“Woman, behold your son…” These words, spoken from the cross, express Jesus’ desire for Mary to become the mother of his disciples. This spiritual motherhood of Mary keeps us connected closely to Our Lord because Our Lady’s desire is to help us (“Do whatever he tells you”) and bring us closer to Him. Every woman, by virtue of her nature, is called to share in the spiritual motherhood of Our Lady. Due to her unique tenderness and affection, she has the ability to nurture life, care for others, and help them become the saints God is calling them to be through her smile, her life, her gentleness, her presence, her kind words.
The most popular aspect of spiritual motherhood is to be a godmother. A godmother has the responsibility to help her goddaughter/son fulfill their baptismal promises that she promised on their behalf. She assists the parents to care for the spiritual needs of the child.
Another kind of spiritual motherhood derives from all the gifts women have. Women are perceptive in seeing the needs of those around them and recognizing the deeper issues. A woman’s natural maternal yearning enables her to mother all entrusted to her and serve them daily with joy and love, including strangers that the Lord places in her life. She seeks to nourish and advance their growth through her loving care and attentiveness to their needs. Every spiritual mother (young and old, single and married, celibate and religious) tends with compassion and care to others, and accompanies and supports her spiritual children with her prayers.
One way this aspect of spiritual Motherhood can be lived by every woman is by daily carrying in her heart her spiritual children, by offering prayers, sacrifices, and fasting on their behalf. This person can be known or unknown to the spiritual mother. A great story from “Eucharistic Adoration for the sanctification of priests and spiritual maternity” (available on the Office of Family and Sanctity of Life website) explains how one bishop’s vocation is owed to the prayers of a nun who consecrated her life and spent it praying for him. This type of spiritual motherhood is so much needed today to strengthen people in living their vocation joyfully and faithfully, be it to married, religious, ordained, or celibate life.
You can be a spiritual mother to someone who needs your prayers and sacrifices so the Lord can use them to bring peace and joy to that soul in need. Our priests are in great need of spiritual mothers holding them dear to their hearts so they can be steadfast in their ‘Yes’ to the Lord.
“The world doesn't need what women have, it needs what women are,” said Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Women bring the richness of their sensitivity, their intuitiveness, their generosity, and fidelity into the heart of the family. They then enrich all of society by living out their “feminine genius” with a certain empathy and inherent compassion according to Pope Saint John Paul the Great.
May Our Lady accompany all women as we strive to draw closer to the Lord's heart and inspire us to live out our “feminine genius” daily with steadfast courage, flaming charity, angelic sweetness, and perfect cheerfulness.
Marise Frangie OFS, CFCE, is the director of the Office of Family and Sanctity of Life