Heart of a . . . Spinster?

RNS-INAUGURAL-MASSIn recent news, Pope Francis is widely being reported as having called a group of 800 women religious “spinsters” and “old maids.” Predictably, the secular media excoriated the pope for insulting and demeaning the sisters. (One might have thought that their response — peals of laughter, rather than collectively throwing their rosaries at him — might have given the media a clue that something else was going on here.) CNS gives us the bigger picture here:

In his talk to the women, Pope Francis said their vow of chastity expands their ability to give themselves to God and to others “with the tenderness, mercy and closeness of Christ.”

However, “please, let it be a fruitful chastity, a chastity that generates sons and daughters in the church. The consecrated woman is a mother, must be a mother and not a spinster,” he said. While the sisters were laughing at his use of a very colloquial Italian word for “spinster” or “old maid,” he added: “Forgive me for speaking this way, but the motherhood of consecrated life, its fertility, is important.”

Spiritual motherhood, in other words, is about bearing and nurturing life with a focus that is outward rather than inward, on the good of others instead of one’s personal ambitions.

I don’t know about you, but I believe this particular challenge is an important one for wives and mothers as well. In the work God gives us to do, how often do we resort to a “spinsterish” heart — closed, unwelcoming, cold? When a child reaches out for me, and messes with my carefully constructed plans about what the day should bring, do I respond with the heart of a mother, or a spinster?

I hate to admit it, but I still have far to go in releasing my “old maid ways.”

Thanks for the reminder, dear Father!

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