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Mothers Are Strongest Antidote to Individualism, Says Pope

Diane Montagna - published on 01/07/15

Pope extols the virtues of motherhood at Wednesday Audience

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Pope Francis today extolled the virtues of motherhood at the first Wednesday General Audience of the New Year.

Speaking to pilgrims and the faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope continued a new series of catecheses on the family, dedicating the second in the series to mothers.

Reflecting on the Gospel from the Church’s liturgy for the Solemn Feast of the Epiphany, the Pope noted that the Magi found Jesus close to his Mother, Mary. "She," he said, "is the mother who, after having given birth to him, presents the Son to the world. She gives us Jesus, she shows us Jesus, she enables us to see Jesus.

Although a mother is so central to every family, the Pope continued, nonetheless "even in Christian communities a mother is not always given her proper standing, and she is little listened to". The Pope therefore suggested that "mothers, who are ready to make so many sacrifices for their own children, and not infrequently also for others, should find more of a listening ear" and need to be better understood in their daily struggles. 

The Pontiff then praised the role of mothers in society: "Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of selfish individualism". Indeed, he said: "A society without mothers would be inhuman, because mothers always — even in the worst moments — are able to bear witness to tenderness, devotion, and moral strength."

Recalling the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero who was assassinated while serving Mass in El Salvador in 1980, Pope Francis then described the Christian life of a mother as a “maternal martyrdom”.

"Being a mother means not only giving birth to a child. It is also a life choice. What does a mother choose, what is a mother’s life choice?", he asked. "A mother’s life choice is to give life. And this is great. This is beautiful."

Here below we publish the full text of the Pope’s address.

***

Dear brothers and sisters,

Good morning. Today we continue with the catecheses on the Church and we will reflect on Mother Church. The Church is a mother. Our Holy Mother Church.

In recent days the Church’s liturgy has placed before our eyes the icon of the Virgin Mary Mother of God. The first day of the year is the feast of the Mother of God, followed by Epiphany with the commemoration of the visit of the Magi. The evangelist Matthew writes: “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.” (Mt 2:11). She is the mother, who after having given birth to him, presents the Son to the world. She gives us Jesus, she shows us Jesus, she enables us to see Jesus.

Let us continue with our catechesis on the family, and within the family there is the mother. Every human person owes his life to a mother, and almost always he owes her much of his life that follows, of his human and spiritual formation. The mother, however, though highly exalted from a symbolic perspective — so many poems, so many beautiful things that speak to us poetically about mothers — is listened to very little and helped very little in her daily life, and she is little considered in her central role in society. Indeed, a mother’s readiness to sacrifice herself for her children is often taken advantage of in order to “save” on social spending. 

Even in Christian communities a mother is not always given her proper standing, and she is little listened to. And yet the Mother of Jesus is at the center of the Church’s life. Perhaps mothers, who are ready to make so many sacrifices for their own children, and not infrequently also for others, should find more of a listening ear. We need to understand better their daily struggle to be effective at work and attentive and loving in their family. We need to understand better what they aspire to, in order to express the best and truest fruits of their emancipation. A mother with children always has problems, she always has work. I remember at home, we were five children and while one was thinking of doing one thing, the other was thinking of doing another, and our poor mother would go to and fro, but she was happy. She gave us so much.

Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of selfish individualism. “Individual” means that “one cannot share.” Mothers on the other hand “share” themselves, beginning when they welcome a child in order to bring him into the world and help him to grow. It is mothers who hate war the most, which kills their children. I have so often thought of mothers when they received a letter, saying: “I am writing to inform you that your son has died in defense of the homeland…”. Poor women! How a mother suffers! It is they who bear witness to the beauty of life. Archbishop Oscar Romero would say that mothers live a “maternal martyrdom”. In the homily for the funeral of a priest assassinated by the death squadrons, he said, echoing the Second Vatican Council: “We must be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor…. To give one’s life does not only mean being killed. To give one’s life, to have a spirit of martyrdom, is to give oneself in duty, in silence, in prayer, in the virtuous fulfillment of one’s duties; in the silence of daily life. To give one’s life gradually? Yes, as a mother gives her life, who without fear, and with the simplicity of maternal martyrdom conceives a child in her womb, gives birth to him, nurses him, raises him and lovingly cares for him. This is to give one’s life. It is a martyrdom”.

Here ends the quotation. Yes, being a mother means not only giving birth to a child. It is also a life choice. What does a mother choose, what is a mother’s life choide? A mother’s life choice is to give life. And this is great. This is beautiful. A society without mothers would be inhuman, because mothers always — even in the worst moments — are able to bear witness to tenderness, devotion, and moral strength. Often mothers also hand on the deepest meaning of religious practice: in the first prayers, in the first acts of devotion that a child learns is inscribed a human being’s appreciation of faith in life. It is a message that mothers who are believers know how to hand on without many explanations: these will come later, but the seed of resides in those first, precious moments. Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth. And the Church is a mother — with all of this — she is our Mother! We are not orphans, we have a mother! Our Lady, Mother Church, and our mother. We are not orphans. W are children of the Church, we are children of Our Lady, and we are children of our mothers.

Dearest mothers, thank you, thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and to the world. And to you, beloved Church, thank you, thank you for being a mother. And to you, Mary, Mother of God, thank you for showing us Jesus. And thank you to all of the mothers present here: let’s applaud them!

Translation by Diane Montagna of Aleteia’s English edition.

Tags:
MotherhoodPope FrancisVatican
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