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I’m off my rocker… over at CatholicMom.com today

I have a now-and-again series at Catholic Mom I affectionately call “Tales from the Empty Nest”.  This latest installment talks about the bittersweet heartache of losing my rocking chair…

Here’s an excerpt:

A long time back, almost 27 years ago, my husband bought me a rocking chair. We were expecting our first baby. I was looking forward to refinishing the rocker. It would be one of my household “nesting” projects as we prepared for the new baby. I used a maple stain and a satin finish on the rocker’s wood. The chair was a fixture in our home all through our childrearing years. Over time it rocked a lot of babies and a lot of guests who visited our home. Until recently.

The rocker developed a small split in one of the natural curved seams of its wood. Eventually one of the braces split and the back support broke. Sadly, it rendered the chair unstable and beyond repair.

A little part of my heart broke along with the rocker, as it seemed to signal the end of an era. With our children grown now, and our youngest son is in college, I’m already pretty far from the days of little ones wanting hear a story or waiting to be rocked and held before naptime.

I could not help but notice that the rocker’s demise coincided very closely with my entering menopause… another end of an era where motherhood is concerned.

Both of these changes, the rocker’s demise, and the menopause, have rocked me a bit, if you’ll forgive the obvious pun.

Somehow I thought the rocker would be with me as I aged. I’m going to miss the therapeutic soothing of my rock-a-bye chair, but I miss a more youthful and vigorous body even more. Yet I’m learning to be more comfortable with the woman I am now, and not worry so much about losses or gains. Midlife has its unique challenges, but it also has new blessings to offer me.

Learning to let go is one of the primary tasks of motherhood, and it comes to us in many different ways, even if we do get sentimental about a chair or certain phases of life now and then…

Read the rest at Catholic Mom.

Catholic Digest: What the World Needs Now — is Spiritual Mothers like YOU!

Catholic Digest: What the World Needs Now — is Spiritual Mothers like YOU!

So happy to see that Catholic Digest is putting more and more older print articles online! As a longtime lover of periodicals, I have to say, I’m loving the new and improved Catholic Digest! It’s blessing me each month.

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Here’s a little snippet from an article I had in Catholic Digest earlier this fall:

Spiritual motherhood means nurturing the spiritual, moral, emotional, and cultural life in others. Not all women give birth to children, yet all women are called to exercise a spiritual maternity in the world—giving care and nurture to others through their own maternal gift. (And, of course, spiritual mothering should be part of every physical mother’s care!)

To understand spiritual motherhood or spiritual maternity properly, we need to broaden our understanding of the gift of maternity. Growing up I considered maternity limited to nine months of pregnancy. Later in life, I read John Paul II’s 1988 apostolic letter,Mulieris Dignatatem (“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”) and gained a new perspective.

The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way….This entrusting concerns women in a special way—precisely by reason of their femininity—and this in a particular way determines their vocation…. A woman is strong because of her awareness of this entrusting… (par. 30.)

In this section of the document, John Paul describes the universal vocation of all women, not just women who bear children. God entrusts all women, by reason of their femininity—their design—to care for humanity. Maternal care, in a spiritual way, is not limited to childcare, but should be active in all phases of a woman’s life. Spiritual mothering doesn’t smother or infantilize teens or adults but loves and serves them according to the needs of the person one is caring for. It brings a motherly touch to our human relationships, and to our work—especially the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the Missionaries of Charity, is a powerful example. Mother Teresa displayed spiritual mothering in action. Her words, actions, and prayers mothered millions—not biologically, but spiritually.

Spiritual mothers in our midst

You might understand spiritual motherhood by answering the question: Who has spiritually mothered you?

Aunt Pat

My earliest memory of my godmother, whose name I bear, is when she took me into “the big city,” New York. As a child back then, it was a big deal. Aunt Pat made a fuss over me, giving me undivided attention. And I felt…special, doted upon, loved. Today Aunt Pat still remembers my birthdays and other occasions. Though separated by geographical distance, I immediately recognize the cards she sends by mail. Her handwriting on the envelopes is an unmistakably Catholic-schoolgirl-script from a bygone era, full of feminine flourishes. The messages inside are always warm and full of prayers. Her correspondence grounds me, and it reminds where I come from. She teaches me that love stretches over time and distance.

Paula

Paula lived in my church community when I  was growing up. A bit older than me, she befriended me in my teens and remained in my life after I married in my twenties. When I became a mother, I went through a time when I felt like I was drowning in the stress of it all. Paula, a prayerful wife and then mother of three, threw me a lifeline by re-introducing me to the Blessed Mother as a friend and guide. I needed to bring Mary out of the church and into my home. Decades later, I still have the prayer book Paula gave me. It helped me ask Mary to intercede for me, through morning sickness, sleepless nights, and a myriad of new mother woes. Paula taught me that prayer is critical to my vocation as a wife and mother.

Eileen

When our family moved to a new town, I met Eileen, another woman with a devotion to the Blessed Mother. With a quick wit and three boys of her own, Eileen’s door was always open, her coffeepot was always on, and she gave great hugs. I soaked up our many friendly conversations and the Rosaries we prayed aloud around her kitchen table. Like the older women described in the New Testament Letter to Titus (see Titus 2:3–4). Her example deepened my devotion to the Rosary and the desire to be that kind of friend to someone else. Eileen taught me the power of welcome and cheerful service.

