As the months of May and June roll around, we approach the occasions known as Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day. Regardless of how we observe these days (or do not observe them) they weren’t created for the sole benefit of greeting card manufacturers, florists, and department stores. Nor are they religious holidays, even though some churches go all out to celebrate them.
Of course it’s important that we honor our fathers and mothers as the fifth commandment bids us. Parents, biological or adoptive, have a tremendous influence over the lives of their children. The Church recognizes this liturgically in a number of ways, most particularly in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.
But while Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days are not themselves liturgical occasions, they certainly can be pastoral ones. For those who have lost parents, these holidays can be bittersweet as loving remembrance is mixed with a sense of loss. They can be painful for those whose relationships with parents or children have been damaged. They are often extremely difficult for infertile couples. While the commercial world is touting flowers, perfume, brunch, ties and gas grills, the Church can provide a corrective as we recognize the full spectrum of joy and pain that inhabit human relationships and lift up the opportunity for reconciliation; after all, even the best of relationships have their challenges and experience occasional brokenness.
In the body of Christ, God has realigned the notion of family. While we needn’t (and shouldn’t) give up our familial bonds, we should also reach out to one another beyond those bonds. We look at the men and women who have nurtured, taught, protected, guided, befriended, challenged and loved us throughout our lives, and we look at the children for whom we have done the same. Let us celebrate the gifts of all the women and men who have made each of us stronger in faith, more loving in relationships, and more authentic in living.