The Catholic Church has been called by saints and others as our “Mother” but why? Where did this come from? It actually came from Jesus!
When Jesus was talking with his disciples in Matthew 12:46-50, Mary, his Mother, came to visit her Son. His disciples told him she was waiting outside wanting to see him. Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Bible Gateway). Just as Mary gave birth to the Church when she gave birth to Jesus, the Church has grown up and given birth to her children through faith in Jesus Christ in Baptism. The Church is the one who “mother’s” to the individual persons in the same way that a mother “mother’s” her child. This is what Gina Loehr sets out to further explain in her book, “The Church Is Our Mother.”
Loehr, who was chosen to be one of one hundred women to be a part of the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s study seminar on women in the Church, takes a single mothering trait in each chapter, such as “creates, cares, teaches, accepts, sacrifices, heals, and celebrates”, compares each characteristic to how our Church mother’s us through that trait, and how mothers (and all parents – she doesn’t want to leave out the dad’s) in turn can become better mothers (or parents) to our children using these same teachings.
She shares with us her own struggles and joys with being a mother (that all parents can relate to), explains how the Church also ministers to her members using that same trait, and offers a different perspective using “another mothers voice” to demonstrate how to live out that trait in our families through our faith. It is a deep, and sometimes lighthearted, look into the characteristics Jesus built into the Church, that also needs to be applied to our vocations as mothers (or fathers), and how they both work together to form the foundation of our faith.
It was the chapter on sacrifice that spoke most loudly to me. No one, especially in this day, likes to sacrifice. We want things done now, with no pain or argument, and with “no skin off our back.”
White martyrdom, I’ve heard it called. It’s a kind of death to self, the carrying of a cross that doesn’t lead to the actual physical death of red martyrdom. I’m convinced that this kind of “dry” martyrdom is at the core of motherhood.
Loehr goes on to explain how motherhood is a constant sacrifice that doesn’t just end with the pains of childbirth, but it is a constant giving of oneself in service to our children. We must take up our cross, as Jesus told us and literally offer ourselves up for each other. He did so through the Cross, and we do so though living our daily lives and giving of ourselves for our families. Through the sacrifice of the Eucharist, we share in Christ’s sacrifice and lay our sacrifices upon the altar, giving of our body, blood, sweat and tears (lots of tears). Loehr wrote something profound:
[W]e bring to the altar also our praise. Mother Church encourages us to remember our blessings even as we lay down our burdens. So we come to Mass to praise God for our families, our marriages, and our children’s lives, for the joys they bring and the gifts they offer to us and to the world. How beautiful that God invites us to make a “sacrifice of praise.”
I have never approached the altar conscience of this before! Yes, I’ve thanked God for my blessings, but the words “sacrifice of praise” just hit me like a ton of bricks. The martyrs of the Church, those who sacrificed all by dying for her, still offered up praise to God, even forgiving those who were killing them. Something clicked, and I realized I need to change my prayer through suffering into praise. By removing the focus and bitterness of my pain from the sacrifice, I can now see the blessing and praise that is causing the sacrifice (which in motherhood, many times can be your children!). It won’t be easy, but neither was the path to the Cross for Jesus, right?
This is a book which can be read individually or in a faith-sharing group. There are reflection questions at the end of each chapter and a study guide for each chapter in the back of the book to be use on our own or in a group. The study guide is awesome! It is broken into smaller sections: “lessons from the saints,” “lessons from the Catechism,” “lessons from the liturgy,” and relates a sacrament and a sin to focus upon for each chapter. Each of these sections have reflection questions which are great for journal writing or lively group discussions. The Church is Our Mother is a book that I highly recommend for any Christian parent looking to learn more about how the Church ministers to her children and how we in turn can live out our vocation in the Domestic Church at home. As a faith-sharing read, it would be very engaging and relatable to many mothers.
Pick up a copy of The Church is Our Mother by Gina Loehr for personal study or your faith-sharing group and I promise you will learn how the Church is our mother and we can become better mothers through her living example.