SAUCIER — Mothers’ gifts


Ann Reeves Jarvis was just another woman in the mountains of West Virginia in the 1800s.

She was a mother, homemaker and Sunday school teacher.

She was also an activist, organizing Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to combat unsanitary living conditions. She tried to educate mothers to reduce the high infant mortality rate.

After the Civil War, she worked to promote peace between Union and Confederate families.

When she died in 1905, her daughter Anna wanted to celebrate her and every mother “for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life.”

On May 10, 1908, at the Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, Mother’s Day was born.

With due respect for the courage and sacrifice pregnancy demands, there is so much more to being a mother than just bringing a child into the world. Getting a Mother’s Day card for that is like a participation award.

The Christian model for mothers is Mary (though the only Gospel story from Jesus’s childhood is when he is lost).

The veneration we have for Mary as Mother isn’t based on parenting, home economics or PTA involvement.

We find it in her response to the Annunciation, the startling news that she was chosen to bear God into the world.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be done according to your Word.”

That was the beginning of her motherhood, of her birthing of God.

I am grateful and in awe of the mothers in my life: my own mother, who left us too soon, my wife and mother of six; my daughter and daughters-in-law, my sisters and sister-in-law.

They are special women who love their children profoundly and extend that love beyond the home.

But if we look at mothering as Mary’s selfless commitment to birth God among us, and Mother’s Day as commemoration of service “to all fields of life,” then our appreciation on Mother’s Day is not just for biological mothers.

In the Bible, there are stories of childless women who embodied the virtues of motherhood and birthed God among their people: Miriam the prophet, David’s doula Abishaga, the prostitute Rehab, and Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles.

I know many women today who by vow, by choice, or by circumstance, do not have children, but whose lives are channels through which mothering graces flow.

For every woman whose life is about the other, who lives the humility of Mary and the service of Ann Jarvis, Happy Mother’s Day!