The date 8 May has always held special meaning to Canossians. The month of May is traditionally dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and this year on 8 May, not only did we celebrate Mother’s Day, being the 4th Sunday of Easter we also commemorated Good Shepherd Sunday or Vocation Sunday. In addition, it was also the Feast of our Mother Foundress, St Magdalene of Canossa! It was a very special day indeed! And what a good way of remembering our Blessed Mother, our own mothers, and to give thanks to the women whom we know in our lives who lived their vocation in different forms as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Like Mary who was called to be the mother of Jesus, we recognise a mother as someone who says “Yes!” to the call to raise her children in love. The primary role or vocation of a mother is to nurture and protect her children. Parents, especially mothers, are the first and primary educators of their child in the faith. She helps them form their values and is a major influence on their emotional and spiritual development. Motherhood is an enormous gift which comes with great responsibility.
As we were growing up, we remember the involvement of our mothers in the kitchen, around the neighbourhood, and for many, perhaps even a career of her own. However, no matter how busy she was in her devotion and dedication to her many causes, she would have played a great influence on our formation in the faith and ultimately also in our life’s choices.
Another attribute of motherhood is their lifetime concern for their children. Mothers are aware that a component of motherhood is letting go of their grown children. However, mothers never cease to love and support their children in good times and in bad. Many of us would have heard our own mothers saying that “no matter how old you are, you are always my child”. Perhaps not all of us appreciate this part of their love and their concern for us; how often did we feel that mothers were just so controlling, be it real or imagined?
Children can cause much sorrow and discouragement, but parents, especially mothers, continue to bestow faithful love upon them. Consider St Monica who prayed many years for the conversion of her wayward son who eventually became St Augustine, a great saint and doctor of the Church.
There are also those who are spiritual mothers. These women may not give physical birth to children, but serve as important mentors. They may be women who stepped in when a mother is absent or no longer in a child’s life, or they befriend children who lack mothering in their own families.
So often we take our mothers for granted and neglect to show them our gratitude. It is important to show our thanks every day, not just once a year. The vocation of motherhood is not always easy, and mothers often make great sacrifices for their children.
8 May being the Feast of St Magdalene of Canossa, Foundress of the Canossian Daughters and Sons of Charity, was also significant. St Magdalene showed us what it means to be a daughter and a child of God. Her entire life was dedicated to God alone and her concerns were for the salvation of souls. She believed that it was her vocation to be a daughter of God and mother of the two Canossian Institutes. Despite the struggles she went through in her life, she became a mother to all Canossians, and she continues to inspire thousands of men and women to live a life built on love. Like Mary, she embraced the pains of the world and stood at the foot of the cross with her Crucified Lord.
The month of May invites us to reflect on our life and our calling. Whether we are called to religious life, motherhood, or the single life, a life built on love for others will always find meaning even in the smallest gesture, look, and word.
Have a wonderful month in May!