Friday, August 28, 2009

St Augustine, St Monica & Spiritual Motherhood

I wanted to add some of my own thoughts to this beautiful story of Spiritual Motherhood. It firstly remindes us that it is not enough to be physcial mothers to our children, we are called to become spirtual mothers to our children and our most perfect example is our own spirtual mother, Our Lady.

The spiritual order is higher than the physical and no less real, if not MORE real, for we are not to just give our children life and to then see them lose their lives eternally with no resistance from ourselves. No, our true fullfilment as a mother is to also 'give birth' to our children's eternal life in heaven in co-operation with Our Lady. And it can be a birth that is sometimes no less painful than a physical birth!

So we are called to pray and even sacrifice for our children and their future vocations, it is part of our christion motherhood. Within christian motherhood there is always spiritual motherhood.

Our Lord Himself alludes to the fact there are two levels of mothering/parenting in Scripture, we cannot stop at one, we must have both:

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" ~ Luke 11:13

Our spiritual mothering never ends, not even in this life. I think of a mother I know who had prayed and sacrificed unceasingly for her wayward children and the conversions that took place only after her death.

Sometimes our spiritual mothering can be sorely tested, that we can question whether those prayers and sacrifices will come to anything, especially when things seem completely hopeless.

St Monica understands only too well this questioning, this temptation to doubt the efficacy of it all. In St Monica's case she was blessed to have a Bishop, a saint in fact, St Ambrose to give his paternal wisdom and advice.

Here is a quote from the book, The Life of St Monica that details the depths of her bitter sorrows and the comfort she received, both from God and St Ambrose:

"With bitter tears she cried on God to help her; her grief seemed greater than she could bear. At last the night came, and with it peace. As she slept, exhausted with weeping, she had a dream which brought her a strange sense of hope and comfort. It seemed to her that she was standing on a narrow rule or plank of wood, her heart weighed down with sorrow as it had been all through the day.

Suddenly there came towards her a young man radiant and fair of face. Smiling at her, he asked the cause of her tears. " I am weeping," she answered, " for the loss of my son." " Grieve no more, then," he replied, " for, look, your son is standing there beside you." Monica turned her head. It was true; Augustine stood at her side on the plank of wood. " Be of good cheer," continued the stranger, " for where you are there shall he be also."

Then Monica awoke; the words were ringing in her ears; it seemed to her that God had spoken. In the morning she went straight to Augustine and told him of her dream. " Perhaps," suggested her son, anxious to turn it to his own advantage," it means that you will come to see things as I do " No said Monica firmly, " for he did not say, Where he is you shall be, but, Where you are there he shall be. Augustine was even more struck by the earnestness of his mother's answer than by the dream itself, though he pretended to make light of both.

Not long after Monica went to see a certain holy Bishop (St Ambrose), that she might beg him to use his influence with Augustine to bring him back to the truth. The wise old man listened attentively to her story. " Let him alone for the present, but pray much," was his advice, " for as yet he is obstinate and puffed up with these new ideas. If what you tell me of your son is true, he will read for himself, and will find out his error."

Then, seeing the anguish of the poor mother, he told her that he himself in his youth had been led away by the Manicheans, and had even been employed in transcribing their works. It was that which had saved him; for, as he wrote, the truth became clear to him; he had seen how much their doctrines were to be avoided.

Then, as Monica wept for disappointment for she had counted greatly on his help a sudden pity seized him. " Go thy ways, and God bless thee," he cried. " It is impossible that a son of such tears should perish." Monica s dream and the words of the Bishop were like rays of light in the darkness. She drew fresh hope from them and redoubled her prayers."

It is always beautiful to see examples of mothers turning their children back towards the faith to then in that joy, see that child embrace a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. A famous modern example of this would be Father John Corapi. He attributes his conversion to his mother's prayers. He is truly a modern St Augustine!

Here is our feastday cake for our family that we made today, it's symbolism tells us that through St Monica's prayerful tears, she raised up a bishop, she raised up a saint!

To see how this was made see my posting over at Catholic Cuisine.

I would like to finish with a beautiful prayer that has come from the St Vincent Archabbey Vocations Site:

Most Gracious Heavenly Father,

We thank You for our mothers to whom You have entrusted the care of every precious human life from its very beginning in the womb.

You have given to woman the capacity of participating with You in the creation of new life. Grant that every woman may come to understand the full meaning of that blessing, which gives her an unlimited capacity for selfless love for every child she may be privileged to bear, and for all Your children.

Watch over every mother who is with child, strengthen her faith in Your fatherly care and love for her and for her unborn baby. Give her courage in times of fear or pain, understanding in times of uncertainty and doubt, and hope in times of trouble. Grant her joy in the birth of her child.

To mothers You have given the great privilege and responsibility of being a child's first teacher and spiritual guide. Grant that all mothers may worthily foster the faith of their children, following the example of Mary, Elizabeth, and other holy women who follow Christ. Help mothers to grow daily in knowledge and understanding of Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and grant them the wisdom to impart this knowledge faithfully to their children, and to all who depend upon them.

Assist all "spiritual mothers", those who, though they may have no children of their own, nevertheless selflessly care for the children of others -- of every age and state in life. Grant that they may know the joy of fulfilling this motherly calling of women, whether in teaching, nursing, religious life, or in other work which recognizes and fosters the true dignity of every human being created in Your image and likeness.

We beseech You to send Your Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to all mothers who sorrow for children that have died, are ill or estranged from their families, or who are in trouble or danger of any kind. Help grieving mothers to rely on Your tender mercy and fatherly love for all your children.

We ask your blessing on all those to whom You have entrusted motherhood. May Your Holy Spirit constantly inspire and strengthen them. May they ever follow the example of Mary, mother of Our Lord, and imitate her fidelity, her humility, and her self-giving love. May all mothers receive Your Grace abundantly in this earthly life, and may they look forward to eternal joy in Your presence in the life to come.

We ask this through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. AMEN.


Karinann said...

Thank you for your beautiful personal thoughts and for this beautiful prayer.
God Bless!

Esther said...

Wow, beautiful!

Letizia said...

Beautiful prayer and great personal thoughts.
Thank you !
That cake looks pretty yummy...