As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Monday, September 14, 2015

Contemplative Motherhood

I just finished reading a book about the life of Mother Teresa.  It's the first time I've really delved into her story and, naturally, it had a profound effect on me.  Probably the thing that struck me the most and that I want to make my own way of life is her saying, "All for Jesus."

A few years ago I read St. John of the Cross' Dark Night of the Soul and it really spoke to me.  Obviously the life of a mystic is not something that could ever be even remotely possible for me (even if I did possess the self-discipline to even consider such a calling, which let's be honest I am soooooo far away from!)  I remember sharing with a very wise friend some thoughts I had on the book (which is a real masterpiece, and not to be feared as much as people sometimes build it up to be) and his response brought me great comfort.  In addressing my many personal shortcomings vis-a-vis the teachings of John of the Cross, who I feel is a spiritual brother, my friend's response was, "you have to remember this was written for mystics - it's not everyone who can wander off in the wilderness and spend hours unending with the Lord."  True.

And yet, the appeal of his spirituality remains strong for me.  I think I have a bit of a mystic's heart, which is difficult to find harmony with in a life that's as chaotic as mine.  I always feel like I'm not doing enough, like I'm just letting life pass me by while I try my best to just stay afloat, when really what I desire is constant union with God.  I had sort of resigned myself to the fact that maybe it was just an elusive state of being for me.  That maybe this was part of my own dark night - the desire for deep contemplation
that never seems to be satisfied.

One of the things that struck me about Mother Teresa though was how whenever people referred to her sisters as active sisters, she was quick to correct them.  They were contemplatives who carried out their prayer in the work they did.  The author of the book, a trusted companion of Mother Teresa, talked about how it was not uncommon to see Mother Teresa close her eyes and bow her head to her chest, in obvious conversation with God in the midst of her day.  Everything for her was an opportunity for prayer.  When something would unexpectedly take her longer, she would thank Jesus for the opportunity to show Him that she loved Him.  She would use the extra time to offer prayers and say "I love you" to Jesus.  She embraced every circumstance as an opportunity to love Jesus.

What a revolutionary way to live family life!  How often in the run of the day do unexpected challenges arise?  How often do I waste the opportunity to offer it as a gift of love to Jesus?  I have the particular personality of being very easygoing and optimistic, when problems arise I'm the one who's saying, "it's okay, we'll deal with it."  That positivity is something I strive for, but I think too often I'm stopping short of having it actually make a difference.  If something is okay just for the sake of being okay, then ultimately we're just getting through things.  But - if instead of just going into survival mode, what if I used that as an opportunity to show my love to Jesus?  What if I teach my children that life's challenges can be a gift, because they can bring us to union with God in and of themselves?  What if they are the answer to my contemplative heart, the call to constant prayer that I always thought was so elusive?  Like the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, I too can live a kind of contemplative motherhood if I choose to use every moment as an opportunity to draw closer to Christ.  What an amazing prospect!

If I have found a brother in St. John of the Cross, then I feel I am finding in Mother Teresa a sister. She has taught me that union with God is not something reserved for only a few in particular circumstances, but for everyone in every walk of life. Mystics in the mountains, missionaries in the slums, and Moms on the front lines of family life.  She has inspired me by her example of selfless love and devotion to the poor to be devoted to those in my own care, so that by loving them I can take care of, love, and caress Jesus. I can be a missionary in my own home by bringing Christ to my children, my husband, my family, my friends.  But only if I remember that every moment, every circumstance is an opportunity to love Jesus.  And if my life is full of distractions then I shall praise God that much more, for it is that many more occasions that I can tell Jesus I love Him.

All. For Jesus.

1 comment :

  1. Beautiful, Natasha! This resonates with my heart so much! I've been beyond blessed to learn that what you are intuiting here in this post is resoundingly true. Since everything is God's providence, that means every moment, especially every difficulty is a moment in which this is precisely an opportunity to do a little thing with great love: to be harbingers of His love, mercy, and grace, and trust that this is precisely His will for you to be those things in this moment...and the amazing thing is He always supplies abundant graces to accomplish His will...the more difficult the challenge, the more grace He supplies. Recognizing motherhood, teaching, being a wife etc., in this light has been a huge blessing to me. The lay vocation, I have to remind myself, is not second-best to religious life. It is an integral part of God's plan for humanity. We are the ones on the front line bringing His love into our next generation, our supermarkets, etc.
    As for mysticism... it is for all Catholics: anyone who believes in the Eucharist, or really any of the Sacraments is already a mystic! Maybe not a levitating, ecstasy-experiencing mystic like St. Teresa of Avila, but St. Therese with her little way was a profound mystic too. You might like this blog post: Is mysticism for everybody:

    God bless you richly as you carry out your important mission work!!