In my past year and a half at Maggie’s Place, more often than not, people who hear what I am doing, remark with a “Wow, that must be so rewarding!” response to my story. Unfortunately, though, most of us MissionCorps do not go to bed at night with this on our mind. Either we are so exhausted, we can’t entertain much of anything in our minds, or go to bed worrying about what will happen next to one of our moms. Those “rewarding” moments are very few and far between, but I think that is how God intended them to be. We don’t serve our moms for the rewarding feelings, or for those who praise us in an almost perplexed state of confusion at why we do this work. We who live with the moms in the homes of Maggie’s Place, do this work because it is necessary, and we have found ourselves to be the spiritual mothers of those in need of one. Mothers do not love their children because it will “look good” or because they will get a thank you at the end of the day. Mothers love their children because it was the way God intended for it to be.
Finding myself utterly lost and alone during my first months in Phoenix away from home, I was able to stumble upon the writings of a beautiful woman who spoke of the nature and truth of a woman’s love, and I still love to look back on and chew on her words. St. Theresa Benedicta, or Edith Stein as she is otherwise known, was a Jewish philosopher who later in her life experienced a conversion, and would eventually enter into a Carmelite Monastery at Cologne at the age of 42. Saint Theresa took her background of philosophy and wove it into her Catholic Faith, writing especially about the vocation of woman.
“Every woman, she claimed, is meant to be both a companion (her spousal vocation) and a mother. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish, and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning. Woman naturally focuses on what is human, and tends to give relationships a higher importance than work, success, reputation, etc. Woman is naturally more attuned to the individual, and hence to a concrete, particular person with all of his or her own needs and potential. Further, this maternal concern aims at the total development of the other person as a unity of body, soul, and spirit.”
Before coming to Maggie’s Place, I never would have believed how much of an opportunity at spiritual motherhood I would receive by being here. As Saint Theresa points out, it is every woman’s natural vocation to be mother, even if she has not borne any children herself in a physical sense. I have loved these moms and their babies with a love that I never knew possible. It is the love of a mother. It doesn’t ask for anything in return, even though God does give us the moments of joy occasionally, and it gives wholeheartedly without reward. I have found that maternal yearning to guard and protect our moms from hurt while wanting to see them grow in self-confidence and courage. Often the Maggie’s Place moms joke that we are their mothers and grandmas to their little babies. While it is a joke, we all know that it does stem from truth. The moms know how much we care for them and their babies, similar to that love of a physical mother. We sit beside them at hospitals until wee hours of the night and cry with them as the doctors tell them they have pregnancy complications. We hug them when they come back from an interview with a job, and stand behind them as cheerleader in a courtroom. It is the love of a mother to be with their children and support them in every aspect of their lives.
The love that comes from the spiritual motherhood I have been given at Maggie’s Place is still hard for me to wrap my mind around. How can I be so exhausted and disappointed at times, but still love our moms with all of my being? It is with the help of God of course, but as Saint Theresa also points out, it stems from the maternal instinct I have been given just by being woman. Here at Maggie’s Place, we see our moms love their babies with all that they have similar to how we love them as well. Being a mom is not always rewarding but it always will be part of our vocation as women and thus bring to completion the person we were meant to become.
By Clare Shear, a MissionCorps member