Posts Tagged ‘Motherhood’


Today, we observe the Memorial of St. Monica.  If you doubt in any way that suffering can produce sanctity, consider what you know about her.

And if you don’t know anything about her, kindly lend me your ears (well, eyes technically).

Some of you may already know that Monica was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the Catholic Church’s holiest known saints and among the most influential figures of Church history.  But looking at his early life, you wouldn’t know it.

Let me say that again: You wouldn’t know it.

As a mother, St. Monica lived in a troubled home.  Among the crosses she had to bear were:

  1. A wild and defiant son who abused alcohol and consorted with prostitutes;
  2. A physically and verbally abusive husband; and
  3. An unpleasant mother-in-law

Clearly, she did not have an easy go of things.  But make no mistake — she never gave up her faith.  She remained firm in her commitment to God and to her faith.  She responded to her husband’s early abusiveness with kindness and humble obedience — not out of weakness, nor for the purpose of remaining a “doormat;” rather, she knew that this was the very best way she could bear loving witness to the Truth, to the humble Savior who is none other than Christ Himself.

Eventually, she did succeed in converting her husband (who was a pagan when she married him).

And then there was the matter of her son.  During Augustine’s troubled years, Monica prayed for him fervently and constantly, shedding profuse tears in the process.  Once, when she spoke to a bishop about her concerns, he famously remarked thus:

“…the child of those tears shall never perish.”


And he didn’t.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

For any wives and/or mothers reading this post: I would strongly encourage you to foster a devotion to St. Monica — especially if you are worried about your husband or children for any reason.  Here is a traditional prayer you could use, if you find it helpful:

Exemplary Mother of the Great Augustine,

You perseveringly pursued your wayward son

Not with threats but with prayerful cries to heaven.

Intercede for all mothers in our day

So that they may learn to draw their children to God.

Teach them how to remain close to their children,

Even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray.

Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother,

many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.

Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.

With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,

you prayed daily for the conversion

of your beloved husband, Patricius,

and your beloved son, Augustine;

your prayers were answered.

Grant me that same fortitude, patience,

and trust in the Lord.

Intercede for me, dear St Monica,

that God may favorably hear my plea.
(mention your intention here)

Grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things,

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.


– Text from http://www.family-prayer.org/saint-monica.htm


Images from Wikipedia



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RunawayBunnyThis is going to be a quickie — in the wake of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d draw people’s attention to an “oldie-but-goodie” by Margaret Wise Brown: The 1942 picture book “The Runaway Bunny.”

Mothers, take time to read this to your kids.  Afterwards, you can tell them, “That’s how much I love you.”

Basically, the book deals with a mother rabbit’s assurance to her young son that she would pursue him lovingly if he ever ran away, and that no matter what he did to get away from her, she would always set out to find him.

While reading this book, I thought to myself: “Yes — this is precisely how mothers reflect the love of God.”

For God lovingly pursues us even when we run away from Him:

When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

The LORD God then called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3: 8-9)

Photo from Wikipedia

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Imagine your five-year-old daughter is facing a malignant brain tumor diagnosis.

Peter Kreeft and his wife had that experience about 35-40 years ago.  Kreeft chronicles the experience in “A Close Encounter With the Angel of Death.”

Here is what he had to say about his wife’s display of motherhood during the ordeal:

The next image impressed on my memory is her mother camped out on the floor of her hospital room, not leaving her daughter’s side day or night for weeks, patiently (she is not a patient person) enduring all her grouchiness, fussiness, and cussedness because it might be her last.  Every word, every grouch is infinitely precious.  Not because it is good but because it is hers.


The mother lion guards her injured cub.  She will not relax her vigil until all is well, though the whole world may sneer and call her unreasonable and overprotective.  That is a judgment on the world, not on her.  For she is enacting a mystery, a ritual that is larger and older than the world.  Not only in her own name does she act, but also as representative for something transcendental, a mystery the human race has always felt and known until these times of uprootedness: Motherhood with a capital M (…) Her vocation speaks with authority — an absolute, and imperative, a divine revelation.”*


All human beings are made in the image of God, Who is love itself.  Therefore, all human beings are free agents who, paradoxically, find their true fulfillment only in the sincere gift of themselves to another.  All human beings are called to that kind of love.

But parents live out that love in a special way.

By the total gift of each to the other, a married man and woman are able to generate new life; together, as parents, they make a sincere gift of themselves to their children to see that they are brought up well, that they are well formed as healthy and unique persons, and that they have good lives.  Mothers and fathers are both called to this singular form of love.

But mothers live out even that love in a special way.


