Today we pause to pay tribute to the best - our mothers - whether still in this world or already in the next, by offering them the best - a remembrance at the altar of God. Flowers and candy are nice, but nothing in this world can match the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is what that noble mother, St. Monica, asked of her son, St. Augustine, as she lay dying: "One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be."
The honor we pay to mothers on this Mothers' Day would be empty and meaningless if we refused to take their advice. In particular, we value the advice of the best of all mothers, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who often in past times warned us of the dangers we would have to face in these times and prescribed remedies for us weary pilgrims.
At La Salette in 1846 the Blessed Mother would call for a return to the practice of the Faith, warning of the miseries that would befall Europe, which included blights on the crops and diseases. At Lourdes in 1858 she asked St. Bernadette to pray for sinners, and gave a threefold exhortation to the world: "Penance, Penance, Penance." At Fatima in 1917 she again called for prayer and penance, warning of the errors that would spread from Russia throughout the world if her advice was not heeded. She has not ceased her efforts on our behalf - the Mother, "a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (Apocalypse 12:1), who goes bravely into battle against the Red Dragon, the devil. The Church applies to her the words from the Canticle of Canticles: "Who is this that comes forth like the dawn, as beautiful as the moon, as resplendent as the sun, as awe-inspiring as bannered troops?" (Canticles 6:10).
Strengthened by the prayers of our Mother, we must also go into battle against the enemies of our souls. Today we heard in the Epistle about "the strength that God furnishes," which may be understood as "power from on high," the Holy Ghost Himself, the Advocate Whom Jesus promised to send from the Father. The strength we need is bestowed upon the Church by the Holy Ghost through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments and other prayers of the Church, as well as through our own personal prayer. With that strength, which includes Sanctifying Grace, the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, the infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Ghost, as well as the fruits of the Spirit, we can put the devil to flight and live a victorious Christian life.
"Walk in the Spirit," says St. Paul, "and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other…" (Galatians 5:16,17). Why should God do all the work? We are dealing here with hard, unproductive soil - human nature after the fall. Our part includes the mortification of the senses, self-discipline, self-denial, so as to gain self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. "Pray," says St. Augustine, "as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended on yourself."
Self-denial is like jogging for the soul, or working out. Without it the soul becomes weak and flabby, spiritually speaking, and cannot stand up to a fight. Temptation wins most of the battles. Our Lord needs strong disciples, schooled in self-control through self-denial, like good soldiers prepared for battle. We must practice the science of the saints.
The Book of Proverbs tells us about the man who lacks self-control: "Like an open city with no defenses is the man with no check on his feelings… By his own iniquities the wicked man will be caught, in the meshes of his own sin he will be held fast; he will die from lack of discipline, through the greatness of his folly he will be lost" (Proverbs 25:28;5:22,23).
Our Lord, Who "humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross" (Col.2:8), gives us this essential information on which our very salvation depends: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For he who would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for My sake will save it" (Luke 9:23,24).
St. Paul speaks with the authority given him by the Holy Ghost:
"They who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. The fruit of the Spirit is: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, modesty, continency. Against such things there is no law. If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk"(Galatians 5:24;22,23;25);
"For we know that our old self has been crucified with him, in order that the body of sin may be destroyed, that we may no longer be slaves of sin" (Romans 6:6);
"But the things that were gain to me, these, for the sake of Christ, I have counted loss. Nay more, I count everything loss because of the excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I count them as dung that I may gain Christ and be found in him…" (Philippians 3:7-9a).
"Believe me," says St. Thérèse of Lisieux, "the writing of pious books, the composing of the most sublime poetry; all that does not equal the smallest act of self-denial." Her "little way" is best for us, if we can't take on the heroic mortifications of some of the saints. Start with the little sacrifices, but do it daily, for the sake of your soul.
All of this, of course, is in direct opposition to the worldly philosophy of pleasure and self-fulfillment, for which many Catholics of the "Novus Ordo" church have fallen in a big way, resulting in their spiritual ruin. "You must stand for something, or you will fall for anything." We stand for the Traditional Mass and Sacraments, and with the Blessed Mother we call for a return to the practice of the true faith, the "faith of our fathers."
"Be not deceived," says St. Paul, "God is not mocked. For what a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows in the flesh, from the flesh also will reap corruption. But he who sows in the spirit, from the spirit will reap life everlasting. And in doing good let us not grow tired; for in due time we shall reap if we do not relax. Therefore, while we have time, let us do good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:7-10).