Mother’s Day for Peace
In his homily for 6th Sunday of Easter, Year C, Father Hanly explains that the idea behind Mother’s Day was a Mother’s Day for peace.
Readings for Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C
- First Reading: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
- Second Reading: Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
- Gospel: John 14:23-29
It’s Mother’s Day. I thought we should talk a little bit about how Mother’s Day originated. We think of it primarily as an American feast that spread around, but it has a much deeper meaning than that behind it.
Since the beginning of time, mothers have been venerated. Mothers are very important members of every community, because you can imagine without mother, we’d have nothing.
Even in the Ten Commandments handed down by God. They all seem rather negative — don’t do this and don’t do that — but the fourth one says, “Honour your father and your mother, and you will live long upon the land.” Not only is it positive, but it is full of promise.
But the day, Mothering Day now …
Well, of course, when we think of mother, we think of all the days dedicated to Mary Mother, the mother of God, for instance, the mother of the Saviour, the mother of the Messiah. And, of course, it fills us with joy to celebrate all these many forms of mothering that she takes for us during the year.
But around the 1600s, we have the mention of a day, a special day, for mothering and it started in England.
And it was in the 17th Century, the Church was divided in England at the time. Part of the British empire was Catholic but most of it had followed King Henry out into Anglicanism and Protestantism.
And so a lot of the liturgy was left behind, the kind of treasured liturgy that we have today when we have saints names and Christmas days and Easters and all of it, some of it was taken, a lot of it was left.
And so during this time, they began to have these special days that were, in a sense, trying to recall the good old days of showing our devotion to the Blessed Mother.
And so one of the popular feast days was Mothering Day.
Now that’s the first time we have Mother’s Day or close to it.
Mothering Day was…
Because the rich people all moved into the big cities at this time (in fact they created the big cities like London etc, etc), they had to bring all the country people with them, or the ones that served them, the ones that were a part of their household, their household servants.
But they had one thing. They left their mothers and fathers behind and went into the big city, but, every Lent, on the 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday, they allowed all their help to return to the country and visit their mothers and to spend the whole day with them, probably the only day they got off.
And so it happened that Mothering Day was the first time we hear about Mother’s Day.
Of course, many of those who settled in the United States were from England or the British Isles.
And so Mothering Day they did not bring with them, largely because those who came from England were usually leaving England because they felt they were not appreciated there.
They were certain members of certain groups and they were looking for a land where they would be free of kings and queens, and so they settled in America.
But what did happen was the Civil War, when it broke out…
Now the Civil War was around 1860s and you can’t imagine how terrible the Civil War was because, first of all, it was fratricide, it was killing your brothers and sisters, but mostly your brothers.
You sent all your men out to battle, and you sent your young men from sixteen on, and even some fourteen and less, and then you waited for the great battle, and so many didn’t return.
The United States lost more soldiers in the Civil War than every war since then up to now in their whole history. And it was a savage war.
And so the end of it, people trying to, through the rubble and destruction of cities and towns and areas, they tried to build a new world.
Of course, the split was terrible and it hung in the air like a foul odour. There was the north and the south…
And then one lady whose name you probably are familiar with, Julia Ward Howe…
Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics for the most famous song to come out of the Civil War which is “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” This was her.
But later on, she began to gather women who had no rights, or they couldn’t vote, and she began to gather them together, and their one idea was Mother’s Day, Mother’s Day for peace.
She was anti-war, and so were all the women that she gathered together, because most of them had lost husbands, they had lost their only children, they suffered greatly and those who were with them suffered greatly.
And so it was that this movement became very, very strong. And its idea was anti-war and they would organise against the government that would allow their grandchildren to be slaughtered at the next terrible war.
Now this movement was very, very strong, as you can imagine. It grew out of the pain and sorrow and loss of a terrible, terrible time for a still young country.
They made, at that time, the first proclamation, this group, and they made a proclamation of “Mothers for Peace”: no more wars, we’re not sending our children out anymore.
Well, this met with approval, but not so much approval, because as you know some felt that this was a radical idea, no wars, all pacifist etc. So it had great success and popularity, but it had great arguments against it.
At the same time, however, there was another woman from the south, from West Virginia. Her name was Ann Reeves. And she started a mother’s friendship, which became a mother’s friendship day.
But it wasn’t just a day. She gathered women and their aims were reconciliation between east and west. And they felt that the women could do this better than the men, that they could reconcile the north with the south, and they were organised for social services.
