May is one mother of a month. You could say it’s one mother after another.

Along with the favourite mothers in your lives, this month’s liturgical calendar offers us some other special mothers, each worthy of celebration and definitely cause for inspiration. We can start with Canada’s own Blessed Marie-Leonie Paradis on May 4, followed by Our Lady of Fatima on May 13 and finish with St. Rita of Cascia on May 22.

Bl. Marie-Leonie Paradis

She may not have been a biological mother, but by the end of her life, the sisters who made up the Little Sisters of the Holy Family in the late 1800s called Bl. Marie-Leonie “Mother.” 

Born in L’Acadie, Que., Marie-Leonie was attracted to the religious life at an early age and joined the Marianites of Holy Cross at age 14. Her heart’s desire was always to serve priests, but out of obedience, served as a teacher. She eventually was able to fulfill her first calling and cared for the priests at St. Joseph’s College in Memramcook, N.B. At the college, she immediately began to attract numerous vocations because of her motherly spirit and founded the Institute of the Little Sisters in 1880.

Upon the death of Bl. Marie-Leonie in 1912, Sherbrooke Bishop Paul LaRocque said the following about the saintly woman: “She always had her arms open, her heart in hand, and a smile on her lips, welcoming everyone as though they were God himself. She was all heart.” 

If those words don’t describe the ultimate mother, I don’t know what does. I can only hope my children see in me a fraction of that kind of motherhood. After learning about this holy woman, I will definitely be adding Bl. Marie-Leonie to my growing list of intercessors whom I call upon when faced with the various challenges of mothering.

Our Lady of Fatima

Mother’s Day falls on May 12 this year. The following day is the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and if there’s a Mother’s Day worthy of our attention, it’s got to be that of our Blessed Mother. 

Mary first appeared under the title of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 1917, in Fatima, Portugal. She brought an urgent message of peace to a world that was beyond weary of the First World War. She talked about the necessary conversion of Russia, the need to pray for souls in eternal danger, and the importance of devotion to her Immaculate Heart as a means to world peace.

In the many messages Our Lady gave to three shepherd children (on the 13th of every month from May to October, 1917) the repeated theme was the importance of the daily rosary. She said it is the key to world peace and conversion of hearts. The local bishop deemed this apparition worthy of belief in 1930 and, in 1946, Pope Pius XII granted a canonical coronation to the venerated image of Our Lady of Fatima.

If this vision and message has been so highly regarded for so long, why don’t we better honor our Mother’s request? Why do we scratch our heads and wonder why the world is so lacking in peace and conversion, when the Mother of our Lord told us more than 100 years ago exactly what we have to do to effect change? 

Our Mother loves us enough to come to earth, body and soul, and give us the tools we need to become closer to Her Son. Just think how powerful it would be if every family said the rosary together on just this one day that honours Our Lady of Fatima? I can’t think of a better Mother’s Day gift for the Mother of God’s Son, and our Mother, too.

St. Rita of Cascia

Finally, we have St. Rita of Cascia. Talk about a mother who covered all her bases: St. Rita knew both married and religious life. 

Though she desired the religious life from her childhood, St. Rita’s parents compelled her to marry. During a tumultuous and often violent marriage, she prayed constantly for the conversion of her husband. After years of constant prayer and sacrifice, St. Rita’s husband finally converted and changed his abusive ways. Not long after, he was murdered, the result of a family feud in their small Italian town.

She was widowed, suffered the deaths of her twin sons, and eventually became a nun at age 36. St. Rita is known as the saint of impossible causes and the patroness of widows, troubled marriages, and parenthood. She is truly a mother’s saint. 

I’ve called upon her intercession more times than I can count, usually in the “impossible causes” category. All those mothers out there -- especially those of us who may sometimes yearn for the peace and quiet of the convent as we stand before a heap of laundry, bickering children, and numerous people asking what’s for supper -- will find a comforting ally in this 14th-century holy woman who knew the importance of prayer and being faithful to her station in life.

Mother’s Day is coming. The cards, flowers, chocolate, and the attentive husband and children are all beautiful expressions of love and greatly appreciated. Perhaps, we mothers can also ask for a little quiet time to get to know these holy mothers of May, who can teach us so much about our God-given vocation to motherhood. That’s the kind of gift that will last forever.

Lazzuri writes from her home in Nova Scotia, where she lives with her husband and six children.