Wednesday, March 18, 2015

EVERYONE has a mother, so it isn’t surprising that throughout the world there are ways of honouring and celebrating mothers. Mother’s Day is a time to think about the legacies – personal and societal – that mothers and grandmothers pass on.
Historically, mothers have had a key role in building and maintaining connections across generations. Even today, they are most often the ‘kinkeepers’ in families and take the lead in passing down family stories, life lessons, faith and traditions. Honouring this role of mothers is part of the story behind Mother’s Day – but not all of it.
Many people may believe Mother’s Day was developed as a commercial holiday by Hallmark or some other company to sell cards, chocolate and flowers. Or they may believe it’s a day solely to celebrate the domestic role of women in the home and family. Neither of these perceptions is accurate.

Our consumerist market may have fuelled the commercialism around the holiday, and the role of mothers in families is indeed important, but Mother’s Day is not only about honouring a woman’s devotion to her own family. The history of the day has its roots in honouring the broader networks, social ties and political concerns of women. The day is about women’s commitment to the past, present and future at both personal and political levels. It honours women who have acted, not only on behalf of their own children, but also on behalf of an entire future generation.

The poem When All The Others Were Away at Mass by Seamus Heaney has been named Ireland’s favourite poem of the last 100 years. The poem, which recalls a morning shared between the young author and his mother peeling potatoes, topped an RTÉ poll to identify the best-loved Irish poem of the past century. Heaney’s son, Mick, said that it was an honour for the poem to have been chosen as Ireland’s favourite.

“We are delighted and honoured that my father’s sonnet When All the Others Were Away at Mass has been voted by the public as the Poem for Ireland, particularly given the magnificent shortlist it was part of.”

Managing director of RTÉ television, Glen Killane, said: “RTÉ’s A Poem for Ireland project was all about celebrating one of the things we do best as a nation. The thousands of thoughtful and considered responses from the public to the initial call for nominations and to the ten shortlisted poems is clear evidence of just how much poetry means to us as a people.”

When all the others were away at Mass

By Seamus Heaney

When all the others were away at Mass

I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.

They broke the silence, let fall one by one

Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:

Cold comforts set between us, things to share

Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.

And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes

From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside

Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying

And some were responding and some crying

I remembered her head bent towards my head,

Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –

Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

A mother’s love is indeed a blessing. I love the lyrics of an old and much-loved song: ‘A mother’s love is a blessing,

No matter where you roam.
Keep her while she’s living,
You’ll miss her when she’s gone.
Love her as in childhood,
When feeble, old and grey,
For you’ll never miss a mother’s love
’til she’s buried beneath the clay.’

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By Fr Paddy Byrne
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