Mother’s Day has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States on the second Sunday of May for over 100 years, but the traditions is much, much older, and is rooted in the Catholic faith.
Mothering Sunday is also known as Laetare Sunday. It is St. Paul’s words in the Mass of the day that gives Mothering Sunday its name. He speaks of “that Jerusalem which is above . . . which is our mother,” On this day, everyone paid a solemn visit to his mother church, and left an offering there at the high altar.
The introit, communion and tract of the Mass speak of the heavenly Jerusalem where Christians will raise their songs of joy. Heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem, has so often been likened to and represented as a garden full of flowers, that on this day the Church used to bless the loveliest of flowers, the rose.
The word “mothering” came to have other associations; it became a feast day for the mothers of families. All the children who were away from home went back on that day to visit their mothers, taking with them “a present of money, a trinket, or some nice eatable, and they are all anxious not to fail in this custom.” The “nice eatable” was often a mothering cake. Exactly what this was made of seems uncertain, but at any rate it was highly ornamented and adorned. In return, the mother seems to have provided for the visitors a dish of furmety, a sort of rice pudding, only made with grains of wheat instead of rice.
There are relics of the observance of Mothering Sunday still left, but there is no reason why it should not be more widely noted, and given as much attention in every family as is the mother’s birthday. All children could give gifts to their mothers; where she is dead they can have a Mass said; otherwise they can begin the Sunday by offering their Mass for her. They could link up their gift with the one-time blessing of the roses, and give her flowers; or they could arrange some entertainment or amusement for her; they could even try their hand at a mothering cake. And in return, of course, the mother would certainly be only too glad to give her children a modern equivalent of furmety!