Saturday, March 24, 2007

Open to life: mothers are heroes

We’ve had many comments in the past couple of months about married couples being open to procreation. The following are two comments from bloggers as well as excerpts from a reflection I gave at another parish two years ago.

Anon: “It is not easy to always be open to life! I have several children and can not imagine life without them. My husband is open to having an even larger family. Of course I would cherish a new life, a new baby, but I get nervous. My husband used to be more cautious now he has thrown caution to the wind. I am glad that I can remain anonymous on this site. Are there any saints who might help me to be less afraid? Are there prayers? Is it a sin to worry about it so much?”

Mindy: “When I was pregnant with my most recent baby a woman actually walked over to me at school pick-up and, in front of others, said, 'I heard you were pregnant again, but I had to see it to believe it.' She went on to say, 'I never know what to say to women like you.' I responded, 'Congratulations is the usual.' She actually told me she thought that wouldn't have been appropriate…I too cannot imagine the world without each one of my shiny children. Each of them is proof to me that not only does God has a plan for me, but that he loves me very much.”

Years ago, I had a T-shirt with a list of celebrities’ names on the front of it– rock stars, athletes, politicians. Across the front were the words, 'Who is your hero?' Then, on the back of the shirt were the words 'Would he die for you?' with a big Cross. The point is that Jesus Christ is the greatest hero the world has ever seen. That, to live a heroic life is to live heroic love. Jesus says that heroic love is the greatest love: “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus freely accepted laying down his own life for each one of us, his friends.

If I were to make a shirt today with a list of my heroes, certainly all mothers would be on it. Every mother makes great sacrifices, as many of you here today can attest. Through pregnancy, labor, nurturing, and raising a child, every mother lives sacrificial love. There is a very short list of mothers, though, who have made the greatest sacrifice and laid down their lives for their child.

One of these women lived in Europe last century. Gianna Beretta Molla was a mother of four children. When she was pregnant with her fourth child, doctors discovered cancer in her body. They advised her to abort the child in order to save her own life. She discussed it with her husband, thought and prayed about it, and freely made the heroic choice for the life of her child.

Within a year of giving birth to her beautiful fourth child, Gianna lost her battle with cancer. A few years ago, Pope John Paul II canonized her a saint for the heroic choice she made to lay down her life for her child.

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