Heaven is brimming with mothers — mothers who lived and loved and have some wisdom for all of us. In honor of Mother’s Day, here is a look at a few life lessons from holy women through the ages whose glorious titles include “mom” as well as “saint.”
God’s Plans Are Perfect
St. Frances of Rome was a wife, mother, friend, prayer warrior, champion of the sick and poor, and founder of a religious community. Born in 1384, she wanted to be a nun, but her parents planned a marriage to a nobleman, the commander of the papal troops in Rome.
Devastated, the young teenager prayed that God would allow her to go to the convent. Her confessor challenged her: “Are you crying because you want to do God’s will or you want God to do your will?”
Humbled, she accepted her parents’ wishes and married. She raised three children, faithfully ran her bustling household, maintained a strong prayer life in the home chapel she established, and practiced works of mercy in hospitals and prisons.
Suffering came to Frances, with her home and family destroyed by both violence, amid political feuding, and the plague. Resolute, she increased her efforts to serve the poor and turned her ruined house into a hospital. With her husband’s blessing, she began a lay order of women called the Oblates of Mary and became the superior, presiding over a home for widowed members, upon her husband’s death. Her childhood dream of religious life had finally been fulfilled — in God’s perfect time.
St. Zélie Martin had desired religious life, too, but the superior of the local convent of St. Vincent de Paul told her, “It was not the will of God.”
God certainly had other plans, as all of her five living daughters would be given the vocation she had not received.
But God knew what he was about, for her devotion to her domestic church helped shape the now-famous “Little Way” of her saint-daughter St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Thérèse’s “way of confidence and love” was rooted in her childhood, which held happy memories of her mother even though Zélie died when the “Little Flower” was 4 years old. The desires of Zélie’s heart, submitted to the Lord, bore better fruit.
God always knows best.
Persistence Pays Off
St. Monica has long been known as a patroness of suffering mothers who seek her prayers as they plead for wayward children — and for good reason.
This fourth-century mom knew how to pray long and well. Although her son, Augustine of Hippo, would become one of the Church’s greatest saints, he once rejected morality and Christianity for mistresses and error. His loose living was a tremendous cross for his devout mother. But she did not give up.
A local bishop reassured her that “God’s time will come.” She was so persistent that he finally had to send her away with this admonition: “Go now, I beg you. It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” She followed her son to Italy when he left home to study, and although he tried to lose her on the way, she resolutely came after him to Rome and then to Milan, fasting and praying as only a mother can. Augustine, looking back on those days in his Confessions, recalled the “rivers flowing down from my mother’s eyes, by which, before (God) and in my behalf, she daily watered the ground beneath her face.”
Monica’s prayerful persistence paid off: Augustine embraced the faith and was baptized during the Easter vigil in 387, when Monica witnessed the birth of eternal life in the child she had delivered into earthly life.
It was what she had prayed for so long. When she died, shortly afterward, her grateful son wrote, “I cannot tell clearly enough what love she had for me and how with greater anguish she brought me forth in spirit than she had given me birth in the flesh.”
Love Is in the Little Things
St. Gianna Molla, a wife and pediatrician, is known for her self-giving love.
When she was pregnant with her fourth child and doctors discovered a tumor in her uterus, she rejected a hysterectomy and opted to have surgery to remove the tumor, insistent that the baby’s life come before her own. Gianna’s daughter was born healthy on April 21, 1962, via cesarean section. Gianna contracted an infection, and after much suffering, she died in her home on April 28, which is now her feast day.
Gianna’s sacrifice was the culmination of a life lived entirely for God and those he sent her way.
“Jesus, I promise to submit to everything that you allow to happen to me. Only help me to know your will,” she wrote in her high-school journal.
And submit she did, upon the deaths of her parents, amid the sorrows of World War II and through the struggles of medical school.
She enjoyed being a part of Catholic Action, giving retreats and talks, and dedicated herself to her medical “mission.” With great Christian compassion, she stressed the dignity of human life and took great care of her patients, always with a smile.
She married and welcomed three children, always striving to balance work and family. Her days were rooted in daily visits to the Blessed Sacrament, to give praise to God, who gave her the strength for all he called her to do.
Gianna’s heroic decision stands out, but she is holy because she loved in the little things. Her whole life was a prayer of praise and a symphony of smaller sacrifices. Her life shows us that our readiness for the bigger sacrifices of life is made possible by our acceptance of every little one God gives us.
May these holy women pray for us and all of the mothers in our lives, and may we learn from their powerful lessons in life and love.
Claire Dwyer blogs about saints, spirituality and the sacred everyday.
She is editor of SpiritualDirection.com and coordinates adult faith formation
at her parish in Phoenix, where she and her husband live with their six children.