Behold Your Mother By Matthew Russell S.J. Part 1. The Three Mothers.

"Behold Your Mother!" In these pages it is easy to guess what Mother is before our minds when we say, "Behold your Mother! '' even if we did not remember the time and the place in which these three words were spoken. It was when our Divine Redeemer was dying for us on His hard deathbed of the Cross—when He was turning away from all creatures, turning finally to His Heavenly Father, into whose hands He was about to commend His spirit. His Blessed Mother, of course, was of all creatures the last in His thoughts; and at the very last He confided her to the care of the Disciple whom He specially loved.

But the Church has always held that, at that solemn moment, Saint John stood there for us all, represented us all; and so to each of us that tender legacy was bequeathed, that precious trust was committed. To each of us was it said,"Behold thy Mother! And from that hour the Disciple took her to his own.'' [St. John xix, 27.]  And from that hour every true disciple of Christ, every true Christian, has taken as his own the Immaculate Mother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Yes, Mary is our Mother, And yet she is not our only mother. But can any person have more mothers than one? I will venture to let this question remind me of a visit that I paid fifty years ago to an old graveyard near Windsor— Stoke Poges—which claims to be the scene of a famous ''Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." At any rate, the poet Gray buried his mother there; and I remember reading on her tombstone the pathetic words in which he described her as " the careful and tender mother of many children, only one of whom had the misfortune to survive her." It is not this, however, that has made me think of him now, but something in one of his letters: "We may have many friends, but only one mother—a truth," he adds, "which I did not discover till too late."

You whose mothers are still living, beware of discovering this truth too late. Discover it now, in time, while you are still able to profit by it, still able to behave as it must prompt you to behave toward the chief human instrument of God's bounty and love. A good mother is nothing less than that. Out of all earthly ties and relationships, motherhood stands alone; amongst the purest and deepest affections of the human hearty there is no rival for the patience, the self-sacrifice, the meek heroism of a mother's love. " We may have many friends, but only one mother.''

Nevertheless, as I was going on to say a moment ago, in another true sense, we have each of us more mothers than one. There are three who share that sacred title—three toward whom, in different ways, we are bound to feel filial love, to show filial duty and reverence.

There is, first, the mother to whom we have just referred—that daughter of Eve, that child of Mary, that woman of whom our Almighty Creator deigned to make use in creating us, in drawing us out of nothingness, in making us members of His human race in this visible world. We have already emphasised almost sufficiently for our present purpose that mother's dignity, her transcendent claims upon her child's devotion. Mothers are the best embodiment of the Creator's omnipotent goodness, the principal makers and moulders of the child's character, the child's destiny.

'' What France needs" said Napoleon, "is good mothers.'' She needs them now more than ever; and, please God, in spite of sad appearances to the contrary, there are in that beautiful but afflicted land good mothers by the thousand and thousand, who will help to save France at this sinister crisis, and to keep her Catholic still.

But our own dear country—what good mothers must have reigned in the homesteads of Ireland, the poorest even and the humblest, to make the purity of the Irish maiden a proverb—nay, a portent—for the unsympathising world outside ! What good mothers they must have been, what faith and courage they must have had—the mothers who helped to keep the Irish race so true to the Catholic Faith through all the perils and temptations of the dark penal days! So it is still, and so it will ever be.

Of all the graces of my lot, I prize o'er every other This, that my Maker gave to me an Irish Catholic mother.

That first mother, our mother according to the flesh, lost no time in sharing her responsibility with another mother, sending us (before she was strong enough to take us) to the baptismal font to be made children of the Catholic Church. The Church is the mother of souls. She brought us forth into the life of the spirit; she nourishes us with her holy sacraments and guards us by her laws and discipline, and all her sacred influences that are unceasingly at work. We, too, can say, as St. Teresa said over and over when she was dying, " After all, O Lord, I am a child of the Church!''

But there is a third mother to whom our spiritual mother, the Holy Catholic Church, taught us soon to raise our eyes, pointing upward to the Queen of Heaven, and saying to us, "Behold your Mother!'' At her inspiration, too, the poor mortal mother who bore us was eager to train our childish lips to utter their first "Hail Mary." The "Hail Mary" alone is a sufficient note of the Church. One of the plainest signs that mark out the Catholic Church as the one true Church of Christ is her attitude toward the Mother of Christ.

This closest union that must needs be between Mother and Son, between Divine Son and Immaculate Mother, has seldom been urged more strongly than by an American writer [ In The Lamp, an Episcopalian religious journal published at Garrison, N.Y.] who, nevertheless, does not belong to the visible body of the Church. "There is," he says, " no lie forged in hell more in conflict with the will of God, as expressed in Scripture and Catholic tradition, than the Protestant idea that they honour Jesus best who most ignore the existence of His Mother. 'Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder '; and there is no divorce more horrible as a flagrant violation of the Fiat of Almighty God than the divorce made by the Protestant Reformers between Christ and the Blessed Virgin."

This emphatic recognition of the place that the Blessed Virgin necessarily holds in the kingdom of her Son astonishes us in one outside the Church, but it is the merest matter of course for us who are within. God forbid that we could dare to be jealous or suspicious or cold-hearted or disloyal toward the Immaculate Queen of Heaven ! Our two mothers on earth have instructed us too well in our duty toward our Heavenly Mother to allow of so terrible a mistake.

As for any mistake in the more generous direction—as for the possibility of excess in the homage paid to our Blessed Lady—we have no fear : there is not the slightest danger. The simplest and most ignorant peasant woman knows that Jesus is God and that Mary is a woman like herself, though blessed, indeed, amongst women. The infinite distance that separates created mortality from divine eternity—the most ignorant peasant woman knows this as well as the most accomplished of her sex, such as that illustrious Russian convert, Madame Swetchine, who exercised a powerful apostolate of Christian culture in the highest social circle of Paris some sixty or seventy years ago.

I have brought in rather abruptly the name of this holy woman for the purpose of recalling the terms in which she wished to be described in her epitaph, as one who believed, who loved, who prayed. We, too, must believe and love and pray ; and each of these great acts might seem, by a sort of appropriation, to belong to one of those three mothers on whose claims we are meditating. We must love the human mother who brought us into this world ; we must believe in the divine mission of our holy mother the Church, who conducts us safely through the dangers of this world; and we must pray constantly to her whom we hope, when this world is over, to salute as our Mother and our Queen in heaven for ever.

This application to our triple subject is merely fanciful and arbitrary; but our three mothers were certainly linked together in the heart of that little Protestant girl of whom I heard many years since. " At present," she said, " I must go to the Protestant church on Sundays with my father. But, when I grow up, I will become a Catholic; for I want to belong to that Church that will make me pray to the Blessed Virgin, and pray for my mother who is gone.''

We have not, like that good child, to make our way with difficulty into 'the arms of our mother the Church : she folded us in her arms from our birth- Thanks be to God, we are loving children of the holy Catholic Church ! May we always prove ourselves true and faithful children of that mother, animated by her spirit, obeying her commands, and using her graces and privileges, till a happy death has placed us in security before the tribunal of the Son of Mary! May Jesus, in His mercy and His justice, be able to say to us again from His judgment-seat, and afterward from His heavenly throne, what He has said to us from the Cross! May He smile upon us, and look at His Blessed Mother, and then turn to us and say once more, "Behold your Mother!''