The following event occurred on Mother’s Day 2000 and is one of my favorite memories…
It was a beautiful Sunday morning. The sky was crystal clear, a celestial blue of such depth…the bowers of the flowering crab apple tree in our backyard were laden with snow-white blossoms. Each gentle breeze sent a shower of petals upon the wind. To drink in this beauty, to exult in the glory of God’s creation on the Sabbath – what could be a more perfect way to spend Mother’s Day?
Alas, these are the questions you ask yourself when your entire family is sick with the stomach flu, you have just missed attending Holy Mass as well as the May crowning of our Blessed Mother and looming before you are prospects for a day of hard labor (nurturing the sick, cleaning up the bed clothes and the sure knowledge that NO ONE wants dinner!) Our family numbered seven children at this time, and all of them were sick. As the day wore on, I began to lapse into a serious state of self-pity. “Why the Sabbath, Lord? And Mother’s Day?!” Though I continued my duties faithfully, interiorly I was not a faithful servant at all. It was now mid-afternoon and I walked into my kitchen (which was a wreck by this time) to assess the possibilities for some kind of meal, knowing that very little would be palatable to my poor, suffering children. My husband, of course, has the patience of a saint, and provided so much assistance, but I could only pray that his optimism would sustain us all, for I was feeling wretched inside. As I passed the large glass doors to my backyard, the brilliant blue of the sky and the gentle breezes beckoned. I stepped outside, sat down at the table on the back patio and cried.
(We should never underestimate how much we need the graces given at every Mass. These very graces make possible the diligent performance of the duties suited to our vocation. I felt devoid of grace! Weak and pathetic, that I could feel bad for myself while my children were suffering sickness).
Through my tears, I looked over at my much neglected Mary garden and beheld the statue of our Lady. No cards or flowers for the Holy Mother of God on Mother’s Day. The Mother of God was given a “sword” that would pierce her heart. I decided at that moment to give Mother’s Day to our Lady. I dried my tears, walked over to my garden and began to clear the many weeds that were crowding about Mary. I began to think of these weeds as the little distractions of my daily life – my pride, my self-pity and a tendency towards a too “Martha” approach to my vocation. As the weeds were cleared, the flowers became increasingly visible…rather like the virtues that our Lady so humbly espouses and that I had allowed to become hidden in my own life. I began to hum as the work continued…it was so peaceful, so quiet, and soon I was singing “Salve Regina”. A few moments passed and my precious husband stepped outside to see what had become of his wife. Though his first words were “honey, I am so sorry”, he was truly greeted by a much happier wife and together we both continued the work of beautifying our Lady’s garden.
One by one, our sick children began to come outside to see where their parents had gone. Five of the children were now outside (the eldest was inside with the baby and a terrible headache), each one wishing their Mother a Happy Mother’s Day…and it could not have been sweeter. In the midst of their suffering they remembered their mother (just as in the midst of my suffering I had remembered my Mother).
Gathered in our backyard, surrounding a small patch of earth upon which rested a statue of our Blessed Mother, we placed the small, silk floral crown which had been reserved for all of our previous May Crownings. Five sick children and two exhausted parents honored the Mother of God in the only way we could.
Above our heads, a very large red-tailed hawk was lazily circling. This hawk was soon noticed by a pair of robins that were nesting locally and were extremely concerned about the danger this predator posed to their young. The two small birds attacked furiously, raising a tremendous commotion that soon drew the attention of the family. We observed the antics of these birds briefly (and all of us are certain that this activity served only to draw our attention skyward) because a much more fantastic phenomena was occurring at this time. The sun was directly above us in a cloudless sky, and surrounding the sun was a large circular rainbow, which was also circled by yet another rainbow only ¾ formed. I cannot adequately convey our surprise and awe at this spectacle. It truly seemed an event given as a gift from our Lord through the intercession of the Blessed Mother. As we all exclaimed in wonder, one of the children remembered our eldest who was still inside. She went to retrieve her sister and baby brother and as the three children came outside to view this beautiful event…it simply vanished! The entire event lasted no more that 2-3 minutes, though time truly seemed to stand still! A day of suffering, sacrifice and surprise! How little our Lord asks from us and how great are His gifts…