I know, I am early and there are 44 shopping days left until Mother’s Day. Sadly, that statistic tends to dominate our thinking regarding holidays. Hardly a celebration remains unsullied by the taint of consumerism.
As a father, I admit to appreciating a day devoted to my dedication as a parent. But, isn’t our reward knowing every day that we did our best to raise our children to face the world and, hopefully, make it a better place? Wasn’t my reward all of those years with my own children and the opportunities to coach, advise, and educate others’ children? Do I really need a card, or a grudgingly purchased gift to confirm the quality of my fatherhood?
This wasn’t the original purpose of the holiday. Unitarian abolitionist Julia Ward Howe wrote the lyrics to The Battle Hymn of the Republic after reviewing Union troops in Washington, D.C. in 1861. However, the ensuing four years of death and destruction convinced her that peace was the only path for a sane society to pursue. With the outbreak of more madness in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Howe issued a proclamation calling for a congress of women to “promote the alliance of the different nationalities,the amicable settlement of international questions,the great and general interests of peace.”
After achieving her goal, Howe’s Mother’s Day for Peace was celebrated for several years, but never achieved national recognition. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day with an intent to honor mothers, but commercialization of the holiday quickly became rampant. The original meaning of the holiday was soon lost.
Last summer, some colleagues in Kansas City initiated an effort to reclaim Mother’s Day. Julia’s Voice is a group of “mothers and others” joined together to return Mothers Day to its original intent. They are looking for people across the country to join with them on May 11 to speak out against war. I will be preaching on the subject on May 4 (the Sunday before Mother’s Day) at the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh and I encourage others to join them.
The best way to honor mothers is to incorporate the best qualities of motherhood into our social policies and governmental actions. The best way to honor mothers is never again to put them, their children, or their partners in harm’s way. The best way to honor mothers is to strive for a world where peace becomes the norm. As an aspiring Unitarian Universalist minister, I have always been frustrated at our lack of unique holidays. We have our rituals, such as Water Communion and Flower Communion, but our liturgical calendar seems filled with observances from other religious traditions. Let us work to reclaim this holiday created by a Unitarian and embodying an important principle of our denomination — the goal of world community, with peace, liberty and justice for all.