If this is a painful holiday, for any reason, these saints can be a guide.
Mother’s Day can be a beautiful holiday, a day to celebrate your mother or to be celebrated as a mother. For many, though, this is a painful day, as they remember their late mothers, grieve their broken relationships with their mothers or their children, mourn their lost children, or lament the children they’ve been unable to have.
If Mother’s Day is hard for you, it may help to find some saints who can walk with you in your particular struggle. You are not alone.
If your mother has passed away
St. Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès (1832-1914) was a Lebanese girl of only seven when she lost her beloved mother. At 11, financial difficulties compelled her father to send Rafqa out to work as a servant; when she returned a few years later, she discovered that he had remarried. She never got along with her stepmother, who tried to pressure Rafqa into marriage. When Rafqa became a religious instead, she took the name of her beloved mother as her religious name. She suffered from debilitating chronic illness and for many years was blind and entirely immobile.
If you’re estranged from your mother
St. Maddalena of Canossa (1774-1835) was the oldest of four noble Italian children. When she was five, her father died, and two years later her mother abandoned the children in order to remarry. She left them with their uncle (a marquis), who found a governess to raise them. Little Maddalena was devastated and turned to the Blessed Mother for comfort. “I wept … before Mary,” she later said, “invoking her in tears and calling her by the name of ‘mamma!’” Though Maddalena eventually took the title marchioness and acted as hostess in a home so distinguished that it hosted Napoleon himself on several occasions, she longed to serve the poor and abandoned. Eventually, she left her title and her wealth behind to found the Canossian Sisters.
St. Gianna Molla (1922-1962) was an Italian doctor who married at almost 33 with hopes of having a large family. By their fourth anniversary, Gianna and her husband Pietro had three small children. But Gianna lost her fourth and fifth children to miscarriage; each time she was disconsolate, worried about the fate of her babies’ souls and begging her friends to pray for them. When she became pregnant again and doctors found a tumor in her uterus, Gianna was ready to do whatever was necessary to save her baby, reminding Pietro, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child—I insist on it. Save her.” The baby was born healthy but Gianna died of complications a week later.
If you’re mourning the loss of a child after birth
Sts. Peter Choe Chang-hub and Magdalena Son So-Byok (1786-1840, 1801-1840) were a married couple from Korea. They were parents of a young daughter when they lost their second child as an infant. And their third. And their fourth. Nine children in a row. All died as infants. Finally, another little girl survived, a balm for the grieving parents’ souls, though they must surely have ached for the little ones they had buried. In 1839, when their oldest daughter (St. Barbara Choe Yong-i) was a young mother and their youngest daughter was only 2, the family was arrested along with Barbara’s husband (St. Charles Cho Shin-chol). Having entrusted their surviving children to others to raise, all four adults were tortured and martyred.
If you’re estranged from your child
St. Martha Wang Luo Mande (1812-1861) was a Chinese laywoman who was unable to conceive but adopted two sons with her husband. Unfortunately, their sons became accustomed to wild living, spending their parents’ money even after their father’s death left their mother alone. Realizing that she had done all she could for them, Mande cut them off financially and moved away to run an inn, where she became a Catholic. Mande eventually went to work in the seminary; when the seminary was closed and its students imprisoned, Mande continued to bring them food in jail. And when those seminarians were being taken to their death, one of the guards tried to scare Mande by threatening to kill her, too. “Ah, well, that’s fine,” she said, as simply as always. “If they can die, so can I.” So she did.
If you were never able to conceive
Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur (1866-1914) was a French woman married to an atheist who scoffed at her faith, though he loved her very much. The two were married for 25 years and were never able to have children. When Elisabeth died, her husband read her diary and was converted by the depth of faith and love he found there; he went on to become a Dominican priest.
If you’re unmarried
Bl. Consuelo Aguiar-Mella Díaz (1898-1936) was a vivacious, fashionable Uruguayan woman who moved to Spain as a toddler, where she eventually worked in the property tax office and hoped to marry. At 38, she was dating a Spanish man and approaching engagement to him, but the Spanish Civil War separated them. Consuelo carried her Uruguayan diplomatic passport at all times for her protection, but was martyred with her sister Bl. Dolores Aguiar-Mella Díaz; unbeknownst to Consuelo, only three days earlier her boyfriend had been killed 200 miles away.
If you’re parenting alone
Servant of God Catherine Doherty (1896-1985) was a Russian noblewoman who married her first cousin and served as a nurse in World War I before fleeing Russia during the Russian Revolution. The couple made their way to Canada, where Catherine gave birth to a son. Not long after, Catherine left her abusive and adulterous husband, later becoming a Catholic and obtaining an annulment. She and her son moved to New York where Catherine worked with the poor and fought for interracial justice. She married at 47 (after her son was grown) and, with her husband, founded a community called Madonna House that is still active today.
If you’ve had an abortion:
Servant of God Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a convert to Catholicism and the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, an international movement of solidarity with the poor. Before that, she was a single mother. Before that, she had an abortion. She’s a beautiful witness of the healing that parents can find after abortion and the way God can work in them to make them great saints.