A blessed and Happy Mother’s Day to all of our beloved mothers and grandmothers, both those living in this world and those living with God in the next. I was touched to receive a Mother’s Day letter from one of our parishioners, even though I’m a father. I had received her elderly mother into the Church a few months ago, and then gave her a robust Catholic funeral a few days after her baptism. “This will be the first year without our beloved mamma and grandma,” her daughter wrote. “We miss her dearly. There is not a day that goes by that we do not think of her.” There should never be a day when we do not think about and pray for our mothers, beginning with our mother in heaven. We celebrate Mother’s Day in Our Lady’s Month of May because no man who daily remembers Our Lady can ever forget the woman who gave him birth. And that goes double for the ladies, true daughters of Mary!
He takes his seat
Today the liturgical feast is the Solemnity of the Ascension, the second glorious mystery of the rosary. Many dioceses have moved his feast from Ascension Thursday proper to the following Sunday, in the hope that more Catholics would attend Ascension Mass. Whether this was a good idea or not is debatable, but certainly all Catholics should deepen their understanding of this fundamental mystery. In fact, the Paschal Mystery itself would be incomplete without Christ’s Ascension. Not only the Passion, Death, and Resurrection, but also the Ascension completes the central mystery of our faith. Without Christ seated in heaven, we could not be saved—he directs the delivery systems of the faith from his place at the right hand of the Father. He settles into the captain’s chair, so to speak, for the long journey He must accomplish with His Holy Church. He has not left earth to abandon us, but to assume command of human history. Even in the present cultural decline, even in our current political chaos, even in the most severe breakdown periods in our lives, we must not disbelieve that Someone is in control. Let the storms beat against us, let the winds and the seas rock our little boats and even the mighty ship of the Church herself: Someone is yet at the captain’s helm, steering us through history to our safe haven.
Yet we are anxious
Certainly the waves and darkness frighten us. So the Apostles ask if Jesus will restore the Kingdom “at this time,” that is, before He leaves them. After all, establishing the Kingdom was the whole reason He came from heaven, and they began to panic as he prepared to leave them to do the job themselves. Jesus tells them, “It is not for you to know when and how.” It is enough for you to know only that you will receive power from on high to be my witnesses on earth, The restoration of the kingdom will be accomplished by fits and starts, through our manifestly imperfect witness—a long hard row through the night, against relentless winds. We might think Christ is asleep on some cushions in the back of our boat as we pull on the oars, taking on water. But He is not asleep. He is our mighty captain, guiding as he alone knows how.
We are in the season of the Church’s first novena, that nine day time of prayer between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday: “Stay in Jerusalem,” Jesus told the Apostles, “until you are clothed with power from on high.” As He sends the Holy Spirit to strengthen us for this ocean crossing, and so He also sends his own mother, the Star of the Sea and spouse of the same Holy Spirit. In this month of May, on this Mother’s Day, we turn to our heavenly mother, the star who guides our little boats, giving joy even to those manning the mighty ship of the Church herself. Every Pope has turned to her: John Paul chose Totus Tuus (“all yours”) as his motto, Benedict turned to Our Lady the day after his election, saying “I invoke the maternal intercession of Most Holy Mary, in whose hands I place the present and the future of my person and the Church." Pope Francis, for his part, hurried over the St. Mary Major the day after his election to beg her help and encouragement. Guiding our little boats through the storms, we look to her when we pray the rosary, when we spend time in her own church here on Geary Boulevard. Honoring her, we honor our earthly mothers—my mother put a miraculous medal on me when I was 7 years old and told me never to take it off—and I’ve got it on right now (not the original medal, for little boys can’t seem to keep any one thing on them for long). Let’s keep her medal on us, and let her guide us through the squalls that come between us and our safe haven.