Formation and Motherhood
This is a reflection from a new mother, about formation, Mothering Sunday and Mary the Mother of Jesus.
Growing up, I’ve been surrounded by the example of incredible women, my godmothers, aunts, cousins, sisters and friends. And as a Roman Catholic, I’ve always had two mums: my own lovely earthly and biological mum, and Mary, the mother of Jesus,
Last year, as I became a mum for the first time, I felt closer to Mary than ever in her humanity. Waddling into work at eight and a half months pregnant and struggling up the steps to my office filled me with a deep respect for Mary traversing the 100 or so miles to Bethlehem on a donkey. Ouch! I was more in awe than ever of Mary’s readiness to accept God’s plan for her life. I also wondered whether, in Mary’s ‘yes’, she knew that she would eventually become a mother to more than just her baby.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to complete the Facebook ‘Mummy Challenge’. For those of you not familiar with Facebook or the task, I was challenged by a friend to upload five photos that made me proud to be a mummy and then in turn to nominate five other ‘mummys’. Two things did not sit well with me when I read the instructions. Firstly the word ‘challenge’ which evoked a sense of competition (my baby’s cuter than yours etc.) something I try to avoid when it comes to bringing up a child. But secondly, and rather insensitively, the exercise required me to single out of my friends the women who had given birth to children.
Imagine this: Jesus’ mum Mary logs into Facebook. She finds that she too has been nominated to take part in the ‘Mummy Challenge’ and this is what it asks: Upload five images that make you proud to be a mummy. I wonder what those images would be. Mary knew when it was appropriate to put Jesus in the spotlight so maybe she might share one image of the Wedding at Cana. Similarly, she may have uploaded a couple of snaps of some other miracles, a healed leper or the feeding of the five thousand. Alternatively, she might, have chosen snapshots of her son’s first steps, the day he began his apprenticeship with Joseph, his first smile. How about a cute close up as she cradled the newborn Jesus in her arms? Yet maybe the most bittersweet image Mary might choose would be the one where she stands at the foot of the cross and becomes a mother to many, as she hears the words ‘dear woman, here is your son’ (John 19:26) for in this moment, Mary’s motherhood reaches out beyond one man to all of his followers.
I didn’t nominate any other women to the Facebook challenge for lots of reasons. I know women who are mothers many times over yet have never given birth, women who have lost their children and who have so much love stored up in their hearts. Women who bring people together and who are lynchpins of their faith communities. I know strong women of compassion and kindness, of warmth and humour, gentleness and constancy, women who have never had the chance to call a child theirs. Gifted women who are carers, providers, role models of inspirational faith yet no one calls them ‘mum’. As Mary herself proves, motherhood extends further than and is not exclusive to having one’s own children.
On 6th March, Mothering Sunday, there will have been women sat in pews around the UK who may feel the day to be exclusive to those who have given birth. If this is the message we perpetuate then we miss the point. Mothering Sunday and Mothers Day seem to have merged into one big pink and rosy festival when actually Mothering Sunday is a day to return to the faith community or mother church that raised you. This Mothering Sunday, my first as a mum, I decided to dedicated it to ensuring that all of the women in my church community realise how important their presence and example has been to my own formation as a woman and as a mother.