Mosaics and Motherhood



When you step into the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre Church built in Jerusalem, over the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus, the first thing you see is the Stone of Unction. It is here our Lord was taken down from the Cross and covered in a linen cloth for burial. It is here His mother held her Son in her arms for the last time. It is here, she made her last earthly act as mother.
On the wall directly behind the Stone of Unction is a mosaic showing all of this.

When you look at the mosaic from a distance, it looks like a painting, strokes upon strokes. It is not until you get up close you can see that the image is created instead by small individual tiles, placed one by one next to each other. It is remarkable how someone can see the big picture in their mind and know just when to change the color of the tile: gold to red, red to black and so on. Looking at this particular mosaic, you have to believe it was God who guided the artist.

Living the vocation of motherhood can be described similarly. Each day raising a child can be like one of the tiles of the mosaic. Some days are gold (birthdays, learning to ride a two-wheeler, discovering your best friend,) some days are red (first day of school, first time driving a car, first time stepping on a field or an auditorium stage,) and some days are black (an illness or injury, being rejected by a friend, a death of a loved one, tackling Algebra homework.)

With her maternal perspective, a mother guides her child. She celebrates the gold days, counsels through the red days and consoles in the black days.

My oldest son is looking for an apartment with his college buddy. He is eighteen years old and ready to venture out from under my wings. I was folding his clothes yesterday and remembering how the huge T-shirt with the Nike swoosh I am currently folding used to be so small, emblazoned on the front with two funny-looking fish saying, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”

How many days have passed since then? How many tiles have been placed on his mosaic? How many days were gold? Were red? Were black?

I realize they cannot all be gold, for then what would the image be? There has to be a variety of colors: days of celebration, days of risk, and days of suffering, for a beautiful image to be created.

As I quickly approach one of my last earthly acts as my son’s mother, before he leaves me to continue the mosaic of his life, I offer a prayer of thanks to God. I thank Him for trusting me with so precious a life to guide and for giving me His Mother who understands and who helps me celebrate the good, counsels me through what comes next and consoles me as I let go.


About Nan Balfour

Coordinator for the annual Catholic Women's Conference, an apostolate of the Pilgrim Center of Hope - Catholic evangelization ministry in San Antonio, Texas. The Pilgrim Log is the blog of the Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry, providing weekly spiritual reflections to help you journey toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Learn more about the Pilgrim Center of Hope by visiting

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