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On Faith


Saturday, May 12, 2001

Thanking mom for
all her prayers

SOMEHOW I never left home without it. With the swirl of breakfast done and four groggy children dressed and ready to walk to St. Simon's School, my mother bent down to bless us. By custom, and as the eldest, I stood first at the door, book bag and lunch bag in hand.

My mother, dressed in morning coat and slippers, bestowed her benediction before sending me off. She drew her face near mine and with her right hand, made a tiny sign of the cross.

Every day it was the same: her thumb turned palm-down, would touch at the crown of my forehead, drawing slowly toward my brows and then draw across itself, her eyes always looking into mine. "God bless you, Paul," a smile and a kiss, and an encouraging push out the door.

After we all left and Dad went to the office, Rosaleen folded the morning away, fed the cat and withdrew to her second and more private ritual -- an hour of prayer for us all.

This ritual graced my departure, and that of my sister and two brothers every day before school and continued through my senior year at St. Francis High on the mainland.

I couldn't tell where she learned this, or what compelled her steadfast pursuit of this tender habit. Perhaps as a schoolgirl at the Loreto Convent in the Canary Islands, a nun had lightly engraved Rosaleen's forehead and whispered a sweet "Dominus vobiscum."

Maybe Rosaleen's mother or grandmother stopped her as a little girl rushing out to play and with a smile and the slowly etched sign on the brow, intercepted her life with thoughts of God. No matter its origin, Rosaleen had found and made her own, an act of private devotion that had God as its object and me as its beneficiary.

Her habit of intercessory prayer and that tiny sign of the cross say something special about my mother. They are mere external evidences of a deeper reality and truth. She doesn't believe that the mark of the cross carries a special power, though I know her prayers for me do. Rather, the mark stands for a conviction she holds that God loves her son and that she has determined to daily hold her son, his needs, his very life -- before heaven's throne.

A mother's intercession seems to carry special weight with God. St. Monica pleaded daily with God for nearly 18 years until her son turned his life to God. That son was St. Augustine.

Susanna Wesley, with 17 children, spent an hour each day shut up with God alone in her room praying for each child by name. Two of her sons, John and Charles, brought Christian revival to England in the 18th Century.

An ex-sea captain, John Newton, attributed his turning from the slave trade to ministry because his mother prayed each day for him for 41 years. It was Newton who penned the words to the beloved spiritual "Amazing Grace."

This Mother's Day bids us celebrate the gift of life, nurture and love our mothers have given. For some of us, it should prod thankfulness and a deep gratitude for a daily intercession we know our own mother has done for us.

Maybe more than car rides, cooked meals, clean clothes or a place that feels like home, we can thank Mom for prevailing on God to help us, to lead us and to draw us to Himself. Only eternity will fully unfold what good came to pass by a mother's prayer.

For moms, this day might be an encouragement to stay with, or to start for the first time, a private intercession for those you love. Having done so much for these kids and even grandkids, would you also pray? Chances are good that even Mary prayed for her own son Jesus.

At 77, Rosaleen still marks my forehead as I dash out after an all-too-infrequent visit. It's a longer reach as I bend down to receive her blessing. As she inscribes that sign, I know she's still praying for me, still asking God to guard and guide me.

In this humble habit I know something of the length and breadth of her love for me and the certainty she holds about God's ability to grip me.

Thank you, Mom, for praying all these years for me.

Paul Edwards is president/chief executive
officer of Hawaiian Islands Ministries.

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