I was very lucky to grow up in a home with a mom who was a graduate of Mount Carmel Academy for girls in New Iberia, Louisiana. In 1870, the Sisters of Mount Carmel opened the school in New Iberia and remained until 1988. The Sisters of Mount Carmel are religious women dedicated to an active ministry of pre-school, education, spiritual direction and social services. During my mother’s tenure in the forties and fifties, the Sisters were the primary administrators and teachers at the academy and passed on a very traditional Catholic faith. Students were taught the importance of the mass, sacraments, praying the rosary, and the blessing of sacramentals. Students took pride in being chaste and virtuous. Father Joseph Chauvin wrote, “For is not every Carmel a garden of God where lovely blossoms of virtue bloom?”
It was evident growing up that my mother was in love with God and with the mother of God. Our house always had a statue of Mary in a front flower bed. Just as she had assisted one of the Sisters at Mount Carmel with painting statues during her high school years; my mother would lovingly clean and paint her statues if they became weather-worn and dull. She kept blessed objects in our home and holy water. There were numerous times during a stormy night, I would see my mother running around our home sprinkling holy water for protection. Her rosary was kept beside her bed and she always ended her day with her rosary and prayers. I watched her light candles in church for a special intention or in thanksgiving. She often spoke of the saints, especially St. Anthony and Theresa. My mother lived her Catholic faith and she made sure her husband and four girls, (while we were still under their roof), lived it with her.
One’s faith either grows or withers away. Due to the great foundation given to her by the Sisters of Mount Carmel, mom’s faith has never wavered. She and my father are now retired and live a quiet life. Even though they are part of the high risk group during this pandemic, they still live their faith by watching mass daily on TV and spending time each day in prayer and reflection. The two of them turn 80 this year!
We celebrated mom turning eighty in July. For one of her presents, I bought her some religious socks. A local Catholic gift shop had a selection of socks with designs such as Mary, Joseph and St. Theresa. After much thought, I settled on a pair of rosary socks and Mary socks for mom. I knew that she loved wearing socks and would get a kick out these! She was surprised and very pleased with her gift. She was so pleased, that later that evening I received a phone call from mom telling me that she would be bringing her new socks to her local priest for him to bless them! This really tickled me! I laughed and told her, “Mom, I do not think anyone has ever asked Father to bless their socks!”. Mom went on to say that I was to make sure she was buried in her blessed Mary socks!
The Catechism teaches: “Among sacramentals, blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) comes first. Every blessing praises God and prays for His gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father, with every spiritual blessing.” Sacramentals “are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them, men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.”.
A mother never stops being a mother. Mary was Jesus’ mom not just on earth; she is His mother in heaven. Because we have now become children of God and brother and sisters of Christ, Mary is now too our mother in heaven. Even though I am now a mother and grandmother, my mother is still mom. She is still teaching me how to live my Catholic faith. She is still setting an example for her family and showing us the way to heaven. I only hope I am doing the same for my children.
Well, I will be giving socks for Christmas this year. Oh, and they will be blessed!