A Prayer for Mothers

My mother, Trinette (b. 1926)

Mother’s Day will soon be here. I am not a big fan of “Hallmark Holidays,” although this one began out of a different tradition. According to “Mothers Day Central” (yes, there is a website called this), celebrating mothers can be traced back to Egyptian, Roman and Greek eras in history.

A later incarnation of a holiday to honor Motherhood came from Europe. It fell on the fourth Sunday Lent (the 40 days of fasting preceding Easter Sunday). Early Christians initially used the day to honor the church in which they were baptized, which they knew as their “Mother Church.” This place of worship would be decorated with jewels, flowers and other offerings. Today we often call this “Mothering Sunday” in the High Anglo tradition.

The first North American Mother’s Day was conceptualized with Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Despite having penned The Battle Hymn of the Republic 12 years earlier, Howe had become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on Mother’s to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their Sons killing the Sons of other Mothers. She called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood through a Mother’s Proclamation.

In 1907, Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948), a Philadelphia schoolteacher, began a movement to set up a national Mother’s Day in honor of her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis. She solicited the help of hundreds of legislators and prominent businessmen to create a special day to honor mothers. The first Mother’s Day observance was a church service honoring Anna’s mother. Anna handed out her mother’s favorite flowers, the white incarnations, on the occasion as they represent sweetness, purity, and patience. Anna’s hard work finally paid off in the year 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as a national holiday in honor of mothers.

Mother’s Day can be a difficult day for many. For those who never knew their mothers. For those who cannot have children. For those who had abusive mothers. For those whose mothers have recently died. This year, I will have “one less mother,” as my mother-in-law passed away 8 days ago. My own mother is not the person who she once was, having lost much of her memory and skill of years gone by. I’m a mother of two children who have left the nest, so I won’t be seeing them this Sunday. (I hope they call – hint, hint, if either of you read this).

I offer this prayer, which perhaps can pertain to all of us – who are children of God, the mother and father of us all:

A Prayer for Mothers by Rick Morley

On this day when we remember our mothers, let us offer our prayers to Jesus, the son of Mary.

Because on this earth we are all sons and daughters of Eve, let us pray for the whole world and the church universal, that we might behold each other as brothers and sisters. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Rebecca gave birth to Jacob, and in so doing she gave birth to a whole nation, let us pray for our own nation, and for all in authority. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Rachel’s son Joseph was mistreated, beaten, and wrongly jailed, we pray for all in this world who are in trouble of any kind. We pray for the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, and the victims of war and all who live in terror’s wake. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Hannah, the mother of Samuel, went to the House of the Lord to pray with earnest integrity, we earnestly pray for those in this community, and especially those celebrating their birthdays this week  . . . Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Naomi took Ruth into her home, we pray for those who act as surrogate, spiritual mothers. We pray with gratitude for all those who give the gift of love and nurturing. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

As Elizabeth gave birth in old age, and as she saw her son John the Baptist carried off to persecution, we pray for all those who are sick, those who are suffering, and those with any need, especially. . . Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

And, as the Blessed Virgin Mary stood by the cross and watched her son die, we pray for the dead and the dying. Lord in your mercy.

Hear our Prayer.

Lord Jesus, who wishes to gather your people as a mother hen gathers together her brood, we offer to you our prayers. Accept our gratitude for all who mother, bless all who mother, and give all mothers your comfort and strength. And help all of us, brothers and sisters, to be your family on earth, as we shall be in Heaven. Amen.

Rick Morely is an Episcopal Priest and the rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He blogs at A Garden Path.

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