In every step of the way, Mary has been by her son’s side. For months, she carried Jesus in her womb and nurtured him as he grew into a young boy. When he turned 12, she experienced anxiety and fear when Jesus was lost in Jerusalem and then found him after three days. Mary was also with Jesus several years later at a wedding in Cana where he performed his first miracle, changing water into wine, after Mary turned to him for help. Mary remained a loving and faithful mother to the end, and every step of her son’s way to the cross.
During the month of May, Catholics celebrate Mary with rosary prayers, songs, flowers, novenas and focus on the stories of Mary’s life as the Marian model for all mothers.
“The Marian model is love and translated into our own mothers, our biological mothers, love is what mothers do best,” said Bishop Thanh Nguyen.
Mary experienced many moments of sorrow and joy in raising Jesus. Mothers also face many challenges while raising their own children and Mary’s life can be the model they need to navigate motherhood.
“If we spend time meditating on Mary’s life, we realize that she suffered immensely, that she faced great challenges, and yet she modeled how to respond to all challenges and sacrifices,” said Dr. Pia de Solenni, chancellor for the Diocese. “Spending time with her in prayer and meditation helps any mother in her situation. Mary faced the challenges without compromising herself in any way.”
Since 1914, Mother’s Day has been celebrated in the Unites States as an official holiday on the second Sunday in May. Although the holiday is not on the Church’s calendar, its connection with the Church’s traditions of honoring Mary in May is significant.
“Motherhood is the connection so as we celebrate the motherhood of our biological mother, we also need to honor our spiritual mother as well, our Blessed Mother,” explained Bishop Nguyen.
In Vietnam, Bishop Nguyen was raised in a family with a strong dedication to Mary. The rosary was a part of their daily morning and evening prayers. In May, many parishes in Vietnam would celebrate with rosary prayers and Marian processions where children were selected to wear special dresses and offer flowers to Mary. Similar traditions of honoring Mary during the month of May are also held in other parts of the world.
“We need to come to Mary to reach Jesus,” said Bishop Nguyen. “Mary who carried Jesus herself will help us in order to connect to Jesus who is love. The purpose of Marian devotion is always to reach Jesus and not to end with Mary.”
Dr. Solenni said that there should definitely be a Catholic perspective on Mother’s Day.
“After all, we call the Church “Mother.” That’s a real significance, not just symbolic. If you go back to Genesis, you’ll see that God gives Adam and Eve the command to subdue the earth and to multiply. This happens before the fall, so it’s not a consequence of sin, but an indication of our human vocation. Restoring our relationship after original sin required the supreme sacrifice of Christ giving up his life for us,” explained Dr. Solenni. “He chose a nuptial relationship with the Church where the Church is his bride and our mother. The motherhood of the Church is the means whereby we receive the sacraments that restore our ruptured relationship with God so as to give each one of us eternal life. Every mother is called to nurture her child in a similar way.”
From the moment a baby is born, many hospitals will encourage mothers to bond with their newborn through skin-to-skin contact where the baby is placed on its belly on the mother’s chest. Dr. Raylene Philips MD, specializing in pediatric care in the neonatal-perinatal division at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, wrote in an article for Medscape that the simple gesture “helps babies to transition from fetal to newborn life with greater respiratory, temperature and glucose stability and significantly less crying indicating decreased stress. Being skin to skin with mother protects the newborn from well-documented negative effects of separation, supports optimal brain development and facilitates attachment, which promotes the infant’s self-regulation over time.”
Science provides proof that the role of mothers is important in laying the foundation from the start and how that may have lasting benefits for children.
“The sociological data overwhelmingly demonstrates what most civilizations have known for millennia – mothers are essential for the raising of healthy human beings,” said Dr. Solenni. “Many mothers get very little recognition for the work that they put into their children. Yet, they continue to serve, driven by a profound love for their children. Recognizing their essential contributions would go a long way in supporting and encouraging their work, which helps to make society better for all of us.”