Monday, May 14, 2018

A Day for Our Mothers

Yesterday we celebrated the mothers among us here in America, or we remembered them, missed them, mourned for them.

Mothers, in turn, enjoyed the special attention. Some also, no doubt, were surprised by a moment of reconciliation with estranged children, or contact with distant children. These moments are meaningful even if they don't last very long.

The strength, the persistence, and the paradoxical frailty of human nature: how vividly this drama plays out in the life of every family—with motherhood at the heart of it all. Mothers are the vital connecting links between generations. They have a fundamental, relational empathy that affects their experience of all the joys and burdens and accomplishments and suffering of family life.

Motherhood is essential. It is powerful. It is awesome. It is vulnerable.

My kids have an amazing mother. They know it, even though they often forget or take it for granted, as kids will do. Eileen is a person of tremendous gifts and capabilities, and right now she is using all of them in order to stay strong in the midst of complex difficulties and challenges in our family, and in her work as an educator at John XXIII Montessori who mentors and assists so many other families.

I love my wife, and I admire her. I am so grateful for her.

I also know another amazing mother. We spent yesterday afternoon with her. My own mother is a great woman—brilliant, profound, sympathetic, ardent, a lover of the truth—who has spent a large part of her life battling against her own health problems and has endured so much suffering. Now in her 80th year of life and 58th year of marriage, she is called to live new depths of vulnerability in front of my father's advanced dementia and physical breakdown.

She remains very lucid in her mind, but in a different way the core of her suffering is as hidden from me as what my father is going through. We continue to do everything we can for her, knowing that we can't take away all the pain. We have to accompany her in her sorrow.

Jesus did not come into the world to take the pain and suffering out of life. Indeed, real faith is the exact opposite of finding a facile solution for our problems. Jesus assured the disciples, "You will weep and mourn" with a grief that is real, that cannot be explained away, that finds its resolution only in the presence of His love which proves itself always greater: "But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you" (John 16:20, 22).