Today we celebrate Mother’s Day – a day to honor the mothers in our lives, or those who loved and nurtured and led us on the path to adulthood.
But did you know that the original purpose of Mother’s Day was NOT to honor mothers? It was started in 1870 by mothers who had lost their sons in the Civil War. It was an anti-war celebration; as a humanist who cared about suffering people – as well as a feminist and a suffragette who advocated social justice – Julia Ward Howe penned her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” in 1870 as an appeal to mothers to spare their sons and the sons of others from the cruelties of war.
- a far way away from what is has become today!
In 1907 Anna Jarvis began a crusade for a national holiday to honor mothers after the second anniversary of her mother’s death. Her campaign resulted in a Congressional resolution in 1914, signed by President Woodrow Wilson, proclaiming Mother’s Day as a national holiday to be celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Mother’s Day is now celebrated in over 46 countries around the world.
Today, over 139 million Mother’s Day cards are mailed each year to mothers, mothers-in-laws, grandmothers, aunts and other women who have been significant in someone’s life. Between cards and flowers and chocolates, children spend over $20.7 billion every year on Mother’s Day.
That’s a lot to, in small way, say ‘thank you’ to our mothers.
Before you guys start screaming that you are being left out, Father’s Day was established in 1910 by Grace Golden Clayton, mourning her father. After many tries to get it declared a holiday, Franklin Roosevelt signed a proclamation in 1966 naming the third Sunday of June as ‘Father’s Day’. Surprisingly, it was the men who objected, saying it was just a reasons for businesses to make money.
So know now know the ‘rest of the story’.
Mother’s Day is not a happy day to all people.
Some churches make a big deal about Mother’s Day – handing out flowers, making them stand in the service, having Mother’s Day luncheons. That all sounds nice, but to some members of the congregation, this is a most painful time of the yea; I know several women who will not go to church on Mother’s Day. Whether they had a dysfunctional relationship with their mother, cannot become mothers, have lost their children, did not have a mother, or are single, this is a very difficult time for them.
And I can venture a guess that there are many of you here today that fall into one of those categories. And there are many of you who had a wonderful relationship with their mothers.
So let’s take a few minutes, if you are willing, to talk about our mothers – the good and the bad.
Let me start:
- My mother was the only girl in a family of five boys – they treated her unmercifully and her father and my grandmother divorced when she was young. She was cared for by my grandmother and great-aunt until she could go to school. The boys were older and could function by themselves. She always resented her father for leaving my grandmother. I was born at the end of World War II, with my father in the Army Air Force. My mother and I lived in the country in central Illinois, where she saw no adult except the coalman once a week for deliveries. To keep from losing her mind, she treated me like a ‘miniature adult’. There were lots of positive things about that, but I never was allowed to be a child. I was held to higher standards than the other children and always had to be a ‘good girl’ and do what the people in authority told me to do. I am thankful for her teaching me to read and becoming an adult, but it took many years to therapy to understand that she did the best she could do.
Does anyone else have something to tell us about your mother or the primary caregiver in your life?
So as we close, let us be thankful that we had someone who tried to care for us. And most of all, let us remember, that in most cases, our mothers did the best they could do. . .
they tried their best to raise us into good people.
Let us pray:
On this Mother’s Day, we give thanks to God for the divine gift of motherhood in all its forms. Let us pray for all the mothers among us today; for our own mothers, those living and those who have passed away; for the mothers who loved us and for those who fell short of loving us fully; for all who hope to be mothers someday and for those whose hope to have children has been frustrated; for all mothers who have lost children; for all women and men who have mothered others in any way — those who have been our substitute mothers and we, who have done so for those in need. We pray this all in the name of God our great and loving Mother. Amen
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 10 May 2015