Every mother’s day I like to do a drawing of a mother that I admire, either from history, or one that awes me in my own life. I have a lot to learn from the mothers in general, but recently Mother Teresa has stood out to me for her mother-ness, despite never having had biological children herself. This year capturing the face of Mother Teresa in ink, I worked to portray a likeness that showed her essential mother-ness most fully. Grasping and lifting a large child with her strong but old hands, her right side is protective, cradling. Even the left side of her face is dark, tired looking while the right is watchful, strong, hopeful.

A Mother’s work is never done…I can remember my Nana, now gone to the Lord, speaking of her 60 year old children as her babies. I admire my mother, whose maternal love managed to meet the needs of each of her three completely different children.  I still don’t know where she found (and finds!) the patience to deal with our eccentricities. Or my Aunt, now turned Meme (we are a Quebecois-English mix, hence the Meme/Nana preference over Grandma) who has raised grandchildren Jetson style in the age of skype. Mothers are mothers for life, and in May we honor them and thank them for their love.

One who we all admire for her expansive maternal love is Mother Teresa. When I consider my own life, it doesn’t matter if I am never a biological mother,  I am still called to love others. Especially to love those who have no mother: the orphans, the weak, sick, the infirm, and those who are alone.  But then right after my ethics kick in, I’m suddenly stumped by the implications. How do I face this challenge, this responsibility?

Mother Teresa is admired for her mothering acts, her self-sacrifice for the sake of others. And yet if you look at her message she is much more concerned with spiritual than the physical responsibility we are called to. “Our work is not social work it is religious work.” What does she mean by this? Poverty, illness, human trafficking and other human rights violations are more in our face than ever before- but she is saying that all our feeding and healing and helping and saving doesn’t matter as much as spiritual loving. It does sound kind of like a mother, doesn’t it?

 Her point is that it doesn’t matter how small our actions are. “To God there is nothing small. When we give it to God, it becomes infinite.” Crazy to hear this coming from someone who we all look to as the model of charity and giving.

Mothers get it. “It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” With that simple statement, Mother Teresa encapsulates the call not just to give, but to give all. And that’s what mothers do, isn’t it? Mothers in the movies, in novels, idealized mothers and human ones we meet in real life; mothers are typified for this outpouring of love where it is not even deserved.

And now for the practical question. How can we exhibit this mother-ness? How do you honor the Mothers in your life?