Column by Jonathan Nagy
In P.D. Eastman’s classic children’s book, “Are You My Mother?”, a mother bird sat in her nest waiting for her egg to hatch. Sensing the pending arrival of her baby, the mother left the nest briefly to have food available. In the meantime, the egg hatched and the bird looked around saying, “Where is my mother?” Not knowing what his mother looked like, he ventured out of the nest searching for her, encountering all kinds of animals and machines, some kind and some scary. The bird would ask each animal, “Are you my mother?”, and after determining that each was not his mother, he would exclaim, “I know I have a mother, but where is she?” He is eventually dropped back into the nest where his mother said to him, “Do you know who I am?” He replied, “Yes, you are my mother.”
That story was always a favorite in our house growing up. My parents would read it over and over again to my siblings and I. I still have panic reading the story, feeling bad for the bird who spent so much time looking for his mother and not finding her. He encountered so much in such a short period of time, even getting to the point where he questioned if he would ever find her. During the entire journey, the mother was preparing food and the nest for her new arrival. While they never saw each other face to face, she knew her son and once he saw her, he recognized the face of his mother, and the love of mother and son was fully realized.
Mothers hold a special place in the heart of each of their children. Mothers know us better than we know ourselves. “Motherly intuition,” as my own mom would call it, was, and still is, fully functioning for every mother. The care a mother gives to her children and the special bond between them is seen not only in humanity but also in the animal kingdom, as is illustrated in the P.D. Eastman book. Mothers never stop caring or worrying for their children. They rejoice with them, mourn with them, and walk with them every step of the way. Even as I approach my forties, I still call my mother to share great news, seek a listening ear, or ask for motherly advice. (For all of that, Mom, I can never thank you enough!)
Recently sitting at Eucharistic Adoration, I found my eyes wandering around the Basilica, noticing all of the different representations of our Blessed Mother. We as Catholics know her under many titles. She is known as Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Loreto, Our Lady of the Alleghenies, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Our Lady of Fatima, just to name a few. In fact, an internet search produced hundreds of titles for the Blessed Mother, with many being geographically localized. The Litany of Loreto alone has over fifty titles for Our Blessed Mother. She is due all of the honor and respect that we give her under those various titles, and with each title comes a special promise or grace through her from Jesus Christ her son. There is one title for her that I rarely hear people call her. It is the simplest yet most tender term.
When we transform our thinking to Mary being our “Mom,” our entire perspective changes. All of the qualities that we think of when we think of our mothers are immediately assumed by the Blessed Mother. She cares for us, wants to share in our joys, comfort us in our sorrows, be a listening ear, and offer advice. We may call our earthly mothers all of the time, but when is the last time you called “Mom” in Heaven? Just like our own mothers, she worries about us and wants to guide us towards her son, our brother Jesus!
In John 19:25-27, as Jesus was on the cross, he was surrounded by his mother, the other women, and John. He looked down at them and said to Mary, “Woman, behold your son,” referring to John, and then he looked at John and said, “Behold your mother.” John finished the verse by stating that from that hour on, he took Mary into his own home. I truly believe, as do many Biblical scholars, that Jesus was not just saying that to John, but he was giving her to all of us! She is our mother, and we are to welcome her into our homes and our lives. She will show us the same loving care that she gave to Jesus.
Many non-Catholics believe that we worship Mary the same as we would Jesus. No, we do not worship her. We honor her in her position as Mother of God. The Catechism even states, “Worship is meant for God alone.” What we do is venerate her because she is full of God’s love and grace. The Legion of Mary Tessera includes the prayer, “O Lord Jesus
Christ, our mediator with the Father, Who has been pleased to appoint the Most Blessed Virgin, Your mother, to be our mother also, and our mediatrix with You, mercifully grant that whoever comes to You seeking Your favours may rejoice to receive all of them through her.” She said “Yes” to bring Jesus into this world, and for that we cannot thank her enough.
There have been many confirmed and unconfirmed Marian apparitions in recorded history. It makes me smile to think about the conversation in Heaven between Jesus and Mary before each apparition. I picture Jesus saying, “Why don’t you go mom? They will listen to you!” Then, as every mother does, she goes out to talk about her son to those who will listen, with the most caring, gentle, and welcoming words. While sometimes, like at Fatima, she has given some dire premonitions, she has also provided some of the most beautiful words and images, like the image of herself on Saint Juan Diego’s tilma. Each time, she has carried a message from her son to His people on earth. Each of her messages gave direction, as she is concerned for our well-being. She wants nothing more than to have us enter the gates of Heaven with her for all eternity. In fact, during one of her messages to Saint Bernadette at Lourdes, Mary said, “I do not promise to make you happy in this life but in the next.”
Just like her son, Mary does not ask much of us. Her requests consist of prayer, penitence, and peace. Again, this is very similar to a mother “talking up” her son to others. Mary talks up her son and wants us to be prepared to meet him. In order to do that, we need to mend our ways. While most mothers overlook the flaws of their children when bragging them up, Mary’s son has no flaws! She is right to try to get us into shape before meeting him. In turn, she also wants to be able to talk us up to Him. I can see her standing right next to us, introducing us to Him, saying things like, “Jesus, this is ‘so and so.’ He’s the one I was telling you about,” all the while holding our hands and gently nudging us closer to Him. The imagery of that scene in my head is unbelievable.
Just like the bird in the story, we may wander away, but our Mother is always waiting for us and she knows us, whether or not we at first can recognize her. She waits patiently, as all mothers do, for her children to see that she is just looking out for their well-being. Allowing her to have a more prominent presence in our lives will only give her more opportunities to talk us up to her son.
I encourage everyone to seek out a title of Mary that speaks to their soul. Do a little research into what her various titles signify and find one that bears significance in your life. No matter what you call Mary, you should at least call her! She takes all of our prayers right to her son. Like us with our own mothers, I believe Jesus listens to His mother about our needs and concerns. He loves His mother beyond any measurable quality and wants us to love her just the same. She is not taking the place of our birth mothers. She is there to back up our birth mothers. Say a prayer of gratitude to Mary for your own mother, whether she is still alive or has passed. Add daily prayers of honor and intercession to our Blessed Mother. The best way to know Jesus is to know His mother.
Oh, and don’t forget to call your own earthly mother. She worries about you and wants to hear from you. I know mine will always be there to answer no matter when I call, just like Mary is there for us whenever we need her guidance.
Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church, pray for us!
Jonathan Nagy, M.Ed., is the Dean of Students and Social Studies teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg. He is also the Music Director at the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.