Spiritual motherhood is a topic that more people are becoming aware of within the Catholic Church. Around the United States, retreats and conferences include this subject and new groups are forming to implement its practices. Spiritual motherhood is about caring and self-giving. It is other-focused. Recessed in the nooks and crannies of our daily lives, if we open our eyes, we discover people who need spiritual nurturing, affirmation, and guidance, and don’t receive it. This is spiritual motherhood, and it isn’t only for a biological mothers.
We meet people every day. At the store. At work. At the doctor’s office. With our own families. Sad to say, we often barely skim the surface in these relationships. We are either too tired, or too busy, or too indifferent. Consequently, there are so many things we might not notice about others. And that’s a shame because from time to time all of us need other people’s advice, assistance, and encouragement. Many keep their confusion and indecision or lack of knowledge of God and the things of God hidden.
“How is your soul? Is it taking little steps toward heaven or is it flying there?”
These are the words of Mother Luisita, foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles — a woman who knew well and lived the meaning of the words, “spiritual motherhood.” This is a quote of a spiritual mother. It asks about higher things. It says, “Remember, for greater things you were born.” It opens the avenue for spiritual conversations which lead to spiritual growth.
Spiritual motherhood is about nurturing life. It is about helping another grow and develop into the person that God desires them to become. During the sacrament of Baptism, the godmother promises just that. She promises to nurture her godchild and companion him or her along life’s journey, with love, understanding and spiritual guidance.
Part of what is known as the “feminine genius” is a certain empathy and inherent compassion. Women can see the deeper issues even when the exterior façade reveals okay-ness. We can, as appropriate, bring peace and discernment to others and confidence as well. These natural gifts can be fueled by supernatural grace to bring about peace and joy to countless souls.
One of the ways women religious live their consecrated life to the fullest is through spiritual motherhood. When you ask sisters and nuns what drew them to the convent, to the cloister, many will respond with some variation of the idea that they recognized that God had created their heart for MORE. The world sees what the religious woman gives up…marriage to one man, a family of her own children. The religious woman sees what she receives, Christ as her spouse, and all the peoples of the world as her children. Marriage to Christ did not free her from a family but for His family.
Sisters throughout history have mothered countless souls in classrooms, in shelters and orphanages, at sickbeds, in the simple events of daily living, and in the profoundest moments of human existence including the moment of death. Religious women do this through their presence and most importantly through their life of prayer and sacrifice. A cloistered nun mothers souls just as surely as her active counterpart in the classroom or hospital.
There is a movement today which is asking all women, whether single, married, or in the consecrated life, to consider themselves as spiritual mothers, especially for priests. You can learn more about spiritual maternity by clicking here. This beautiful movement is growing rapidly. It is greatly needed in today’s world.
In 2007, Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy issued the document, “Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Motherhood.” A quote from it reads, “The vocation to be a spiritual mother for priests is largely unknown scarcely understood and, consequently, rarely lived, notwithstanding its fundamental importance. It is a vocation that is frequently hidden, invisible to the naked eye, but meant to transmit spiritual life.” You can read more of the Church’s thoughts on spiritual motherhood in that document by clicking here.
During this month of Our Lady, let us remember our spiritual motherhood. The souls of many people need much nurturing. By participating in Mary’s spiritual motherhood, we can help souls live the “abundant life” that Christ is inviting them to.
By Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.
Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles
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