Michelle Martin

Mother Mary

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

They start in April, the Mother’s Day commercials and ads. You can tell it’s a Mother’s Day ad when you see a preschooler or even toddler using their adorably pudgy fingers to arrange a breakfast tray of toast and juice and a flower.

Sometimes it all goes well, in the commercial at least. Sometimes the child leaves a trail of orange juice drips on their way to bring their mother breakfast in bed. The mother, in every iteration I’ve seen, is delighted.

Maybe it’s because they are professional actors and better than the rest of us at taking the child’s offering without once wincing at the disaster they suspect lurks in the kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve loved each and every Mother’s Day gift my children have given me, from the painted flowerpots they made at school to the poster of a beach vacation (which we’ve never done as a family) Caroline and Frank made together when they were small. Maybe the most impressive part was that they did it together, although I’m pretty sure their dad worked just as hard as they did to keep the cooperation going.

But I’m also aware of all the half-done projects I’ve tidied away, the amount of time I’ve spent cleaning the kitchen after their first cooking attempts. Cleaning up is part of cooking, I say. Over and over again.

Mary probably could have pulled it off.

But maybe not. She was born without original sin, but that doesn’t mean she never felt annoyed or frustrated or even angry. We know from Scripture that she worried and grieved.

While so many portrayals of Mary, the Mother of God, are regal and serene and maybe just a little saccharine, but it seems to me that she spoke a little sharply to Jesus when he stayed at the temple in Jerusalem without telling anyone. She was Jesus’ mother, and that means she raised him, not just that she gave birth to him. Jesus, fully divine and still fully human, was a child who at times needed to learn how to behave.

I wonder if she was someone who, like me, didn’t particularly like cleaning but did it because she liked things being clean, who delighted in her child’s sense of humor but had to remind him to read the room, who sometimes, no matter how much she loved her son, reveled in an hour alone.

Our culture seems to be full of people who believe their mothers were saints, perhaps just for having the patience to put up with them, and who knows? Maybe all of them were. I’m certainly not going to argue.

When I remember Mary, the Mother of God, sometimes I think more about Mary-the-mother than Mary-the-saint. They are, of course, one and the same, and sometimes I think that’s the miracle.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.


  • family life
  • mothers day