I was recently sharing a story about one of my daughters with my spiritual director. As children of two parents, with five theology degrees between them, my daughters are especially prone to curiosity and conversation about theological topics. In sharing one of their beautiful little moments of wonder in spiritual direction, this dear priest told me, “Michele, that is spiritual motherhood. You are being a spiritual mother to your daughters, not just a biological one.”
Although I have felt drawn to spiritual maternity of seminarians and priests, it hadn’t occurred to me that I could be both a biological and a spiritual mother to my daughters. But in that moment, I realized that he was right.
Spiritual Maternity — the Greater Part
I have some very dear friends who have suffered much from infertility. I have faced the pain of secondary infertility, and know many others who have, too. In a world that touts the joys of biological maternity, spiritual maternity gets forgotten. Then, even when it is mentioned, it is often mentioned as a sort of second prize. “You can’t be a biological mother…but don’t worry! You can be a spiritual mother!”
The thing is that, biological motherhood is meant to be an icon of spiritual motherhood. In experiencing biological or adoptive motherhood (or fatherhood), that experience is meant to draw us into contemplation of the deeper reality of God’s paternity of us. But just as marriage is an icon of the deeper reality of union with God, physical parenthood isn’t the pinnacle of the experience of parenthood. Spiritual parenthood is.
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