“Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God, but it passes through the heart of a mother.” –St. Pius X
An interview with Father Brendan Rolling on the lessons he’s learned from his earthly mother and the Blessed Mother.
Describe the role your mother played in your spiritual life growing up.
Mom was a witness to truth and charity in my life. Her love for Christ and the truth He revealed meant we were always discussing and pursuing the teachings of the Catholic Church in our home, parish, school, and community. As a disciple of Jesus, mom’s faith inspires great charity so her generosity is easy to see in her care for the family, teaching religious education, hospital work, and pro-life volunteerism. Even today in her seventies she serves as a sacristan at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and at Divine Providence Care Center.
What was your mother's reaction to your decision to become a priest?
I think mom was initially surprised. I had never said anything about it until the night I told the family I was applying to the Order of St. Benedict. It was after the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver and St. John Paul II changed my life. Both mom and dad are 100% supportive.
What is one of the most valuable or memorable pieces of advice your mother has given you?
Preserve in faith, and Christ and the Blessed Mother will take care of the rest. Mom doesn’t say it; she does it. Catholic mothers all seem to have their way of describing Mary. My mom always says, “the Blessed Mother,” like Mary is a neighborhood friend who shares morning coffee with her. My most memorable image: mom praying her morning Rosary, watching the birds and deer outside the double-window next to her chair.
Tell me your favorite trait about your mom.
What is your relationship like with the Blessed Mother? How does she impact your vocation as a priest?
In the best and worst of times, I can cry out to the Blessed Mother and be heard. When I look back at the joys of priesthood, Mary has been there in key moments. When I look back at the times of suffering as a priest, Mary has been there. I am grateful that the Mother of God would care for me so much.
What is one of the most important lessons you've learned from your Heavenly Mother?
Mary has taught me: when people you count on betray you, she stays true to you. When there is no one to turn to, her mantle of love is around you. My favorite image of Mary is where her cloak is stretched out around all the people she is protecting.
Can you offer your brief thoughts on the importance of motherhood?
Motherhood, it seems to me, is a life of intercession. It is beautiful, creative, sacrificial and holy. A mother is the first person you meet and her love is the first welcome you get as a human from the moment of your conception. After the gift of life, a mother is God’s first gift to each human person. Our mother intercedes for us with her body and blood from the moment our life begins. This reality reminds and teaches a priest about the Mass when he prays the words of Jesus who said, “this is my body, this is my blood.” What Mary did for Jesus and what Jesus does in the Eucharist is a lesson in the gift of self every priest is called to make.
Every priest appreciates the gift of the woman who conceived, carried and delivered him because she is the first person to know him, choose him, love him and … challenge him.
Benedictine Father Brendan Rolling is National Chaplain for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS)