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From Our Bishops

Letter to the Diocese from Bishop Andrew

Dear Friends,

Our three girls were high-level figure skaters, and as a committed sports dad I did my share of very early morning chauffeuring, drinking bad arena coffee and sitting rink-side in a coat even on the most beautiful of days outside. I was always somewhat bemused, however, that Mother’s Day was sacrosanct; we always got the “day off” on the second Sunday in May. (Father’s Day, the third Sunday in June? Not so much. I still feel residual resentment.) I thought at first it was only a figure skating thing, but recently another dad told me the same was true in hockey.

For those of us in the Church who have scheduling responsibilities, we are also conscious of keeping Mother’s Day clear to allow families to celebrate. Our team at the Diocese knows that, even though the liturgical calendar can vary, we’d better not plan any ordinations or confirmations for the second Sunday in May, no matter which Sunday of Easter it might be! A local florist once corrected me that his busiest day of the year is not Feb. 14 but Mother’s Day. “Not everyone has a valentine,” he said, “but everyone has a mother!” I am sensitive and sympathetic to those for whom that is not true; there are some who find Mother’s Day a source of pain.

Some of us had mothers who fell short of the idealized version that can be presented on this day. Some have lost our mothers due to death, illness or distance – geographic or emotional. For some people who are not parents due to choice, circumstance or tragic loss, Mother’s Day can feel exclusive and hurtful.

Our secular Mother’s Day, however, often diminished as a “Hallmark holiday,” has its roots in the Church’s “Mothering Sunday” – the fourth Sunday in Lent or Laetare Sunday – when from the Middle Ages onward people traditionally took time to give thanks for all mothers, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and went to visit their “mother church” where they were baptized. I know of some churches in our own Diocese where the emphasis is clearly placed on these more theological themes on Mother’s Day.

Indeed, when we think of the Godly characteristics typically ascribed to mothers – selfless caregiving, nurturing and role-modelling – we can apply those qualities to all those who “mother.” I am conscious of the many pivotal people, especially but not exclusively women, who have strengthened my faith, expanded my intellect, fed my body and my soul, provided comfort, advice and endless support. I know you can name similar figures in your own life.

Having just lost my father, I will be spending time with my mother in special appreciation, cherishing her presence in my life in an even more profound way. I will also honour my wife Mary, an amazing mother to our own children, with gratitude for her seemingly tireless devotion to our family life. And I will give thanks to God for my mother-in-law, godmothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, spiritual directors and all those clergy who have been mothers to me in their own unique ways.

Happy Mother’s Day to us all!

Yours in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
Bishop of Toronto