Themes abound today: Eastertide readings; the feast of St. Louise de Marillac, special for the Sisters of Charity and the entire Vincentian Family; Mother’s Day. Many threads in today’s tapestry…
My mother and most others I know would be the last to claim that they were saints. Like Peter, they knew without a doubt that they were only human. But they also acted with the inner conviction that their actions and words carried weight: “Listen to your mother!” (Or sometimes “Do as I say, not as I do!”)
Being human meant admitting (occasionally) that they could be wrong. Peter and the Jewish followers of Jesus had to do that when they saw with their own eyes that Christ had given his Spirit not just to Jews but also to the Gentile outsiders whom they had scorned. It surely took a while before the reality of God’s impartial, universal embrace would become fully operational in the growing community of Jesus’ followers.
Two thousand years later, it is still a work in progress. People of every tribe, tongue and nation don’t automatically welcome the challenge of belonging to one Body, one community, especially when they’ve spent their lives avoiding and mistrusting the others. Like squabbling siblings, they — we — need someone strong to show them how to speak and to live the language of love. Someone like a mother. “Love one another as I have loved you…Remain in my love.”
A good mother, whether in the physical or spiritual sense, knows how to build up her family, not tear it down.
A mother sets limits to help her family grow in responsible freedom, and points them beyond their own needs and wants toward a discerning awareness of what is best for all.
A mother doesn’t muzzle her children but encourages them to speak with kindness and honesty in the service of love.
A mother welcomes and values the diverse gifts of her children, making room for all around the table.
A mother encourages her family and nudges them steadily toward the more that they can become.
And as her children mature, a mother’s role may shift from that of caretaker, protector and umpire to the more mutual role of friend. “I have called you friends.”
Couldn’t this be a role description of the Spirit whom Jesus promised to send, the Spirit whose coming we will celebrate in a few weeks at Pentecost?
A few words about St. Louise de Marillac: like many mothers, St. Louise was a worrier, especially about her son Michel, who could be a handful. Gradually Louise learned to turn her anxieties over to God, to let go and let God be in charge. She prayed for “the grace to walk simply and confidently along the path of His holy love,“ and to remain in that love. Her worry and need to control gradually turned into trust in God’s provident care. So transformed, Louise found the deep joy of self-giving, of laying down her life for others. Ever a mother, she spent her life in service of those whom God placed in her care: orphans, widows, displaced people, those living in desperate poverty. God “has united you,” she wrote to the community of women that she began, “so that you can help one another to grow in perfection.”
In these weeks before Pentecost, let us pray for the grace to grow and remain in love,
and to welcome the gift of Christ’s Spirit into our lives and into our broken world.
– Sr. Regina Bechtle
Sr. Regina, a writer, retreat leader, speaker and spiritual director, serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York.
- SC Associate Miriam Ford and daughter Carolina Marth
- SC Associate Laura Morales and daughter Ixkim
- MSV Convent Administrator Anne Hennelly and son James