My faith journey, as many others do I’m sure, feels like a novel, with a main plot interwoven with several subplots along the way. One of the subplots is actually quite recent and is the guiding work of the Holy Spirit and how I started working here at St. John Parish. But that’s another story!
With this being the month of Mother’s Day and with my own daughter expecting a daughter of her own this month, I couldn’t help but ponder how one of the recurring themes that carries throughout my faith journey is motherhood, starting with my own mother, Joan Casagranda. My mom was the perfect example of faithfulness as I was growing up, both in her faithfulness to the Lord and to her family. From praying the rosary nightly, to simply being someone I always knew I could count on, she was my rock: my comforter, my confidant, my cheerleader.
I was 16 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and needless to say, that news was devastating to all of us, but even then, she remained strong. Each night, she and I, along with my younger sister, would pray together to St. Jude Thaddeus, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes. You see, when my mom received her diagnosis, she was told she had probably 4 months to live; in fact, she lived almost 16 more years! Her nightly prayer at first was that she’d finish raising me and my sister; after we were grown and married, her prayer became to meet all of her grandchildren. Mom passed away 11 months after my son John, her last grandchild, was born. My mom’s faith during her journey, her reliance on the Lord and prayer, laid the foundation for my own.
Becoming a mother myself was another stage in my story…I remember one of the first evenings after JB and I had come home with our daughter Allie Joan. Before putting her in her crib for the night, I was overcome with emotion. Holding her in that moment, the love of a mother washed over me, and I prayed to the Lord to take care of her, not knowing what I would do if anything were to ever happen to her. I heard, or more so felt, the Lord telling me it would be ok. Not a promise that “nothing will ever happen” but more of a nudge to “trust in me…it will all be ok, no matter what.” I really had wanted the reassurance that she’d always be safe, that no harm would ever come to her, but I found comfort in God’s answer and tried to set aside any residual feelings of fear or lack of trust. Lifting my children in prayer became a constant part of raising them, but worries also come with motherhood…and sometimes I’d let those take control.
And then, more recently, especially with my own children now grown, I’ve met so many “spiritual mothers”…the beautiful women of our parish, but especially the women of my small group Bible Study, of Ablaze, and the women that I have the privilege of working with on our Alpha team…all of whom have nurtured me by pushing me, guiding me, and walking with me, supporting me as I draw closer to the Lord.
Fast forward to the present, meaning literally, right now…My first child has just had a baby of her own! Our granddaughter, Lucy Joan, was born at 2:22 p.m. on Mother’s Day. She is nine hours away in Houghton…we are under “stay at home” orders, hospitals won’t allow visitors, and we wouldn’t want to risk taking any germs to her or her husband or our new grandchild! And, you know what, as much as I would love to be there, to hold that grandchild even at just a few days old, it’s ok. Slowly, along the way, I’ve learned to more fully trust in the Lord, his will and his timing. Granted, I’m still very much working on it! And some days, that trust feels like it never existed, but more often than not, the example of my mother, the experiences of motherhood, and even the wisdom that I get from my own children as they’ve grown closer to the Lord themselves, all help to sustain me, to trust the words of Jeremiah, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you…plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.” And, I’m learning that the more I trust these words, the easier it is to have a heart full of thanksgiving…because it’s hard to be thankful when you’re worried.
As if to put a punctuation point on this beautiful month of mothers, I had a powerful experience with our Blessed Mother, Mary, just this week. At daily Mass on the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima (5/13), Fr. Chas and Fr. Brian had moved her statue next to the small lectern we have set up for daily Masses, positioned even with the altar table. From where I was kneeling in the north side transept, as Fr. Brian lifted the host, it literally was positioned right in front of Mary’s abdomen…and I had the strong sense that she or He was affirming: see, this is my Mother AND here I am in the Eucharist! Such a beautiful confirmation and reminder that Mary, the Theotokos, the God bearer, our beautiful Mother, helps lead us to her son, Jesus!
Thank you, Lord, for the varied ways you reveal yourself to us! Thank you for the example of your own perfect Mother. Thank you for mothers and
motherhood and for spiritual mothers, all those beautiful sisters in Christ who help lead us closer to You!. Help us all to more fully know and trust in your most holy will day by day. (And, thank you, Lord, for Lucy Joan!) Amen.