Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why Annie Lamott hates Mother's Day and why Catholic teaching would surprise her.

Annie Lamott is a fine writer whose works are largely autobiographical. She doesn't avoid writing of raw, self abasement and spiritual failure. She's been chewed up by alcohol, men and the literary establishment. As a single mother she is transparent to a degree that we've come to expect from those who have nothing to lose. Yet anybody raising a child, has a lot to lose. To her credit, she has managed to stay transparent. To get to know her read her. She reflects on her conversion to Jesus in Traveling Mercies : Some Thoughts on Faith; and more recently, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. Her most recent non-fiction is Imperfect Birds.
I was a tad sad to learn that she believes that Mother's Day celebrates the great lie about women. What is this great lie? That those with children are more important than those without.  "Mothering has been the richest experience of my life, but I am still opposed to Mother's Day. It perpetuates the dangerous idea that all parents are somehow superior to non-parents. (Meanwhile, we know the worst, skeeviest, most evil people in the world are CEOs and politicians who are proud parents.)"

I've got good news for my sister. Maybe she'll come to love Mother's Day again. Consider the Genius of Woman as expounded by John Paul II.. A woman by her distinctive creation is inherently maternal and that doesn't necessarily mean birthing babies.

I doubt Mother Assumpta Long has dropped any babies off at maternity wards recently yet she is truly more than metaphorically Mother. Just ask her daughters!

In the Catholic tradition, mothering ranges far beyond obstetrics and gynecology and breast-feeding. Godmothers may be unmarried and childless but they are not without maternity. Consecrated Virgins are learning to birth Christ within them and transmit him as a mother to the world around them. Female religious are neither unmarried nor without spiritual issue.

From a Catholic point of view,"spiritual motherhood" is not just some pacifying euphemism intended to console those without rugrats. No, it is to remember Mary's motherhood of the Church. She is the mother and while she bore a child, Jesus, yet her position as mother of the Church is no less significant, nor is it less maternal.

John Paul II during an Angelus address: "...[Feeling life within the womb] is a privilege of mothers, but all women in some way have an intuition of it, predisposed as they are to this miraculous gift." By this he meant "the acceptance of the other, the nurturing, the generosity and empathy, which are all contained in the vocation of motherhood, but are not the exclusive province of the woman who has physically given birth. All women can know and act in these ways. Spiritual motherhood - which can be undertaken by any woman of any age or position in life - is a vocation within our larger vocation to holiness. When we undertake to mother someone spiritually, we gather that person close to our heart and offer him the special protection we would lavish on our own offspring. To care for his soul becomes our urgent mission. In prayer, we whisper his name before Almighty God. His worries become our worries; when he is tempted or confused or sorrowful, our maternal heart aches with him. And when he comes to know success and joy, we rejoice with him. Realizing we are all members of the Body of Christ, it follows that when we tend to the spiritual health and well-being of one priest, we are helping in some small but significant way to care for the whole flock."

Here is a little Catechism on Spiritual Maternity I stumbled across earlier tonight. Perhaps Annie will see it and enjoy Mother's Day beyond the birth canal.

"What is spirtual maternity?"Spiritual maternity is a particular grace of the Holy Spirit by which a woman surrenders herself, body and soul, to the fruitful love of Christ, for the sake of His Bride the Church and for the glory of the Father, so that, through her offering, the particular priest entrusted to her, and all priests, may be purified, healed, and sanctified."

"How does a woman express the grace of spiritual maternity?
A woman expresses the grace of spiritual maternity by imitating the hidden life of the Blessed Virgin Mary who, in the mystery of the Annunciation, consented to the enfleshment of the Word in her womb, and was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, so that through her, Christ, Priest and Victim, might enter the world, save it by His Sacrifice, and offer it back to the Father.

"How does a woman live out this imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
A woman lives out this imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by embracing the Will of God in joy and in sorrow, health and infirmity, prosperity and want, companionship and solitude, light and obscurity. In a word, she sees in every event of life an opportunity to enter, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, into the sacrifice of Christ the Priest.

"In this way, a woman can participate in the spiritual fecundity of the Mother of the Redeemer who, by her constant intercession, cares for the gift of life that ever flows from the open Heart of her Son, and cooperates with a mother's love in the birth and upbringing of Christ's faithful, her children."

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