How lucky we are for the Mother we have!
The highest maternal mortality rate in the world is experienced in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there are 533 maternal deaths per 100,000 births each year, which is the equivalent to 200,000 maternal deaths each year. This means that the maternal deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa account for over two-thirds or 68% of all maternal deaths worldwide each year.
It is a staggering figure. There are a LOT of mothers dying every single year, just in the hope of bringing forth new life.
A couple of my sisters are expecting children in the coming months and I have been praying for them and their families as they prepare for their new arrivals.
And while I pray for them, I pray for those other mothers too when I think of our sisters in Sub-Saharan Africa. But my prayers do not end there. While I pray for mothers, I also pray for others too. I pray for families who will never be able to have biological children because of various issues relating to fertility and age. I pray for the parents of children with special and additional needs. And the parents of all children, who are dealing with whatever challenges that come their way.
And while I pray for these parents and their families, I find myself reflecting very much on motherhood… And of course, as I reflect on motherhood, I think of our Eternal Mother – Mary…
Traditionally, the Catholic Church has always taught that when Our Blessed Mother Ever Virgin, gave birth to Our Lord in the stable, she did not experience the pangs of childbirth – for those labour pains are the punishment of Eve – and Our Lady is the NEW EVE and the NEW MOTHER of humanity.
Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and encouraged Adam to eat of it too. In this way, she and Adam committed the first sin of pride and disobedience – believing that they could follow their own will rather than that of God. As a punishment for her now fallen nature, God decreed that Eve – and all human women – would now labour to bring forth her young. Never again would a woman be able to deliver her children without the pangs of childbirth.
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children.” (Genesis, 3:16).
Before this fall of humanity, childbirth was NOT supposed to hurt! In God’s original plan of creation, bringing forth children was not supposed to be associated with suffering or risk or complication or pain. It was in response to Original Sin – and the fall of humankind – that we now suffer to bring life.
But though Our Blessed Mother most likely did not suffer to give birth to her one and only Child, this does not mean that she did not LABOUR to give birth – it simply means that she most likely did not labour to give birth to her Only Begotten Son…
Recently I listened to a beautiful blog by Father John Flader about the Blessed Virgin, our Heavenly Mother. In it, Father Flader spoke of Our Lady being the Mother of Christ – God Himself – but also the Mother of the Church.
While the birth of Christ caused Our Lady no physical pain, the birth of the Church caused her physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological anguish greater than anything we could ever imagine. For the Church was born through the death of her Son on the Cross. That means, that when Our Blessed Mother watched Her Divine Son dying there on that Cross, she CHOSE to allow it. She did not call Him down. She did not turn away. She did not withdraw her support.
Years ago, I watched a terribly sad film directed in 1982 by Alan Pakula called, “Sophie’s Choice”. I do not recommend it! It was dreadfully dreadfully sad and a dreadfully dreadfully hopeless story about the existential ramifications of the Holocaust. In the film Sophie, played by Meryl Streep, was sent with her little son and little daughter to Auschwitz by the Nazi Gestapo during the Second World War. Upon arriving, she was forced to chose which of her two children would be gassed to death and which would be sent to a labour camp. To avoid having both children shot in front of her eyes, she chose to save her son and to have her daughter taken away to be killed.
When I remember this film and reflect on this choice, I see Our Lady as having made the first “Sophie’s Choice”. When Our Blessed Mother was faced with the choice to save the Earthly life of her only begotten Son or to save the life of her adopted child – the Catholic Church.
She chose US! Not a great bargain if you ask me. After all, the Catholic Church, and all the souls in it – despite the influence of the Holy Spirit – is riddled with human error and decay, except on matters of faith and morals. And yet, despite all of this. Despite our weakness, our sinfulness and our neglect. Despite OUR RESPONSIBILITY in the execution of Her most Beloved Son… Our Blessed Mother chose us!
Saint Louis de Montfort said, “She is so full of love that no one who asks for her intercession is rejected, no matter how sinful he may be.”
In Washington DC in 1979, Saint Pope John Paul II extended on this when he said, “To succeed in your intentions, entrust yourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary always, but especially in moments of difficulty and darkness. ‘From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in things. From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone. From Mary we learn to love Christ, her Son and the Son of God…Learn from her to be always faithful, to trust that God’s Word to you will be fulfilled, and that nothing is impossible with God.’”
Because though it is likely that Our Lady delivered her Son without physical pain, there is no pain more imaginably severe than the pain she experienced when she bore the Church itself - for love of You and Me…
For Our Blessed Mother experienced pangs of Labour incomparable with anything any Earthly mother could bear. For she gave birth to the Church – through the death of her Son…
And what greater love could a Mother ever have for their child – you and me – than that?
How lucky we are for the Mother we have!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.