We raised Pomeranian puppies when I was a kid growing up in northern Iowa. Buttons and Bows - those were the names of our male and female Pomeranian pets.
One year, in the cold of winter, Bows went into labor. She had two puppies before we figured out that Buttons was acting really bonkers because his companion was in labor. We dashed outside to bring Bows into the warm kitchen. The two puppies she had already delivered didn't make it.
There was one more puppy, a rare albino pup. Mom worked with the puppy for awhile, but she said there was no way it would make it. It was the runt of the litter, she said. And sickly-looking at that.
I was really sad. It was late and Mom ushered us all to bed. In the middle of the night, I woke up and wondered about Bows and her little white puppy. I quietly made my way down the cold hallway. When I got to the kitchen, I knelt down, tucking my long flannel nightgown around me.
There was Bows. The puppy was lifeless. Gone.
I cried. Our mother dog was licking and licking her little one. Mothering this tiny, dead puppy. Hoping against hope that her efforts would stir life up again in the last puppy of her litter.
I cried for the puppy, but mostly, I cried for Bows.
And I thought about maternal instinct and how much a mother - even a mother Pomeranian - needs to nurture the life she has birthed.
A love so deep, an instinct so strong, that the signs of death cannot stop her from trying.
Every baptized child of God is entrusted to the care of Mother Church. And there are times when I marvel at the Maternal Instinct that is intrinsic to everything She does. Sometimes, we are as dead and lifeless - spiritually - as that tiny newborn puppy. Anyone looking at us would say, she isn't going to make it. You might as well go get some sleep and stop hoping (and praying).
But Mother Church just keeps giving, nurturing, trying to stir life back into the lifeless-little-me.
Washing, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Feeding, through the Eucharist.
Interceding, through the prayers of the Faithful. Saints above. Sojourners below. Everyone offering prayers of hope for each little soul.
I still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes. And I still journey down cold hallways. . . to kneel. For you, dear little one. Can't you feel the Maternal Instinct of Mother Church? She's calling you back.