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Marking Mothers Day at Sunday Mass
Next Sunday, 14 May, is Mothers Day. I am often asked what parishes can do to celebrate this day, and other similar special causes and occasions, at Sunday Mass.
The fact is that parishes are bombarded with material for special collections and causes on most Sundays of the year. While our Sunday worship cannot be divorced from daily life and the realities of the world, we cannot let special intentions – even Mothers Day – take over the liturgy.
The 1998 Apostolic Letter Dies Domini states this clearly in its first paragraph:
“Sunday recalls the day of Christ’s resurrection. It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christs victory over sin and death, the fulfilment in him of the first creation and the dawn of the ‘new creation’.”
If a particular theme or appeal overshadows the character of the Sunday Mass, or takes precedence over the prayers and readings, then a disservice is done both to the liturgy and the community.
Mothers Day almost invariably falls with the Easter season. The Sunday of Easter rank very highly in the table of liturgical days and the intent, texts and symbols of the day cannot be set aside for any reason.
It is important for those who plan the liturgies to remember that an occasion such as Mothers Day will arouse different emotions in people. Some may have recently lost a mother, others may regret not having had the opportunity to be mothers themselves, or have had unhappy experiences of motherhood. It is quite inappropriate to use soppy, sentimental verses that ignore these nuances.
There are several ways in which a special occasion such as Mothers Day can be recognised whilst respecting the integrity of Sunday Eucharist.
It may be referred to in the Introductory Rites or the homily, and be the subject of one or two petitions in the Prayers of the Faithful.
The official ‘Book of Blessings’ provides some model petitions for the Prayer of the Faithful:
For our mothers, who have given us life and love, that we may show them reverence and love, we pray to the Lord.
For mothers who have lost a child through death, that their faith may give them hope, and their family and friends support and console them, we pray to the Lord.
For mothers who have died, that God may bring them into the joy of his kingdom, we pray to the Lord.
It also includes a prayer of blessing for mothers which parishes might consider using at the end of Mass. It could lead into the solemn blessing for the Easter Season over all the people which concludes the liturgy.
Bless these women,
that they may be strengthened as Christian mothers.
Let the example of their faith and love shine forth.
Grant that we, their sons and daughters,
may honour them always
with a spirit of profound respect.
While occasions such as Mothers Day and other special days may well be ‘worthy causes’, the Church assembles for Eucharist on Sunday to celebrate something much more profound and fundamental – the paschal mystery.