(This article is reprinted with permission from Canticle Magazine, the Voice of Today's Catholic Woman.)
The church was filled not only with family and friends but also with dozens and dozens of children who had come to pay their respects to their classmates’ family. One could sense the closeness of Our Lord and Our Lady this day as we all sat, swimming in the mysteries of love and life.
As we made our thanksgiving after Holy Communion, there was an intensity in the reflection — as all the parents present dwelt on the gifts of children borne, children lost, and the meaning of family life. The earnest voices of the children’s choir had finished their heartfelt song and I watched the priest as he reverently tended to the details of the altar.
As is customary, he collected the vessels which had been used to distribute the Blessed Sacrament and carefully cleaned each one of any fragments. As the remaining hosts were reserved in the tabernacle, he moved deliberately from side to side, living his priesthood, serving his Bride, offering his actions in submission to all that God had revealed about this most holy of sacrifices. His hands moved reverently, deliberately, above, behind, and around — defining the love of God, felt so powerfully and poignantly to all at this moment.
What caught my attention was the chalice. Silver and gold, jewels and beautiful craftsmanship — the best man could offer to bear his living and generous God. As Father turned to the chalice, he poured in the holy water to cleanse it and then drank it to consume in the only appropriate way the Precious Blood remaining after the banquet. This is when my thoughts turned to the grieving mother.
As he ever so gently wiped and turned the chalice in his hands, I was struck by the analogy that we, as women, are like this very chalice — like every chalice — on the altars around the world. They are fashioned in every corner of the globe for one reason — for the greater glory of God and the salvation of His people. Each is unique, beautiful in her own way, and called to bear life in her very core.
Flesh of her flesh, as she opens herself to the creative power of God, the woman and her spouse cooperate to generate new life, life that will last unto all eternity. To join her will to God’s will, to pour out her very being is a risk, physically and emotionally, but a risk with extraordinary merit and grace attached.
What has the chalice done to deserve its privilege? It is a creation at the hands of an artist without its own will. It sits there, a tool in the hands of the priest to be honored, or perhaps in the hands of God’s enemies, to be dishonored. Those who receive the Precious Blood, the fruit of Mary’s womb, may cherish it or they may not, they may be conscious of the extraordinary gift or they may not. Some may take the Life’s Blood and turn to love, or turn to deep sin — but the gift is given in the fullest measure. Our Lady’s “yes” is repeated on each altar as the action of the Holy Spirit witnesses again to the generosity of God.
And so with women who give life from their very essence. The difference, of course, is the free will that we are given. We may reflect the call of our Creator to give life or we can say no. We can accept His will for us or exercise our own apart from His. But as we strive to be more like His chalice, we will find that the water and wine can be turned into precious gifts of life everlasting when used in accordance with His plan.
As the priest finished this most humbling of tasks, he began to cover the chalice. In layer after layer, he placed the veils around it and he set it aside — until the next time. That is when the penetrating question arose in my mind. When is the next time that God will call on that chalice to carry His Flesh to the world?
It is a question in the mind of married women of childbearing age around the world and throughout the ages. Will He call on me again? What is my response? Can I say to Christ, in union with Christ, and in loving response to Him: “and this is my body which is given for You too.” That is the profound response Our Blessed Lord hopes for, made in love, and made individually by each woman in the most intimate part of her soul. “Whoever receives one child such as this in My name receives Me” (Matthew 18:5).
I gave thanks for my privilege to be a mother. My children, my losses, my joys and sufferings — all are found in that chalice. For without His sacrifice and His promise of heaven, my sacrifices and hopes mean little. Some are ready to be called to give more life; some, sadly, need to postpone such a privilege. Some wait, suffering, for that joy; some throw it away. Some choose to preserve themselves in celibacy for their Only Spouse, at the Eternal Banquet, and are filled with different joys and privileges. God sings out His call to every woman — but is she listening?
This is the cup of My Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant. Do this in memory of Me.
Let us be grateful for the privilege of our motherhood and cherish it. Let us offer ourselves, our actions, and our prayers so that the awesome gift of life is passed on. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is our hope and our salvation. Let us remember to welcome Jesus in our littlest neighbor, our children, “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19: 14).