How to Embrace the Call to Spiritual Parenthood
I’ve felt the call the parenthood for a long time. But the details about the when or how of parenthood haven’t been as clear. As I watched my friends begin to have children, I lamented that I hadn’t found someone to make a family with. I railed at God for keeping me from my call.
Then I read about the idea of spiritual motherhood (which can apply to spiritual fatherhood, too!). Being a mother or father isn’t just about bringing genetic children into the world, or even adopting children. It’s about the virtues that are attributed to the call to parenthood.
Think of the mothers in your life. Not just your own mother, but the others you’ve seen around you. What attributes come to mind? Some of the images and ideals you thought of may include kindness, gentleness, peacefulness, and helpfulness.
The same is true for when we think of fathers in our life. We think of men who are strong, confident, and brave.
When we accept the call to spiritual parenthood, that means treating everyone we encounter with the love and grace that we would a child. Which is essentially true because everyone we come in contact with is a child of God.
While this sounds pretty simple and basic—these qualities seem like our call as Christians in general—I like to approach it with more intentionality than that. How can you live out your call to spiritual parenthood? Here are a few ideas.
1. Parenthood is love in action
When I think of spiritual parenthood, I think of active love. When I think about the kind of mother I want to be, or the kind of mother that Our Lady is, I’m inspired by mothers’ dedication to their children, and honestly, all children.
Mothers go out of their way to show their love. They aren’t content to let children go without constant attention and every need met. They aren’t satisfied if a job is merely passable, or if the extra mile hasn’t been pursued. And they do it all in joy!
It’s like a bake sale. Now, please know I’m not knocking you if you’ve done this, but it’s for the sake of example. There are people who will not participate. There are people who will buy a baked good for the sake of the benefit. Then, some people who will begrudgingly make a homemade good. Then there are the people who will joyfully leap at the opportunity to share a wholesome, delicious treat.
Those are the people living these virtues. It’s not just about love. It’s about fierce, maternal and paternal love.
2. Don’t pray for patience
Just like parenthood, the call to spiritual parenthood will look different for everyone.
For me, it almost always manifests in patience. I’m not a particularly patient person by nature. Remember the old saying “Never pray for patience”? It seems like the opportunities to practice patience always find those of us who struggle with it most.
My natural inclination is to give up, or navigate away from situations that may even slightly test my patience. But neither of those options will help me grow.
So I go head-on into situations that will help stretch me spiritually. I approach it like I’ve seen the mothers in my life approach their children. These mothers and fathers don’t get rattled with their children don’t get something the first time. They don’t throw up their hands and declare it hopeless (something my dramatic self has been known to do).
Instead, they embrace the innocence and learning opportunity. That’s not to romanticize parenting. I’ve seen parents also get frustrated and need to take a break to step out before returning to a situation, but by and large, the overall attitude is still rooted in patience above all else.
The other day I was with the man I’m dating and his daughter, who is five. She wanted to climb a big rock at the park. He helped her climb to the top, but as soon as she got there, she cried out, “Daddy! I want down!”
He didn’t say, “But you just got up there,” or “Well then come down on your own.” He hoisted himself up onto the rock and scooped her up, and returned her to where her two feet were pointed on the ground.
On her part, she didn’t think twice about calling for help. It wasn’t even second nature—it was first. Her immediate reaction to fear was to yell for her parent. When we can imitate these virtues of parenthood, we have a better chance that the people around us will see that part of God in us. The part that says, “I’m right here, your first line of defense against fear.”
3. This is a call for all
For me, this has dive into spiritual parenthood has entirely changed my relationships with people around me. I hold more dearly the virtues that inspire me to treat others the way parents treat their children.
In a way, I think we should all answer this call, because in our responsibility to act like God in all we do, we can remember that God is our father. He has many titles and many relationships with all of us, but one of the ones we come back to again and again in the Church is God as Father.
That’s because fatherhood, motherhood, parenthood—they all exemplify the best parts of what we can be as Christians. People who are selfless, gracious, generous, merciful, and understanding. In a lot of ways, what it means to be a parent is the same as what it means to be a Christian.
As we near Mother’s and Father’s day in the coming weeks, let us pray that we can approach our lives with these virtues.
Erin is a Catholic writer living on the windy plains of Kansas. She loves reading, dark chocolate, sunflowers, and learning to cook.