I sat on the sofa, dismayed, looking out the window. I had just finished explaining to my fifteen- year-old daughter as to why she may not watch unlimited episodes of Friends. And why she must cover her shoulders in church and not let her bra straps show. And why her skirt needs at least to approach her knee. She had given me a rather huffy response.
I wondered if her eyes might ever get stuck back there if she keeps rolling them so far into her sockets.
She ran off to her room, presumably, to pout and talk badly about me to her siblings, friends, dog, and probably house plants.
As I stare out the window, my mind searching and grasping, the thought finally emerges: “God made me a mother.” I recall the Early Church whose writers draw on Scripture as they describe the Church in motherly terms. Polycarp calls faith that has been handed down, “The mother of us all.” Justin Martyr and Irenaeus draw on the image of the bride in Revelation 21 in expounding on the Church as our mother. Tertullian, Origen, and Hippolytus employ the image of mother Jerusalem.
The Early Church saw herself as a mother who guides her wayward children to heaven. That is the Church’s mission: salvation. And that, too, is my mission—the salvation of my family. And so my role as mother is deeply ensconced in a much larger motherly undertaking involving the mighty power of the sacraments, liturgy, Scripture, prayers of the saints, prayers of godparents, and prayer of other loved ones. The Church has been powerful in resisting the gates of hell for two thousand years. She is a divinely powerful mother, after all.
Resting my head on the sofa, I close my eyes, and my prayer begins. I picture throngs of saints standing around me. I picture the aforementioned writers along with Hippolytus, Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, Lucy, Agnes, Catherine, Clare, and the countless saints and doctors of the Church throughout the ages. I imagine them looking at me with affection, shouting my name, and cheering me on.
I think of the Acts of the Apostles, and the many women mentioned there: the women Saul was hauling to prison (Acts 8:3); those he was dragging to Jerusalem (Acts 9:2); those who believed and were baptized (Acts 5:14 and 8:12); those who were persecuted (Acts 17:4, 17:12, 22:4). Most of all, I call upon the women who were there at Pentecost, who were “chosen to preach unto the people and testify” (Acts 10:41).
My spirit firms up. I have been given the Holy Spirit and tongues of fire. I am anointed to preach, proclaim, and testify to God and his saving love for us. If God sees to it, I have what it takes to proclaim the Gospel boldly to the doubting Thomases in my own living room. I speak to God, drawing on the Spirit: “God Almighty, give me your holy power. Help me to rise up and see higher, brighter, and through the lenses of eternity. Free me from pride, vanity, and my own fleeting opinions. Keep me out of petty squabbles. Help me to speak the truth with love. Anoint me with tender mercy and make me a vessel of your compassion. Fill me with joy and humility and let me never grow slack in zeal. Give me a better sense of humor. Make out of your poor servant a great motherly saint, a part of the vast multitude of women who proclaim the eternal truth of God’s saving love. Amen.”
It is hard to do, but so important that mothers see themselves as part of the mission of the whole Church, both in space and time. This piece seems helpful in that it gives mothers a way to do just that, calling on the community of saints.
Knowing how easy it was to feel alone as I was raising my kiddos, I appreciate the tools this post provides mothers to realize they are in such good company.
thanks for sharing this connection with the extra-ordinary Saints of history that is available to us in the very ordinary moments of our motherhood!