Mother’s Day: To Bless Or Not To Bless?

cat with kittensI’m pretty sure we’ve covered this topic in previous years. A parishioner sent me this missive, advocating for “sensitivity” on what is a troubling day for a few women. No doubt, some people feel excluded by certain blessings their church offers.

At our parish, we blessed graduates last weekend. I suppose a student who flunked a few courses this semester before her or his graduation might feel crestfallen watching others get the blessing and post-Amen applause. What can I say to that? Study harder?

When I arrived in town seven years ago, I was informed by the hiring pastor that the parish tradition was to include a petition in the General Intercessions, but not bless at Mass.

A few years ago, one of our associate clergy took it upon himself to vary from this, thus reopening the question. That included the interface with people who testified to some degree of pain because they were not mothers in the sense of being surrounded by children and husband and all dressed up on that second Sunday in May.

Exclusion, yes. I am sensitive to the pain of others, certainly. But is the bar then too high for a blessing of any sort?

Are gardeners hurt when farmers are blessed? Baptized believers when catechumens are blessed? The person who broke up with a significant other on a friend’s wedding day? It strikes me that blessings of this standard are about less significant things. Like farms.

A staff colleague, who happens to be a mother of many (not just her own biological children and grandchildren) lobbied well for the blessing with our pastor, who, in the end, conceded. He cautioned me to keep it brief:

At this time, we ask people sitting next to a mother to hold her hand or place your hand on her shoulders. All mothers, nod your head for a blessing:

Good and loving God,
Today we give You thanks for these people, who,
in the nurturing they provide for loved ones,
reflect your strength and concern for your people.
They have brought life into the world,
not just as an event of childbirth,
but also as they continue
to nurture the needy and the vulnerable.
In doing so they fulfill the mission of the Gospel.
Grant them your blessing through Christ our Lord.

Thoughts?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Mother’s Day: To Bless Or Not To Bless?

  1. Liam says:

    Oh, baby, that missive has a lot of “we” in it. It’s an iterative validation cum consciousness pat-on-the-back than a blessing.

    I prefer the General Intercessions approach, including memory of those who’ve engaged in different forms of motherhood.

    Tone is important. If there’s a blessing, it should preced the general blessing, and its probably best to motion everyone to stand as they are able, and then continue with the general blessing right afterward – and the general blessing includes everyone – no exclusion….. No other instructions re physical gestures (please, no forest of upraised arms) – let people do what they will or won’t.

  2. Jen says:

    I second the general intercessions route, as one who has issues with the holiday of Mother’s Day. The priest at my old parish also remembered those who had mothers who were…less than ideal, as well, which was a nice touch.

    Another annoyance is the default assumption that all women = mothers in some parishes in an attempt to be inclusive. Some women don’t want kids (yes, even Catholics, cue the pearl clutching). Some desperately do, and the inclusion is a painful reminder of what they haven’t been graced with.

    tl;dr: Liam’s idea is nice, if there is going to be a blessing. Mention in the intercessions is better.

    • Liam says:

      Reminds me of a very long open-to-the-entire community discussion in an intentional community I attended 25 years ago about removing all masculine-feminine reference to God in the liturgy. Some had been abused by fathers and could not abide imaging God in fatherly terms; others had been abused by fathers and needed to refer to God in fatherly terms in order to redeem the role in their lives. It was a very hard and long discussion. In the end, we realized the subjective experiences could not claim to dictate a resolution of the issue.

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