Catholics are comfortable with the metaphor of a church that is our “mother,” it is comforting, consoling. And on Mother’s Day the poignancy of that metaphor is striking.

How does a loving mother respond to her children when they are being attacked? She defends them in any way she can, putting herself at risk if necessary.  A loving mother would react in defense of the youngest, especially.

How does a loving mother raise her children? A loving mother would raise her children to fulfill their potential, to have strong morals, and to develop the skills to become independent of her, able to make decisions on their own, able to survive on their own.  A loving mother would want her children to become responsible adults and would encourage critical thinking, respect in dialogue with others, open-mindedness.

How does a loving mother respond to a child who becomes a criminal? She does not enable the child’s criminal behavior; she seeks help for the child. She supports the child as that child takes responsibility for crimes committed. She continues to love the child even as she encourages the child to submit to punishment that follows the crime. Because she wants her child to heal and change, and change can only come after taking responsibility for one’s actions.  A loving mother would always stand by her child, but she would not sacrifice other mothers’ children to keep her child’s crime a secret.

Perhaps it is time for our church leaders to consider the “Holy Mother” metaphor more closely.