Ask the women

President Woodrow Wilson signed the legislation to create “Mother’s Day” in 1914, assigned to the second Sunday in May so it would not impinge upon commercial and bank schedules. The lady who had tirelessly campaigned for this sentimental, secular observance (Anna Jarvis, 1864–1948) then turned against it, as it became a boon for big business, starting with the Hallmark Card company. Instead of pausing to respect, they had found a new economic use for mothers. Her earlier efforts had a momentum that carried virally along, however, and International Mother’s Day spread to Canada, Mexico, Japan, everywhere, while she campaigned against it with ever-growing bitterness — finally dying in a lunatic asylum at West Chester, Pennsylvania.

When the U.S. Congress had been presented with the idea earlier (the first try was 1908), tasteless little jokes were made, such as a proposal for a matching “Mother-in-law’s Day.” I myself once proposed that the confusion with the socialist International Women’s Day could be clarified by observing both occasions — an International Biological Mother’s Day in May, preceded by an International Crazy Women’s Day in March that would specifically celebrate childless female social activists and harpies.

Alas, I lacked that “fire in the belly” which spreads so readily to the mind, and my proposal was stillborn. As any businessman will tell you, ideas are a dime a dozen, but the dedication to pursue an especially stupid one through every waking hour of a lifetime has some chance of being rewarded. Politicians might tell you this, too, but cannot afford to be so candid.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to motherhood, in principle, and in practice was quite fond of my own mother, and am capable of becoming sentimental on the topic. But as a Catholic, I am sceptical of all secular attempts to displace received liturgical traditions with post-humanist poppycock.

Your own mother is not a State Occasion.

We have motherhood well-covered in the cult of Mary, both abstractly and concretely; and crazy women, too, among our greatest saints — but turned redemptively to Heaven. Mothering is viewed within a supernatural order, in relation to the Father and the Son — and the Holy Spirit who abides in the fullness of human life. That is to say, the Church looks above the motherhood of nature, shared also by hedgehogs and raccoons. Her acknowledgement of motherhood, mystical and real, is set in every bead of the Rosary, and carried by such means back into everyday life.

There is however one class of human mothers who have been neglected by most Catholics in our time, with terrible consequences expressed as a “crisis of vocations.” The sterile Novus Ordo, or Banjo Church, glides lightly over the Marian occasions, accepts secularized conceptions of motherhood, and lacks instinctive reverence for the mothers of priests. The result is what we should have expected: churches closing, yet not enough priests to go round the ones we’re trying to keep open.

And those getting rather old now, less able to keep up with multiple parishes, with their own shrunken, aging congregations. (I read about this all the time.) And the mothers who produced those priests are long gone. And in their place, “the bare ruin’d quiers where late the sweet birds sang,” and the sands of time swirling, and “sun-set fadeth in the West, which by and by blacke night doth take away,” and the death wind howls: “the spirit of Vatican II.”

Who can withstand it?

Those not fully Catholic should think carefully through this, to understand how great that reverence, which filled those churches through the centuries, and provided them with priests enough to fill the monasteries, too. And on what it was founded. For next to God, a reverence for this woman: for Mary our first Mother, who brought forth Jesus, our Priest of priests: the very Incarnation. It is not a glide; it is the “fundament” part of fundamental.

Other reasons are often given for the “crisis,” but they are shallow, throwaway. They come from a culture that does not, incidentally, have much respect for mothers; which has demoted them in law to the status of legal guardians, on the State’s conditions; and having thus kicked motherhood in the shins, provides “Mothers Day” (pluralized, no longer possessive) as a vaguely feminist kiss on the forehead.

As Pius X explained, “A vocation comes from the heart of God, passing through the heart of a mother.” This is a very cogent explanation.

If becoming a Catholic priest is the last thing on earth a mother wants for her son, it is the unlikeliest thing she will get.

For it is not to the young men that we should make our first appeal, when we notice an abject priest shortage; rather to the mothers. They are the ones who produce our priests; they don’t make themselves. Heaven answers those who ask, and when mothers pray to beget and to raise priests for Holy Church, they and all Creation will get them.

There is a shortage of priests in the “New Church” because there is a shortage of Catholic mothers. (An acute shortage.)

But this, of course, is a “traditionalist” position, and circular in a sense. For there is no crisis of vocations in the traditionalist, Vetus Ordo congregations.