Q: Many of us have heard the term "spiritual motherhood". What does this mean to you? What does spiritual motherhood look like?
A: I have a wonderful mother who raised me in the Catholic faith and has been Catholic her whole life. But as I was growing up I struggled with faith and asked a lot of hard questions about the Church and not satisfied by answer around me. I was drawn in by many other deeply faithful Catholics in college, a wonderful chaplain and a very motherly Campus Minister, Alecia, who listened to me for hours in her office as a worked through struggles. Alecia is the first spiritual mother I was really open to receive from, but had many others before and since that time with her in college. Now I am a campus minister back at my high school.
When I began to organize our parishes first Endow group with a friend and mentor out of the prompting of the Lord on JPIIs Letter to Women, we initially assumed that it would be a group for 20 to 30-year-old women from our parish. Then one woman I really admire from our parish text me, “Mary (as in Our Blessed Mother) told me to contact you for consolation.” We met and as we were talking I had an overwhelming desire to invite her to join our Endow group, even though she was older than our original age range. She was a religion teacher for the parish’s middle school, ran the Confirmation program, and had already contributed to my life personally. After talking to my co-leader and praying about it more we invited her to join us.
As a result of this women joining our Endow group we invited two other older women. All three are mothers and have their own children ranging from 6th grade to out of college. As we began our first study I was deeply moved by the entire group that the Lord brought together – we were all different and unique but seeking the Lord and wanting to grow in holiness and in community.
One quote in the study by Saint Edith Stein says, “Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning.” Over and over again I saw this lived out concretely in the support our group provided for one another: a listening ear, remembering an important date/milestone, prayers, and food.
When I was struggling a lot one day after Mass a woman from the group came over and knew something was upsetting me and just began to pray over me out loud and a different day another woman offered a hug and a listening ear when I was believing Satan’s lie that I was all alone. I got texts and dinner invites, lots of laughs when I was getting too serious, and I had people who could see through the masks I put up and allow me to be vulnerable and grow in trust – first of them, then of God. I then got to share my enthusiasm with others, my knowledge of evangelization, particularly with today’s teens, and encourage people to get a spiritual director and lead spontaneous prayer, lectio divina, etc for our group. We were present for each other. This is what it means to nourish the spiritual growth of others. And the joy and other fruits of the Holy Spirit were so present as we recognized the fruitfulness of our yes to the Lord that contributed to the growth of our sister in Christ.
The study says, “Consecrated women’s willingness to love all Christ’s children as their own is an ongoing witness to the truth, the power, and the beauty of the feminine genius” (P. 81). For nearly 2 years prior to starting this study I had been discerning consecrated life, but this study was one of many ways the Lord confirmed I was moving on the right path and helped give me the courage to respond to the Lord’s promptings and move in with the Apostolic Oblates, lay consecrated women that take vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity with a promise of apostolic availability. I am currently in the first step, “The Experience” before even starting formation, but receiving a lot from the Lord here. Getting to tell my spiritual moms from the group about my day of prayer that led me to take this step was so exciting and their encouragement and support helped me stay grateful for this move even when other people in my life were not as excited for me as I begin this journey.
The beautiful thing is that the Lord will use us right where we are, in our state of life and varied circumstances to bear spiritual fruit and be a spiritual mother if we are open to His voice and promptings.