Thursday, May 7, 2009

Motherhood - The Neighborhood of the Sacred

I was on vacation. It was Sunday and I was at Mass. As I sat in my pew, a family of four plus a little little baby came and sat in front of me. Everything was fine, that is, for a while. Then the baby, as babies do, began to fuss. Then a process began. As the fussy baby became too much for one person, it was handed on to the next. That appeared to satisfy and calm the little one for a while. Then it all began again. Each person was able to provide some peace and calm to the little one, if only for a time. It eventually ended up in the arms of the last person. She just laid it on her chest. The child rested, became quiet and went to sleep. The journey was over. It had found its place of rest, security and nourishment, the child had found it’s mother.

What an awe-full, wonder-full, mysterious, sacred vocation, is motherhood? All of these words have such deep meaning. We will always have to look at motherhood through these lenses and so we can be caught up in it’s awe and mystery. To be caught up in the understanding of the holy, sacred, and sanctified mission, which women are so privileged to be invited to journey on.

When we approach the sacred, when we deal with mystery, which is the essence of motherhood, we must always be prepared, otherwise so much will be missed. So much will be missed because we will be so caught up in what is seen, we will miss the unseen. Why has God chosen a human being to be the place for the reception of His new revelation? That is what each and every child is, a new revelation of God. In each child, the incarnation continues. Each and every child in the womb is a part of God never before revealed to the world. God has chosen this woman to provide flesh for the human existence of a new unique revelation of who He is. Motherhood is the entrance path into a neighborhood called the sacred, it must be approached with awe, reverence and respect. This neighborhood must be approached with awe, reverence and respect. If not, God’s intention of invitation to co-creation, to say the least, is either missed or ignored. The result is the dark side of motherhood which so much is experienced in the world of loveless existence. The entrance key to the mystery is itself, too, a mystery. It is sacred. It is holy. The key is, the celebration of the sacrament of human sexuality. In the sacrament of human sexuality, the divine is encountered. New life is created. When sexuality is viewed through the lens of God’s intentions we are then able to see in the celebration and encounter with the sacred, with the divine, with God. We are caught up in wonder, we are caught up in awe, we are caught up in the mystery, and in that place, we experience prayer. Yes, what I am saying is a happy, healthy celebration of your sexuality is an essential part of your prayer life. How often is human sexuality seen through the lenses of love laden mystery, a God-centered mystery? I like when we pray at Mass that “we may be taught the sanctity of human love”, “be shown the value of family life”.

I came across the following quotation, in which I have found food for thought over many years;

“Mothers beauty infinitely surpasses the glory of nature. It is an unimaginable beauty, the only one that you can imagine this woman attending to stirrings of her infants. Christ never speaks of beauty. It is the only company He keeps, but under it’s true name: Love. Beauty comes from love, as daylight comes from the sun. As the sun comes from God, as God comes from a woman exhausted from childbirth. Fathers go to war, to the office, sign contracts. Fathers are in charge of society. That is their business, their great affair. A father is someone who represents something other than himself in his relationship to his child, and who believes in what he represents: law, reason, experience. Society. A mother does not represent anything in relationship to her child. She does not stand in relationship to it, but is around it, inside, outside, everywhere. She raises the child up at arms length and presents it to eternal life. Mothers are in charge of God. That is their passion, their sole occupation, their loss and their empowerment at the same time. To be a father is to play the role of father. To be a mother is an absolute mystery, a mystery without reference point, a absolute that is not relative to anything, an impossible task that is nevertheless fulfilled, even by bad mothers. Even bad mothers stand in their nearness to be absolute, they have an intimacy with God that fathers will never know……. Mothers have no rank, no pull. They are born at the same time as their children. Mothers grow up in life at the same time as their child and as the child is equal of God, from the time of its birth, from the beginning mothers are inside the holy of holies, fulfilled by everything, ignorant of everything that fulfills them. And if all true beauty comes from love, where does love come from? From what matter does it matter derived, from what nature its super-naturalness, beauty comes from love. Loves comes from attention. Simple attention to the simple: humble attention to the humble things: living attention to all lives, and surely to that of the little cup in its cradle, incapable of feeding itself, incapable of everything but tears. The first knowledge of the newborn, the single possession of the prince of the crib, is his gift of complaint, his claim on the love far away, his screams in the direction of a life too distant-and it is mother that gets up and responds, it is God who wakes up and arises, responding every time, every time attentive above and beyond weariness. The weariness of the first days of the world, a weariness of the first years of childhood. Apart from that, there is nothing. There is no greater holiness then that of mothers exhausted by diapers to be washed, formula to be heated and baths to be given. Men hold the world. Mothers hold the eternal element that holds the world and men.” [Bobbin, The Secret of St. Francis Assisi]

God says to you and I, “from the beginning I have loved you. I now love you, and I will love through all of eternity. I love you so much I want you to have life, and life to the fullest. I love you so much I have chosen this special place within this special person where you will learn of my love. Where you will find a place of new beginning. I love you so much I will always be with you. I have chosen this person to communicate that reality to you. That is why she will gaze into your eyes and you will gaze into hers. Through that gaze you will come to know my love for you.”

