“Every vocation to the priesthood comes from the heart of God, but it passes through the heart of a mother.” –St. Pius X
An interview with Father Timothy Hepburn on the lessons he’s learned from his earthly mother and the Blessed Mother.
Describe the role your mother played in your spiritual life growing up.
For me, her greatest spiritual role was not specifically religious. Although she did build a pattern of weekly Mass, meatless Fridays, and religious education into our lives, the greatest impact for me was learning to see beauty and the fragility of things. More specifically, we planted zinnias. Each day we would go out to watch them grow until one day they exploded with bright colors. Another time she found a fragile baby bird who had fallen from the nest and injured its wing. Mom nursed it back to health with squished up worms injected into its beak with an eyedropper. We were so happy when baby bird was reunited with his momma.
Tell me your favorite trait about your mom.
She is genuinely interested in other people.
What is your relationship like with the Blessed Mother? How does she impact your vocation as a priest?
I am part of her family. Her feminine presence encourages me, as it did for Jesus and Saint Joseph, to be a man. She makes sense of celibacy for me as she teaches me how she lived her celibacy with her celibate husband Joseph and her chaste, celibate son, Jesus. She has rescued me many times from being a wimp.
What is one of the most important lessons you've learned from your Heavenly Mother?
Never make assumptions or conclusions about my thoughts, feelings, or desires until I have submitted them to Father, Son, and Spirit and to her Immaculate Heart. Her Immaculate heart was pierced so that these thoughts, feelings, and desires could be revealed in the light of God. When it is revealed that I have believed the lie (again!), I reject it and turn back to God’s Word. When it is revealed that I am hearing God, I follow as my Savior and his Mother, my mother, always did.
Can you offer your brief thoughts on the importance of motherhood?
Natural motherhood is irreplaceable, even though so many forces do their best to relativize its importance to many other forms of family. But natural motherhood is not the only motherhood. And this was announced by Jesus when he said that those who do God’s will are mother, and brother, and sister to him. I thank God for my mother, and all of my spiritual mothers over the years.
Father Timothy Hepburn is the Pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church in Gainesville, Georgia