Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Call of Spiritual Motherhood

Please pray for Heidi's mother, Sandy Hess, who was hospitalized on Sunday with heart problems.

"Mary's maternal heart, open to all human risfortune, also reminds women that the development of the feminine personality calls for a commitment to charity. More sensitive to the values of the heart, woman shows a high capacity for personal self-giving."

Pope John Paul the Great
December 1995 General Audience

Today at "Embracing Motherhood," Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle shares about her experience getting the MRI scan (please pray for the results). It reminded me of my own encounter with the constricting beast of a machine not so long ago ... and while I'm preparing for my talk at the St. Charles Borromeo Women's Conference this weekend, I thought I'd share it with you. (Also, I'd like to take this opportunity to tell a story on my dear friend, "Aunt Katy" Phelps, who volunteered to take my cherubs this weekend so I could take Craig with me to the aforementioned women's conference, and hopefully get a few hours of R&R in the process!).

Earlier this week I had an MRI (thank God for sedatives and praying friends). The worst part was the noise, which was only partly blocked by earplugs. My friend Donna O'Boyle suggested that I pray the Rosary while I was engulfed, my arms pressed against my chest, in this medical monstrosity.

Instead I sang hymns at the top of my lungs. Yes, "Be Not Afraid" and every other warm-and-fuzzy number that gives some Catholics the heeby-jeebies. I'm afraid Gregorian chant would have been just too much of an anachronism. (I did finish up with enthusiastic renditions of "Ave Maria" and "Ave Verum Corpus.") The technician might not have appreciated it, but I'm pretty sure I heard my guardian angel giggle.

The next day, I picked up a stack of books and ... long story short, I've been in the hospital for the past three days with a compressed nerve (the MRI showed a bulging disk in my fifth vertibrae). Three days without loading dishwashers or driving the kids to school. Three days without e-mail or phone. Three days without mounds of laundry. (No doubt most of these are waiting to herald my return.) Three days when my sheer lack of ... invisibility... was all too evident.

The kids have not taken kindly to my extended absence. Sarah walks into my hospital room and casts herself on my bed with the kind of weeping and gnashing of teeth you associate with a much ... hotter place. So we cuddle up, Christopher on one side and Sarah on my one good hip, and we watch cartoons and sip Sprite and catch up on what's been going on at school.

The look on Craig's face, as he watches this scene, is a cross between relief and an unabashed desire to escape. Poor dear. The brunt of my absence has fallen squarely on his shoulders, particularly the antics of our unhappy and disoriented children (who even on the best of days have been known to engage in spirited hijinks). The poor man needs a break.

Enter Aunt Katy. Katy is one of my dearest friends as well as Christopher's godmother. Katy was raised in a family of thirteen children, and regularly volunteers to help me tackle projects I've been wanting to do but never find time for. Painting the living room. Cleaning out and organizing the kitchen. Tonight she stopped by to see me ... and volunteered to take the kids home and put them to bed for us, so Craig and I could spend a little quiet time together.

Katy and her husband Todd have not been blessed with children of their own, at least not yet. And yet, she and her husband Todd are a truly generous couple. In Catholic circles, we tend to measure the "openness" and "generosity" of a couple by how many children they are raising. However, it is women like Katy -- and others like her -- who have come up alongside me and helped me to be the kind of loving and generous parent God wants me to be.

So today I'd like to remember the women who are "invisible in generosity." Those who have tried to remain open to all God has for them, and serve Him to the best of their ability, despite the fact that, for whatever reason, their minivan hath not exactly "runneth over" with carseats.Thank you to those generous women who continue to trust God even if it means conceiving and carrying children ... only to face having to send those children on ahead of you to heaven.

Thank you to those whose struggles with infertility means trusting God to open other avenues to practice your God-given calling to nurture other souls; some by choosing foster care or adoption, others (like Katy) choosing to support other parents in their vocations.

Thank you to those generous women who express your spiritual motherhood by taking into your home other people's children, despite the fact that you have not yet received the graces of the sacrament of matrimony (most notably a partner to share the load).

Above all, thank you to those women who continue to feel invisible -- and who recognize the gift hidden within that calling. The most delicate organs (such as the spinal column and the extended nervous system) are not visible to the naked eye. And yet where would the body be without them?