I have a confession to make: I have no love for children.
Let me rephrase: I do not love children I’m not related to or know in some capacity. The sound of a crying child in a grocery store sends me right to the Chilean wine section. If an insolent child in a restaurant raises his voice one too many times, I’m pining for the check. And don’t even get me started about children in movie theaters.
But then I remember: I was a child, too. I’ve always believed that one of my mom’s greatest accomplishments is that she survived my upbringing without ever being whisked off to an institution. My older sister and I gave it our best effort but we were wholly outmatched. Mom could seldom be rattled.
In truth, I was a good kid but I was no picnic. Observe: When I was too young to govern myself, I used to rip the wigs off mannequins, halt escalators and dive into coin fountains for midwinter swims—and that was just when she took me to the mall. For obvious reasons, it didn’t happen often. Looking back, I realize that Mom never broke a sweat. Like all good mothers, she knew when to use restraint and when to reprimand.
Indeed, it would be a shoddy world without our mothers. Regardless of our age or independence, there’s something calming about Mom’s company. Hundreds of people breeze in and out of our lives. Good mothers—and good fathers, to be sure—are some of the few who leave those crucial chapters in our personal histories.
That’s why the Memorare—the prayer to the ultimate mom—holds great significance for me.
The Memorare, Latin for “remember,” is credited to St. Bernard of Clairvaux and was popularized in the 15th century by Claude Bernard, a French priest. Its origin, however, is a flickering candle compared to the light and warmth of the prayer’s significance, which to me is a cry for relief and comfort from our universal mother.
Like all great moms, Mary was a devoted, selfless, multi-tasking specialist. To her son, she was his rock, his Band-Aid, his security blanket and his greatest fan. I think of her as the original soccer mom.
Mary certainly grew as a mother as her son grew in age and into his fated responsibilities. She suffered as he suffered, wept as he wept and had the strength and the courage to endure after he died.
Her value hasn’t lessened over time. In today’s precarious world, Mary’s quiet intervention—her protection, guidance and comfort—are what I seek. In a crisis, so often I do “fly to you.” After all, who better to shelter me from the world’s pounding storms than Mom?
My life can be a messy, complicated exercise. Problems and stresses can be like a sea of toys scattered around a child’s bedroom. Growing up, I rarely felt the need to clean my room—and very little has changed as an adult. Problems are everywhere.
The Memorare is an idyllic place to begin. It’s my dialogue with Mom. And it’s a reminder that I am one of her own—a cherished and valued middle child in her sizable brood. Certainly, the problems haven’t gone away, but I am confident and relieved now that I have her ear. I am cared for. I am at peace.
So when I find myself mired in crisis, like a child in need of some help, the Memorare will be my call. It’s my heartfelt appeal to Mom. And it is her response back to me—a way of saying as only a mother could, with a patient, hopeful smile, “Don’t be afraid. I’ll help you.”
Photo: Nicholas Tarling