Who are our spiritual mothers?

If priests are our spiritual fathers, who are our spiritual mothers?

Priests are not our only spiritual fathers. We have many spiritual fathers and mothers who are not priests. The greatest Saint (male or female) is Our Blessed Mother (and this is one of her more common titles, including the designation “Mother”).

I’ll take just one of her over all the priests who have ever lived.

I guess my mum, my God Mother, and Our Blessed Mary will have to do me for a while. Saves on Mother’s Day cards.

I’m going to say I’ve used the term in an informal way, mostly because I don’t have a better term for it. My experience is that a spiritual mother is a woman that one looks to for guidance, counsel, not like a mentor exactly because it’s more personal. It’s a spiritual friendship where one has more life experience, more wisdom and a serious prayer life and is generous with her time, is a good listener often leads by example, just like mothers do in families.

There was a woman I thought of as my spiritual mother because she helped me navigate through a spiritual growth spurt and being introduced to so many things in the Church I had not encountered before. She was also there when I went through a rather unfortunate experience and helped me make some tough choices and prayed with me.

My mom was alive at this time but we lived far apart and truthfully I was growing in my faith life faster and in a different way. I had so many more opportunities and while I could share them with my mom, we were in different places in our faith journey. It’s interesting because I know many people also considered my mom their spiritual mother.

A spiritual mother will be a woman of prayer and I think prayer is the main difference; it’s more than mentoring and it isn’t spiritual direction, although if one has a female spiritual director, she may be thought of one’s spiritual mother.

The Church as a whole is often referred to as our Mother (“Holy Mother Church”)–and as St. Cyprian said, “He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.”

This also appears to be a favorite theme of our current Pope. Here’s a couple examples:



So, God created a position for spiritual fathers (priests) but not one for spiritual mothers. Does this mean that fatherhood is more important to God than motherhood? That would be a little confusing to me since we talk all the time about the importance of children having both a mother and a father.

It seems that, in the priesthood, God created a position that mirrors physical fatherhood but in a spiritual way. Why would God not make a position for women that mirrors that of physical motherhood? Why would God exclude women in this way?

In the Trinity there is also only a Father, not a Mother. I think fatherhood is used as a model for headship and unity. The Church has various representatives of the headship and fatherhood of God for the sake of this unity. Motherhood represents more the nurturing body in relation to the head–that’s why the whole Church is considered a mother, since the whole Church is involved in nurturing us (and one another) with charity and grace–Mary being the supreme image of this motherhood.

The Church. Also Mary. :shrug:

The Church doesn’t need spiritual mothers because motherhood is carried within its nature the Church is per se “receptive” to Christ. We have priests because Christ works directly through them, “generating” (not “receiving”) and causing grace in the sacraments.

Well our own mothers for one. :slight_smile:

Good explanation. Thanks.


Says it all right here! :thumbsup:

OK. Motherhood can, in this case, be provided by men (the Church)?

Women don’t have any role within the spiritual world?

I’m going to expound on my earlier post and may repeat some of what others have said and then finally offer an answer to your question.

There are layers of family in the Church - God is perfect and complete with both fatherly and motherly characteristics. The first person of the Trinity reveals (wrong word but :shrug:) as a father and needed a mother for Jesus and Mary also is our mother.

The layers continue here in our world. The pope (which means papa) is the Holy Father and the Church is referred to Mother Church. Then we have priests as Fathers (and one priest I know considered his spiritual father the pope that ordained the bishop who then ordained him). Of course we have out mothers and fathers and godmothers and god fathers and so on.

Now to your questions:

OK. Motherhood can, in this case, be provided by men (the Church)?

Yes. In the book about St. Maximillian Kolbe “A Man for Others” by Patricia Treece one of the priests (or brothers) who knew St. Maximillian observed how motherly he was. After all the friars were sleeping he walk through the and the witness observed him covering the feet of one one of the sleeping men. He was described as being in touch with his feminine side and that wholeness was a part of his holiness.

Women don’t have any role within the spiritual world?

Beginning with Mary the mother of God, and all the female saints, the religious sisters and nuns. St. John Paul II wrote about the role of women in Mulieris Dignitatem and his Letter to Women. He does not define spiritual motherhood Katherine Zeno describes it this way:

While Pope John Paul II never defines spiritual motherhood, I like to describe it this way: Spiritual motherhood is nurturing the emotional, moral, cultural, and spiritual lives of others. This means women can be spiritual mothers anywhere: At the grocery store, in the office, working in the fields, even flat in bed. When a woman makes a meal for a friend, gives someone a spiritual book, prays the rosary, provides a listening ear, or monitors what her children watch on TV, she’s nurturing the emotional, moral, cultural, and spiritual lives of others.

There are quite a few articles online discussing spiritual motherhood and each one fills out the definition or understanding of it. Discussing something spiritual is challenging because it transcends things of this earth and we can’t experience it fully until we die. It’s wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. H/T Razinir

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