A Mothering Moment


Today I spent the day at a “Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious” retreat at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Elkhart. My friend Pat Gohn was the presenter (and if you haven’t already read her book, I highly recommend this thought provoking examination of what it means to be a contemporary Catholic women in the world today).

Full disclosure: Pat is a good friend of mine, and so mine is not the most unbiased book review. And yet I can also say that, judging from the response of the 200+ women at the retreat today, Pat’s message is one that is not heard nearly often enough in Catholic circles: That ALL women, regardless of marital status or number of children, have four important gifts by virtue of their “feminine genius”: receptivity, generosity, sensitivity, and maternity. (If you don’t have Pat’s book, and you should, you can find a decent explanation of these four gifts here.)

What I appreciated most about Pat’s talk came from (of all places) the Catechism #239. As a mother who often feels like my mothering skills fall far short of what my children need, or what I expect from myself, it was a blessing to be able to put things in perspective:

By calling God “Father”, the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God’s parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God’s immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.

“Marriage is like an amplifier…” from “Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious” (The Love Project, Day 16)

gohnToday I was reading Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious by Pat Gohn (Ave Maria Press), and was struck by the following passage about marriage. Can you relate?

Everything I liked or disliked about my man before I married increased in volume after marriage. I ran headlong into a wall of my selfishness and struggles for power, not to mention my own anger issues that erupted from my quick temper…. Putting others’ needs ahead of my own was harder than I had thought. I bristled when I could not control things.

Motherhood intensified my struggles, often reducing me to tears. I was profoundly disappointed with the shortcomings of my loe — my lack of achievement! I was trying to achieve in my marriage and achieve in my mothering the way I succeeded at school and at work, as if there were a performance scorecard attached to my efforts. “No greater love” required something more than the tyranny of perfectionism; it needed my attentiveness, my surrender, my sacrifice.

I don’t know if this is an experience common to all (or even most) women … but I could relate. The greatest challenges, I felt, was not in accepting the weaknesses and flaws of my family, but coming face to face — each and every day — with my own foibles and shortcomings.

I finally turned a corner when I came across this quote by St. Francis de Sales:

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.

Today’s Love in Action: What’s the one bad habit or character flaw you hate most about yourself? Got it? Good … now, what virtue do you need to put into practice that serves as the “antidote” to that particular bad habit? How will you start . . . today?