Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"May Our Children Not Unlearn"
The Behind-the-Scenes Story of Mother's Day

It is almost Father's Day, which maybe has you thinking this post on Mother's Day is a little late to be useful. Maybe it is. But, as I learned today in morning prayer, June 2 marks the original Mother's Day, as envisioned by Julia Ward Howe. So there you go. Right on time. Happy Mother's Day!

That Mother's Day has not, since its inception, fallen on the 3rd Sunday of May is one of a few new things my prayer notes taught me this morning. It is a lesson we both know and are always relearning: how history can unhook our days of remembrance from their accumulated sentimentalities. Put more positively: when the motives of another person or generation or project seem to lack depth (as when we dismiss holidays as "Hallmark occasions"), we have probably not sought to understand as deeply and charitably as we might. (I find it a good spiritual discipline to assume that others are/were at least as interesting as we consider ourselves to be.) In moments of potential dismissal, we are called to a deeper attention.


From Common Prayer: "On June 2, 1872, Julia Ward Howe began the celebration of Mother’s Day as a holiday to honor mothers by working for an end to all war."

According to CP, Julia Ward Howe made this proclamation on the first Mother’s Day,

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.’ From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’ Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
On a holiday many clergy intentionally avoid for its secular ambiguity, Julia Ward Howe first invoked images of baptism, disciplines and training in the fruit of the Spirit, creation's vocal yearning for reconciliation and healing, and appeals to justice, peace and a non-violent future; moreover, she presented the rationale for a unified women's protest movement/voice 48 years before amendment to the U.S. Constitution finally allowed for women's suffrage. 

How ironic that Hallmark has not invented a holiday for our mothers but inadvertently hidden that holiday's Gospel character from the Church!

From CP, again:
Lord, help us assemble ourselves before you today through our acts of peace and reconciliation with neighbors near and far. Help us to teach the children in our communities what it means to be children of a God who loves us like a mother. Amen.

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