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A Universal Vocation of Maternity
St. Augustine and Cardinal Sarah on spiritual motherhood
Happy day-after-Mother’s Day. I really enjoyed this essay by Liz Bruenig, on becoming a young mother. And this Thursday, I’ll share excerpts from your discussion of being open to interruptions, from children or anyone else.
In the wake of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share this passage from Robert Cardinal Sarah’s The Day Is Now Far Spent on the special dignity of women. (My husband and I always have a readaloud book for Sunday spiritual reading, and we’re about halfway through Day).
Indeed, woman has a natural superiority over man, for it is from her that every man comes into the world. This link to the origin gives her a special subtlety and depth in everything concerned with the order of life. […] Her ability to welcome life in her womb predisposes her to receive the mystery of grace, in other words, the divine coming to hide itself and to germinate in our soul.
This is why in the Bible, God is presented as the Bridegroom and asks us to learn from woman to receive him. Every soul must learn to enter into this mystery of the Bride. […] This is why women have historically been the first to discover the mystery of consecrated life, of religious life. […] From the Virgin Mary on, they are the ones through whom God passes. They know how to welcome and guard his presence.
Sarah begins with the experience of maternity as the distinctive womanly trait, but it’s clear he doesn’t see it as the exclusive calling for women. Biological maternity is a image of spiritual maternity—a calling open to everyone, regardless of fertility, age, or even sex.
In a sermon by St. Augustine (which I first encountered in the Liturgy of the Hours), he offers a similarly universal call to motherhood.
Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I not dare to call you his mother? Much less would I dare to deny his own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ?
You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? “Of Mother Church,” I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth then as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can.
You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become the mothers of Christ.
We welcomed Beatrice last year, but, before we conceived her, we conceived and lost six children. It was a big comfort to me, the Mother’s Day after we lost our first baby, that two of our friends invited us to spend the day with them and their children. They invited me into their maternity.
They and other friends offered us a pledge that, no matter what, our love had a purpose and would find an outlet, whether in our own family or spilling over into theirs.