For the first nine months of a child’s existence, he is basically one with his mother.  From the very beginning, she gives him her very body as his first “home.”

Having ushered this new life from the world of the womb into the vastly bigger world outside of the womb, the mother continues to be the child’s base of security as s/he explores his/her world, thus giving him/her the firm support s/he needs in order to develop confidence, to explore, to learn, to grow, to mature, to form relationships, and to discover his/her unique identity.

Therefore, as mother, a woman rightly enjoys a unique and unequaled closeness to, unconditional love for, and investment in the well-being, safety, and happiness of her children.

JohannesPaul2-portraitIn his apostolic letter “Mulieris Dignitatem,” Blessed John Paul II even went so far as to say that “in many ways, (a husband) has to learn his own ‘fatherhood’ from the mother” (emphases his).

He also said this:

Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman’s womb.  The mother is filled with wonder at this mystery of life, and “understands” with unique intuition what is happening inside her.  (…) This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings — not only towards her own child, but for every human being — which profoundly marks the woman’s personality.  It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person, and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more. (emphases his)

Through the vocation of motherhood, women realize in the almost-definitive manner the way in which women reflect the Image of God.  Women — especially mothers — represent for us the heart of God — the closeness of God to His People, the tenderness of the Divine love, God’s constant presence to and concern for His creation.


If there are any women reading this right now, let me say this: Even if you are not a biological mother, you are not a jot less of a mother for it.

And even if you are not a mother at all, you share in this dignified vocation.  Reflecting on my experience in the world, I marvel at how women tend to be the least afraid to work with the vulnerable, the most ready to reach out to those in need, the most generous in the giving of their time and talents, and the most likely to work in professions that bring them close to the members of our society that are, for various reasons, most in need.

My concluding remark may sound corny or clichéd, but I don’t care: Let us celebrate our mothers.  We could live a thousand thousand years, and in the end I still don’t think we’d quite fathom how much they truly mean to us … as individuals and as members of the human family.

Happy Mother’s Day, and God bless you to all of the mothers out there.

* For Kreeft’s full personal account, click here: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/close-encounter.htm

Images obtained from Wikipedia

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Here are my selections, in no particular order:

1. Michaela Odone (Susan Sarandon), “Lorenzo’s Oil”


Susan Sarandon delivers a formidable and heartbreaking performance as the “mother tiger” Michaela Odone in the 1992 film “Lorenzo’s Oil,” which chronicles the intense dedication of two parents to finding a cure for their seven-year-old son Lorenzo’s incurable disease.  Based on a true story.

2. Angela McCourt (Emily Watson), “Angela’s Ashes”


Also based on a true story, “Angela’s Ashes” gives viewers a privileged glimpse into the motherhood of Angela McCourt, who stood by her four children in the midst of poverty-stricken Ireland.  Enduring the undignified living conditions of Limerick, the absence of an alcoholic husband, the memory of the loss of three children, depression, and the unwanted advances of a cruel cousin (which she risks just to be able to put a roof over her children’s heads), Angela can surely be a source of strength for all current and aspiring mothers.

3. Kate McCallister (Catherine O’Hara), “Home Alone”

Home Alone Redemption

Had to mention this one — it’s one of my all-time favorites (if you’re interested, here is a link to my two-part post on the film: http://www.intothedance.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/home-alone-redux-part-one-of-two/).  What says love more than a mother flying across international waters and all around the U.S. by herself, going nearly 60 hours without any sleep, in order to be at the side of her son?  Kate McCallister did just that, and surely any mother can relate.

4. Abigail Adams (Laura Linney), “John Adams”

laura linneyAbigail Adams was a strong woman, for sure.  In the HBO miniseries “John Adams,” Laura Linney shows us how she gave herself wholeheartedly to her children during the hard years of the American Revolution and beyond, even while her husband was gone for years at a time (both in America and abroad).

5. Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), “The Blind Side”

sandra bullock

With two children of her own and a successful career, Leigh Anne Tuohy takes in a homeless African-American teen with a troubled past and struggles to provide him with every opportunity to succeed.  That teen’s name is Michael Oher.

Oher, by the way, is currently the offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.  Yes, behind every great man is a great mother.

It just occurred to me that of the five films I have mentioned, four of them are based on true stories.  What does that tell us about the strength and dignity of motherhood?

Anyway, these are my top five picks for movies featuring strong moms.  Would anyone care to share any others?

Top image from Wikipedia; remaining images obtained through a Google image search

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Yesterday, I said I would bring some reflections on motherhood and womanhood as we draw closer to Mother’s Day. Thought I’d offer a little “preview” with this video, which features an interview for the History Channel’s recent miniseries “The Bible.”

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