Motherhood is a holy vocation like no other. What a blessing, responsibility and privilege it is to raise little saints to heaven.
Years ago, when I was expecting my first child, I couldn’t fathom how my life would unfold within the vocation of motherhood. I couldn’t see beyond my protruding abdomen and the little movements I felt within me that filled my world.
But I was so eager to be a mother and ready to experience the indescribable joys of raising a little one (and hopefully more babies, too).
Then, I couldn’t possibly imagine how the holy vocation — actually, a partnership with God — would shape and form my heart and soul.
Mother Mary has been a wonderful example for me throughout my journey as a mother.
Blessed Mother Teresa (a spiritual mother to many), who I was blessed to know personally, had a beautiful, prayerful relationship with the Blessed Mother, and she spoke of her often.
She once said, "Like Mary, great are the graces that we have received. Like her, let us always accept the cross in whatever way it comes. Like her, let us, with grace and delicacy, touch the lonely and unwanted. Like her, let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble works."
Indeed, the graces in being a mother are great, and mothers’ lives are filled to the brim with deep grace and joy, but there are plenty of "humble works" to do, too.
We mothers have an ideal example to follow in Mother Mary. She responded with a wholehearted Yes when greeted by Gabriel the Archangel, who informed her of her great mission: that she would become the Mother of God.
Mary couldn’t see beyond that holy moment to envision the entire picture ahead — both the joys and the deep sorrows. But, without hesitation, Mary trusted, accepted and surrendered her will to God’s will — whatever it would entail.
Throughout her motherhood, Mary experienced many deep joys, but she also learned all about suffering, sorrow and uncertainty. She accepted the cross in her life through prayer and a pure heart willing to follow God. Shortly after agreeing to become the Mother of God, Mary dealt with so much uncertainty. All the while, the Son of God’s heart was beating right under her own Immaculate Heart. But God’s graces were present, and Mary and Joseph were united in their tremendous mission of parenting God’s only Son, through all of the challenges that arose.
The holy couple faced rejection as they looked for a place at the inn. They welcomed Jesus into the world in a stable. Then they had to flee to Egypt to save his life. They worried when he was lost, too.
We can learn so much from Mary’s unequivocal obedience to God’s providence. Being immersed in the graces of the present moment in her life, Mary accepted that things might not always go as she might have imagined.
Mary couldn’t prevent nor could she ease her Son’s pain when he suffered and died a cruel death. But she shared in Jesus’ cross and stood by him until his last drop of blood was shed; and, afterward, she held his lifeless body in her arms against her pure heart, as tears glided down her cheeks.
We can learn immensely from her gift of presence and love. Sometimes the cross comes to a mother in the form of a debilitating illness, injury or the death of a child in miscarriage or other heartbreaking circumstances. There are many forms, shapes and sizes of the crosses within the vocation of motherhood.
No matter what befalls us, we can look to Mother Mary and pray for her help through it all.
Once, during a precarious pregnancy, when I was on complete bed rest and my doctor didn’t think my unborn baby would make it, Mother Teresa told me to pray a simple prayer: "Mary, Mother of Jesus, be mother to me now." I prayed that prayer often, and that little unborn baby is 22 years old today.
Mother Mary truly understands the heart of every mother. Don’t hesitate to call on Mary for all of your needs in your mission of motherhood, which is a truly transforming and miraculous vocation.
Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is a mother of five on earth and three in heaven.
She is also an EWTN TV host and author.