Spiritual mothers support priests, seminariaIn the middle of September, I was at St. Joseph Parish, Faith, for our annual gathering of “Spiritual Mothers.” They pray for the priests and seminarians in our diocese. The ministry of spiritual motherhood in our diocese is still relatively unknown even though spiritual mothers have been gathering in our diocese since the fall of 2008. The past eight years there have been about 60 women in our diocese responding to an invitation from the Congregation for the Clergy to offer Eucharistic Adoration in parishes for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI summed it up the best when he said: “The vocation to be a spiritual mother for a priest is largely unknown, scarcely understood and, consequently, rarely lived, notwithstanding its fundamental importance. It is a vocation that is frequently hidden, invisible to the naked eye, but meant to transmit spiritual life.”
Several years ago I experienced a profound conversion in my own priestly life. I was pretty lukewarm and tepid in my priesthood, living a life of maintenance rather than missionary zeal. I did not really know personally and intimately the person of Jesus Christ and the power and the fire of the Holy Spirit in my life.
Through a series of events, moving from Our Lady of the Black Hills, Piedmont, to St. John the Evangelist, Fort Pierre, an eight-day silent retreat and a åpilgrimage to Medjugorje that changed and transformed my priesthood in so many ways — particularly in the way I embraced and took to heart the words of Jesus to Mary and the beloved disciple, John, at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:26-27).
I have come to understand more deeply the power of spiritual motherhood in my own life as priest. I firmly believe my conversion and continual growth and renewal of my priesthood has come partly through the prayer, the sacrifices, fasting and the penances offered on my behalf by spiritual mothers in our diocese — unbeknownst to me. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said “the vocation of spiritual motherhood is meant to transmit spiritual life” of the priests, seminarians and those discerning God’s call to priesthood.
Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, proposed fighting the spiritual crisis within priesthood with a spiritual endeavor. He suggested forming the vocation of spiritual motherhood for priests — spiritually mature women willing to offer their lives and pray at the cross for priests and the priesthood.
Cardinal Hummes highlighted the importance of feminine souls who follow the typology of the Blessed Virgin Mary to spiritually support priests in order to help them with their self-offering, prayer and penance. Again, we can see this clearly at the foot of the Cross in the Gospel of John when Jesus says “Woman, this is your son; son, this is your mother” (Jn 19:26-27).
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, in one of her essays reflecting on the spiritual maternity of women, wrote: “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.”
A spiritual mother is one who commits to offering prayers, good works, sufferings, fasting and penances on behalf of priests, seminarians and those discerning God’s call to priesthood in our diocese, whose names are known to God.
Kit Schmidt from St. John the Evangelist, Fort Pierre, says, “To be a spiritual mother, one need not be the biological mother of a son who became a priest — in fact, one need not have given birth at all, because spiritual motherhood, as the name implies, is not a matter of biology, but of the heart.”
There are incredible women who have been praying for priests and their sanctification throughout the history of the church. St. Therese of Lisieux, in one of her letters to her sister Celine, wrote: “Let us live for souls, let us be apostles, let us save especially the souls of priests. … Let us pray, let us suffer for them, and, on the last day, Jesus will be grateful.”
There are incredible stories of spiritual mothers who, through their lives of prayer, suffering and penance, have truly transmitted life and borne fruit in the lives of priests and the church in so many ways. Women such Eliza Vaughan, Blessed Maria Deluil Martiny, Blessed Alexandrina Da Costa, Servant of God Consolata Betrone, Berthe Petit, Anna Stang and the women of the small village in Lu, Italy.
You can read these and more stories about spiritual mothers in the booklet titled “Eucharistic Adoration in parishes for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual
Maternity” from Roman Catholic Books or down load in pdf at http://www. clerus.org/clerus/dati/2008-01/25-13/Ado ration.pdf.
Our hope in the Office of Vocations is to continue to increase the number of spiritual mothers in our diocese. If you are interested in becoming a spiritual mother or organizing a spiritual mother group in your parish please contact the Office of Vocations at www.gods-call.com.