[Editor: This article, about Mother’s Day, by the Reverend Father J. M. Cusack, was published in The Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW), 25 May 1944. The author writes about the mother of a man who was killed in action during the Second World War (1939-1945).]
By Rev. Father J. M. Cusack
Mother’s Day has just gone by. I have tried to spiritualise this day, refusing to leave it to our business men to commercialise it. Its thoughts and sentiments are too beautiful, and we Catholics with our love for Our Heavenly Mother during this month of May, hold every mother in high esteem because of her.
This year my thoughts are sad, solemn thoughts in keeping with the times, for there are many sad mothers in the world to-day.
A few months ago I received a letter from a mother telling me what many a mother has to tell these days — her son had been killed in action. “Father,” she wrote, “I wonder is there any mother in the world as lonely as I am to-night. Do you remember that sad passage in the Gospel which describes the poor widow at Naim, when they were carrying out a young man to bury him, and ‘he was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.’ Father, those words are true of me to-night; but Christ is not here to give me back my boy. Do you remember how happy I was when you baptized him? You little know how I would need the words you spoke about being brave when sorrow came.
“I have had my joys and sorrows; but for each joy God has given me a sorrow, and to-night I somehow think my sorrows have been the greater. I don’t know what I would do if I did not have Our Blessed Lady to go to to share my sorrow with. Isn’t it strange, my boy was just the same age as her Son when He died — 33. And she, too, was so happy when He was born. I wonder was she any more lonely than I am to-night? But, thank God, I have her to go to.”
33 years ago
That letter brought back memories of a beautiful Sunday afternoon, when I baptized a little baby 33 years ago. She was a young girl-mother of 20 years; she had a grand Catholic husband. How clearly I remembered her words: “Father, I am the happiest woman in the world. I wonder will God let me be always as happy as this?” I had replied: “May He grant it so; but if He ever sends you sorrow, I’m sure you will accept it bravely.”
As she said, I little know how brave she would have to be when cross after cross fell on her poor shoulders. Hers was to be a sad motherhood. She had four other children — two boys and two girls. Each had lived only to fill her cup of joy with childhood, and then be snatched away, leaving a mother with her tears and wounded heart with only beautiful memories of the children God had sent her, and had taken away. In each hurt there was no rebellion, only a beautiful, humble resignation, thanking God for the happiness the little one had brought.
Twenty years, and then came the great blow, and she was left a widow. But she still had her first-born, now grown to manhood — the only son of his mother, and she was now a widow. They loved each other with a great love, and she was happy with her boy and the beautiful memories of her husband and children whom God had taken.
Years passed on. She was still young; but she could see the years stealing the young manhood of her son; he was nearing 30. Though he was the only one she had, she thought more of his happiness than of her own. Oh, how great is a mother’s generosity! She told him he would not always have her, and he would please her if he got married. The day came when her son decided to get married. As she said, his choice fell on the best girl in the world, a girl such as she had hoped her own little girls would have been had they lived. The war had come to mar their lives. He had been home several times on leave; but that was all.
The sad news contained in the letter I have mentioned came a month or so before his little one was expected. In another letter that lonely mother told of how she let her mother’s heart go out to the lonely, little mother-to-be. They shed their tears together, each trying to console the other, and thanked God for the Faith which had given them Our Lady of Sorrows to help them in their dark hour.
Describing the baptism, the older mother wrote: “Father, I had thought I was the loneliest woman in the world; but it nearly broke my heart when I saw the look of longing and loneliness on the face of that young mother, longing for the one who would have filled her cup of joy. I thought of my happy joy when he was baptized. There she stood holding her little baby — his child — “the only son of his mother and she was already a widow!” Father, I knew what she was thinking. I took her to the foot of the Cross, and there we three mothers sorrowed with each other.
Prayer for courage
“I have made a resolution to forget my own sorrow, and to be a mother to her, and to her little boy. We two widowed mothers will rear him with the fond and beautiful memories of his father, her husband, and my son. Father, pray for us that we may be brave — and pray for him whom we will never see again, until we meet in heaven.”
To-day there are many, many mothers, friend and foe, whose hearts are wrung with sorrow gathering around Our Lady, needing a mother’s care. Surely, “Mother’s Day” brought thoughts and sympathy for them. The old mothers are so brave; they have had their many sorrows. But to-day our hearts, our love, and our sympathy go out to the young mother. May God make them brave, and keep them good and pure and close to Him. Such were my Mother’s Day thoughts.
The Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW), 25 May 1944, p. 9
Father = a title used before the name of a priest (e.g. Father Smith)
He = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to God or Jesus Christ
Him = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to God or Jesus
Our Blessed Lady = (in a Catholic context) Mary, mother of Jesus Christ
Our Lady = (in a Catholic context) Mary, mother of Jesus Christ
Our Lady of Sorrows = (in a Catholic context) Mary, mother of Jesus Christ
the poor widow at Naim = a widow of the city of Nain (also spelt Naim), who was taken pity on by Jesus when he saw her distress as her dead son was being carried out of the city for burial (mentioned in the New Testament of the Bible); having compassion for the grieving widow, Jesus brought the young man back to life (the story of the widow of Nain, and the resurrection of her son, is given in the Bible, in Luke 7:11-15)
See: 1) “Luke: Chapter 7”, King James Bible Online [spelling: Nain]
2) “Luke: Chapter 7”, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [spelling: Nain]
3) “Naim: City where Christ raised to life the widow’s son (Luke, vii, 11-17)”, Catholic Answers [spelling: Nairn, Nain, Naim]
4) “Naim (Nain)”, entry in: The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York: The Encyclopedia Press, c. 1913, vol. 10, pp. 672–673
5) “Raising of the son of the widow of Nain”, Wikipedia
[Editor: Added a closing double quotation mark after “already a widow!”]