I have been reading a lot of Mother Teresa's writings lately. I love how she does not aspire to greatness but endeavors to bring God into the most menial of tasks. Her spirituality is built on suffering: suffering for Christ who suffers on the cross for love of us. She herself suffered immensely in her calling. How did she manage during her dark times? The most obvious answer is that she turned to Jesus, her spouse. And she did. She also had years of training in obedience, theology, spiritual direction, devotion to Mary and the sacraments, and had incredible support from her bishop and the community. In short, she relied on the Body of Christ and not solely on her own power. Obviously we Marian moms rarely have the opportunity to go to daily mass, Eucharistic adoration, and an annual month-long retreat. Yet we are also called to bring God into the most menial of tasks.
One thing I do not recommend is focusing on the suffering aspect of Christ. Or, place the suffering Christ in the correct perspective to our calling. Remember that these remarkable Sisters or Charity go through years of formation and a great deal of training in order to embrace their suffering spouse in a healthy, balanced way.
It has occurred to me that there is no functional spirituality specifically for mothers. Or perhaps I should say that there probably is, or has been, but has since been lost. I once asked an elder of my family how she managed to raise six children in an impeccably clean house. (I'm only half joking when I say that her floors are cleaner than my dishes.) She told me two things: that children were allowed to roam outside on their own in those days and that women were trained from a young age to be wives and mothers. She had a longer stay in the hospital after each birth and she certainly wasn't expected to cook or clean for several weeks after the birth of a child. She lived in a community that valued her children and her hard work. She didn't believe that she would be able to manage the same thing now that children had to be constantly supervised and mothers, working outside the home or not, are, in her opinion, isolated. In her words, motherhood, nay, parenthood, is no longer valued. (Obviously not everybody feels this way. There have also been some amazing changes. She was just very secure in her role and would feel very insecure in the shifting society. In short, she did not need a special spirituality for mothers because they were living it in community. She had a hard time understanding my question.)
The point isn't to make martyrs of mothers and fathers but to point out that there has been a fundamental shift in society. Everybody is trying to catch up. I'm not saying anything new in my theology. It's probably been said before in a much better way. But nobody has bothered to tell me what it is so I'm searching for it on my own. This is where my meandering thoughts have brought me (unsystematically, of course):
- Whenever we get lost or don't know how to pray, ask the Holy Spirit to pray through you.
- Mary was a life bearer. Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Medieval art depicts the Holy Spirit entering through her ear. This was very big for them. I'm suggesting that you breathe in the Holy Spirit and pray that you may bring life into every situation. This is a good way of praying because everybody likes to breathe, it's practically addictive, and it's highly unlikely that you will get pregnant by doing so.)
- As Mother Teresa said, we were born to love and be loved. Why were we born so small and helpless? To learn how to be loved so we can teach others how to be loved. Even Jesus was born a helpless baby. This means that we need to let go of our fears and feeling of inadequacy so that the Holy Spirit has room flow through us (kenosis!). In short, we need to fully accept that we are wholly, passionately, and uniquely loved by God. The rest will follow.
God does not expect us to be perfect. He only asks that we do what is in front of us with great love. This takes practice. Mother Teresa was called to love the Suffering Spouse. I believe that we are called to allow the love of God, the basis of all creation, to move through us. I believe that breathing in the Holy Spirit is an excellent form of prayer to allow us to do so. I believe that by doing this, we will be able to accept God into the most mundane, unpleasant moments of our unique, busy lives. I believe that we must get rid of our own self-depricating, angry thoughts, that we must allow ourselves to be loved by God, in order for this to work. And I believe that Jesus continues to suffer out of longing for each and every one of us. But I'll let Mother Teresa tell you about that.
May God continue to bless you.