A Mother’s Heroic Love

“Hey Daniel, who is your hero?”

We asked the 8 year old this casual question while shooting hoops together in a gym. His mom was attending an RCIA class to prepare to receive her Sacraments, and meanwhile we were having fun with the kids so the moms could concentrate on the lesson.

The bright-eyed boy, without much hesitation, responded, “My mom. ‘Cause she takes care of me. Of all of us.” Then he happily launched the basketball toward the net.

Not Spiderman, Superman, The Hulk, or any other such superhero that most young boys his age idolize. Daniel, with wisdom beyond his years, knew that his mother, who sacrificed much as a single mom to meet all the big and small needs of her son and his little sisters, was indeed worthy of heroic praise.

When we later mentioned this response to his mom, though touched, she was quick to deflect the accolades. “I just do the best I can – it’s what any mother would do.”

Indeed, isn’t that the most basic and essential role of a mother – to take care of her children, no matter what the cost to herself? The Sisters are privileged to see this in living color each day in our mission – meeting mothers who constantly and in hidden ways, pour themselves out in love to provide for and nurture their children despite sometimes very difficult circumstances. All of us can experience this spiritually each day as well, as we count on the supreme model of all mothers, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to protect and care for all of us, her children.

One of the most poignant manifestations of Mary’s maternal care is shown in the story of Our Lady of Lavang. Persecution has always been a reality in the lives of Christians since the beginning of the Church 2,000 years ago, but the people of Vietnam seem to have endured more than their fair share. Since the 17th century, waves of persecution have struck the Catholic Church in that country, and forms of it still exist to the present day. A particularly severe trial was underway at the end of the 18th century, forcing the people to flee their homes and seek safety by hiding in the remote jungles of the mountains. However, other dangers awaited them there – many fell ill and were dying from the impact of insects and dangerous animals and lack of food and clean drinking water.

The faithful people endured these terribly unsafe conditions in order to be free to worship God, and they kept the light of faith alive by gathering as a community and praying the rosary together.

One night in 1798 as they prayed, there appeared before the gathered Christians a bright, beautiful woman wearing a crown, holding a little child in her arms and surrounded by angels. The woman said little – no reproofs or warnings were given. She only tenderly comforted them and promised them her protection. She also pointed out to them the various leaves and herbs that were not poisonous, and showed them how to use them to create desperately needed food, drink, and medicines that would keep them healthy in that hostile environment. The people immediately knew this woman was the Queen of Heaven, Mary the Mother of Jesus, who had appeared to them in their time of need. They built a small church in her honor, which as devotion to Our Lady of Lavang persisted and grew, especially through further periods of persecution, later became a basilica shrine.

Sadly, the time of persecution in the Church is not yet ended, even here in our own country. Though we may not have need to literally hide in the jungle for our safety, it is no less difficult to navigate the “forest” of our current culture, with various forms of poison being presented to us on every front.

However, we need not fear or lose hope, as long as we look to our Mother in Heaven who is there to comfort us, and to point out to us the way to freedom and peace. She leads us to her Son, Who in the Eucharist is the Food and Drink that will sustain us and allow us to persevere in hope. In this month, devoted to Our Lady of the Rosary, may we gather under her motherly protection and intercession, and trust that the heroic love of our Mother will never fail to care for all our needs!

Blessed Mother Mary, thank you for your loving and tender care and protection of us, your dear children. Cover us with your mantle and pray with us and for us, that we may not be afraid of the darkness all around us. Kindle the light of Christ in our communities and our world through our unwavering faith in your Son. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us! Our Lady of Lavang, pray for us!