May 13, 2007

All the Glory of Motherhood, with None of the Sleepless Nights?

Justin Katz

Perhaps this is an annual reality that I've just been slow to notice, but my parish priest phrased the traditional blessing of mothers during the closing of today's Mass as a general blessing for women. He alluded to the pain and regrets that some childless women might feel at having never had the ability or opportunity to beget children but went on to address women qua women, as if there were no meaningful distinction among them. Compassion notwithstanding, it seems to me that there are two possible implications to thus spreading the honor of Mother's Day:

  1. Underlying our comforting words, we still understand that mothers are in some respect more worthy of honor than non-mothers — in a Catholic view, more completely fulfilling the role of woman — but shy away from reminding excluded women of that understanding, in which case it would seem that we are emphasizing it all the more.
  2. We really don't think that motherhood adds anything to womanhood, in which case it would seem that we are belittling women who've done all of the extra work and made all of the extra sacrifices and commitments by offering their due plaudits to anybody with the same physiology.

Recollection suggests that past versions of this concession have emphasized women who've "taken on the role of mothers" for other people, even if they were not so in the biological or even adoptive sense. That's reasonable, I'd say, because it acknowledges an ideal and does not penalize women for having faced hardships in achieving it.

Perhaps the priest just overstated with his extemporaneous blessing, but I'm not sure that our culture, in general, is as apt to make these distinctions as it ought to be.

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Well, one of the two ministers, and the one priest at the church that I work for (a multidenominational military chapel) said something to the effect that people should remember that Mother's Day is not necessarily a happy day for every mother, especially in the military community. I know I no longer send cards to my friend who lost a son in Iraq, but I do call her up every mother's day.

Posted by: CJ Casey at May 15, 2007 10:42 AM
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