Mother of All Mothers


OLFatimaMother’s Day weekend in Chicagoland has been beautiful – mild and sunny, with flowers in bloom, lawns lushly green from abundant rainfall, and even little hummingbirds buzzing around the tree in our front yard.

Saturday also marked the hundredth anniversary of the miracle at Fatima, Portugal, when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three young children, two of whom were canonized this past Saturday by Pope Francis.

Whatever one might think about such apparitions at places like Fatima, Lourdes, and Medjugorje, The Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, holds a very special place in the lives of Catholics.  She is considered the mother of all believers, as demonstrated at the foot of the cross when Jesus gestured to his apostle John, “Behold, your mother.”

The cult of Mary has been the source of much confusion and disagreement among Christians. Many Protestants believe that Catholics wrongly worship Mary through their prayers, feast days, and other honors bestowed upon the Mother of God. But Catholic devotion to Mary is not worship. We believe that, through her close relationship with her son, Mary is uniquely poised to intercede for us with Jesus. It is the same reason we pray to the saints: to ask for their continual prayer and intercession on our behalf. So it is natural for Catholics to turn to Mary, the greatest of all saints, for help.

The image of Mary as our mother can be of great comfort to us in our journey in life. Many of us have lost our mothers. Some of us are estranged from family members. All of us have endured pain and sorrow. To lay our cares at the foot of Mary as our spiritual mother is comforting indeed.

This weekend at Mass, we were called upon to bring flowers in honor of Mary, the Mother of God and the mother of us all. Every May, in churches all over the world, statues of Mary are crowned, signifying her place as the Queen of Heaven. This title, too, is steeped in tradition. In ancient Israel, the most powerful and important figure next to the king was the queen mother, as kings had many wives but only one mother. So it is with Mary. As mother of the King, she takes her place of honor next to her beloved son, Jesus.

On this Mother’s Day, I pray for all mothers – pray that they be honored and cared for and valued for their place in our hearts and homes. Happy Mother’s Day!



The Lusty Month of May



The peonies are blooming in my neighborhood, and that can mean only one thing. It’s May, the queen of springtime.

In May, the new greens of spring have started to mellow just slightly, the air is mild, the sun plentiful. In school, the children squirm at their desks and watch the clock, dreaming of the outdoor fun they will have when the final bell rings. The local pool opens, the bikes get filled with air, and the barbecues get fired up.

Those peonies I spied on my morning walk reminded me so much of my childhood home in Oak Park, Illinois, and the garden my father so lovingly tended. Even though I was afraid of all the big black ants that seemed to love crawling through their blossoms, I adored their intoxicating scent, which mingled with the aroma of lilacs and honeysuckle in the warm spring air.

May was also the month when we Catholic school children would   crown the Blessed Virgin Mary statue with a wreath of flowers and sing my favorite hymns, “Immaculate Mary,” “Salve Regina,” and “Sing of Mary.” I have a lovely photograph of my older sisters laden with flowers for their own, homegrown May crowning in our backyard.

May is so nearly perfect because the insects and the humidity of summer have not yet descended on the Chicago area. Kids are eagerly anticipating the long summer months ahead instead of lolling around and moaning about their boredom. It’s an ideal time for outdoor dining, gardening, pedicures, and window shopping – or more active pursuits like walking, jogging, and bike riding.

There’s a sense of impending freedom about May, of romance and people coming alive. That is why Queen Guinevere sings about “The Lusty Month of May” in the Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot.

Before we know it, our kids will be home on summer vacation, and yards will be filled with noisy play, summer cocktail parties and barbecues, fireflies (or as we call them here in the Midwest, “lightning bugs”), and noisy cicadas. Many of us will take off to lake houses and other vacation spots.

For now, we can enjoy the lengthening days and sunny good cheer of May.