These days, you'd be hard-pressed to find a young lady saying “I want to be a M-O-M!” when she is asked what she wants to do with her life. Have kids? Sure – maybe some day, after more adventurous and challenging feats are admiringly accomplished. Be a mother – sure, I guess... But what else? Isn't motherhood, after all, more like a hobby of a successful woman's life – something done on the side as time allows?
I suppose I could not say it better than Pope St. John Paul II did when he wrote this statement about dedicated mothers in Evangelium Vitae:
In living out their mission, these heroic women do not always find support in the world around them. On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood. In the name of progress and modernity, the values of fidelity, chastity and sacrifice to which a host of Christian wives and mothers to which a host of Christian wives and mothers have borne and continue to bear outstanding witness, are presented as obsolete.
Ultimately, as with all things, the marvel of motherhood must be seen in light of eternity. To weigh something in finite terms is entirely misleading. Because our culture is one that is particularly talented at viewing things as if earthly life were infinite in itself, the divine vocation of motherhood is often belittled. Because a mother is a person created in the image of her Heavenly Father, her soul thirsts for Him, and this thirst can only be satisfied by fulfilling her vocation to the full. Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty once wrote, “At the very core of woman's soul is motherhood. All her thoughts center about this. In it she sees her greatest happiness. The more mankind withdraws from God, the more difficult becomes man's task of comprehending and justly evaluating the proper worth of woman.”
In these days where nourishing maternal tasks such as full-time homemaking, baking cookies, nursing a newborn, helping a child with school work or praying the family Rosary are not seen as a means to climbing the ladders of society, Catholics should be challenged to “step up to the plate” and bat for the truth.
This being said, just how can we go about “re-throning” motherhood and giving it its rightful place in the mentality of Catholic culture. It's no easy task. I believe it begins with showing our children the beauty of motherhood from the start. To be the house of an immortal soul crafted so intricately by the Master of the Universe – what more could a creature ask for? Are our girls hearing these things, or are they just being asked what “real” jobs they are going to study for to make a name for themselves? As Pope St. John Paul II continues:
It is also necessary to counter the misconception that the role of motherhood is oppressive to women and that a commitment to her family, particularly to her children, prevents a woman from reaching personal fulfillment and from having influence in society. No response to women's issues can ignore a woman's role in the family or take lightly the fact that every new life is entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying it in the womb.
When I was young, I remember feeling all afire, like I wanted to change the world. I'd often tell people I wanted to make an impact in this world, and be a missionary, or a social worker when I grew up. I don't ever remember thinking once that “changing the world” could be simultaneous with changing diapers, or being a mother. Our culture is a mastermind at keeping the joy and heroism of true motherhood hidden from young women and men.
After college, I did serve as a missionary with Mother Teresa's Sisters for three years, but it wasn't my lifelong vocation. I now serve as a missionary daily in my home, and I am absolutely certain that I am changing the world, one hidden task at a time.
I will never earn a Nobel Peace prize, because I'm just too busy living a life of magnanimous love – learning to respect my husband when he's cross, smiling at tired and whining children, taking care of sick babies all night long and teaching children all about the love of Jesus. As a mother, I will never earn a Nobel Peace prize, perhaps not because mothers don't deserve it, but because others don't realize they do. And of course, if it were up to me, I'd create an official Nobel Prize for Mothers. Or, perhaps that's just what I'm doing now.
In the words of Rosie Gil, a most faithful, traditional mother whose cause is up for canonization, “Hooray for motherhood! To be mother! To train a saint. How awesome!”