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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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