Dear priests: This is how to survive mother’s day

Dear Father,

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “Quit telling priests what to do.” You guys are super busy and already working harder than anyone could reasonably expect.

But today I’ll give one of those imaginary dollars back, because today I’m going to tell you what to do this Sunday. Trust me, it’s for your own good.

This Sunday is, as you no doubt know, Mother’s Day, and a lot of your parishioners are going to expect you to acknowledge it. Also, a lot of your parishioners are going to be mad if you acknowledge it.

A good portion of your congregation feels that the world despises motherhood, and they look to the Church to be the one place where they are appreciated for their sacrifices and their hard work.

Another good portion of your congregation feels that the world only cares about women if they are mothers, and they look to the Church to be the one place where no one despises them for not being mothers.

Some of your parishioners are pregnant, and they’re miserable about it. Some of them desperately wish they were pregnant, and are working hard not to hate their fertile sisters. Some of them look pregnant, but are just fat, and if one more well-meaning priest blesses their unoccupied abdomens, they’re going to sock him in the jaw.

Some of them look pregnant, but they’re the only one who knows that the baby they’re carrying is already dead.

Some of your parishioners are the mothers of children who are already buried, or children whose bodies went straight into the hospital’s incinerator while their mothers wept and bled. Some of your parishioners paid to have their children put there.

Some of your parishioners have been wretched mothers, and they know it. Some of them have been excellent mothers of wretched children, and everyone assumes that wretchedness must be the mother’s fault.

Some of your parishioners hated their mothers. Some of them just lost their beloved mothers yesterday. Some of them never knew their mothers at all.

Some of your parishioners are excellent mothers who pour their heart, soul, mind, and strength into caring for their families, and as soon as they get home from Mass, everyone expects them to get right back to cooking and cleaning and making life easy for everyone else, the same as every other day.

And then, of course, you will have the people who are mad that you mentioned a secular holiday during Mass. And the people who remember how much better it was when Fr. Aloysius was in charge, oh yes, it was much better then. It’s a shame.

So, what’s your plan, Father? Gonna make all the mothers stand up and be acknowledged? You’ll be forcing a lot of women to make a statement they may not want to make. Gonna pass out carnations? Same problem. Gonna make us extend our hands over mothers in blessing? Well, you’re the priest, aren’t you. We would rather keep our hands to ourselves.

The real answer would be for Americans to just calm the hell down about motherhood, and not to expect the Church to cater to their every emotional need. But that’s not where we are right now. It’s a mess, and you’re right in the middle of it. Sorry! But I really do think you can thread the Mother’s Day needle without getting poked if you offer something like the following blessing before the end of Mass:

On this Mother’s Day in May, which is Mary’s month, we remember that our Blessed Mother was honored above every other human being besides Jesus Himself when she was asked by God to bear His Son. Lord, we ask your blessing on all women, because all women, no matter what their state in life, are specially privileged to bring Christ into the world. Mary is our model in joy and in suffering, in trust and in sorrow. Blessed Mother, intercede for our earthly mothers and for all the women who cared for us. Holy Spirit, increase our love so that we will always honor the women in our lives. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. 

Then scoot out the side door before anyone can yell at you.


Photo of woman who is disappointed in you via Pixabay
This post originally ran at Aleteia in 2016.

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13 thoughts on “Dear priests: This is how to survive mother’s day”

  1. Thank you for this, Simcha. I remember all too well more than one Mother’s Day when I slipped out of church just before the dreaded, “All mothers, please stand. We have a gift for you.” During those years, we were trying desperately hard to become pregnant but also exploring adoption. With the children already placed in our homes, I felt like a mother but I was not officially so yet. So, I slipped out, problaby with one of them in my arms, to wait outside until the ordeal was over. Ironically, by the time our adoption was completed, we were at another church which basically did what you suggested.

  2. Our priests dodge the mines by having everyone in the whole church kneel for the blessing, (or stand if that’s the thing). First they bless the mothers and all the women who want to be mothers, etc. then they do the general blessing. As Father says, above, the words are important, but I think the posture is the great equalizer. When everybody has the same posture, nobody has to make any tough choices at the moment.

  3. As a priest, I greatly appreciate the sentiment. However, your closing was not a prayer at all. Prayers talk directly to god or the saints. Your prayer rather talkes about Mary. Rather than asking her intercession, you simply taked about her. Rather than offeri ng praise to God, you offered the Holy Spirit and Christ honorable mentions in a lesson on women disguised as a prayer. This is a prime example of Catholics not knowong how to pray.
    I’ll gladly take the dollar and ask you to follow your advice

    1. With all due respect, Father,

      “We ask God’s blessing on all women”
      “WE ASK MARY TO INTERCEDE for our earthly mothers and for all the women who cared for us” (emphasis added)
      “we ask the Holy Spirit to increase our love”
      “We ask this through Christ Our Lord”

      Switch the structure to direct address if you must, (“Lord, pour out your blessing on all women”, Mary, we ask your intercession for our earthly mothers…” etc.) but this is a prayer, and one from the heart.

      May the Lord bless you abundantly, Father, in your ministry to His people.

      1. You have may my point. Prayer is adresses TO God. “Father we ask your blessing on all women.” Not “We ask God to bless all women.” The first is adressing the living God qoth whom I have a relationship, the second speaks about what I want to ask God. Tacking on “through Christ Our Lord” does not make it a pray. What you proposed was not a change in structure, but a change in the person.

        When was the last time one of your children came to you and said: “I ask Mary for a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich.”? Rather, don’t they say “Mom, will you make me a sandwich?” See the difference?

  4. I love that prayer, Simcha, and also the hilarious litany of the mother’s day minefield!

  5. This is excellent. I was unable to be a biological mother, but I do not begrudge others who are. If Father must recognize Mother’s Day (without using your fine suggestion), perhaps it might be a good idea to recognize Godmothers and other spiritual mothers. Personally, I would prefer he just read what you put together, though.

  6. Personally, I don’t care one way or the other if any individual priest specifically acknowledges Mother’s Day, but I strongly disagree that “The real answer would be for Americans to just calm the hell down about motherhood” (or fatherhood for that matter).

  7. Great stuff, Simcha! you have amazing insight and give great advice to our dear Men in Black

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