As the world is blessed with the beauty of May flowers, it’s a symbol of the month that Catholics everywhere dedicate to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a reminder, as Mother’s Day is celebrated, that Mary is the Mother of All, said Sister Dominic, OP, president of Overbrook Catholic School and St. Cecilia Academy.
In the month of May, “you see earth springing to new life and Mary brings new life into the world through the incarnate Son of God,” Sister Dominic said. “May is the time of year that the entire earth is blossoming with beauty, freshness, and new life.”
“The ability to perceive revealed truths in the invisible world, in and through the visible world, is seeing with a sacramental worldview, and it’s age old,” she added. “A sacramental worldview reminds us that everything God created tells us something about the invisible world. Assigning May as the month of Mary is part of that sacramental worldview.”
“What to keep in mind when we say a whole month is dedicated to Mary, or we have this or that Marian devotion, is that Mary is only who she is because Jesus is who He is,” Sister Dominic said. “Jesus, who is God, is the one who gives dignity to anybody. Mary’s dignity comes from Jesus Christ, who is God. She was the most faithful. She was obedient to him in everything. She cooperated with every grace she received.”
As Mother’s Day approaches, this year on Sunday, May 14, several Catholic moms of the Diocese of Nashville have been reflecting on how they look to Mary as an example for their own motherhood.
Yana Ancell, a parishioner of Mother Teresa Church in Nolensville, said Mary has been most prominent to her in times of sorrow. Although she also looks to Mary for guidance as she raises her two sons, Simon Peter, a fifth-grade student at Overbrook Catholic, and Benedict Joseph, a third-grade student at Overbrook Catholic, Ancell said she has also looked to her with the five children she’s lost due to miscarriage.
“Mary is Our Lady of Sorrows,” said Ancell, who is also a Lay Dominican. “She’s always been there. Nobody knows the sorrow like her.”
She also looks to Mary as an example as she is the godmother of six.
“I’m grateful to be their spiritual mother,” Ancell said, “just as I am grateful to have Mary as my Blessed Mother who always draws me closer to her son.”
Adrienne Bobos, a parishioner of the Cathedral of the Incarnation, who has also suffered multiple miscarriages, said she too draws strength from Mary’s own experiences of suffering.
“Mary went through so much, yet she found the strength and knew she could trust in the Lord’s plan,” said Bobos, who is also mother to 12-year-old Isidora, 10-year-old Perpetua, 7-year-old Cassian, 4-year-old Eulalia, and 2-year-old Maristella. “I have to do the same thing and just relinquish the control that I want to have, so that I can make the best decisions for my family based on what God’s plan is for them.
“Mary really gives me an opportunity to try and see it through a mother’s eyes where I should just let go and say, ‘Whatever God’s will is, let it be done.’”
Minette Gallmann, a parishioner of the Cathedral, and mother to 7-year-old Adeline, 4-year-old Eloise, 2-year-old Cecilia, and 3-month-old Henry, said Mary fills in the gaps where she, herself, is flawed.
“Just with her example as being the perfect mother and yet also seeing the humanness of her struggles, she really fills in the gaps where I’m a very flawed individual,” Gallmann said. “You’re leading these young souls, and you have this responsibility, so I can look to her as the model of how to bring my family to Jesus.
“She’s always there and is always a mother to me and my children,” she continued. “Where I fall short and where I’m weak, I feel like I can point them in her direction. That’s a comfort to me as a mother to know that she’s their mother as well and all of our mother.”
The belief that Mary is a mother to us all is what Cristin Barkley, whose family regularly attend both St. Ann Church and St. Henry Church, said helps her most in her journey as a mother to 13-year-old Colette and 10-year-old Liam.
“It was St. Teresa of Kolkata who, in times of need, said the prayer, ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus, please be a mother to me now,’” Barkley recalled. “I’ve said that so many times for many little things. ‘I need to be a mother to my children, but Mary, I need you to be a mother to me in this moment to help me be that example as well.’
“We’re given our children as these gifts to raise and take care of, but they’re ultimately not ours,” she continued. “Whenever we find out we’re going to become mothers, we have this idea of what motherhood is, but you don’t really comprehend it until you’re in the midst of it.
“I think of how, even more so, that was even more true for Mary when she was asked to be the mother of God, so we can always look to her as the ultimate example of what motherhood should be,” she said.
