Motherhood comes in many shapes and sizes. From biological motherhood to spiritual and everything in between. But no matter the type of mother you are (or to how many), it is always a daunting task, and one that I would argue few of us are ever fully prepared for when we begin down the path toward becoming mothers.
Thankfully, we can lean on the wisdom of women who have come before us, women who call us to become our best selves as well as the best moms we can be.
Here are a few bits of wisdom from holy mothers I have encountered on my faith journey, all of whom have helped me grow deeper in my faith through their example. I hope that these women and their words will do the same for you.
“Follow your own way of speaking to our Lord, sincerely, lovingly, confidently and simply, as your heart dictates.”
—St. Jane Frances de Chantal
Opening up Instagram or Facebook these days, it’s hard not to be bombarded with well-intentioned advice from Catholic influencers sharing their tips and tricks for raising children of faith. In some respects, this is a wonderful thing — we should be calling one another to greatness, and we should be sharing with others the lessons we ourselves have learned. Social media can be a wonderful tool for evangelism and education.
But too often, these posts are written as mandates, not suggestions, and they can leave us, the reader, feeling as though we are somehow less if we don’t attend a Latin mass instead of the Novus ordo, bake a liturgically themed snack for each feast day, pray an entire rosary each night as a family, get up before our kids for an hour of quiet meditation, etc., etc., etc..
St. Jane Frances de Chantal, a wife, mother and foundress of a religious order says differently, and I am inclined to agree with her, not just because it rings true in my own experience, but also because it’s what the Church teaches. Each one of us is unique, each one of us has our own unique set of gifts and talents, struggles and weaknesses. And that is beautiful and good. As St. Paul says, there are many gifts but the same Spirit.
So as you look to grow in holiness, to deepen your relationship with the Lord, please don’t worry if it looks different than someone else’s. God doesn’t need you to be anyone but yourself.
“A married woman must, when called upon, leave her devotions to God at the altar to find him in her household affairs.”
—St. Frances of Rome
When I was a missionary, I reveled in the luxury of having a daily Holy Hour. I delighted in the mandatory pauses for prayer that centered our day. When I left mission work and later became a wife and mom, it was hard for me not to feel jealous of my former self, not to wish desperately for that hour of calm attention when I could look on the face of my Lord.
It took many years for me to realize the truth of what St. Frances of Rome said so eloquently. Is it harder for me to find God in my household affairs than in adoration? Yes, without a doubt it is. But this is the state of life I am called to, one of diapers and dishes, goldfish and sticky fingers, tantrums and giggles and more interruptions than I can count. And he is in it. He is present in every part of my life, and if I begin my day mindful of that, looking for him, seeking him out, then I am sure to find him and be blessed in the seeking.
“I shall say it a million times: if we truly wish to be saints, it is more a question of joy than of suffering.”
—Venerable Mary Magdalen of Jesus in the Eucharist, C.P.
These words stopped me in my tracks the first time I read them.
Venerable Mary Magdalen of Jesus in the Eucharist, a spiritual mother in the very best sense of the word, certainly knew her fair share of sufferings — indeed she was deeply devoted to the Passion of the Lord. But she also knew a deeper truth — that joy is what makes us saints.
Sometimes in the middle of the daily grind that is motherhood, it’s easy for me to forget about joy. Suffering is easy to spot in my life whether it’s the small sufferings of a sleepless night spent rocking a colicky baby or the constant patience required to mold a headstrong toddler. Joy, on the other hand, can often feel elusive.
Over the years of praying and growing both as a woman and a mom, I have come to understand that joy is born out of gratitude, and gratitude is a disposition we must choose. I can choose to wake up each morning and say thank you to the Lord of my life. I can choose to continue offering my thanksgivings and praise in each moment of each day for all of the blessings, the very large and the very small. And when I do, I find myself joyful. I find myself more attentive to who God is and how he is moving.
“One earns Paradise with one’s daily tasks.”
—St. Gianna Molla
It’s hard for me to imagine a compilation of faith advice from holy mothers that doesn’t include this quote from St. Gianna Molla. Though she is best known for her heroic sacrifice on behalf of her child, this quote speaks to the importance of ordinary virtue, the day-to-day tasks and choices that only the Lord sees.
This quote is a challenge. It begs the question, what is my daily task? What is the Lord asking of me today in this place and at this moment? That’s not always easy to answer, especially when there are many, many good things vying for my time and attention. My husband, my five children, my mother, our extended family and my work as an author, all of these have claims on me. But the Lord’s comes first. With this simple quote, St. Gianna reminds me that I need to begin each day by asking the Lord what he wills for my day, and then go about fulfilling them, mindful of his presence.
It’s not easy being a mother. It’s not easy trying to become a saint while seeking to raise them. It is a journey and one that will require everything of us. There is much that has been said and written on the topic of faith and motherhood, but I would like to leave you with a final piece of advice from a woman that I admire greatly. She is a holy woman, and the mother of the first millennial to be beatified by the Catholic Church. Her words are eloquent and straight to the point. I hope they will leave you feeling as edified and encouraged as I am by them.