(COLUMNIST’S NOTE: This is written primarily for those who have consecrated their lives to God as His brides; but it can pertain to all women within the context of their vocation; for all women are call to spiritual motherhood as well.)
We, as women especially, all have natural instincts toward mothering, nurturing and loving deeply and tenderly. And, as consecrated persons, we are not called to give this inclination up, but only to sublimate its energies to fit as it is meant, in the vocation to which we have been called as spiritual mothers.
In other words, we are not called to breast feed, to rock and to constantly be present to children as with a natural mother. This would take us from our vocation and call which is, as St. Paul says, “to be intent on the Lord and how to be holy in body and spirit” (1Cor 7).
But, if we don’t have an avenue to allow our mothering instincts to play out, a part of us will die and we won’t live fully our vocation. We as consecrated persons are called to spiritual motherhood. We are called to open ourselves to an ever-greater capacity for loving all people with that intensity and tenderness that a mother would have for her child. We are called to an ever-greater spirit of self-sacrifice, even more-so than a natural mother, because we have chosen the life of perfection in living out our Baptismal vows (remember it’s a process).
And, this deep, intense and self-sacrificing love is meant to begin among those with whom we live, and from there to filter out to those to whom we minister, etc, even if these sacrifices are unseen by the human eye through prayer and the like.
I’ve at times imagined myself as an earthly mother, and have realized how very deeply I would take into my heart every one of my children as extremely special, and for whom I would give up my life. But, as I shared before, if we don’t exercise this very ingrained motherly instinct within us, a very big part of us dies. I know it does within me, because I’ve experienced it at times through my grapplings of who I’m called to be.
For us as consecrated persons, next to our espousal union with Christ as His Brides, which is primary, our role as spiritual mothers is the second part of our vocation. And, if we have both aspects alive and active, we can be very fulfilled and fruitful in our vocation.
Now, when I speak of spiritual motherhood, I mean it primarily in that way. We are called to be mothers with concern first of all for the spiritual good of others. This means even cloistered sisters or hermits, and especially they, are called to spiritual motherhood.
We are first called to take others deeply into our hearts in prayer, and from there, to the degree of activity and contact we have with other people, will determine how our vocations unfold concretely. What’s most important is that we are inspired in our actions only through prayer, through seeking God’s will.
We should see mothers that we know who are being very true to their vocations as a witness to us of a self-sacrificing spirit, as they put their husband’s and children’s needs before their own as God calls them to in a rightly ordered way.
Now, granted, we must take this in right context, because it is not primarily a matter of filling up our time in DOING for others. What is of utmost importance for us is to place our Husband, our Bridegroom, first – otherwise we are not being faithful to our vocations – and everything else must flow from this union we have with God.
As our Holy Father and the Church tell us in many of the more recent documents on the consecrated life, we are called to BE who we are as Brides of Christ, before doing. Because it is only then that we can truly touch the hearts of others with the redeeming, merciful love of Christ. Of course, this becoming ever-more fully who we are created to be is a process, but we must always be working toward it. We must always be keeping in check where our hearts are. Are we acting out of a busy or anxious spirit, or out of a deep love that God has given us for His people. And, one way to check this is to ask: How are my relationships within community first. Because if we are running over everyone around us to go out and minister to others, our hearts are not deeply centered on the love of Christ and we have lost our sense of spiritual motherhood which must always start in the home.
Additional Reflection on Spiritual Motherhood
We are being called to OPEN OUR HEARTS to this special charism our Lord has given us as consecrated women, of becoming one with Mary; in order that we can experience as well the deep and intense love of her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart (Duc en Altum), which is so very bitter sweet.
It is a love that begins with our Triune God – allowing ourselves and every fiber of our being to be consumed with and caught up in intimate fellowship with each of the three persons — Our Father, our beloved Jesus and the Most Holy Spirit of Love. And, in this of course as well, we will experience the sorrow that Mary experiences even now because “Love is [still] not loved” and God is often rejected, blasphemed, despised and received indifferently – especially in His Eucharistic presence.
It is a love that flows over to every soul on earth (and of course in the Church suffering and triumphant as well). It is a call to take on her motherly heart for all, which is a love so intense and profound, but always rightly ordered in union with the Sacred Heart of her Son. It is a love that begins with those who are closest to us and to whom our Lord has given us as friends and family members (including community). And, of course as with our Heavenly Mother, we are always to be as the moon with the sun, allowing ourselvs to be vessels and reflections of God’s deep love, drawing others ultimately to Him. But, as well, I always love what our Holy Father says about human relationships – that we are never to be considered just a “means to an end,” because we are “part of that end.”
Now, when I speak of opening ourselves to this intense and profound love that our Mother has for every soul, I don’t mean by this that we are to foster a deep and intimate friendship with everyone. Such relationships are to be few and far between lest we lose ourselves in others and become distracted from
our espousal union with our Beloved.
Our Mother is able to do so now because she is outside of time and space (as with all the saints to a degree at least). And, of course due to her bodily assumption, Mary is able to be a very special presence on earth because she has her body, and the fact that her heart is still BEATING with love.
For us it is rather a relationship that allows us to take others deeply into our hearts in prayer and life, whether we know them personally or not. The important thing is that they are so loved by God and if we become one with Him, we take on His love for them as well, just as our Mother has.
The word CAPACITY is very key here. In this life we are being “transformed from glory to glory” and thus as we move forward in the spiritual life, we are given ever greater capacity to love others. St. Bernard says, “I love because I love. I love that I may love.” The more we love, the more we desire love and thus the more we love.
In my own life, our Lord has allowed the great gift and grace of experiencing the intense and profound love of His Heart for certain people. Now, granted, I’m sure it’s still only a “drop in the bucket” compared to the fullness of His love. And, you all may have experienced this as well in different ways. But, the love has been so great, intense and profound at times to the degree that I feel my heart as though burning and there is a deep pain and certain pressure that accompanies it. (Possibly the pressure part of the pain comes because my heart is expanding. I say this because a few years back I was prayed with by this certain mystic and she told me if I experience pain in my heart it is because God is increasing my capacity to love).