Solidarity Blog

We bring Our Lady to mind as we reflect on motherhood on Mothers Day

“Do Whatever He Tells You”: Rev. Kevin Penkalski on Motherhood

In honor of the month of Our Lady, as well as Mother’s Day, we are honored to share with you the below reflection. Rev. Kevin Penkalski is a local priest who often says mass for our team here at Solidarity. His homilies are always very insightful and powerful. So, we asked him to share his thoughts on motherhood for our Members.

Reflecting on Motherhood

Back in 2017, I was in Guatemala for my summer immersion for Spanish. Being a seminarian for the Diocese of Phoenix, the necessity for Spanish fluency was paramount. For the first time I was off on my own in a distant country with only one thing in mind. Become fluent. As the days turned to weeks I began to grow in my skills and confidence, not only in Spanish but in a deeper reliance on the Lord. The parish La Merced (Our Lady of Mercy) became my second home and a place of consolation. All is going according to plan.

Unfortunately, about 6 weeks into the immersion, I received a call from my family that my Mom had suffered a severe stroke and was in the hospital. I remember hearing that, slowly trying to process the reality of the situation, and not knowing really what to do. One of the guys I was living with, now a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., found me just wandering the streets. He asked me how my day was going. After telling him, he told me to follow him. Walking into La Merced, we found a side chapel that was unoccupied, knelt and prayed the Rosary.

As we finished, I went through my day until I got a call from the diocese checking in on me. They had been told what was going on and had already met with her. But they wanted to know what I was thinking. After saying that I don’t know what help I would be able to provide, they told me her response… a shrug. Her speech was compromised, but her New Jersey attitude had not been touched. It was as if she was saying, “What would he do here? He needs to learn Spanish…”

The Lord Has a Plan for Us, Even if We Can’t See It

Yes, moms are like that. May brings Mothers’ Day, and fittingly it also brings to mind the Mother of all mothers. You see, I don’t just tell the story above to brag about my Mom, but to make a point. Often I hear from moms that are tormented by their past mistakes. There are constant accusations that they have failed in their motherhood. As if to say, “If I could change this or that…”. I hear the regret and the pain, and my mom has been there as well. There is a path both easy and fitting.

Remember the last words that Our Lady spoke in the Gospels? She merely looks at some random servants and says, “Do whatever He tells you.” I imagine a little smirk on her face, knowing what is about to happen. Yes, the wine ran out, but she knew her Son’s Heart. She knew Him when she was but 14 and accepted the call to be the Mother of God. This fiat pervaded her whole existence, from the Incarnation, to the letting go of her Beloved Son to public ministry, through the Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. Even to her Assumption and Coronation. Yet in that moment, she invited others into this self-gift by saying one phrase, “Do whatever He tells you.”

How Do We Incorporate This Into Our Own Motherhood?

Moms, as you read this, I want you to surrender your past, your vices, virtues, brokenness, and healing. We know almost nothing about the servants. We know they were there, that they obeyed, and that they witnessed the first public miracle, which elevated Matrimony to the level of a Sacrament. Their past is inconsequential, but I imagine they needed healing and salvation just as much as you or I. Yet at the tender command of Our Lady, they surrendered themselves to the Will of God. That can be your story too. Perhaps it is time that we permit Our Lady to really start healing the fears that past sins and vices will never be conquered.

You want the full healing of your motherhood, be it great or small? Be bold enough to be the first to accept Our Lady’s invitation to “do whatever He tells you.” Our Lord is calling you deep into His Most Sacred Heart, to surrender yourselves to Mercy, and to be conformed to Himself. Your feminine love will be enflamed and boil over to dutifully and patiently endure the pains of motherhood (the moments of the Passion), and to exalt with joy and admiration of your children’s triumphs (the glories of the Resurrection).

Be Bold in Surrendering to the Lord’s Will

My mother, upon saying (really signing) that I was to remain in Guatemala, accepted another moment of letting me go. Yet three years later, she would be there at my ordination. She was the first to receive my priestly blessing. Her past, with all her need for healing, no longer defines her. I may be biased, but I cannot help but look at her, see how she prays the Rosary, how she sees my parishioners as her grandchildren, and be filled with pride to be her son. I try to follow her example and to continue to do whatever He tells me to do.

To all Moms out there:

Happy Mothers’ Day. Be bold enough and brave enough to do whatever He tells you.

Reverend Kevin Penkalski, ordained in 2020, is currently the Chaplain of St. John Paul II High School in Avondale, AZ.