“How is Your Soul?” — A Reflection on Spiritual Motherhood

woman-caring-for-another-woman-featured-w740x493“Spiritual motherhood, what in the world is that?”

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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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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