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Father Christopher writes:-

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Each year at mid-Lent the church celebrates Laetare Sunday, also known as Refreshment Sunday. It falls this year on 11th March and is a day when according to the Introit at Mass we are called on to rejoice and allowed to relax some of our Lenten discipline. Our rejoicing is restrained, so we continue the Lenten practice of not singing the Gloria and avoiding the use of 'Alleluia' during Mass, but we can have flowers in church and rose-coloured vestments are worn. We are called on to rejoice in part as an encouragement to persevere in our Lenten practices, but also in anticipation of the joy of Eastertide that is drawing closer.

But Laetare Sunday is also known as Mothering Sunday. There are various suggested explanations for this - that on this day the faithful would traditionally visit their mother church or cathedral where they had been baptised or that servants were released from service for the day to visit their mothers, often taking a Simnel cake to give to their mothers. These explanations are not of course mutually exclusive. It is a day that differs from the secular American invention of Mother's Day (which in the USA is held in May) though in this country the two days coincide. It is a day when we give thanks to God for our mothers, but also for Mother Church and above all for Mary, Mother of God and the Mother Jesus gave to all of us. Mary who believed that the promise God made to her would be fulfilled and whom the church holds up as a model of faith.

Mary of course has a very special place in the Christian faith and in her maternal love for us all prays for us and with us. We in turn show proper devotion to her as Mother of God, she whom all generations will call blessed. But as we celebrate Mothering Sunday you might reflect on how many examples of loving motherhood we encounter in the bible. Many of the mothers we read about were favoured by God even though - perhaps like our own mothers, if we dared admit it - they sometimes had some doubts and weaknesses. To mention just a few: Eve, the mother of all who live, through whom God brought companionship and procreation into the world even though, according to Adam, she was to be the cause of the Fall. Sarah, the wife of Abraham. Although she laughed in disbelief when told she would bear a son in her advanced age, when she gave birth to Isaac (a name meaning 'laughter') she recognised that 'God has brought laughter for me'. As the mother of Isaac, Sarah had an essential role in salvation history for Isaac was to be the ancestor through Jacob of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jochebed, the mother of Moses, who loved her son so much that she was prepared to let him go when she could hide him from Pharaoh no longer; she too has a key role in salvation history as her son was to lead the Hebrew people as they set off for the Promised Land. Hannah, the wife of Elkanah whose other wife used to taunt Hannah about being barren. Hannah prayed to God that she might bear a male child, and God gave her Samuel. Hannah in return kept her promise to give Samuel over to the Lord and he was left to minister with the priest EIi. Samuel was to become the last of Israel's judges, a prophet, and was to appoint Saul and then David as King. Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah. She too was barren and getting on in years when an angel appeared to Zechariah to tell him Elizabeth would bear a son. Here- it was Zechariah who doubted. But Elizabeth did conceive and gave birth to John the Baptist who was to prepare the way for the coming of Christ.

You might recall many other mothers who were favoured by God and who showed faith and trust in God. On Mothering Sunday let us all thank God for our mothers but let us also remember all mothers who throughout history have done God's will.

Blessings,

Fr Christopher.

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