What an unbelievable gift we as women have been given, the potential to bear life. All throughout our lives we hold this gift within us, a stirring within our hearts, leading us to the sacrament of marriage where we play a part in the mysterious miracle which welcomes new life, however it may come to us. I remember when I was a working mother with our first newborn baby, I was reading my first apostolic letter entitled the Dignity of Women written by Saint John Paul II, in a parish study group. I had learned that motherhood in and of itself was established by the Church as a vocation of holiness, but brand new to me was the idea of a “spiritual motherhood.”
At a time of shifting ideas and roles of the genders, Saint John Paul II addressed this sacred “stirring” that we women experience in his letter from 1988. As we continued to study and discuss, I had questions. I wondered about women who were infertile, or women who never were able to marry, working women, and women within religious communities who had taken vows of celibacy. While at the time, my adjustment to motherhood felt much more like a dying to self than a call to holiness, I needed to know… if I had not been married or become a physical mother, where would I be in this picture?
Saint John Paul II in his letter describes spiritual motherhood as a vocation within a vocation. Meaning, regardless of where we find ourselves in life, we are called to holiness. But as women, our hope is to affirm life and gather community to the best of our ability. This made things beautifully clear to me, as I thought about how this expanded the role of women and elevated us to such a highly esteemed status. What a contrast to what the perceptions of the value of women, in the past and in the present. If we can mother humanity as educators, neighbors, professionals, volunteers, daughters, aunts, sisters, friends…we are embracing our vocation as women, within a universal call to holiness. It might not look the same in every situation, but at the heart of it is kindness and love. And to carry this out with intentionality, with purpose, understanding that the Source of our love will not let us burn out as long as we remain in Him….how it opened my eyes. It made me want to shout from the rooftops. This makes sense to me. It’s big enough for all of us.
As we approach Mother’s Day, let us shower our dear Mothers with the best of our love. Let us remember to pray for the many women who have mothered us emotionally and spiritually, and continue to do so. Let us help carry the suffering of women who have lost children, or have been unable to conceive or adopt, and mothers of children with special needs. Let us pray for women who struggle with poverty, illness, and abuse. Let us remember single women who embrace their calling with its challenges, and single mothers who need support. Let us remember our role is a vocation within a vocation, and to remain in Christ so that we can do what He created us to do, no matter where we find ourselves. And let us ever lift our gaze to our Blessed Mother for encouragement, who bore the source of Love Himself.
Happy Mother’s Day!