Nurturing Mothers: New Books for the New Year
A heart that beats for others. Love without limits. Nurturing the next generation. That is the call to motherhood.
It is a supernatural call that needs spiritual sustenance to live out in union with our Creator. Here are three new books for the new year that nourish that call with inspiration, saintly role models, and prayers for a mother’s heart, mind and soul.
Motherhood: An Extraordinary Vocation, by Kathryn Rombs
Little children seemed burdensome to Kathryn Rombs growing up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Her privileged upbringing by a mother enrolled in the Woman’s Hall of Fame and friends with feminist Gloria Steinem could have led in quite another direction rather than converting to Catholicism and mothering six children. The philosophy professor and founder of Mighty Is Her Call ministry also could have taken her book in a very different direction — contrasting motherly love against those who eschew or minimize it. Rombs mentions the difference only briefly: “But one thing many of the feminists of the 1970s got wrong was that they left behind motherhood.” Then she focuses on the discovery of motherhood as an individual masterpiece of choices leading to a fulfilling and fruitful life.
Once she realized — thanks to insights by her future husband — that marriage and family is a vocation, Rombs entered into a new realm of possibilities. She began savoring the dignity of motherhood, recognizing the Mother of God as the pinnacle, but without saying motherhood is idyllic. “… We can see at least some of our struggles as part of our rich and fascinating human experience, an integral part of a successful life,” she writes.
To help make motherly choices, Rombs introduces Ignatius discernment, understanding consolations and desolations. “A consolation is the interior movement of the soul in which the soul is inflamed with the love of God, and when no created good can compete for our highest love,” she explains. “Consolation can be any increase in faith, hope, and love.” Conversely, Rombs identifies desolation as things leading to darkness, disturbances, or turning one from love or confidence into things that lead to sadness and away from God.
Motherhood is a progressive choice, Rombs notes, ever changing but always with prompts to live a life of love. She points to Aristotle’s definition of “flourishing” through self-understanding and to the examples of several mothers who were saints. There is also an explanation of St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s “Little Way” of offering sacrifices, which “can equip mothers to make every moment of motherhood an act of love that is hugely pleasing to God and a path to union with him.”
Ultimately, Rombs explains that our vocations play an active role in building a civilization of love.
She often quotes her hero, Pope St. John Paul II, who coined the term “feminine genius” to express women’s roles as crucial to the salvation of peace in our world: “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.”
And regardless of whether they stay home or head out to work, in every case, Rombs contends that all mothers are called to give themselves completely to the vocation that will bring attainment of the highest good, which ultimately is God. Thus, she says, “The culture needs to take a quantum leap in how it sees motherhood, not as a setback, but as a way forward; not as a threat, but as a benefit.”
Saintly Moms: 25 Stories of Holiness, by Kelly Ann Guest
Focusing on the lives of Catholic saints who were mothers, Kelly Ann Guest weaves flesh-and-blood examples of holiness into mothering. Guest was once a Dominican sister before feeling called to family life. She is now a middle-school teacher, works with pregnant teens, and is a mother of 10 children.
Her book includes some well-known favorite mom saints, such as the Blessed Mother, St. Anne, St. Monica, St. Zélie Martin and St. Gianna Molla, but also many obscure saints with fascinating tales of motherhood.
For instance, St. Gladys, a princess, lived in Wales during the late-fifth and early-sixth century. This king’s daughter was kidnapped by another king, but happily married him and abandoned her Christian faith. Together, they lived a life of piracy, much like an ancient Bonnie and Clyde on the run.
Influenced by a monk, their son Cadoc was a faithful Catholic who prayed for his parents’ conversion and those of his siblings. Gladys saw the error in her ways and helped to convert her husband. Together, they built many churches and monasteries in Wales, becoming peaceful and just monarchs. The converted couple ended their lives in prayer, fasting and much sacrifice. Her husband, St. Gwynllyw, their son Cadoc and some of the other children also became canonized saints.
Another princess was St. Theneva, who lived in Scotland during the sixth century and conceived a son through rape. Her father tried to have her killed. Instead, she gave birth to Kentigern, and they were cared for by another saint, St. Serf. Eventually, her son became a saint and a missionary, and St. Theneva married a prince and gave birth to five more sons.
There is also the story of Blessed Marianna Biernacka, who gave her life in place of her daughter-in-law when Nazi soldiers came to their Polish village and ultimately killed her by firing squad.
Themes include unplanned and difficult pregnancies, difficult spouses, illness, sacrifice, wayward children, busyness and work.
The Ave Prayer Book for Catholic Mothers, by Ave Maria Press
Prayer is intrinsic to answering God’s call to mothers. This book is a spiritual lifeline, from dealing with one’s daily reality to spiritual awakening and comfort. It includes traditional prayers and favorites such as St. Padre Pio’s “Stay with Me,” prompting moms to walk with Our Lord, step by step.
In this compilation, mothers share pain and joy, creating a spiritual sisterhood of inspiration and consolation. Leticia Ochoa Adams reflects that the beauty of the Hail, Holy Queen prayer carried her through difficult times, especially in the unthinkable aftermath of her oldest son’s suicide. “… To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears …”
Heidi Hess Saxton adapted the Hail Mary to her own contemplation put to music.
“Dear Jesus, show me your face, that I may be full of grace. … Blest are you among women. Won’t you bless your daughter too? Please hear me now. Pray with me through this dark night, till we all reach heaven’s light.”
“The Nine Annoying Things Novena” by Jennifer Fitz suggests offering up aggravating things for one’s prayer intentions — one per day — to knit together a nine-day novena. She shows it is humorous and holy to offer up motherhood’s daily crosses and use them to advance one’s way to the kingdom of God.
Mother of God, pray for mothers!
Kathryn Rombs has appeared on At Home With Jim and Joy. Order the episode, Item: AH536, at EWTNRC.com or (800) 854-6316.