Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven and our own tradition of honoring all that is great about a mother’s love for her child. And the homilist’s dilemma is; how to choose which to talk about?
One is the ultimate supernatural event: the most incredible of things actually took place! Not only did our Lord rise from the dead and was seen again by many here on Earth, He actually ascended bodily into Heaven. And the other is the ultimate natural event: the most incredible thing we can experience as women and men; the birth of a child.
How do they go together? Let’s recall our Gospel and the events that had just taken place.
While Jesus was still on the cross, his mother and the beloved disciple were standing there. And Jesus said, “Woman, behold your son”, then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” (JN 19:26-27) The Lord comforts us as His brothers and sisters that we too have His mother Mary as our spiritual mother and she is the perfect model for all mothers.
And we hear in today’s Gospel that Jesus must ascend to the Father, but He promises to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us. (LK 24:46-53) The Spirit will guide and protect us just like a mother would do.
So today, we give thanks to God for the gift of all mothers whose children are created in the image and likeness of God. We give thanks to God for all the wonderful, grace-filled mothers who raise their children with faith, hope, and love. And in a special way, we honor all those women who have been called by God to rise above life’s imperfect circumstances to become wonderful, grace-filled “Moms” to so many fortunate children.
It seems everyone has a story, but one that is close to me is the story of baby Lidia.
He is tall, bright and a bit reserved and she is short, bright and always the source of energy in a room. Of course, they met the old-fashioned way, at the local pub on a Saturday night. And as the old saying goes, opposites attract and before long, this perfect young couple, a source of pride to both of their mothers, were married.
All was going well for the newlyweds with their careers and their new home together. And then life got in the way. You see, as much as they wanted to start a family, they discovered they could not have children of their own.
For two young people who were used to working hard for all the good things in life, this one blessing eluded them. So, after much heartache and prayer they felt called to adopt a child. The adoption of a child is no easy process and is not for the faint of heart. But, after a number of false starts, disappointments, and long periods where it seemed like nothing was happening; they received the good news that they were selected to be the parents of a child to be born soon. They prepared themselves and their home for their new baby.
Just when all seemed very right, everything went very wrong. You see, the birth mother decided at the last possible moment that she simply could not give her child up for adoption. The young couple’s hopes were crushed in an instant. But, through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the support and prayers of their family and friends, they stayed with the process.
It was shortly after this happened that I was on retreat in Maria Stein, Ohio. On the grounds of the retreat center is the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics, a chapel that is home to the relics of over 1,000 saints. After dinner one night, I went to the chapel to offer my own prayer for the couple. I remember taking one of the cards that lists all the relics of the saints and I circled two in particular; St. James the Apostle and St. Angela of Merici.
I offered a prayer of intercession to the Blessed Mother, St. James and St. Angela that if it be God’s will the blessing of a child would come upon the couple. And I kept that card, hopeful that one day I could give it to them.
Just a short time later, all went well and baby Lidia arrived! And yes, I sent the new parents the card for her baby book. A few months went by and I was asked by Jim and Angie to baptize their new daughter at their parish, St. Colette’s in Brunswick.
My wife and I arrived early at St. Colette’s that Sunday and there we were met by the parish sacristan who offered us a tour. I asked her, “Who is St. Colette?” for I had not heard of her. She gave me a card that explained the life of St. Colette, and I could not believe what I just read! I showed the card to my wife and asked if I should tell the story of St. Colette during the Baptism. Using her own sense as a mother, she said “yes, use it”. So I did.
During the homily, I asked the new parents how they came to choose their new parish home. They said that they visited several churches in the area, but felt most at home there. I asked them if they knew about the life of St. Colette, and they said no, not really.
I read the card out loud to all who were there. You see, St. Colette is the patron saint for women seeking to conceive, expectant mothers, and sick children. It seems that the Holy Spirit and the intercession of our Mother Mary were with this new family the whole way.
And then we initiated Lidia into God’s family through water and the the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism – along with the help of a whole lot of prayers from a whole lot of people.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, all caregivers who are “Mom” to a child and especially to Lidia’s mom.