mother who experienced many of the same things we do in raising children. She knew both the joy of birth and immense heartache of loss.
Mary was the epitome of kindness and gentleness. The line from “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” reminds us of these qualities: “Gentle woman, quiet light, morning star, so strong and bright, gentle mother, peaceful dove, teach us wisdom; teach us love.”
Isn’t this how we all want to be described as mothers? Motherhood gives us the ability to possess these characteristics. Our real mothers, our spiritual mother, and our faith help us hone them.
Thus, we must have faith that Mary will take our prayers to her Son when we ask. Remember, it was at her request that Christ performed His first miracle. She wants us to come to her. Her wide-open arms await, for her motherly love knows no bounds.
So, as we reflect upon motherhood, upon Mary, and upon our children, let us not forget the importance of teaching our children to love and venerate her as well. Start with the story of Fatima. As the feast approaches, talk to your children about the apparitions and about how we can always seek Mary’s advice as our spiritual mother. The Culture of Life Studies Program has two great lessons that will also help your children get to know Mary. Our Lady of Guadalupe: Honoring the Patroness of Preborn Children teaches about the miracle at Tepeyac Hill, and Honoring the Blessed Mother helps kids learn the story of Mary’s fiat—her yes to becoming the mother of Christ. Both of these lessons encourage your children to develop a stronger relationship with our Lord’s mother.
Mother’s Day is a day to remember the gifts God gave to you in your children. But it’s also a day to remember how you gift yourself to your children every moment of every day. This is no small task. So give thanks for your children, but also give thanks for you. You are amazing, you are valuable, and you are loved.
For more information about the Culture of Life Studies Program, visit cultureoflifestudies.com. To see our lessons, visit culture-of-life-studies.myshopify.com. Right now, through the pandemic, all our downloadable lessons are FREE!