By Rosanna Emenusiobi
Recently, precisely on Sunday 31st of March, 2019, we celebrated our mothers, variously called “Mothering Sunday”, “Mothers' Day”, “Uka Nne” (in Igbo language). It was a special and joyous occasion for Catholics and their beloved mothers in Nigeria. Other Christian denominations have already celebrated theirs. Catholics celebrate this event on
Sunday following the Solemnity of Annunciation (25th March) – a solemn feast commemorating Mary's conception of our Saviour Jesus Christ - when her own motherhood began immediately archangel Gabriel announced to her of God's choice of her to be Christ's mother.
The Internet, especially, the social media (WhatsApp, Yahoo Messenger, Snapchat, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, etc) was replete with goodwill messages, prayerful wishes, poems, music, riddles, prose, quotations, and jingles for our mothers. Phone calls, video calls, and text messages were extraordinarily busy, connecting us with our mothers. There were appropriate programmes on Radio and Television, as well as articles in various Newspapers and Internet news outlets. People travelled home to celebrate their mothers. Gifts of all sorts, sizes, colours, and shapes were part of the celebration. The mothers themselves - members of Catholic Women Organization (CWO) of various parishes staged entertainments for the parishioners. That famous, unforgettable and unbeatable music of the “70s, “Sweet Mother. I no go Forget You” by the Cameroonian artiste, late Nico Mbarga, came alive once again. Thanks to WhatsApp and Youtube, this most beautiful song celebrating the glories of motherhood, was heard in most homes, with freestyle dancing steps by both young and old, men and women, even the sick could be seen nodding their heads with joy. May God rest the soul of Nico Mbarga. Other songs that celebrate mothers, especially among the Igbos abound, such as “Nnem ihe di mma ka m g'emere gi. Onye oma, onye oma. Onye oga-adiri mma. Onyeoma”. Other singers like Gozie Okeke also celebrate motherhood in music. The comedian, Chief Imo (Longinus Anokwute) recently released a beautiful piece, “Chukwu Gozierem Nnem”. In short, NDI NNE, MAAMA! NDI NNE DIBANU MMA OOO! Let me add immediately that when we are celebrating mothers, we are celebrating not only biological mothers, but also adoptive and spiritual mothers. However, I would like to begin this series with celebrating our biological mothers.
Celebrating Mothers: A Worldwide Phenomenon
Celebration of motherhood is universal. The very first word a child learns everywhere in the world is “Mama”, “Mom”, “Mummy” (according to geographical areas). Just Google “Mother” or “Motherhood” and hundreds of sites spring up, directing one to poems, music, articles, books, pamphlets, booklets, symbols, epitaphs – in honour of our mothers. Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty has an excellent and touching insight on a mother's unique endowment and her relationship with God: According to him,
The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honour of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral – a dwelling place for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God's creative miracle to bring new saints to heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing its act of creation. What on God's good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother. (emphasis mine).
Do you also know that, according to Ellen Key, the mother is the most precious possession of the nation, so precious that society advances its highest well-being when it protects the functions of the mother? The most important of these functions? Building a Home! We shall come back to this.
Pope St. John Paul II, celebrated the glorious womanhood in his Letter to Women in 1995: women who are mothers, wives, daughters, religious, and those who work. It is not a surprise that he greets 'mothers' first:
Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God's own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child's first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life. (emphasis mine)
Mothers, you are really great! I was edified and moved to tears of joy by a short video sent to me on Mothers' Day about celebrities in the entertainment and film industries who celebrated their mothers as they received awards from various organizations: African Music and Movie Award; American Grammy Award, Ghana Movie Award, and so on. It was like a melodious chorus coming from each of those showcased: “I owe all to my Mom”, “Mom, I cannot thank you enough”; “It was my Mom”, “Thank you, my Mom for encouraging me”. “Mom, thank you for believing in me”. “I am nothing today without my Mom's support”; “Mom, this Award goes to you first”, “Mom, you are one in a million”, and so on. I asked myself, “where were their fathers”?
Again, I was at a priestly ordination in Italy in 2017. Ten young and energetic men were ordained priests in a religious Order. Before the end of the Mass, the Chief Celebrant (an Archbishop), invited the mothers of the newly ordained priests to stand up. Ten women stood up (thanks be to God their mothers were all alive). The Bishop began to thank these mothers for their admirable work in their sons. “I thank you, wonderful and courageous women for supporting your children, especially spiritually, which enabled them to answer God's call”. He continued, “I have interacted with your sons and each of them told me that his mother influenced his decision to offer himself to the service of God and humanity. May God bless each one you abundantly”. I was stunned. I have never seen this. Again, what about their fathers? I am not saying this to deride fathers. NO! I am only emphasizing the amazing influence mothers could have on their children and their future.
Mothering: Meaningful and Purposeful Work
Mothers are obviously involved in a tremendously meaningful work. Every stage of motherhood – courtship, marriage, getting pregnant, each stage of pregnancy, childbirth, and the millions of things involved in raising children after birth – is loaded with meaning and purpose. And that meaning is life, more life, better life, future life. Mothering is excruciatingly demanding work, both before and after birth; but it is wonderfully meaningful work. Being a mother is perhaps the single hardest job in the world; perhaps the least appreciated job in the world, and certainly the most important in the world. Yet, mothers do not go on strike, they do not demand wages, salaries or pension. They do not even demand tips or “brown envelopes” or “money-filled Ghana must-gos”. They joyfully and generously carry out their job of training a nation, preparing persons for all the professions in the world. Without mothers becoming pregnant, there will be no people, no family, no community, no State, no nation, no professions, no civilisation, and no society at large.
Mother Makes a House a Home
Prov. 14:1 reads, “the wise woman builds her house”. To build means, literally, to make and to set up a house and this verse refers not only to the structure and upkeep of the home, but also to the family itself. You see, a home is not only a place – it is also people! One insightful scholar explains the verse this way: although the Hebrew word for “house” and “home” is the same, “home” is the preferred word here. A house is not always a home and this verse does not speak of house construction, masonry, or carpentry but of home building; the knitting together for family and the day-by-day routine of creating a happy and comfortable place for a family to live. And who is responsible for the quality of life in that place where the family lives? The mother, of course! She sets the mod and maintains the atmosphere inside the home. In fact, this Proverb teaches that if the mother is wise, she diligently and purposefully creates that atmosphere. She does not just hope it will happen.
What is a house? What is exactly its function? A house wards off the elements. It covers people in times of rains, storms, cold, sun; protects them from anything that could affect their health. It harbours all of one's possessions and keeps them safe. A house gives safe boundaries and consistency; one returns to the same place every day. It provides access to others, as people know where to come to find one another. It offers a place to feed, rest, and to cleanse oneself. Despite all these functions, it is not yet a home. Just take a look at how a mother affects a house:
“Better to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Prov. 21:9).
“Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife” (Prov. 21:9).
We all agree that a house is not a home until a feminine touch has been applied: the softness of a mother's touch. Everything revolves around the mother in the house. Her motherly presence makes everyone come alive. Home is where human life flourishes: physically, intellectually, psychologically, emotionally, culturally/socially, morally, and spiritually. The centrality of a home in aiding human development cannot be overemphasized. And who brings this to materilisation? The Mother!
(to be continued)