Goal of motherhood
With Mary to look to as an example, the mothers agreed that the ultimate goal for their children is heaven. Ancell said she finds comfort knowing five of her children are already there.
“That’s such a consolation,” Ancell said. For her other two children, “we just try to keep them focused on God because that is what will help them get there, too.”
Bobos said the best way she knows how to help her children reach heaven is “to teach them to be the best that they can be in every instance of compassion towards others, loving Christ and knowing that whenever there is any issue, no matter what it is, if you turn to God, you will find strength, and he will never, ever leave you alone.
“And it’s also making sure they understand that … even if they have a time in their lives where they venture off from the faith, I want them to know there is always a path back to God,” she added, “and that their father and I love them above all earthly things, and our goal in life is to help them find their pathway to heaven.”
“My number one goal for my children is that they feel fully known and fully loved by God,” Gallmann added. “In my mothering, that’s what I want them to feel, and I want them to leave this world feeling that way as they make their way toward heaven.”
Barkley said getting her children to heaven means teaching them to follow God’s plan for their lives.
“I want them to love their faith and love Jesus and really want them to go to Him and ask Him first and foremost what He wants them to be or who He wants them to be,” Barkley said. “Children are pressured so much today for career or school to become the defining part of their lives.
“What I hopefully try to keep balanced in their life is to think about ‘who does God want you to be,’ because that’s what’s most important.”
Mother of us all
The connection between Mother’s Day and the Month of Mary goes beyond Mary just being an example of motherhood to women around the world. As told through Scripture, it also signifies the truth that Mary is the Mother of all, Sister Dominic said.
“When Jesus is on the cross, he is very intentional about what he is saying. First of all, physically, it’s difficult to speak in the position he is in. He is losing his breath, and so every word he says is filled with meaning,” Sister Dominic said. “Saints and scripture scholars have meditated on these words and one of the last seven words that he says on the cross is he looks down and sees his mother, Mary, there and next to her is the only apostle who didn’t desert him in his hour of need, St. John, the beloved.
“Jesus looks down at Mary and says, ‘Woman behold your son.’ Of course, Jesus is her natural born son, but he’s saying this about John, the beloved disciple of Jesus. Then, he says to St. John, ‘Behold your mother,’” she continued. “In that moment, what we see theologically, is that the Lord entrusts his disciples to his mother, Mary. At the foot of the cross, St. John represents each of us, the disciples of the Lord. Through this word from the cross, Mary becomes the mother of us all.”
Therefore, Sister Dominic said, the month of May is an opportunity for everyone to look to Mary as an example.
“When I look at Mary, what I think is so striking about her is that she, of course, loves her son more than anything or anybody in the whole world, and yet she loves God’s will first,” Sister Dominic said. “Mary offers her son in the temple, and in that moment, she is saying, ‘Your will be done, God, with my son.’
“God, who first gave the baby Jesus to Mary. He does this in our families also. He entrusts a newborn human being to a family. Mary then gives her child back to the Lord, and she really means it,” she continued. “Mary watches her child suffer. She would prevent this suffering if she could in one sense because she is his mom. But, by supernatural grace, Mary transcends this natural, nurturing instinct because she can see in this suffering the mysterious will of God at work.
“We see, on the other side of that, the Resurrection; the Lord brings salvation for the whole world out of this great suffering,” Sister Dominic added. “Mary does not see that at the cross. She does not see the Resurrection until Easter Sunday; she sees the suffering, but she trusts God enough.”
“That’s not an easy thing to do,” she continued, noting how her sisters, who are moms, want to only nurture and protect their children from harm. “We don’t want our children to suffer emotionally, psychologically, physically, or spiritually. But to know that God’s will is going to sometimes entail suffering, and for the mother to be willing to allow that to happen to her child, and to trust that God is going to bring something amazing out of it, as he did with Jesus, is beautiful.”
That’s why Sister Dominic likes to turn to Mary during any struggle.
“She is an example to us, and she’s a mother to us. If I am struggling with something, and I want to be more faithful to the Lord or more faithful to how I’m praying, or the charity I want to show to the people where I’m serving, I can and do, most certainly, look to Jesus. But Mary is entirely human, with no divinity, and she is close to us as a mother is close to her children,” Sister Dominic said. “I can look to her and ask, ‘How did she cooperate with grace when she wanted to be more faithful in these areas of her life?’ So, she’s an inspiration, but she’s also an intercessor, so she prays for us, too.”