Judi

I met Judi in the back of the church in 1996. She stayed after Mass to pray, but accidentally overheard my whispered conversation in a nearby pew. I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer and was expressing shock over it to a friend. Before leaving, Judi introduced herself. She had fought the disease years earlier and simply wanted to show me the face of someone who survived it. That was a holy moment for me. She was a godsend. Judi became hope incarnate to me. We stayed in touch and Judi helped me negotiate cancer treatment and recovery. She was a one-woman support group and mentor rolled into one. In time we shared our love of writing, books, and the Bible. Her favorite Gospel story was the Transfiguration when Jesus’ friends momentarily saw him glorified—a glimpse of heaven on earth! I think of her when I pray that Luminous Mystery of the Rosary. Judi was my friend for ten years until her death. She taught me how to suffer well and live joyously at the same time.

Read the rest. 

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10 Ways You Can Spot a Spiritual Mother! (Read it in Catholic Digest this month!)

10 Ways You Can Spot a Spiritual Mother! (Read it in Catholic Digest this month!)

Scan 132460001I’ve gushed before about my excitement over Catholic Digest’s new layout and renewal under Danielle Bean’s leadership. Let me say, again, I’m pleased as can be not only to pen the Year of Faith column on one of my favorite subjects — The Catechism! — but this month’s issue features my ode to the spiritual mothers in my life, including my Godmother-Auntie, several good girlfriends that God strategically placed in my life at different times, and Mary! Of course none of these gals replaced my own mother’s holy influence. It just goes to show that the feminine genius is not only inherent in women, but it can flourish with encouragement from others!

Here’s a peak from one of the sidebars, from the Catholic Digest feature: “What the World Needs Now is Spiritual Mothers — like YOU!”:

10 Ways You Can Spot a Spiritual Mother…

She nurtures others to become who they are meant to be in God’s eyes.

She recognizes, affirms, and protects human dignity.

She performs spiritual and corporal works of mercy with maternal care.

She helps others by her encouraging words and charitable service.

She prays for and with others as an intercessor for them, especially priests.

She practices the arts of friendship and hospitality.

She passes on what she knows as a mentor when asked.

She is a joy catalyst.

She keeps Christ close in her heart by imitating Mary.

She is a woman of holy influence who helps to give birth to saints

Has someone been a spiritual mother in your life? I’d love to hear about it in the combox.

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Wanted: Spiritual Fathers and Mothers – my latest column @PatheosCatholic

Do you have spiritual heroes? I do. They are people who remain dear to my heart. They are men and women who have showed me the way to change my life for the better, and many of them, through their friendly mentoring helped to grow me up in the faith. I could list many names from years gone by beyond my family circle. They were church folk, school folk, older women friends. Somehow they generously took time to love me and encourage me even when I could not offer anything of value in return. They were magnanimous spiritual mothers and fathers to me. I’m fortunate to still know a few today.

I could also list the names of many favorite saints who have inspired me along the way.

I thank God for all of them, the saints, and the good Christians I met who have shepherded me, especially as a teen and younger woman. Somewhere along the way, I started to want to be like them.

If you read my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, you’ll find that I make the case that Christian women are called to grow and mature in such a way as to be able to make disciples through their holy influence in their spheres of life — to be physical and spiritual mothers. Whether single, married, or religious, women are baptized and called to participate in the universal mission of the Church that ignites faith and light and love in others. That we not only come to know, love, and serve Christ ourselves, but that we bring others along to Heaven with us as well.

Yet we live in a society that often demeans parenthood and degrades or ignores the spiritual dimensions that are so necessary to human flourishing. As I wrote in my latest column at Patheos, we need spiritual heroes…

What the world needs now are spiritual heroes. Be they spiritual fathers or spiritual mothers, we need them. The Catholic Church has long known this and has produced spiritual fathers and mothers by the millions. We call them saints.

Besides all the famous names on the heavenly rolls like the Blessed Mother, St Joseph, the Apostles and Martyrs, and the rest, there are millions more –- unnamed and lesser saints — who started their days just like you and me. They got up in the morning and got to work.

Many of us mere mortals, while piously attempting to honor and revere saints, mistakenly see their heroic virtue as beyond our reach. What I’m saying is that many Catholics and others put saints on pedestals in ways that leave us fretting that such sanctity is unattainable for the regular folks, the Joe and Joan Q. Public sitting in the pew.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saints in heaven this very moment are looking at us and praying that we dispatch with this silly notion, and dispel this excuse from the responsibility and, yes, the privilege, each baptized person has to grow in holiness. That is, to try to be a saint.

Let me say this as forthrightly as I can: Get a grip, People of God!

The saints began with the same raw materials we do: A sinful life in need of God and his grace. Fortunately grace is not in short supply, for where sin increases, grace abounds all the more. (Cf. Romans 5: 20)

There’s more, of course.

Go read it. There’s a bodacious mission out there waiting for you.