By: Regina Bettag
The past couple days have been a whirlwind in an exciting, challenging way. There is so much to report even from just yesterday and today. However, from writing many reflections and papers this past semester I have learned that I tend to write more than I originally plan to so I’ll try to keep this a reasonable length by focusing on a theme that I have noticed re-occurring again and again these past couple day: moms.
It was oh so fitting to begin our time here in L.A. yesterday at Mass on Mother’s Day. There was a blessing for all the mothers, children were handed carnations to give to their moms’, and we heard a wonderful homily about motherhood and the sense of belonging and protection that mothers provide. This motherhood is something more than bearing a child though, it extends to spiritual motherhood too (Sister Pat got a carnation and blessing too!). Mothers are clearly highly valued and an important part of this community in Boyle Heights. Today when we were listening to Father Mike, he told us how the people who really run the show in the neighborhood are the abuelas, the grandmothers. They are the matriarchs and they have the utmost respect. Originally when Boyle Heights neighborhood was at its peak of violence, the grandmothers patrolled the street corners at night to protect their children and grandchildren from gangs and violence. We saw a group of these ladies in action today as they unloaded their minivans with food for the homeless men, bringing it to the church shelter today around lunch to expand the homeless shelter for the church.
Another great presence of motherhood, probably the most noticeable, is the huge devotion to the Virgin Mother Mary. Walking and driving around town I have seen countless images of her: painted on the sides of buildings, in statues in gardens, even hung up in the restaurant where we ate dinner tonight (it was delicious by the way!) There is a little chapel area in the Dolores mission church and the priest told us today that years ago some men asked if they could make the area of prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe larger. Little did the priest know that when he said yes it did not mean simply adding more votive candles… the next day there was were walls knocked down to create a separate outcropping in the building so Our lady really did have more space! Today when we went into the church for our talk I noticed that this area with the image was decorated with all sorts of flowers, that weren’t there at the beginning of mass yesterday-Mary had received her mother’s day gifts too!
All of these mothers: Mary, the ladies here at the mission, my own mom, and people who have been spiritual mothers to me remind me of love. They extend it in their words and encouragement, in their challenge to us children to do what is right and in the example, they provide for us as they show us what love is like. These ladies have a huge influence and are so important. I was reminded of this power of love in a simple encounter that I had today. Today we were able to work at an after-school program in the neighborhood. I was having a wonderful conversation about video games and dogs with a third-grade student. He was quite excited to tell me about the latest Nintendo DS, but the moment that he saw his mom, he excused himself from our conversation and leaped up to run into her arms.
Thank you to all the moms out there because as I am reminded these past few days, what you offer is powerful: something worth stopping and leaping out of our seats for!