I always dreamed of being a mother. As the youngest of nine children (six sisters and two brothers), marriage and family was all around me. I was an aunt at the age of two and a half- before my first memory. Being around children was a huge part of my life. What little girl doesn’t play “house” and carry around a little baby doll at some point in her life? I saw our family grow with each new little baby and it brought joy to my heart. I saw my sisters getting married and having children and knew that that’s exactly what I wanted to do, too. It never occurred to me that one day I would choose a life of celibacy… but that’s exactly what I did.
Earlier this year, I became a Consecrated Virgin living in the world. Most people, including most Catholics, have no idea what that is and to be honest, up until six years ago, neither did I. Consecrated Virginity is a vocation within the Catholic Church where women who have consistently lived a life of virginity, become forever espoused to Christ. The fruitfulness of this spousal relationship with Christ, as with most spousal relationships, is children… in this case, spiritual children.
On my journey toward discerning consecrated life, Jesus gave me the gift of experiencing spiritual motherhood. He brought a young man into my life who needed a mother; he needed a mother to be present in his life, to care for him, to pray for him, to listen, and to open her heart to receive him into her life. Spiritual motherhood is a life-giving receptivity of another. Through God’s grace, I opened my heart to welcome this young man into my life. Not only did this receptivity bring a deep understanding of my call to motherhood, planted in my femininity, but it also brought life to him. He was received and loved as a son.
My spiritual motherhood for him wasn’t something I planned. It was a gift that was given to me from the Lord. The Lord showed me the gift of motherhood He imprinted in my femininity and He desired me to share with others. He brought me closer to Our Lady, His mother, to show me the perfect model of spiritual motherhood. She is the mother of all humanity. She gives her maternal heart to each person and loves us with her feminine, motherly heart. She spiritually takes us into her womb and gives birth to us. She nurtures us. She prays for us. She fiercely defends and protects us. She loves us as her own. Our Lady taught me how to be a spiritual mother, to love someone not born of my womb, but nurtured in my heart.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD (St. Edith Stein) helps women to understand the deep calling, within each of us, to motherhood and Our Lady’s guidance in living it. “The intrinsic value of woman consists essentially in exceptional receptivity for God’s work in the soul. For an understanding of our unique feminine nature, let us look to the pure love and spiritual maternity of Mary. This spiritual maternity is the core of a woman’s soul. Wherever a woman functions authentically in this spirit of maternal pure love, Mary collaborates with her. This holds true whether the woman is married or single, professional or domestic or both, a Religious in the world or in the convent. Through this love, a woman is God’s special weapon in His fight against evil. Her intrinsic value is that she is able to do so because she has a special susceptibility for the works of God in souls — her own and others. She relates to others in His spirit of love.” (St. Edith Stein, Essays on Woman, 259.)
Our Lady has brought many young men and women into my life upon whom she encourages me to pour out my spiritual motherhood and it is such a gift! I used to believe that spiritual motherhood was “less than” biological motherhood, almost as if it were the “second prize” of motherhood, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Through experiencing the gift of motherhood through my feminine heart, I experience a heart that fiercely loves. Without a doubt, I would give my life for any of my spiritual children. In fact, I give my life to them each day through my intercessory prayer. We all know the gift, beauty, and power of Our Lady’s intercession for us, her children. There is a deep desire in my heart to offer sacrifice and love for my spiritual children each day. Our Lady helps me to offer my pain, suffering, joys, and graces for the conversion and protection of my spiritual children. Living out my spiritual motherhood in this way, helps me to more authentically live out my feminine call to be a gift of self and to receive others into my heart.
The desire I had as a little girl to be a mother was the desire I needed to be a spiritual mother and is fulfilled in each young man or woman I open my feminine heart to love and nourish through my prayer and availability to them. I am forever grateful for these young men and women who have sought my spiritual motherhood and who have opened their hearts to receive me, as well. As women, we are all called to spiritual motherhood, whether we are already biological mothers, or religious, single, or married. Motherhood is beautifully stamped in our feminine hearts and bodies. The more authentically we live out our femininity, the more we are called to live the gift and beauty of motherhood.
Our Lady, Our Spiritual Mother, pray for us.
For more information on the Theology of the Body Institute, visit their website: http://tobinstitute.org/
Resources on Spiritual Motherhood
• “Praying for Priests: A Mission for the New Evangelization” by Kathleen Beckman (Sophia Institute Press, 2014)
• “Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity” by the Congregation for the Clergy (2007)
• “Essays on Woman” by St. Edith Stein
• “Mulieris Dignitatuem: On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” by Pope Saint John Paul II (1988)
• “Under the Gaze of the Father” by Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Amida and Archbishop Luis M. Martinez (Alba House, 2011)
• “When Women Pray: Eleven Catholic Women on the Power of Prayer” by Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S. (Sophia Institute Press, 2017).