United to her Son, Mary provides the example of motherhood par excellence. The Father chose Mary, with her human, maternal and feminine nature, to bring salvation to the world in his Son. As we reflect on this one fact, we discover that nothing greater can be said of motherhood.
By F. K. Bartels
17 May 2013
From the dawn of time humankind has cherished marriage, children and family, seeing these not only as foundational to a healthy society but as integral to fruitful living and to happiness. At the center of each is motherhood, an irreplaceable feminine gift of priceless worth, without which society itself would vanish.
It is difficult to articulate the beauty, value and worth of motherhood. Artists throughout human history have displayed in their works and artifacts not only a fascination with femininity and the mystery of woman but also with the lofty, sublime and inseparable connection found between mother and child. In that bond of maternal and filial love, is found a strength and resiliency exceeding all others. Regardless of how deeply men may reflect on motherhood, the image of a pregnant woman who tenderly and lovingly carries within her womb the new life of a human child, one who is created in the image and likeness of God and destined to eternal communion with him, leaves us speechless.
Emotion is perhaps the only way we can relate the beauty of motherhood. But here, also, words fail. While emotion is something we feel, perhaps sadly or joyfully, clearly or confused, it retains a type of infinite quality that cannot be plumbed to its full depth. So too with motherhood. It is only mothers who understand it, yet even so, not completely. As with all that is truly beautiful and human, flowing from the divine Creator himself, there remains a degree of mystery.
Secularist Elitists Attack Motherhood
Mystery or not, nearly everyone bears great respect for their mother and for the beauty of motherhood. That is why the attitudes that have arisen in contemporary society over the past fifty years seem so unfounded, senseless and puzzling.
Today more than ever before, motherhood is under blatant attack. Secularist elitists in the fields of politics, public education, media and entertainment have set off on a bizarre quest to put motherhood to rest, and with it, everyone who they wish to raise up as their ordained followers. These people wage war on motherhood in a variety of ways:
“Women’s reproductive health care,” a thinly disguised, verbally engineered political phrase that stands for the promotion of—and free access to—artificial birth control (including hormonal and mechanical contraceptives), tubal ligations, and abortion on demand. These deplorable things represent the antithesis of motherhood; they are not about openness to life, generating, sustaining and nurturing it, but rather about preventing it, discarding it, terminating it.
“Sex education” programs in public schools that educate children not toward motherhood, true femininity and the virtues of abstinence and purity, but toward promiscuity and self-indulgence, leaving in their wake STD’s, single mothers and fatherless children, abortion and the untold emotional and spiritual suffering that goes along with it.
“Value clarification” and “diversity programs,” again in public schools, in which children are indoctrinated into homosexual behavioral practices and lifestyles. This is, of course, a direct attack on motherhood since homosexual unions are incapable of producing mothers for the simple reason that they cannot generate children. That fathers are a necessary component of motherhood, and that women become mothers by conceiving a father’s child, seems to have escaped the minds of some. The simple fact that homosexual activists would not exist if not for the union of man and woman is an inconvenient problem! They were conceived yet abhor the bare facts of that conception. That people are the only creatures who are bent on destroying themselves individually and collectively for the sake of some fleeting pleasure is indeed tragic.
As one example among many of these “diversity programs,” Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 48 in 2011, mandating that, in January of 2012, California public school children from kindergarten through twelfth grade must be taught to admire “the role and contributions of . . . lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.”
Of course, Catholics are to regard homosexual persons with the same respect and dignity due any human person—always. However, as with all human persons, those who experience temptations toward sexual disorders must live within the boundaries of authentic freedom, which is to live within divine law, natural moral law, and the love of God. Life outside of God’s love, using the energy the Lord himself supplies in order to sin against him, may seem for awhile exciting and interesting and pleasurable, but these apparently “good” things are really less than a mote of dust before the unimaginable, loving heat and light of the Divine Son. The bondage of grave sin diminishes us through pain cloaked as delight to an infinitesimal existence, where we are reduced to a less than fully human life and become closed-off to true life and light; whereas a life of holiness is transformative, illuminating and expansive in virtue of the indwelling Spirit of God who re-creates, heals, elevates and perfects human nature.
