The Breast-feeding Mother of God

Today is the feast of Our Lady of La Leche. Though it is not celebrated many places in the world, it commemorates the first shrine of Mary in what is now the US, in Saint Augustine, Florida.

This past February in Italy I saw several images of Mary breastfeeding, which might surprise some people in the US where breastfeeding in public is often frowned upon. In some places breastfeeding mothers have been hassled.

Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

But I was prepared for these images because public breastfeeding is common here. I am not surprised to see mothers in catechists’ training sessions or at Mass.

About two years ago Fr. Jon Seda, the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, was visiting Dulce Nombre and concelebrated a Saturday morning Mass, which included two weddings.

During the Mass, one of the brides in a bridal gown turned to her mother who handed her a baby. She proceeded to nurse the baby during the Mass. Father Jon was astounded.

The image of Mary breastfeeding Jesus is a reminder that Jesus is fully human; He is God made flesh.

Icon from Crete, 16th century

Icon from Crete, 16th century

It is so easy to forget this, to make Jesus a god masquerading as a human being.

But he was like us, in all things but sin, as St. Paul puts it.

And so when you see a woman breast-feeding a child, think of Jesus and Mary.

Think of the tenderness of God who is our brother.

Think of Mary, the poor young woman of Nazareth, who fed God!

And rejoice that God nourishes us with love.

Duomo Museum, Florence

Duomo Museum, Florence

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