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The Other Mother's Day View Comments
By Kathy Coffey

Sure, I’m a sucker for Mother’s Day. What’s not to like—the pampering, the unaccustomed leisure, the meals I don’t prepare, the kids trying to cook, gift, charm and repair the brain damage caused the previous year? The media sing mom’s praises and the advertisers woo us with perfume, jewelry and lingerie. It’s a lovely custom, well timed in spring as lilacs bud, grass greens and warmth returns.

But lately I’ve been thinking about the other side of Mother’s Day: the heartbreak. For too many people, this day doesn’t mean corsages, brunches and presents. Within my immediate circle are seven teenagers whose moms have died and two moms whose sons have died, tragically young. Broaden this to all whose mothers or children have died recently. That’s a lot of people whose throats tighten when they see the impossibly attractive models in the newspaper or TV ads.

Imagine those whose mothers or children are serving in the military, or are incarcerated, institutionalized or alienated. Many women yearn to be mothers, but even the expensive ordeal of fertility treatments hasn’t filled their empty arms. Then there are moms who’ve given up a child for adoption, whose hearts harbor questions and whose hands long to tousle a toddler’s hair, even to know what color it is. Women who’ve had a recent miscarriage or a stillbirth—how must they feel?

Some might argue that the sorrow of some shouldn’t overshadow the joy of many. True enough. Let the celebration of moms continue full force—with a heightened sensitivity. If we are truly members of one mystical body in Christ, then for us, “when one cries, the other tastes the salt.” If one person delights in health, it doesn’t diminish compassion for another who is ill. So too for Mother’s Day. Emphasis on the “perfect” relationship (which no one has) worsens the heartache for those who feel distant from it.

We’re not out to reform the media here, a task like teaching a pig to sing—an annoying waste of time for both parties. Once again, we take a countercultural stance. Within the Catholic community, we should discover ways to make this holiday less painful for those who don’t fit the prefabricated mold.

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Kathy Coffey, the mother of four, authored Hidden Women of the Gospels and Women of Mercy (Orbis). She gives many retreats and workshops; her favorite is a mother-daughter retreat.

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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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