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Mother’s Day shouldn’t make Mass painful

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Special blessings are made with good intentions, but ...

Dear Katrina,

I have a question for you. Why do priests insist on making women feel miserable at Mass every Mother’s Day? After battling decades of infertility I’m finally at a place of acceptance but it all comes undone on Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day can be an extremely painful holiday for so many women. It feels like a slap in the face when mothers are asked to stand up at Mass and receive a blessing and a round of applause while the rest of have to sit there silently aching. I wish I could make priests understand how insensitive it is to women who have lost children or simply can’t have them.

Janice

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Dear Janice,

Yes, I agree. Mother’s Day can be an especially painful day. To many women Mother’s Day can be a bitter reminder of infertility, miscarriage, abortion, or the death of child. It’s also a difficult holiday for people who have lost their own mothers or have estranged relationships with them.

For many of those noted reasons, I am not a fan of Mother’s Day myself. But even if Mother’s Day were my absolute favorite holiday of the year I would still be vehemently opposed to what has become the common practice of giving special recognition to mothers during Mass.

I’m not opposed to mothers or their deserved recognition but I am opposed to secular holidays being imposed in a way that hijacks the Mass. Personally, I think everything that happens at Mass should relate specifically to the liturgy; otherwise what’s the point of having a liturgical calendar.

Pope Benedict XVI once noted that “whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of the liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.”

A simple blessing for all mothers, spiritual as well as physical mothers, at the very end of Mass during the dismissal while everyone is standing would suffice.  

I would also like to reassure you that priests don’t intentionally try to make anyone feel miserable at Mass. They’re actually put in the tough situation of trying to appease everyone — a fruitless effort. Someone will always be upset or feel left out. Please try to keep that in mind if you do decide to speak with your priest, preferably when you are no longer angry and feeling hurt. He’s just trying to help.  

I am sorry you were made to feel hurt and excluded. It may help to know that priests can’t possibly know every pain and heartache their individual parishioners feel. His comments and actions regarding Mother’s Day aren’t personally directed towards you with the intention of hurting your feelings. There may be more tactful ways for him to go about it, sure, but that doesn’t mean he purposefully sought to make you or other women feel miserable.

After the death of my first son, it was almost unbearable to see other pregnant women. But I never expected pregnant women to hide themselves away or not celebrate their pregnancy for fear of upsetting me. And yes, while Mother’s Day is a bittersweet, not entirely enjoyable day for me, I still wouldn’t expect priests to completely ignore the holiday for fear of upsetting me. Some women love Mother’s Day and appreciate the recognition, I won’t suggest we rob them of that joy.

Again, I recommend you speak with your priest, not in an accusatory way, but in a way that acknowledges his good intentions, and make the suggestion for a simple blessing during dismissal. I think that’s a reasonable request. Father’s Day is coming up, and some men dread it as much as women do Mother’s Day, so perhaps talk to him before then?

I know all too well that Mother’s Day can be a painful holiday and I share that pain with you and empathize with your suffering. In the past, when I have had to struggle through the awkwardness at mass during the holiday I focus my thoughts and pain on the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother in heaven. If I cannot muster enthusiasm for my own mother or my own circumstances, I can certainly muster enthusiasm and praise for Mary. Celebrate your Mother, Mary, by visiting her son in adoration and offering your prayers for all those who share your pain. Let Mary bring your comfort.

 

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