In honor of this upcoming Mother’s Day, as well as the ongoing month of Mary, we’ve rounded up a list of highlights on motherhood from Church Life Journal’s pages. We offer the list below as a “bouquet” of quotations offering insight from our authors reflecting on the spirituality of motherhood. Click through at each citation for the full article.
No one will know if a mother does the dishes with her heart raised to God in gratitude, or if she patiently reads to her child who wants to hear the same story over and over again, or if she deals gently with the rebellious teenager. No one will know if she responds with sweetness or bitterness to the inevitable disruptions and perturbations of family life that are decided in a split second’s movement of the heart, but she will know, and she makes her choice, and it is upon these innumerable hidden habits and choices that her growth in holiness hangs.
—Allison Ciraulo, “Motherhood as a Path to Sainthood”
All of us who bear children have to acknowledge, sooner or later, that we are caretakers: that children have been given to us for a time—days, weeks, years—and we are called to care for them in that time. . . . The greatest and hardest mothering act we can do, after placing our grief or confusion or numbness in God’s hands as an act of trust, is to place our children in his arms. You are not renouncing your motherhood, nor has it been taken away. You are fulfilling it.
—Susan Windley-Daoust, via Review: “The Gift of Birth”
My faith tells me that to be a saint is to know that you are a sinner, to know that you’re dependent on something greater than yourself. To know that you’re loved even when you don’t deserve it, so that, over time, it’s maybe just a little bit easier to extend that same love to somebody else. My faith gives me the freedom to try to see myself the way God sees me. I am the stressed out mother in sweatpants and glasses kneeling down in front of her two- and five-year-old and saying, “I’m sorry I yelled. Will you forgive me?” And hearing those words of absolution, when they say, “We forgive you, Mama” in return. Mercy is a way of life. Because of it, my kids and I don’t have to do that thing where you trip and then break into a jog and pretend that nothing happened. We can pick each other back up. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. Perfect strength, in perfect weakness. Not the staged photo. Real life. Small moments of grace freely given and received.
—Anna Keating, “Exposed: Why I Am a Christian”
In honoring Mary, we learn to love her anew as we see her in all of her radiant loveliness; moreover, we are reminded of all that we might still become if we but open ourselves up to the workings of God’s grace in our hearts as radically as she did. We see our Sister, a fellow disciple who accompanies us even now in every joy and every trial because she herself experienced the heights of joy and the depths of sorrow as she made her own pilgrim procession of faith alongside her Son. We see our Mother, who comforts us in our times of confusion and gently guides us back to her Son when we wander away from him.
—Carolyn Pirtle, “May Crowning: Honoring Our Queen and Our Mother”
The maternal martyr “conceives a child in her womb, gives birth to it, nurses it, helps it to grow, and attends to it with affection. She gives her life. That’s martyrdom.”
—Oscar Romero, via “Motherhood as a Path to Sainthood”
She offered the insight that I bring my whole self into my role as a mother, and that I put my creative energy fully to use at home. This may seem like a simple or obvious idea, but for me it came as something of a revelation. I realized that I had been imagining my time and talents better spent out in the world, constantly hoping for opportunities elsewhere to shine. Something in me changed gradually to seeing my life at home with my three young children as absorbing and creative, and as meaningful as the most interesting job on the market. I started to “bring my A game” to the home. . . . Because, joy. If you don’t have joy as a parent, of course everything is going to seem incredibly exhausting and unending. Well, because it is. But if you can infuse your family life with joyful activities and ways to do work together in love, this is getting closer to the domestic Church we are all shooting for.
—Claire Fyrqvist, “Joy and Parenting”
From morning until night they are preoccupied with cares, but it is care for others, for the duties God has given them . . . The point I want to make is that a woman can achieve the highest spirituality and union with God through her house and children.
—Dorothy Day, via “Motherhood as a Path to Sainthood”
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.
(Madeleine L’Engle, “After the Annunciation”) . . .
It is too easy to forget that, at the end of the day, I stand utterly dependent as a receiver of gifts, not a giver. It is too easy to shirk the terrifying risk of “Thy will be done.” “Torn between anguish and hope,” sings Marialis Cultus, “Mary offers a calm vision and a reassuring word” to the modern world. “She shows forth the victory of hope over anguish, of fellowship over solitude, of peace over anxiety, of joy and beauty over boredom and disgust, of eternal visions over earthly ones, of life over death” (§57.4). In the midst of our busy planning, may we walk with Mary in a true spirit of preparing our hearts for the blossoming of irrational love in the midst of our anxiety and chaos.
—Renée Roden, “The Irrational Season”
When any kind of gratifying spiritual life feels a distant dream, the things that give me glimpses of God’s presence and light are in the little details—and then in situating these within the grander scope of things. . . . The act of remembering that there is significance inherent both in the big picture and the particularities is at least an act of awareness, one that gives a moment’s pause and pleads with God that what emptiness is there might be filled.
—Tania Geist, “Motherhood in Perspective“
I am currently not my own. My food is also my daughter’s food. My body is often her resting place and her only means of transport. She is utterly helpless without me for the majority of the day, and without my husband’s active support, I would be even more yoked to constant parenting duties akin to slave labor. I love her with a boundless love. But sometimes my role in this whole business of life is incredibly exhausting. We need to say this. We need to say it a lot so all women know that it is true. It is also true that my daughter has infinite worth and unrepeatable dignity and value. She is her own person who must be protected and cared for regardless of how I feel. But I’m allowed to feel terrible sometimes. In fact, allowing women to feel terrible and supporting them regardless makes it a whole lot easier.
—Claire Fyrqvist, “The Crucible of Motherhood”
Living in the Holy Family, Mary understood what it meant to give each day over to Christ. As she provided bread to nourish Christ daily, Christ was preparing the Bread of Life for her. This interchange of self-gift between Mary and her Son is a defining aspect of their relationship. Mary gave her whole self over to God’s divine plan in her fiat, which seemed to proclaim to the Word Incarnate within her womb, “This is my body which will be given up for you.” And Christ responds likewise as he offers his own body for his mother and the rest of mankind. In this way, the physical strains of motherhood are taken up by Christ. Accordingly, each moment of maternal self-offering can reflect Mary’s perfect fiat insomuch as it is a participation in the self-giving love of Christ. Though Mary is a model of motherhood, Christ becomes the Archetype of motherhood in his act of self-offering. It is in the Eucharist that mothers are drawn under the wing of Christ to receive the tender love that they give.
—Madeline Running, “Motherhood and the Eucharist”
It is in the bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child” . . . Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.” Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous—even repeated—forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.
—CCC §1656; citing LG §11, via “Motherhood as a Path to Sainthood”
The physical, emotional, and spiritual journey of a mother—from the growing anticipation of a child, to the pain of labor, to the first face-to-face meeting—can be an anchor of meaning as she enters into life as a parent. Because her entrance into the journey incorporates her whole self, that initiation can become a uniquely powerful tool for grasping the meaning of future struggles and joys—and for understanding that it’s worth it, because it’s for a person—this child of God’s making and our co-creating.
—Tania Geist, “Editorial Musings: Motherhood and the Paschal Mystery”
Prayer, according to Ralph Marin, is “paying attention to God.” I would add that, for a parent at home, prayer is paying attention to God in your children.
—Claire Fyrqvist, “Joy and Parenting“
Featured Photo: kanonn; CC-BY-ND-2.0.