Back to how motherhood is under attack: countless films, sitcoms and reality shows glorify the heedless abandonment of motherhood. The media establishment incessantly propagandizes against virtue, marriage, family, morality and religion, all of which relate to motherhood in some way, directly or indirectly. Good is displaced by evil, and raised up in the void is vice, premarital sex and adultery and promiscuity, immorality, irreligion and atheism.
As a result of these and more, while nearly every American would give the nod to the importance and incalculable worth of motherhood, there remains an underlying hostility toward it present in contemporary culture. Mothers in the grocery line with more than two or three children in trail often get “the look.” When a woman shares news of her pregnancy with friends, she is often met with words of cautious apprehension. The “career woman” mentality, so pointedly emphasized by radical feminists, is often seen as the norm, while motherhood is incorrectly viewed as something of an encumbrance that is burdensome, stifling, restrictive.
Education and Fortification
The obvious question is, what are we to do about it? While there is no simple answer to this ruinous situation, the first step is both education and spiritual fortification, which begins by prayerfully turning to Jesus Christ, for the Word made flesh is the only definitive answer to every human question. It is Christ crucified who, by his unsurpassable love, leads, strengthens and directs us along the proper and authentic path of human fulfillment.
God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3). One of those blessings is the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who, as the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, brought salvation to the world by embracing motherhood with her fiat, her trusting “yes” to the Father’s plan of divine love in which she would give birth to the “Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:32). For this reason, all women and men–humanity itself–should honor Mary and learn from her the real meaning of humanness, femininity, womanhood and motherhood.
United to her Son, Mary provides the example of motherhood par excellence. She does not seek her own way but God’s way, and thus lives a simple life of complete devotion to the Father’s will and to tirelessly giving herself to her Son. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). With this self-gift, she opens herself in totality to the Father’s plan of restoring supernatural life to humankind through Jesus Christ; by the power of the Holy Spirit, she conceives in her womb the Savior of the world. From Mary the Son of God takes his body of human flesh that he may heal, restore and elevate humanity.
The Father chose Mary, with her human, maternal and feminine nature, to bring salvation to the world in his Son. As we reflect on this one fact, we discover that nothing greater can be said of motherhood. Mary reveals perfectly what is characteristic of woman and of motherhood. She unveils true femininity. While she illuminates the splendor of motherhood in a singularly unique way, that way is the maternal paradigm for all mothers throughout all time.
Observe that Mary never seeks to become something she is not; nor does she ever desire anything whatsoever that is outside of the loving plan of God. She lives constantly within the grace of God, satisfied to cherish the love of the Father and his Son in her tender, maternal heart as she embraces the beautiful and astonishing gift of motherhood. In following this preordained path, Mary is called “blessed” by all generations (Lk 1:48).
After education and fortification, the next step is ardent evangelization. We must not remain silent or passive! The rampant abuse of motherhood perpetrated by secularist political, educational, media and entertainment elitists has gone on far too long. Recall that America is a nation built by Christian people and on Christian virtue. It was not built by nor does it belong to elitists who espouse anti-motherhood, anti-purity, and anti-life agendas. It is time for positive and virtuous change, which means we must no longer tolerate forced indoctrination into secularistic, dehumanizing philosophies and disordered ideals.
It goes without saying, violence is not the answer. However, we must not be afraid to show passionate outrage at these atrocities. In many ways, it is up to men to restore motherhood to its rightful place. In true manhood, motherhood flourishes. You are not alone, for God walks beside you; he provides your strength, moves your heart, and orders your mind. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of courage! “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong” (1 Cor 16:13). If we do not act soon, our nation will self-destruct, for it has already moved far toward just such an end.
Let us draw our strength from Christ crucified, who suffered all things for our sake. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Let us also turn to the intercession of the Mother of God who is adorned with “the radiance of an entirely unique holiness” (Lumen Gentium 56), and who Christ himself, in his dying moments, bestowed upon all the faithful as mother, with the words: “Woman, behold, your son!” (Jn 19:26).
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Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.