Columnists Mark my words

Life lessons in the mother tongue

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

“Did you get your taxes done?”

Around the middle of January each year, this question starts to dominate my thoughts. It was something my mom asked relentlessly from the first moment I had to file taxes. Quite frankly, it drove me nuts . . . but I never didn’t get my taxes done. (OK, it’s usually not till late March, but still . . .)

With Mother’s Day weekend, I think of Mom, who died about three years ago. And I smile as I remember her many “momilies.” I’m not sure who first coined that word, but I’ll credit author Michele Slung, who wrote at least a couple of books with that title. Essentially, “momilies” are sermons or advice delivered by mothers.

For example, Mom and I often visited Mount Calvary Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas, over the years to put wreaths on the graves of relatives. The wreaths cost around $10 apiece. One day, though, on a shopping trip to Walmart, we walked by a huge display of artificial flowers.

“What are those?” Mom asked.

“Flowers?” I sarcastically responded.

“Let me see some,” she replied and pointed out several to examine. “How much are they?”

“A buck apiece,” I answered. I thought she was going to faint.

“WHAT?” said Mom. “They’re only a dollar each?” The words were barely out of her mouth before she had me loading bunch after bunch after bunch into the shopping cart. “The heck with those wreaths,” she said. “We can get these instead and go up and decorate the graves a lot more often.”

And from that day on, that’s what we did. So, in preparation for Mother’s Day, I hit up Dollar Tree for some of Mom’s favorite flowers. I’m afraid that if I bought a wreath instead, she’d haunt me!

Hardly a week goes by now, when I don’t find myself saying something like, “You know, my mom always used to say . . .”  

Some things were embarrassing, like when she’d ask my parishioners after Mass, “Is he behaving?” Or when she insisted on calling me, “Father Mark,” despite me saying, “Mom, please, I’m your son. Call me Mark!”

Some things were downright hilarious like “Put on a coat, Mark, I’m cold” or “Don’t fall off that jungle gym and break your leg and then come running to me!”

Mom could never pronounce “aluminum”; it was always just “the foil.” And I can’t forget how her eyes would light up when she’d get a box of the “oh, that’s that good chocolate, GO-dee-vah.” (That’s Godiva for the rest of us.)

But many of her momilies formed me. Whenever I got into trouble, her “I thought we raised you better” never failed to make me think and get back on the right track. Her “always say good things about people, you never know who’s related to who” saved me from more than a few potentially awkward conversations.

But Mom’s greatest impact is reflected in this story:

Two college students went to a lecture by Robert Ingersoll, a famous agnostic. Afterwards, one student said to the other, “Well, I guess he knocked the props out from under Christianity, didn’t he?” The other replied, “No, I don’t think he did. Ingersoll didn’t explain my mother’s life, and until he can explain my mother’s life, I will stand by my mother’s God.” (Story found in “Illustrations Unlimited,” by James S. Hewett.)

I, too, will stand by my mother’s God. Why? Because my mom practiced what I preach!

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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