That is what I see when mother and child are caught up in “the gaze”. When I am at Mass on vacation, I get caught up so often in the interplay between mother and child. When I celebrate Mass, I also have to admit I get caught up with that same wonder-full interplay. There is something going on with that interplay. Whatever I have to say is being ignored. There is something more satisfying, more full-filling being offered in that interplay for the mother and child than what I have to offer. Of that I am certain.

Another day, when I was at Mass. In front of me was a mother and child. The mother placed the child in front of her at arms length. They gazed at each other for some time. The child gazed at his mother was a steady silent gaze. Then its face broke into a wondrous smile, from its lips joy is screeched and its little hands began to clap happily. The child rejoiced that it was loved and the face of the young mother shone with a beauty that no artist could capture. From then on, whenever I hear a screech at Mass, that is my vision. I am jealous.

There is also the dark side of motherhood, there are many books written about those who have birth mothers but not life-giving mothers. There is a vast difference between giving birth and giving life. Not to have a mother’s nourishing, loving , caring presence has to be grieved for by an every growing number of people. There are men and women who have to come to terms with the fact that the nurturing presence is missing from their life, in fact, it never existed in their lives. This terminal death, then, becomes a Pascal death, leading to a new and richer life than they have at present. The feelings of anger and resentment must be processed. I was told a long time ago that the word feel can be spelled out feel, experience, express, let go. I have dealt with a great deal of people who just want to feel and then pray about it. The result, nothing changes. On the other hand, when you write out, not type out, your feelings in honesty. When you write out your feelings, not sugar-coating anything and express all the pain of loss and abandonment, wonderful things happen. There is a welcomed feeling of release and relief as God is welcomed into the emptiness caused by the release of the feelings. I always encourage those who write out the feeling of anger, resentment, shame, betrayal, etc. to always end by writing “God you can have all of this. I do not want it anymore. Please fill up the emptiness this has caused, with your love.” You sign your name and then BURN it, not tear it up! In the prison I had the kids write and rip on the condition that when they were released they would write and burn . We must always remember that there is nothing in the spiritual we do once forever. We have to repeat it over and over and over.

Each year on Mother’s Day, I always make an effort to women who became mothers yet they were never able to experience the physical touch of their child. These mothers were never able to engage in the sacred gaze, these mothers were never able to experience the joy, wonder of what nursing at the breast means. Their child lived but was not born. I always make a point to congratulate the great men who see the vocation of motherhood in their beloved. They make sure that their motherhood is respected, reverenced and celebrated. Some great men do this with such energy and vitality, they are uncommon men who walk among their fellow men.

To all the men who to fulfill responsibility of motherhood, you too, are to be saluted and honored on this day. To all the foster mothers, adopted mothers and step-mothers who give so much of their essence to be the living presence for their daughters, I salute you. To all who qualify for the wonder-full title of MOTHER, have a great day. It is not going to happen again for 364 days. Your children give you one day so you can give of yourself to them for the rest of the year. I say not! “If mama ain’t happy…ain’t nobody happy!” Mothers you come first. Your husband comes second. Your kids come third. [In dad’s case, he comes first, mom comes second and the kids come third. The kids always come third.] This is the recipe for a healthy family. Bishop Morneau, from Green Bay, has this to say, “A healthy love of God and the healthy love of another person, begins with a healthy love of self”. Single moms, you first of all have to take care of you. You have to be healthy, so you can model for your children what it means to be healthy. What it means to be able to choose happiness and so come to be whole people, holy people.

May the Holy Spirit guide and direct you through the neighborhood of motherhood.

May the Holy Spirit strengthen and energize you on your journey through the neighborhood of motherhood.

May the Holy Spirit grant you perseverance so that one day your journey through this neighborhood is ended. You will then enter into that GRAND NEIGHBORHOOD of Grand-Motherhood.