Woman's destiny: the beauty of motherhood

A few months before I entered community, I received a list of things that I could bring with me to the monastery as well as a list of our policies. My roommate at the time was discerning marriage and she and I were looking at this list together.

She began to "canonize" me as she stared in awe at the paper and all that I would be giving up.  I thought I was pretty holy myself and accepted the canonization graciously with what I thought at the time was humility : ).

There were three things that I specifically remember her “canonizing” me for. The first is that she couldn’t get over the fact that I had to wake up at 5AM every morning (We both loved sleep!). That was quite heroic and worthy of a martyr’s crown!

She also mentioned to me how hard it would be to not have the freedom to just hop into a car and go wherever you want (a prisoner for Jesus!).

Lastly she came to the realization that I will lose the freedom of winding down at dinner with a glass of wine or drinking a beer while watching football.  (Of course there would be no football to watch in the monastery either).

Under the pretense of humility I listened, nodding my head and saying to myself, “I really am a martyr.  … Bring on the canonization!”

Four or five years later, my old roommate and I were talking on the phone during one of my home visits.  She had gotten married and had two or more children at that time.  We were mutually sharing the joys and struggles of our vocations.

She began to recall the day that she canonized me and all that she had said. She laughingly began to take back her canonization as she said, “Do you realize that I now wake up not just at 5 AM, but at midnight, at 2AM, and at 4AM?  I never get a full night’s sleep since I have had children.”  She went on, “And I never get to leave my house because I have three little ones that I have to dress and bring with me.  There are days when my patience won’t allow it.”  She topped it all off by saying, “And do you realize that I haven’t had a glass of wine since my honeymoon because I have either been nursing or pregnant?”
my college roommate and her family

Oh, the beauty of motherhood! What we both had in common was our motherhood and it was beautiful to see! I had always wondered why most men’s religious communities had more freedoms than women’s.  Many are allowed access to alcoholic beverages more than three times a year and they very often sleep later than we do. 

Men are not mothers.  They are fathers.  Their fatherhood requires different sacrifices.  

I made a striking realization: Every time I wake up early it is to nurse spiritual life into the souls He has given me.

Every time I feel the sacrifice of not getting to hop into the car and go where I want to go whenever I want, I am making a home for my spiritual children.

Every time I feel the pinch of not having a glass of wine at dinner or a cup of coffee in the morning, I become aware that I am pregnant with my spiritual children or am nursing them.  

That conversation called me on in our life of penance and sacrifice to be the mother I am called to be and not neglect my spiritual children. I recognized in a deeper way how the penances we voluntarily take on are intrinsically linked to our call to spiritual motherhood. 

He called us from the beginning of time to cooperate with Him in giving birth to spiritual life in the souls of His children. St. Thérèse said:

“While in the world I used on waking to think of all the pleasant or unpleasant things which might happen throughout the day, and if I foresaw nothing but worries I got up with a heavy heart.  Now it is the other way around. I think of the pains and the sufferings awaiting me, and I rise, feeling all the more courageous in proportion to the opportunities I foresee of proving my love for the Lord, and of gaining, mother of souls as I am, my children’s livelihood.”

Edith Stein says that “It is the destiny of every woman to be bride and mother,” whether that be manifested physically or spiritually.

It has been a beautiful experience to have a twin sister who has embraced the vocation of  physical motherhood.  She continually manifests the selflessness necessary in mothering. It calls me on in my own vocation. Whenever I am tempted to believe that the grass is greener on the other side I call her, and she is quick to remind me either by holding up the phone to a crying child or sharing her own experience that this isn't true.
my twin sister's family and I- another wonderful model for me of motherhood!

Our culture today does not esteem motherhood precisely because it requires selflessness.  It requires putting someone else’s needs before your own.  It is hard

What culture esteems today as the model woman is the seductive woman. Seduction is the opposite of motherhood. It is putting oneself at the center. Seduction can dangerously suck the life out of motherhood and lead to its destruction. 

Contraception was born out of a self-centered ideology and a seductive culture.  As a woman religious I have come to realize that selfishness is a type of spiritual contraception.  

When I put my needs before others in a disordered way I am blocking the gift of myself from being fully given.  When I am not embracing the penances I have voluntarily taken on, I am saying no to the most beautiful gift God has given me in my femininity: my motherhood.

So on this Mother's Day we shall drink our Franciscan tea (hot water instead of tea) after dinner knowing that our life of penance is united to all physical mothers and that through it we are conceiving eternal life for the world and pumping His Blood into the children He has entrusted to us. 

Thank you physical mothers for your witness and your daily yes that call us on in our own vocation!
 -Sr. Therese Marie Iglesias, TOR

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  1. What a tremendously beautiful reflection! Thank you for sharing. I especially loved the pat about nursing spiritual children. Happy Mother's Day, Sisters!

  2. This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for writing it!

  3. This blog piece has motivated me to get my lazy butt off the couch, turn off the television, and get to those home chores I had hoped to avoid. Most importantly, it's motivated me to do those chores with love and humility! Thank you for that!

  4. Such a beautiful witness! I love how you mirrored the beauty and sacrifice of both ways of mothering. Thank you!


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