Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Feast of St. Monica, Mother of St. Augustine

Mother's Day in August

Because I wear a veil and, most of the time, a simple red jumper and cross, I am always recognized as a nun. This, combined with the sight of gray hair at the forehead and whisping out at the temples, makes people think I am an old, very wise and, of course, holy nun. Occasionally I have the opportunity to tell them not to be fooled into the wise and holy part.

I have learned to curb my exuberance among strangers because I am apt to mention my sons in conversation. This always draws wide-eyed disbelief, if not shock. Many still have not caught up with the phenomenon of "sister moms." I do not wish to scandalize, only educate.

Being a mother; having a history of nurturing, encouraging, being patient with, providing a good example for and dedicating one's life to children is good preparation for life in community. Yet it is a mixed blessing because it is another in the long list of things which, if not left behind, are changed forever while remaining the same. Even those who have not entered religious life but have experienced seeing a child go off to college or move away and then encountered that empty nest syndrome will understand. They grow-up, marry, become adults, have families of their own but are still your children, forever entangled with the strings of your heart. During one of my pregnancies, my mother expressed her concern for me. I told her not to worry and she replied, "But you will always be my baby."

So today I still have my "babies", each a mature independent man, for whom I worry, for whom there is a tenderness that is as easily brought to life as on the day of their birth. St. Monica, patroness of all mothers, would understand. At this stage of the game the best advice is to keep your mouth shut and pray. Monica must have bit her tongue raw! The remove necessary in the maternal relationship required at this time is accentuated by my personal remove to a contemplative monastic community. For all of us mothers in religious life it is essential to discern the rightness of the vocational choice and the normal pangs of that motherly 'missing' of adult children. I have been told that the final test of a mother's vocation is the arrival of grandchildren, a storm of emotion I seem to have survived although it does bring one to new heights of trust and detachment, easier to attain at some times than others. Lay people whose grandchildren live across the country or beyond the ocean are also familiar with this detachment.

Monica had plenty to worry her and a husband who was not "with the program" either. But she knew the faithfulness of God and she knew her son, Augustine, far better than he knew himself. Would that all children could appreciate that gift in their mothers. It is Monica's brand of trust in the faithfulness of God on which I depend. And in spite of all the pains and aches, the sacrifices and the well-worn tongue, I am grateful beyond description for the gift of these sons, for the gift of receiving them to guide and form and love, and for the gifts they have, in turn, given to me.


Dina said...

Beautifully said. Wish I had remembered that word, detachment, went I blogged about my son on his birthday, just yesterday.
He is in Los Angeles, Naomi is in Australia, and I in Jerusalem.

I always wondered which communities allowed formerly married women to make profession and when all that changed.
Thanks for teaching about Monica. New to me.
Shalom to you.

Barbara said...

Curiously, I have never had children of my own (my husband left me early on), but now, as I enter retirement, I am a mother to two grown "children" who have adopted me. Wonderful how God works!

Dina said...

And those sons of your are really something! Enjoy them. Blessings to you all.