by Deacon Stephen Bowling
In the liner notes of his 1975 album “Windsong”, the late John Denver wrote about how he had tried to record the sound of the wind in order to incorporate it into the album which carried its name, but for some reason, he “could never capture the sound on tape so as to do it any justice.”
This is the same kind of problem one has when trying to adequately describe all that goes into the concept of motherhood . . . our language is simply not big enough to do justice to the power and beauty that the word encompasses. The word defies being forced into any description we might wish to place upon it . . . nevertheless during the month of May every year we all make our attempts at doing so.
Perhaps it is this deficiency which drew me to the above quote on motherhood by Gilda Radner. I think it more than any other begins to capture the true essence of motherhood without in any way diminishing the grandeur and holiness it carries with it. In many ways the quote actually seems to enhance the term – something I thought impossible before finding it.
“Infinite Optimism” may be a phrase which begins to tell the story properly.
Motherhood always seems to me to be at its heart an act of positivity . . . something, as John Denver himself said on that very same album, which “works in the service of life and the living . . . part of the movement, part of the growing, part of beginning to understand.” Mothers always look for the best in us; they support us when we are in need, they protect us when we are afraid, and perhaps most important of all, they love us for just who we are, just as we are.
“Infinite optimism” is perhaps one of the most succinct descriptions for Holy Mother Church as well. Even though there are many who might not be able to live up to this ideal expression of motherhood, the Church herself absolutely must do so . . . to assist those in need and to model for us all exactly how “mothering” was intended by God to be done from the very beginning.
The Church indeed works in “service of life and the living” as it seeks to accompany us along our journey through this life. Our benefit is always in her heart, our welfare is her intent and our success and salvation are ever her wishes for us.
The Church is our spiritual mother and the infinite optimism she pours forth upon us in the sacraments is intended to become a living part of us, just as the Gospel itself is as well.
On this upcoming Mother’s Day . . . a day when we seek to remember our own mothers’ “infinite optimism” (or at least their best attempts towards it) we also should take a moment and remember Mother Church and her best attempts at achieving this sacred goal too. Just as with most mothers, the attempts and the successes are far more numerous than we might always remember . . . and the victories that she has achieved for us are very much worth celebrating anew once more.