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Love Overspilling, Beyond the Family
Your responses to the universal call to spiritual maternity
This is a roundup from your comments on Cardinal Sarah’s remarks on a universal call to maternity. Next week, I’ll share highlights from our discussion of when effort passes for magic.
The day after Mother’s Day, I shared an excerpt from Robert Cardinal Sarah’s The Day Is Now Far Spent on natural and spiritual maternity. Not everyone is called to be a mother (and not everyone who desperately wants to be one gets to be).
But Sarah pointed to a universal calling to maternity, one that includes all women (and all men, too!). In spiritual life, everyone has something to learn from motherhood—everyone is invited to a nuptial mystery.
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.
I appreciated all your responses, but I’d like to reserve this week’s roundup for one, longer comment. Coretta wrote:
As a childless woman by circumstance (I'm single and believe marriage to be a necessary prerequisite to conceiving children), Mother's Day is poignant: both a beautiful chance to appreciate my own mother and other mothers in my life, and a reminder of the beauty that is not mine. I know I'm far from unique in this.
But I am lucky enough to live in a Christian community where friends do let me into their parenthood. I spend a lot of time with some childhood friends and their four children. I'm "tía" to the kids who shower much more affection on me than I could ever shower on them. One might think that being with other people's kids might be yet another reminder of what I don't have, but I have found it to be healing. I think you put your finger on why: it's an outlet for my love which is always more than reciprocated by the unconditional love of children, a love that doesn't spring from what I can do or have accomplished or how I look or how popular I am (or am not), but rather for the simple reason that I'm someone who they know and, therefore, belong in their world.
I'm also using my availability as a single to "mother" elderly neighbors who need care, and mentor some young friends. It's a very different type of motherhood, though: the hands-off, companionship type. In fact, to avoid annoying those I'm trying to encourage, I find it more helpful to see these roles as caregiver and friend than "mother." No one likes to be treated like a small child, even if it's done unintentionally! Still, it is a form of motherhood. A biological mother's relationship to her children also changes as they grow and go through their own life experiences. (Maybe that's material for another post: the changing face of motherhood, and the tremendous love it takes to let go of someone dear to you.)
Anyways, I'm glad for these chances to give of myself so that the love that God put in me doesn't go to waste. Singles need to be loved, accepted and welcomed. But they also need spaces where they can be the ones to give, not just always being on the receiving ends as if we haven't grown up yet. What we especially seem to lack is a place to give of who we truly are, not just our skills and time, brains and muscles. And my friends allow me into such a space.
I appreciate Coretta’s testimony—our love is meant to be fecund, but that growth takes many forms. Many single people (and parents) miss out on ways they’re called to grow and receive love when we only tell a narrow range of stories about love as self-gift.