Here in Pennsylvania (or “PA,” as we call it), we have many places of historical importance. As one of the original thirteen colonies, many significant things happened here early in (and even before) our nation’s history.
One of the local ways we remember major historical people/places/events/etc. is by Pennsylvania Historical Markers—wrought-iron blue signs with gold lettering that explain the person/place/event/etc. being commemorated.
I love these signs, and I always enjoy reading them. There’s an interesting one downtown. It stands on the sidewalk between City Hall and the Wanamaker Building (home of the world’s largest pipe organ!). It says, in part: “Mother’s Day: Founded by Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia. First officially observed in 1908. An early supporter was John Wanamaker. Mother’s Day was given federal recognition, 1914.” That sign caught my attention enough to make me look into things a bit more, and I found the original House resolution from 1914 recognizing the celebration. It describes Mother’s Day as “a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”
Long before 1914 or 1908, however—and long before Anna Jarvis or John Wanamaker—this time of year, May, was already devoted to our Mother. For centuries, Christians have set aside this entire month to honor Mary, the Blessed Mother of us all. May crownings and other special devotions have long been “public expression[s] of [our] love and reverence” for the Blessed Mother.
It’s good and wonderful and praiseworthy to honor our human mothers on this day. But our celebration of these mothers would be lacking—it would be incomplete—if it were detached from our celebration of Mary. For whatever is good and loveable in our human mothers is a reflection of what is good and loveable in Mary. In fact, our human mothers are “good” mothers only insofar as they are good reflections of the Blessed Mother. Aren’t the best mothers honest, pure, loving, merciful, sweet, beautiful, grateful, compassionate, and gentle? And is that not the perfect description of Mary?
Mary is the ideal Mother and the ideal woman. Bishop Sheen once observed: “[Mary] is the one whom every man loves when he loves a woman, whether he knows it or not. She is what every woman wants to be, when she looks at herself. . . . She is the secret desire every woman has to be honored and fostered.”
Mary’s life, of course, was defined by her Child. It was Jesus for Whom Mary spent so much of herself, from the home at Nazareth to the Cross on Calvary. It was Jesus for Whom Mary willingly embraced suffering. It is for her Child, first and foremost, that Mary is remembered and honored. I suspect that every mother would have it the same way. Ask a mother who has found success in her profession. Ask a mother who holds some high-ranking position. Ask any mother who has reached any measure of worldly accomplishment. I suspect they will be most proud—before all else—of the children they have sent into the world.
The blue & gold historical marker that stands at Market & Juniper Streets in Philadelphia reminds us of the history of this Mother’s Day holiday. All the more, our own wonderful mothers should remind us of Mary, clothed in blue and wearing a golden crown. Celebrating motherhood without celebrating the very prototype would be futile. So, today—and throughout this month of May—we honor the Blessed Mother. We renew our love for her, and we ask for her guidance in our family life.
O Virgin most tender,
Our homage we render,
Thy love and protection,
Sweet Mother, to win;
In danger defend us,
In sorrow befriend us,
And shield our hearts
From contagion and sin.
O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!
(Bring Flowers of the Rarest, Traditional)