This is important now, social services, not religious purposes. They all came from basically Christian religions, but it was for social services.
And they went to these burnt out areas all through the south and the north where there was all kinds of difficulties, but mainly the people were dying from the destruction and the garbage and the filth and the destruction of whole areas at a time.
So they began to teach women how to deal with that kind of crisis.
So it was really the first social service that the United States government got involved in, although they didn’t get involved in it, but Ann Reeves and these women, and they grew very powerful.
What they used to do is train the mothers, mothers now, how to be nurses, how to take care of the food, how to live in a world that had so much destruction and poison and misery in it.
And they became very effective social service workers: medical services, nursing, caring for depressed and despised people, and this is they would have their day.
This was not just a day, but it was a woman’s day, it was a mother’s day.
And, lo and behold, after that, the daughter of Ann Reeves, whose name was Anna Jarvis, spent her whole time, she actually went to a seminary (now a seminary was a woman’s college in those days) and, when she graduated, she took up her mother’s cause.
And now there were very many women in the 1900s, and when she took up this cause, she dedicated her whole life to it.
The nice thing about this is she is the one who called her movement Mother’s Day and that’s what she went about. She wanted to create a day, a Mother’s Day, a day that would be anti-war, a day where women could get together and discuss their needs, their social needs.
And it became so very popular that Woodrow Wilson, who was the president of the United States, in 1914, finally was convinced that he would declare the United States would have a national Mother’s Day. And this is part of what it was like.
The ideals were rooted in religious faith, belief in God, because it was the Judeo-Christian tradition all these people came from.
It was respect for motherhood, not women, of course that could be taken for granted, but with special care for motherhood, because they were the ones who suffered from the Great War mostly.
It was to be full of social action, anti-war, promote social action and social action mainly for the support of families, so it was the first social service.
But the ringing spirit behind it all was the original one by the one who started the movement for Mother’s Day for peace. It was peace that would be the goal.
Now I’m going to see if I can find it here, but it was basically the President said this: Mother’s Day for the “public expression of love and of reverence for all mothers of our nation.”
That was in 1914. By 1920, one third of the whole world had begun, if they didn’t already have one instituted, a Mother’s Day. All of Canada, all the way down through South America and even over to Asia.
(Father says something in Chinese), you know (Father says something else in Chinese)? That originated during this same period. It’s the three eight, the anniversary, every year, that we celebrate Mother’s Day and Woman’s Day.
Now what happened very quickly, and this kind of broke the heart of Anna Jarvis, it got commercialised. It became sort of a time when chocolates were given and flowers were sold and restaurants did a great business.
And it didn’t spoil it, but it kind of disappointed Anna Jarvis because she was for freedom and peace for the whole world that would come out of this.
But it kind of put a little tinge in it and it began to lose its dedication to anti-war and social services and all of these things. But not entirely.
But four years later, when President Wilson declared Mother’s Day, four years later, the worst of all wars happened, the First World War, that wiped out so many young people all across Europe and other places, and it took another generation to go back to these original principles and say, “No, we must create a world of peace, integrity, where mothers are held sacred.”
I’m going to end this now, and you probably didn’t put two and two together, but originally it started out as a peace movement and then it concentrated on motherhood. Remember these two things, peace and motherhood because they are closely connected.
And now I’ll read you what Jesus says, yes, today:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
“We will dwell, we will be with him.” And then Jesus says this:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
Jesus’ peace is self-sacrificing love. “I have come to be with you to teach you how to love, to teach you how to care, to teach you how to sacrifice.”
And if there’s any picture that we all are familiar with when we think of peace for the whole world, if we’re religious people, it’s Christmas, the Blessed Mother holding the little child who is the hope and salvation of the whole world.
And her commitment was a mother’s love, a self-sacrificing love, a new hope, a new joy and a world fit for bringing in children that they might understand the love of God.
So today we’re going to ask all the mothers to stand up. We have a special blessing for you.
In Woodrow Wilson’s message, remember, he said “for all the mothers, those who are living and those who have passed away,” and so today we want to remember them in this blessing as well.
Let us pray.
You compare Your own love for Your people
to the love of a mother for her children.
Look with kindness on these mothers.
Give them comfort in moments of sorrow.
Give them joy in their work with their families.
Listen to their prayers
And bless them in all they do for You.
Let them share with Jesus Your Son
and with Mary our mother
in the everlasting happiness of Heaven.
We ask this grace
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And may His blessing be upon you all.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.