‘When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home’ [Jn 20:26-27].
I owe a profound debt of gratitude to both my biological Mother and the Blessed Mother, whom I refer to as, ‘my two Moms.’ Both were instrumental in my priestly vocation by their example, love and encouragement.
When I was around 11 years old, my Mother experienced a deep conversion [see my Pickle Jar post]. As her faith came alive, it naturally influenced me deeply.
Early on, the Blessed Mother became an integral part of our faith journey. When I was still 11, a pilgrim statue of the Blessed Mother came to our parish. Mom invited me to go pray the Rosary to ask Mary for help with something that had been bothering me at that time. We went. The prayer was answered. I was excited. Mom asked, ‘Do you want to pray the Rosary daily?’ I said, ‘yes,’ and so we did. I wasn’t always fervent, or focused, or even awake, but we did pray it daily. And if I did fall asleep, Mom would wake me, often using a couch pillow as a preferred projectile.
About a month into praying the Rosary, the idea of the priesthood was quietly, but clearly present in my mind and heart.
Fast forward to my entry into the novitiate. Both Moms continued to teach and encourage me.
One day, I received the task of mowing the novitiate lawn. On the advice of one brother, I put the wrong mix of gas into the mower lent to us by a friend. Naturally, the motor quickly died. As a result, another brother told me that the novice instructor was quite upset and wanted to see me. I was indignant. ‘Why is this my fault? I just did what the other brother told me!’ I went to shower up. As I was drying off, I was still fuming over the injustice of it all and ready to give the instructor a piece of my mind, when the thought occurred to me, ‘You are not being very Christian right now.’ ‘OK,’ I thought, ‘think of something else.’ The only thing that occurred to me was the ‘Hail Mary,’ so I rattled off three or so before a great calm came over me. It was as if the Blessed Mother put her hand on my shoulder and told me to relax. Afterwards I had a nice conversation with the Instructor, who had not really been upset. Thank you Blessed Mother!
Still early on in my novitiate, I was speaking to my Mom on the phone, on one of the few calls to family during novitiate. My Mom noticed that I was choking up. Things were challenging and I was homesick, something I did not say, but that she understood. She simply said, ‘We Bullocks don’t give up.’ I needed to hear that. Thanks Mom!
Both the Blessed Mother and my Mom have been examples of great joy. Mary in her Magnificat, my Mom in her frequent laughter. Both have sustained me with their prayers. Both have been examples of sacrificial love in fidelity to their vocations. The Blessed Mother continually renewed her ‘yes’ from the Annunciation to the foot of the Cross. My Mom showed great fidelity to Dad, even taking care of him when he was bed-ridden for eight years.
If they were faithful in their vocations, could I not be faithful in mine?
Whenever Mom would visit me at a Legionary house, we had the tradition of having our picture taken by a statue of the Blessed Mother… me and my two Moms.
Blessed Mother, Mom, I love and admire you both.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Fr. John Bullock, LC
Photo: Just after my first profession.