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On Mother Church and Motherhood. Catechesis on the Family (II)

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r. Every human person owes his life to a mother, and almost always owes her much of his subsequent existence, his human and spiritual formation.


Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today, we continue with the catechesis on the Church and we will reflect on Mother Church. The Church is Mother, our Holy Mother Church.

In these days, the liturgy of the Church has placed before our eyes the icon of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The first day of the year is the feast of the Mother of God, which is followed by the Epiphany, recalling the visit of the Magi. The evangelist Matthew writes: “and going into the house they saw the child with Mary, his Mother, and they fell down and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11). It is the Mother who, after having generated him, presents the Son to the world. She gives us Jesus, she shows us Jesus, she makes us see Jesus.

We continue with the catechesis on the family and, in the family, is the mother. Every human person owes his life to a mother, and almost always owes her much of his subsequent existence, his human and spiritual formation. A mother, however, though being much exalted from the symbolic point of view – so many poems, so many beautiful things that are said poetically about a mother – is little listened to and little helped in daily life, little considered in her central role in society. In fact, often advantage is taken of mothers’ willingness to sacrifice themselves for their children to “save” social expenses.

It also happens in the Christian community that the mother is not regarded justly, that she is little listened to. Yet, at the center of the life of the Church is the Mother of Jesus. Perhaps mothers, ready for so many sacrifices for their children -- and not rarely also for those of others -- should be more listened to. It is necessary to understand more their daily struggle to be efficient in their work and attentive and affectionate in the family; it is necessary to understand better what they aspire to express, the best and most authentic fruits of their emancipation. A mother always has problems with her children, always has work. I remember at home – we were five children – and while one did one thing, another thought of doing another, and our poor mother went from one to the other, but she was happy. She gave us so much.

Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of egotistical individualism. “Individual” means “that it cannot be divided.” Mothers, instead, “divide themselves,” from the moment they host a child to give him to the world and make him grow. It is they, the mothers, who in the main hate wars that kill their sons. I have thought so many times of those mothers who receive the letter: “I tell you that your son fell in defense of the fatherland …” Poor women! How mothers suffer! They are the ones who witness to the beauty of life.

Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero said that mothers live a “maternal martyrdom.” In the homily of the funeral of a priest killed by death squads, he said, echoing Vatican Council II: “We must all be ready to die for our faith, even if the Lord does not grant us this honor … to give one’s life does not only mean to be killed; to give one’s life, to have the spirit of martyrdom, is to give in duty, in silence, in prayer, in the honest fulfillment of one’s duty; in the silence of daily life; to give one’s life little by little. Yes, as a mother gives it who, without fear, with the simplicity of maternal martyrdom, conceives a child in her womb, brings him to life, nurses him, helps him grow and attends to him with affection. It is to give one’s life. It is martyrdom.” The quotation ends there. Yes, to be a mother does not mean only to bring a child into the world, but it is also a choice of life. What does a mother choose, what is a mother’s choice of life? A mother’s choice of life is the choice to give life, and this is great, this is beautiful.

A society without mothers would be an inhuman society, because mothers are always able to witness, even in the worst moments, tenderness, dedication, moral strength. Mothers also often transmit the profoundest meaning of religious practice. The value of the faith is inscribed in the life of a human being in the first prayers, in the first gestures of devotion that a child learns. It is a message that believing mothers are able to transmit without explanations: these will come later, but the seed of the faith is in those first, most precious moments -- and the Church is Mother, with all this, she is our Mother! We are not orphans; we have a Mother! Our Lady, the Mother of the Church, is our Mother. We are not orphans; we are children of the Church, we are children of Our Lady, and we are children of our mothers.

Dearest mothers, thank you; thank you for what you are in the family and for what you give to the Church and to the world. And to you, beloved Church, thank you, thank you for being Mother. And to you, Mary, Mother of God, thank you for having us see Jesus. And thank you to all the mothers here present: we greet them with applause!

[Original text: Italian][Translation by ZENIT]

Pope Francis is Pope of the Catholic Church since March 13, 2013.

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