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A Mother’s Rule

August 5, 2010

For many years, I dreamed of writing a book called a mother’s rule of life. Holly Pierlot beat me to it, and the Moms’ group of St. Margaret’s Fellowship took a few months to read and reflect on her book. It was not the book I had in mind. It was interesting, even inspiring in some ways, but dauntingly demanding in others.

I met Holly once, and I told her I had found some of her suggestions impossible to consider. She smiled and assured me I would get there one day. But I never did get there.

It’s hard to think of a mother’s rule of life. Mothers are not — hopefully — lone agents. A Catholic mother, barring catastrophe, is in a marriage relationship, and her decisions are shared first of all with her husband, not with her maternal peers. Even the smallest rule – such as saying 3 Hail Mary’s at 6:00 p.m. – is sometimes going to be out of line. Dinner must not burn, or Dad is just arriving home, or we are in the middle of a diaper change – or all three at once.

What rule would be useful to everyone?

And yet our discussions had shown that we had very much in common, and it was from this common commitment, this common sense of the call to motherly holiness, that I wrote a piece that we then read together and critiqued and enjoyed.

We can rewrite it. This is how it began:

Our heavenly Father,

from Whose fullness all fatherhood takes its form

from Whose boundless gift

all motherhood springs forth

from Whose humility the brief

yet eternal loan of children

is entrusted to men and women

who are themselves still young,

this Father calls us.

Here are some thoughts:

The beginning of Christian prayer is to notice that our Father is calling us.  Jesus teaches us to begin this way: say, “Our father.” He’s everyone’s father, and yet his fatherliness is always loving and personal, never just a title. He has called us to motherhood, a creative vocation of the person who gives life to another person, a vocation which flows to us, in a most extraordinary, way from his fatherly nature. He has given us life; like him, we give life.

But we are not God; we do not have the power to give life except that God has chosen we should share his power; thus our children are on loan, in a sense. They are going to grow up and leave our homes and our authority.  We need to keep this in mind and be respectful of it: they are, first of all, the children of God, just as we are. At the same time, they have an eternal calling, and our parenting thus has an eternal aspect to it.

It is amazing that God gives us this vocation when we ourselves have barely left our own childhood. Wouldn’t you think he’d make a few more qualifications for such an important job? But he does not, because, for one thing, the most powerful incentive to grow up — for us to grow up — is to see these children whom we love and who need our help. The buck stops here; wow!

Our father does not leave us alone with this task. He is still calling, and we can still answer, moment by moment. To live as a mother in his presence is our beautiful invitation.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2010 12:02 pm

    Thanks, Mary, for starting this blog! I enjoyed the first posting.

    Nancy Gerdes

  2. August 5, 2010 12:20 pm

    Hi Mary, it is nice to revive the discussions we had then… they were fruitful!

  3. Margy Jakos permalink
    August 6, 2010 6:58 pm

    Ever deep and thoughtful…I am grateful for your insight.

  4. August 6, 2010 9:38 pm

    Mary, so lovely. What a great vocation we have. May God give me strength and wisdom to continue on in His will.
    Love to you for sharing your gifts in His service,

  5. Sandy Petree permalink
    August 7, 2010 1:40 am

    What a beautiful reflection on our vocation as parents! It is always tempting to think we are the ones in charge–when in actuality, as you stated, God is. Very encouraging! Thank you!

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