A Parent’s Love

May 16 2018 | by

MOST countries celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day at some time during the year. In 96 countries Mothers’ Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May while Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June in 86 countries. Society celebrates parents, at least once yearly, as recognition of their often overlooked importance to the continuation of society.

Some T-shirt manufacturers are taking advantage of the parent/child bond by cleverly manufacturing parent/child T-shirts.

  • A parent’s shirt features an eight slice pizza with one slice missing; the accompanying child’s shirt shows the missing slice.
  • Dad’s shirt reads Mr. Fix It; daughter’s shirt reads Little Miss Broke It.
  • Mom’s black T-shirt reads, YOU are my sunshine. with the O in the word ‘YOU’ a shining sun. On the child’s black T-shirt glows the same shining sun.
  • Mom’s shirt reads, Super Mom. Super Wife. Super Tired. Grinning Mom is pictured with two smiling daughters, both in T-shirts the same color as Mom’s. Infant’s shirt reads, Super Tiny. Super Cute. Super Baby. Older daughter’s shirt reads, Super Big. Super Loud. Super Kid.
  • Both parent and child wear a white T-shirt with a red heart on the front. Parent’s heart reads LO; child’s heart reads VE.
  • Son wears a black T-shirt with a red car. The T-shirt reads Plays with Cars. Dad’s black T-shirt shows a larger red car and reads, Still Plays with Cars.

Parent/child T-shirts are walking billboards of a parent’s love for and pride in their children, as clear in the LO VE twin hearts T-shirt. Other messages indicate parental sacrifices, made with love and humor. Little Miss Broke It needs a fix-it dad; two daughters are the reason for Super Tired mom.


Mother of the King


In St. Anthony’s time, manuscripts, paintings, and heraldry portrayed clever, symbolic messages. A common parenting image was the pelican, perhaps adapted from ancient Egypt where the pelican, Henet in Egyptian, was depicted in art, on the walls of tombs, and in funerary texts as a symbol of death and the afterlife. Henet was ‘mother of the king’ who could provide the deceased with safe passage to the underworld.

To St. Anthony, the mother of the King was the Blessed Virgin Mary. By her example and prayers, she was a trustworthy guide for the Christian in life and after death, where she would intercede for the faithful departed. St. Anthony explains it this way, “The blessed Virgin Mary, our mediatress, reestablished peace between God and the sinner… Therefore blessed Bernard says, ‘You have a sure access to God, O man, where you have the mother standing before the Son, and the Son before the Father. The mother shows her heart and breasts to her Son, and the Son displays his side and wounds to the Father. There will be no refusal where so many signs of charity come together’” (Sermons for Sundays and Festivals Vol III, p. 407; translation by Paul Spilsbury; Messaggero di Sant’ Antonio Editrice).


The pelican


Anthony used a pelican to represent the Messiah. A pelican is a large water bird, generally gray or white, with a long bill which has an extendable throat pouch for scooping up fish. A common European and Asian species, the Dalmatian pelican develops a blood-red pouch in the early breeding season. These traits may have given rise to the medieval belief that a pelican was so attentive to its young that, if necessary, it would wound its own breast to feed them its blood. An older version of this myth has the pelican killing its children and then resurrecting them by feeding them its blood. Christians see here Christ’s blood reviving sinners who were dead in mortal sin. St. Thomas Aquinas used the pelican image in his hymn Adoro te devote (Humbly We Adore Thee). The sixth verse (translated into English by Gerard Manley Hopkins), reads:

Like what tender tales tell of the Pelican
Bathe me, Jesus Lord, in what Thy Bosom ran
Blood that but one drop of has the power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.


Discipline needed


Anthony, who died when Thomas Aquinas was 6 years old, used the pelican image in his sermons: “Note the pelican is a little bird that delights in solitude. It is said to kill its offspring with blows, to mourn for them, and after three days to wound itself so that they may revive from the shedding of its blood. That is how Christ, made small in his humility, solitary in his prayer… killed his offspring Adam and Eve as though with blows, when he said: Cursed is the earth in thy work [Gen 3.17]; and Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return [Gen 3.19]. But afterwards he mourned for them… Christ, grieving for the death of the human race, went up into the chamber of the Cross… After three days… he wounded himself– that is, he let himself be wounded, and sprinkled his dead children with his blood, and made them to revive. And all this proceeded from the exceeding love with which he loved us… that is, to death” (Sermons IV, pp.57 – 58).

While it may seem capricious of God to wound his children and then revive them through the blood of Christ, a parent/child T-shirt combo that reads ‘Rule Maker’ for the parent shirt and ‘Rule Breaker’ for the child shirt puts things in perspective. Loving parents make rules for their children, but rule breaking children need more than just rules. Sometimes they need discipline. St. Anthony recognizes this. “A father holds his son with one hand, while he chastises him with the other. He holds him, lest he should fall headlong; but he chastises him, lest he grow proud and insolent. In this way the Lord holds the just man with the hand of mercy, lest he fall into sin; but he chastises him, lest he raise himself above the Father’s grace” (Sermons II, p. 329).


Infinite wrong


However, because God is infinitely perfect, sin against him is always infinitely wrong. Since we are finite creatures, we cannot make restitution for sins that infinitely offend the Infinite Good. Only an Infinite Good could make such restitution. Anthony explains, “Because there was not a single man who might appear before God as a righteous intercessor for mercy, Jesus made himself man, to intercede for men… The human race was oppressed with innumerable punishments for its vices and guilt, but when the Redeemer came it returned to the days of its youth; that is, it was renewed in the integrity of its former life, that the cause of its fall might not remain in it but, being redeemed, it might return to what it was created to attain” (Sermons II, p. 331).

The pelican wounds its children, in the myth, but revives them. In the same manner, loving parents discipline their children to keep them from experiencing greater harm. God, the ultimate loving Parent, came in the Person of Jesus to redeem us, rule breaking children, and enable us to get to heaven.

Updated on May 16 2018