Happy Mother’s Day: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Every day should be a day that Mothers and all women (and men and youth) who are taking care of others are honored as their work is never done. Mother’s Day, this Sunday, is a special day of saying “thank you” for the mothers in our lives- but any day is a good day for a real, heart-felt thank you!
THANK YOU MOTHER GOD!
For me, this includes being thankful to Mother-God for always being there for us! When Jesus taught his disciples “The Lord’s Prayer” he spoke in his language which was Aramaic. The first line has been widely translated in English and other languages “Our Father, Which are in Heaven, hallowed be your name!” However in Aramaic there are many ways this could be translated, none of them are “our Father”. The closest translation from the Aramaic to “Our Father” is “O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos!” Please note that Jesus was speaking to his Parent and “Birther and Father-Mother” is Who he addressed (In Prayers Of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus: Translated and with Commentary by Neil Douglas-Klotz, Harper Collins, 1990: p. 12). Clearly for Jesus there is a Mother-God as well as the Father we always translate from his speech inadequately.
Jesus also identified with the feminine face of God when he said ” “O Jerusalem….how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Luke 13:34). In the Hebrew scriptures ( Isaiah 49:15) the prophet asks” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the children she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.” And in Isaiah 66: 13-“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…” There is no doubt that the Scriptures honor the fatherhood of God but, just as Jesus did in his prayer, they also honor the motherhood of God. So first, for this Mother’s Day I want to thank our Mother-God for all of the abundant blessings of my life, especially the love and compassion that I experience in my relationship with God and from my closest others.
Thank YOU Mother Mary/Mariam
I am also so thankful for the lessons of Maryam, or Mariam of Nazareth, Jesus’ dear mother (Mary in Greek) who took him from birth and infancy through the launching of his ministry, and then his horrendous death, and resurrection. She was always there for him. And that is what we must be for each other, especially for those we care for. She is our Mother in the faith. Below is an 19th century photo of a woman and child from Hebron in the Middle East near where Jesus was raised. Mariam would have been a Middle Eastern mother as well. The picture beneath is an artist’s rendition of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth, her cousin. Here we see the love of two Middle Eastern women supporting each other in sharing the good news of pending birth. The reader might also want to search The Almighty Has Done Great Things For Me on ETSY with the Art of Maria Lang, or Jump For Joy with Art by Corby to get a sense of what Mary and Elizabeth may have looked like. We are so thankful for the relationships that sustain women throughout life.
You may be a mother, God Mother, foster, adoptive or other mother, a grandmother,an aunt, a sister, a cousin, a niece or a friend. You may be in a care-taking profession, a doctor, a social worker, a teacher, a counselor, a nurse, a nurse’s aid, a Home health aid, another way you help others, or a pastor or priest. You may be more than one of the above! And you may love any or all of the above.
Since male priests are called “Father”, some people ask me if they should call me “Mother”. I supply my name, usually my first name, and add that they could also call me Pastor or, what is comfortable for them. Most call me Pastor Judy but some call me Mother in my priestly role, and some call me Mother from my care-taking of young and older throughout my life. Some say “thank you” often in a variety of ways and some never say it. But it is very true that there is a need for acknowledging that another’s care-taking has been important and special in your life. As you approach Mother’s day, you might want to let someone know how important they were and are in your life.
Even when our own mothers, grandmothers and care-takers are home with our loving God, a time to remember is good for us and days like Mother’s day afford us this remembering opportunity. I am so grateful for the Mother and Grandmother that lovingly raised me and shared the love of God with me and for the Aunts and Uncles that helped them out. My mother, Anne, was always by my side, even when she had to pick me up at the bus stop late at night after my evening job at 17, so I would not have to walk home alone. Below she is with me at my Junior High School Graduation. She had a most beautiful gentle spirit and was an artist in her later years. My Grandmother, Ella, did a lot of my day to day care as my mother worked to support us. I remember laughing with my Nana so often, here she is tickling me as a friend takes my picture with my stoop full of my well worn dolls, mostly gifts of my mother except for the largest one that my Nana saved up for and bought for me from a Catalogue. I also learned to read (and think) along side of both my mother and my grandmother. Nana made sure we read all the way through the Bible together more than once by the time I reached fourteen. I am reminded of a hymn we sang in my all girls High School: “Faith of our mothers, holy faith, we will be true to thee til death”.
