May 12, 2019 – A View from the Rectory Window

“Lord, thou art hard on mothers: We suffer in their coming and their going.”

In 1916, Padraig Pearse was executed by the British for his role in the Irish Easter uprising.

Pearse was more of a scholar and a poet than he was a warrior. But like many in the fledging rebellion against the British, he had a romantic view of Irish martyrdom.

One of his best-loved poems was about his mother, and as we celebrate Mother’s Day, the words that he attributes to her about his own approaching death might touch every mother’s heart: “Lord, thou art hard on mothers: We suffer in their coming and their going.”

Pearse was prescient in suspecting that he would die young, leaving a mother behind in sorrow. A mother who had given birth to him in pain would be doubly burdened by the pain of his death. Any mother who has experienced a child’s death knows this terrible reality.

But mothers also experience “their going” in other, less heartbreaking but still profound ways. From the moment a child begins to grow in the womb — or we hear that an adoption is imminent — a mother knows that the one who is entering her life is beginning the inevitable journey away from her.

The child of her heart will eventually grow up. Any mom who has cried in the car after leaving her child at the first day of kindergarten or bid farewell to a child in a dorm room at a college far away knows this pain of separation and change.

This is the conundrum of a mother’s vocation — for surely this lifelong and deeply heartfelt commitment can only be called a vocation — is that, even as she holds her child to her heart, she prepares them for independence, for “their going.”

In Pearse’s poem, he imagines his mother saying, “I will speak their names in my own heart, In the long nights; The little names that were familiar once …”

It’s what the vocation of motherhood produces: a heart that always remembers the little names, that always — no matter how old our children are — speaks their names in prayer in the long nights.

This Mother’s Day, is our chance to speak our mother’s names in prayer. And, if she has taken her own “going” and is now in heaven, know that she still speaks our names from her place before the Lord.

Fr. Pete