Shades of Motherhood (Spiritual Motherhood Series)
Updated: May 12
As May is the month of our Blessed Mother, we would like to introduce our Spiritual Motherhood Series. The first reflection on spiritual motherhood comes from Sr Gabriela, a Consecrated Sister of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Being a woman is a gift given to us to enjoy and to share for the glory of God the Father. There is a specific vocation given to us as women that makes the world a better place to live. Each woman has a unique way of expressing this aspect of our vocation which embraces, among other things, the gifts of relationship, connectivity, tenderness, creating bonds with others and so much more, enriching the world around us profoundly. One of the special and precious qualities that women naturally embody is motherhood. It is simply written in our body and hence it flows into our way of being.
When thinking about motherhood we often think just about physical motherhood but some, perhaps because of their choice to live as consecrated persons and some because of the painful struggle of infertility, do not experience this. And yet we are all still called to be mothers. Motherhood is about life: giving life and sacrificing one’s own life for the other, but not necessarily in an exclusively physical way. As a consecrated woman I do not have the joy of physical motherhood, yet while growing into my own vocation, I recognised different shades of motherhood that we have the opportunity to live out. Spiritual motherhood, which is so amazingly rich in depth, can be interpreted and lived in different ways and is something we, as women, are all called to.
It is in contemplating our Blessed Mother’s life that my wider understanding of motherhood grew. The source of that understanding and joy came especially from insights into the mystery of the Annunciation experienced afresh at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in England years ago. There I discovered Our Lady as “mother of vocation” – indeed, mother of my “fiat” to God’s will and hence my vocation. The exciting part of imitating Mary in her ‘‘yes’ to God’s will is that it is truly life-giving in the human and divine way. Every “yes” to God’s will births the divine life in us and in the world around us.
There is another aspect of that joy of “fiat” that can be seen in the light of motherhood. Following St. Augustine’s statement that Mary conceived Jesus first in her heart before she conceived him in her womb, we can see the importance of that spiritual dimension of motherhood. St. John Paul II expands on it in Mulieris Dignitatem stating:
“The motherhood of every woman, understood in the light of the Gospel, is similarly not only ‘of flesh and blood,’ it expresses a profound ‘listening to the word of the living God’ and a readiness to ‘safeguard’ this Word, which is ‘the word of eternal life’ (cf. Jn 6:68).”
I find it incredibly moving to see that we can have a share in Our Lady’s motherhood by imitating her example. By listening to the Word of God and by her “yes”, she allowed the Word to enter into her life and to become flesh in her. This spiritual motherhood in which we all partake grants us the possibility to relive that mystery of the Annunciation in everyday life and let Jesus be born again and again in us in each and every moment, no matter what our circumstances.
Why did Our Lady at Walsingham desire to share with us the joy of the Annunciation? Perhaps it is exactly for that reason: to experience the unfathomable love of God coming to every human heart that says “yes” to the Word, his son Jesus. Each one of us then can be a fertile ground for the seed of the Word to become flesh in us. Our lives are not barren. Our spiritual wombs can bear the life of our Redeemer in us. St. Elizabeth of the Trinity prayed earnestly for that reliving of the mystery of the Incarnation in these words:
“O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, come upon me, and create in my soul a kind of Incarnation of the Word; that I may be another humanity for Him, in which He can renew His whole Mystery.”
To let the Word of God penetrate every part of my being and bring Jesus’ life in me is the best gift to possess and to give to the world, it is what each one of us was created for. As unique as each person is the uniqueness with which you and I bring Jesus Christ into this world. Let us venture forward on this beautiful way of living out our motherhood with Mary, the Mother of Vocation. Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us!
Sr Gabriela belongs to the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham (COLW) which was established in 2004 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. This community is part of a new form of consecrated life called an “ecclesial family” which invites sisters, brothers, priests and laity to share in its charism. Drawing on the spirituality of Walsingham, Mary’s Annunciation, their charism and mission has vocational and incarnational character. COLW has been referred to as a “vocational maternity ward” as they strive to help those who come to them, especially the young, to find their vocation and live it out with all the fullness of life and love.