Happy Mother’s Day to all our moms! At all our Masses this weekend we will remember our mothers both living and deceased and we will offer a special Solemn Blessing for our mothers at the end of Mass.
Many of us may not realize that the Catholic Church’s theology, doctrines and dogmas as well as moral teachings on sexuality center on the complementarity of the male and female relationship.
Thus all the Sacraments of the Church are centered on this male-female anthropology that has a divine origin in God’s creation as revealed in natural law.
In Holy Baptism, Christ begets adopted children through His bride, Holy Mother Church by water and the Holy Spirit, just as a husband and wife would beget children in the natural order in the Sacrament of Marriage. Thus the male/female imagery as well as mother/father imagery is extremely important to our doctrine and dogmas surrounding not only Holy Baptism but also marriage as a divinely established institution defined by God alone despite those who think it can be redefined by government, judges or democratic vote.
Even the Sacrament of Holy Orders is completely dependent upon the anthropology of natural law as it concerns the bridegroom and bride, male and female, mother and father. For bishops, priests and deacons, the bridal imagery of the Church as the Bride of Christ and the Risen Christ as the Bridegroom takes on added importance.
During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the bishop or priest becomes an icon or sacramental image of Christ the bridegroom of the Church especially during the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the consecration of the Bread and Wine when the priest acts in “the Person of Christ, Bridegroom and Head of the Church". The male gender is extremely important in the Sacrament of Holy Orders in this regard which goes to the heart of what it means to be a priest or bishop. This is true also for the deacon who during the Liturgy of the Word proclaims the Gospel which has the very words of Christ. Thus in the sacramental liturgical setting, the maleness of the deacon is a sacramental sign of Christ speaking to us quite literally!
The Church is also referred to as Holy Mother Church, always in the feminine. Although bishops, priests, deacons and laity would all be a part of the Church thus comprised of both male and females, our souls are considered feminine even for the male. This is lost in English, but the Latin word for soul, even for a man, is anima which is a feminine term. Thus the “souls” that comprise the Church are collectively understood as female and the Church as the Bride of Christ and Holy Mother.
The Catholic Church values the role of females and males and how we complement one another. We don’t have to be like each other with equal access to the Sacraments of Holy Orders or Matrimony. We are not merely some kind of sociological institution where there is a contrived egalitarianism.
We honor the Blessed Virgin Mary as our Mother and consider her the highest in the Church amongst everyone including popes but second of course to Christ. She is closest to us and to closest to Christ in the hierarchy of the Church.
So on this Mother’s Day we are grateful for our mothers, for our Blessed Mother, Mary Most Holy and for Holy Mother Church. We are grateful for the natural order of sacred roles of male and female that the Catholic Church upholds in her teachings and how male and female complement one another according to natural law. God bless you.
Fr. Allan J. McDonald