The world is urgently in need of spiritual mothers. Our culture is suffering tremendously and we have an opportunity to be a part of God’s plan of healing and salvation in the lives of others by living the spiritual heights we are called to as women through spiritual maternity. The vocation of spiritual motherhood is open to all women. It is often a deeply misunderstood vocation that is not answered by enough women. We frequently hear about the crisis of fatherhood, but the same can be said of motherhood.
In recent years there has been a great emphasis on spiritual motherhood to priests. The need for women to answer this call to spiritual motherhood—a call I too have been given—is essential, but the need for spiritual motherhood has become much more expansive and urgent as the family collapses in society. Young people especially are suffering. Many of them are from abusive and dysfunctional homes. They are shackled by addiction. A lot have been sexually abused or raped. A lot of them are the hidden victims of no fault divorce which has wreaked havoc on family life and the healthy development of countless children who are now adults. It’s the elephant in the room nobody wants to talk about in the Church.
When the Lord called me to become a spiritual mother to priests during the clergy sex abuse scandals in 2018, He showed me over time that the suffering of His people is so great that I must learn to welcome all afflicted souls as my spiritual children. He started with the agony of the priests by having His Mother send me priests and seminarians in need, but then He started also sending me very wounded young women and men who need a stable, loving spiritual mother to rely on. He showed me that as a woman He has given me—and all women—an expansive heart that can truly love others in a profoundly transformative way.
Spiritual motherhood is first and foremost ordered to God. It is not simply a replacement for natural motherhood. Rather, it is a sharing in the spiritual motherhood of Our Blessed Mother who seeks to form each one of us spiritually in her womb as other Christs. Spiritual motherhood in union with Our Blessed Mother and through Her spiritual maternity seeks to bind the wounds of suffering spiritual children in a way that leads them to Christ. The gaze of the spiritual mother is always fixed on Christ and Our Lady.
St. Edith Stein wrote of sharing in the spiritual maternity of Our Blessed Mother:
“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.”
Through union with Our Blessed Mother, we can in fact share our hearts with biological children, as well as countless spiritual children. For those who cannot or have not had children, you are still called to motherhood. A spiritual mother is one who loves spiritual children with the divine love of God in union with Our Blessed Mother.
Spiritual motherhood is a spiritual powerhouse. Spiritual mothers take on the forces of evil through the power of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We are called to fight the enemy as he tries to lead souls to ruin. There is so much evil in our world today. Countless young men and women—people of all ages—are trapped in the lies of the flesh, the world, and the devil. Too many are profoundly wounded and struggling to continue going on. They battle mental health issues, suicide attempts, trauma, rejection, loneliness, addiction, and isolation because they have no family to rely on. They do not know actual love. This is not some problem out there. It is a crisis in our own pews.
Men and women are suffering behind the lie of American culture that tells us we don’t need anyone and we don’t need help, so people suffer in tremendous agony alone. There are people sitting next to us or walking past us in our daily lives who need the Blessed Mother’s tender motherly heart to reach into their lives through our willingness to embrace our God given femininity and innate call to motherhood. They need our tender loving gaze to draw them into the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand went so far as to say: “Spiritual motherhood is more important than biological motherhood. There are plenty of women who are biological mothers and yet are not mothers at all.” Too many people do not know the deep love of a mother. We can fill that void by embracing spiritual motherhood, by allowing the Holy Spirit to expand our hearts beyond the walls of our homes. The Lord pours graces into our souls when we answer this call and we find ourselves loving spiritual children as if they were our own flesh and blood.
In my case, Our Blessed Mother has sent priests, seminarians, and young people to rest in the safety of Her love through me. The more I walk this secondary vocation, the more I see how much spiritual mothers are needed to heal our broken culture and the Church. St. Catherine of Siena referred to her spiritual children as her “very soul.” This has been my own experience of spiritual motherhood. These men and women are as much my children as my biological daughter.
We love as spiritual mothers by opening our hearts and homes to them first in prayer and then through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and each individual spiritual child’s needs. We are called to listen to and be present in their sufferings and joys. To be willing to hear horrendous abuses and agonies and standing fast with them in love. By patiently walking with them as they fall—often in large ways at first—but continuing to be there pointing them back to Christ.
My spiritual children are truly my children, and like my natural daughter, I go to them when I’m needed. When a crisis strikes, my spiritual children know that I will be there. This is a love that heals past abuses, rejections, and abandonments because it points to Christ the Healer. This love leads them to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and to the only place we can be healed, which is at the foot of the Cross. This radical love may strike us as foreign, but that is because we must grow in a supernatural understanding of the motherhood we have been called to. We must stop limiting our Christian calling to love.
St. Edith Stein articulates the necessity of moving past the limitations of biological motherhood into the expansive realm of spiritual motherhood.
“Everywhere the need exists for maternal sympathy and help, and thus we are able to recapitulate in the one word motherliness that which we have developed as the characteristic value of woman. Only, the motherliness must be that which does not remain within the narrow circle of blood relations or of personal friends; but in accordance with the model of the Mother of Mercy, it must have its root in universal divine love for all who are there, belabored and burdened.”
We can begin today to bind the wounds of those Our Blessed Mother sends to us. They may be a priest, a young person, an old person, a stranger, or even a friend. Spiritual motherhood transcends natural limitations. Age is irrelevant. Our state in life is irrelevant. Our unworthiness and imperfections are irrelevant. There are people in our lives who desperately need to experience the love of a mother. People who need to see Our Blessed Mother.
Imagine how the Church and our society would change overnight if we answered the call to love with the Immaculate Heart of Mary those people the Lord sends to us each day. If we had the courage to love with the radical love of Our Blessed Mother and Our Lord. Will we be misunderstood? Absolutely. That is also irrelevant. The Lord has need of our maternal hearts. Will we refuse Him?
“From now on your daily prayer should be, “God, send me spiritual children and I will never turn any one of them down. The more the better.” Simple as that. Pray for the gift of spiritual children. It might very well be that in your beautiful desire to be a biological mother you have overlooked cases where you could have become a spiritual mother. Many of my students became my spiritual children, even though they were young adults already. You are called to motherhood right now. Not next week, not next month. I’m absolutely convinced that God has placed people in your path and called you to motherhood. Your task is to love those that are weak, unhappy, helpless, and unloved.”
– Dr. Alice von Hildebrand