Family traditions unify the individual members, binding them together by common practices they value and hold dear time and again. A family’s chosen traditions define it as a whole and help to form each person. One tradition that continues to nourish our family, having carried over from my husband’s family of origin, is the practice of each person honoring one individual on his or her birthday as well as Mother’s and Father’s Day.
What I love about this family tradition is how (most often) it brings out the best in both the honorer and the honoree. Occasionally, the words come hard for a couple of siblings who have been at odds, which in itself is a blessing because it calls our (and their) attention to the fact that we need to give extra care to building that relationship. At the very least a child might list off three nice things or fun memories about the person, but sometimes the synthesis of the insights of a sibling, parent, or spouse can be so striking that they fortify and inspire even more virtue in that person for a long time to come and edify the entire family. Acknowledging, understanding, and valuing all people for their unique giftedness is a hallmark of my husband’s family and a quality I am proud to carry on in our generation of Sanfords with the help of this tradition.
A year ago was the first time I celebrated Mother’s Day as a mother-in-law as well as a grandmother. As though that was not gift enough, my daughter-in-law explained something in such a way that I was humbled and honored and understood my vocation as a mother in a whole new light. Rachel expressed her gratitude for the way I understand my son, her husband, Isaac perhaps better than anyone and told me that my maternal knowledge and love for him has helped her to know and love Isaac more and more. She went on to explain that this example must be how having a relationship with the Blessed Mother brings us closer to her son, Jesus.
So simple, yet so profound. God uses the mother:child relationship as he uses the Blessed Mother:Divine Child relationship to magnify and actualize love for the child. This perspective has reinforced in my heart and mind what the essence of motherhood, and in fact, human life is all about: relationship, unity, communion. As a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother, I am privileged to be a vessel of divine love within my family, helping to knit our hearts together so our family can become more like—and more in communion with—the family which is the Blessed Trinity.
May we who are gifted with the same vocation as Our Blessed Mother never tire of pouring ourselves into the loving service of those entrusted to our care. And may we look to the Blessed Mother, the one who first knew, loved, and accepted Jesus, to help us know, love, and accept him ourselves.
Thank you. I love you too, Rachel! Happy Mothers’ Day!