May 09, 2024

From the Rector: Mass and Mother’s Day

Dear parishioners and friends of Saint James (and even occasional readers), 

Today is Mother’s Day, a national holiday. First celebrated in 1908, it became a holiday in West Virginia in 1910 and gained national prominence in 1914 when a law was passed designating the second Sunday in May to be Mother’s Day in the United States. 

Last week, I made announcements that Thursday was the Feast of the Ascension and that it is a Holy Day of Obligation. Sometimes I wonder why we still say this, as ‘obligation’ doesn’t seem to have much force in people’s lives these days. We are ‘obligated’ to go to church that day, and suppose we don’t? Every Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation but how many baptized Catholics actually feel obligated to go to church? 

Mother’s Day, however, is another story. Against it, Sunday doesn’t have a chance! You would be a very bad person to not celebrate it. It is estimated that Americans will spend some five billion dollars for merchandise and events surrounding Mother’s Day. People dine out at restaurants more on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year. 

The holiday was launched by Anna Jarvis of West Virginia. Her mother had started a committee in 1868 to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” intending to help reunite families that had been separated fighting on different sides during the Civil War. When she died, Anna had a service honoring her mother and mothers at a Methodist Episcopal church. The next year, with the help of large store owner John Wannamaker, a larger celebration was held in the auditorium of one of his Philadelphia stores. Eventually it expanded to be what it is today. 

I don’t mean to cast any shadow on the Day of Obligation sense of Mother’s Day. But can you believe that Anna Jarvis, who began all this, nine years after it had been established spent her life’s fortune and the rest of her life campaigning against Mother’s Day because it became so commercialized. She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace during an anti-Mother’s Day protest and died the next year. 

I actually was going to write about truly understanding and appreciating our mothers and how it is connected to our salvation in Christ. Instead, the point I’m wanting to make is that there is nothing more important than our transformation into holy saints by Christ, as we love God and each other. We need the grace of the sacraments and the dynamic of living and praying with others working towards the same goal. Mother’s Day can help us achieve this but not by becoming more important than Sunday Mass.  The example of mothers is a very strong, physical, personal example of what loving God and others means. The Intruders sang, “I’ll always love my mama . . .” 

Let’s have Mass and Mother’s Day, obligated to live life in its fullest. A brindisi, cin cin, L’Chaim, a toast to life in Jesus Name! 

Fr. Bryan Patterson