I’ve never gotten excited about downloading new ringtones onto my cell phone. But other people love having one-of-a-kind rings. Like the woman who was in the adoration chapel the other afternoon while we were praying the rosary. Her phone started ringing (or should I say singing?) during the third decade of the Joyful Mysteries.
No Separation in Roles
I didn’t realize the sudden burst of music was coming from a phone until she started rummaging through her purse to produce the source of the distraction. Much to my surprise, instead of silencing the thing in a humiliated fluster, she glanced at the caller ID, flipped it open, and said hello.
The rosary came to a polite halt.
“Hi mom,” came a voice from the other end. I wondered if this breech of chapel etiquette was because of some sort of family emergency.
“I’m at church, honey” she informed her son. He said something and she replied, “Maybe when I get home.” I debated whether I should scowl or smile.
They exchanged farewells, and we were back to our prayers.
When she returned the device to her handbag, I went ahead and smiled. This woman’s maternal concern was apparent. She didn’t separate her role as a parent from her role as a praying Christian. Although stepping outside of the chapel would have been the better option, the bottom line was that she didn’t stop being a mom while she was at the chapel, and rightly so. After all, God entrusted her with the privilege and duty of caring for her child. She was doing her best to live out her calling as a mother by attending to her son’s needs at that particular moment.
God Holds Parenthood in High Esteem
Perhaps my congeniality was bolstered by the fact that the call came right when we were meditating on the nativity of Christ. I had been thinking about parenthood and the importance of Mary and Joseph’s role in forming, nurturing and protecting their child. I had been thinking about how Jesus was dependent upon them, and that the Creator of the universe chose to carry out His plan of salvation with the help of two human parents. God holds parenthood in high esteem. I wouldn’t say the same about our culture in general, however. Too often, we treat parenthood as an inconvenience and a burden.
The privileges and duties of fatherhood, for example, are at times reduced to child support payments or material provision. This impoverishes paternity. A father is meant to provide not only material things for his children, but also guidance, encouragement, and love. I like to imagine St. Joseph letting his son “help out” in the workshop. While that wouldn’t have been the most economically efficient method of business, this holy father’s loving patience helped shape the character and personality of Jesus.
Children Are a Reward!
Mary too played her part in forming Jesus. From the moment of His conception, she fostered a welcoming environment for her son. She generously agreed to change her life to make room for His. Motherhood reveals the beauty of such self-giving. Yet maternity is misunderstood in our current cultural climate. We tend to see motherhood as a sort of disease to be fought off with pills or invasive procedures. Mothers are tragically undervalued in a society that all but equates women’s liberation with childlessness. Self-imposed barrenness is seen as a blessing and, too often, children are seen as a curse. What a contrast to the biblical image of the barren mothers Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, Rebekah, Elizabeth who prayed so earnestly for the gift of having a child. They understood what the Psalmist tells us: children are a reward from the Lord (Ps 127:3). To be a parent is to receive a blessing from heaven.
I think the woman praying in the chapel knew this. Her child’s needs, insignificant though they may have been, did not strike her as a burden or an embarrassment. When she got that call, she remembered her calling. She is a mother, so she did not ignore her son, or scold him, or brush him off. She welcomed his dependence upon her just as Mary and Joseph did that of their own son so many centuries ago.
Gina Giambrone is a freelance writer and speaker based in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. She holds an MA in Theology and Christian Ministry from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently awaiting the publication of her first book.