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Going ‘A–mothering’: The message of mothering Sunday


Princewill O. Ireoba

Today is the Mothering Sunday, which is a day for special celebration of motherhood and honouring of mothers and mother figures.The origin of Mothering Sunday could be traced to the pre-Reformation observation of Laetare Sunday in the Churches of England, when people were encouraged once a year, in the middle of Lent, to return to their ‘mother’ church, which meant either the church where they were baptised, or their local parish church, or the nearest cathedral (the latter being the mother church of all the parish churches in a diocese. Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone “a-mothering,” a name that came from the pre-reformation mass for this Sunday in Latin, taken from Isaiah 66.10, which speaks of the love for Jerusalem – the original ‘mother church.’ The day often turned into a family reunion, as adults returned to the towns and villages where they grew up.

In the post-Reformation times, it became customary for domestic servants to be given a day off at this time, so that they could visit their families. The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers. They also often took a gift of food or hand-me-down clothing from their employers to her.Eventually, this evolved into the Mothering Sunday tradition of visiting and giving gifts to mothers.

By the 1920s, the custom of keeping Mothering Sunday had tended to lapse in Europe. But owing to the Mothering Sunday Movement, started by Constance Penswick-Smith, a daughter of the Vicar of Coddington Nottinghamshire, particularly with a book she wrote, the festival was widely revived. Indeed, by 1938, every parish in the UK, as well as the Anglican Communion celebrated Mothering Sunday on the 4th Sunday in Lent.


Mothering Sunday is also known as “Refreshment Sunday” because of the “mothering” (tending and feeding) activities on the part of mothers, as they gladly receive their children that day and provide delicacies for them. The observance of the fast, abstinence and austerity of the Lent are relaxed on the day. It is true that Sundays are not included in the forty days of lent. But they are Sundays in Lent and all the days in Lent (Lententide) are times of general austerity and fast, including festivities and celebrations. Mothering Sunday is the only day that wedding can be conducted in the Anglican Church during Lent.


Mothering Sunday is one of the noble things that the Anglican Church gave to the world. Today, there is an International Women’s Day by the United Nations on March 8. In the early 1900s, America, consequent on Anna Jarvis’ activities, started Mother’s Day celebration on the Second Sunday of May. Other churches have also keyed in to the celebration of motherhood. Roman Catholics celebrate on Sunday closest to March 25 (Annunciation Day in honour of the Blessed Mother Mary). Some churches follow the Mid Lent tradition, while others follow the America or the United Nations or their own creation.

The message of Mothering Sunday is that every man born of woman should learn to appreciate his mother and in deed, womanhood. We need to acknowledge and thank God for the gift, love and care of mothers.Mothering Sunday provides opportunity for reflection on the sacrificial works of mothers and give them honour and appreciation due them.

Mothers should not be abandoned. Adequate arrangements and provisions should always be made for them. Distance should not be a barrier to caring for them. It is unfortunate that many people virtually reduce their mothers to beggars and miserable and wretched fellows only to accord them “befitting” burial at death.
Happy Mothering Sunday To All Mothers!
Ven. Dr Princewill O. Ireoba is the Rector,
Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,Agbarha-Otor, Delta

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Princewill O. Ireoba
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