The immediate thing that came to mind (no doubt due in large part to the fact that the boys have spent the last year watching their baby brother grow from a bump under their mother’s shirt to the bouncing baby born four months ago) was motherhood — not the only wonderful gift and responsibility women are given, of course, but a big one, and one that isn’t given to men. The second thing I thought of was Our Lady — the fact that the greatest saint is a woman. And I loved reminding my son that both of these — motherhood and Mary — were recently celebrated as a holy day of obligation: January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
I love that for Catholics of the Roman Rite, the new calendar year begins with this beautiful feast day — a meaningful intersection of the eighth day of Christmas with the start of the secular new year. Women everywhere should feel honored by the prominence given to Our Lady’s holy motherhood, whether or not they have children of their own, since St. John Paul II reminded us that all women are called to spiritual motherhood, and a celebration of motherhood is a celebration of something that is uniquely and exclusively feminine. (Read more about the call to spiritual motherhood in this beautiful piece.)
Knowing that the Church places as its first major feast day of the calendar year a celebration of Mary, Mother of God, and that it’s a holy day of obligation (particularly significant to my sons, since attending an obligatory non-Sunday Mass presents enough of a disruption to their normal schedule to be noticeable), is such a good lesson to my houseful of boys and their collective opinion that there’s nothing so wonderful as a brother. (When one of my boys was small, I heard him once include his dad and uncle in his roster of “brothers,” which is just the sweetest thing.)
As much as I love our all-boy family and trust God’s infinite wisdom in not giving them sisters, I’ve sometimes worried that my boys’ education in humanity is lopsided. The Church’s focus on the beauty, dignity, and importance of women has always been a gift to me, but I realized with that recent conversation with my son that it’s a gift to men as well. Documents like St. John Paul II’s Letter to Women and his apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), as well as St. Paul VI’s Marialis Cultus (For the Right Ordering and Development of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary), in which the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God on January 1 was restored, will be important tools for me in helping my boys balance their love of boyhood and brotherhood with an understanding of the feminine genius.
Copyright 2019 Katherine Morna Towne