“Other Mother” is a valid title in the cultures I was brought up with in inner city Brooklyn, New York. Here are some special pictures of some of the ” Other Mothering” in my life and ministry. The first and second pictures are of the Maxwell children, siblings, Perdita, Marley and Chanel that my life partner Judy Beaumont and I raised while in Hartford, Connecticut- individually and together for varying lengths of time except for the smallest one, Felice Rismay (and her sister Maya) who did not live with us due to Felice’s severe allergies to animals. It was a joy having them to live with us. When we moved to Florida in 1998 the youngest, Chanel, also lived with us here for a year as she prepared for High School. We were blessed to share them with their working Mom, Cyrillia, and to be mothering presences in their lives. And now we can be grandmotherly presences for their children and that is great fun.
In the Good Shepherd Ministry
Some of our church members gather after a Mother’s Day Mass. In this Mass there are several candles on the altar table as family members lit them for their departed loved ones. The first picture above is of our dear Good Shepherd members, Jolinda Harmon and Kathy Roddy. Grandma Jolinda Harmon wears a special tee shirt for her departed daughter Linda Maybin/Neicey, whom we lost to cancer. Quay, Linda’s son, in the picture on the right is wearing a similar shirt wishing his Mom a Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven. Several other siblings are outside in similar shirts as this picture is taken. One can also note that Grandma Harmon herself is fighting cancer. I met Quay and Mrs. Harmon when I did part time work in a local Middle School several years before our Church began. They became among the founding members of our Good Shepherd Church and Grandma Harmon brought over 25 of her family members to worship regularly with us over the years. We baptized and Confirmed Grandma and Linda and many of the young people. The whole church loved them and mourned their loss. Grandma continued leading her family and our church three years after the passing of Linda. The mourning of her loss was and is great but so is the faith that she is with our Loving Mother God. I am so glad that we were members of the Body of Christ, the Church, together for over ten years. We still say of Grandma Harmon “She is the mother of the church”.
Ann Palmer, left below,was another dear mother of our Good Shepherd Church until she passed in her early nineties. And Deacon Hank Tessandori standing between her and Pastor Judy Beaumont was a loving father of our church until he moved with his wife Claire to be near family. So we will wish him a happy Father’s day now, and Claire a happy Mother’s Day! Also in the picture are Harry Gary , our Elder and Judy Alves and Phyllis Williams, other beloved parents of our church.
And then there are our PET Parents
ABOVE is my beloved Mother with me and a few of my pets when I taught at NYU School Of Social Work in New York City in the early 1980’s. I am so happy that my Mom passed her love of animals on to me. When she could no longer have pets in her Senior Housing she smuggled in hamsters that she dearly loved! Below is our Good Shepherd member Brenda Cummings with her dogs Scrappy and Turbo. Our Ministry helps members to care for their pets and Brenda is getting them a yearly examination at the Vet’s Office here. Dr. Terry Sutton, DVM has helped us with many members’ pets as part of her caring ministry.
Below is Gaspare, one of our Church members who helps me, along with his mother Lili, to take care of my rescue kittys.
This beautiful mosaic is in the ancient Aachen Cathedral in Germany. It is a Christ-figure of a pelican feeding her chicks, after the Lukan text cited above that Jesus wanted to gather God’s people under his wings like a hen gathers her chicks.
This blog remembers our beloved mothers and it is for all who gather chicks, their own or someone else’s, and provide care for others,
A BLESSED MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL,
Love and Prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida May 12, 2023