Sunday, 10 May 2015

Nulliparous Emergency Message Board

Saint Edith (Teresa), pray for us!
Happy Mothers Day to all the spiritual mothers among my readers.

If you are Single and really don't want to stay that way, or married and living with infertility, plus living in a country which celebrates Mothers Day today, today may feel particularly rough.

Therefore, feel free to vent in the comments box if your feelings become overwhelming.

As I mentioned yesterday, our western cultures are increasingly hostile to women--even married women in stable marriages!--who have more than two children. However, motherhood itself is held up by Catholic communities as THE great blessing for women, as well as an admirable state in which to practice loving self-sacrifice etc. (This completely ignores the fact that the greatest possible vocation for a Catholic woman, after martyrdom, is religious life as a consecrated virgin, like my friend Sister Mary Thomas, OSB.) And in the classical American mindset, it's just as all-American as God and apple pie. Thus, it can feel very hard--very very hard--to be left out of a club one dearly wants to join.

However, you are already in it by virtue of your adult femininity. All women are mothers, and all women deserve to have their motherhood honoured. The greatest philosopher-saint to write knowledgeably about women as women was Saint Edith Stein, and you can find part of my essay on her theology of woman here. (You can find it in Polish here.)

One bracing instruction I have is to remember that Catholic women without children are no more at war with Catholic women who have children than Catholic married women are with Catholic Single women. (And believe me I know that the married mothers sometimes need to be reminded of that, too.) We are not opposed; we are in different regiments. They have their God-given gifts and tasks, and we have ours.

Another is more of a suggestion. This is a good day to tell your own American or Canadian spiritual mothers that they are your spiritual mothers and why. (My day is now Mothering Sunday, Gaudete Sunday in Lent, so don't worry about me!)

The combox is open, and if the worst happens at Mass, remember Sheila.

P.S. Priests really hate it when women come up to them weeping after Mass to tell them they made them cry.... Not that I'm saying you should.... La la la. But, honestly, this annual sheep/goat division at Mass has really got to stop.

Update: Thank you very much to Julia for the Mother's Day present (an Amazon gift certificate). What a nice surprise! It turns out it is Mother's Day in Australia and New Zealand, too.

41 comments:

  1. Perhaps because I'm only 24, Mothers' Day doesn't hurt toooo bad. Ask me again when I'm 35. I'll probably be mega-PO'd.

    Out of necessity, I attended my local OF parish this morning. Yes, there were flowers for the mothers, and yes, there was an all-mothers-stand-for-a-blessing thingo at the end, but the homily was not about mothers, and all women were mentioned during the prayers of the faithful, AND there was a prayer printed in the bulletin that mentioned women whose desires for motherhood have not been fulfilled. So it wasn't the worst it could possibly be.

    If I am ever a mother, I won't stand for the blessing.

    For me, the worst thing is probably the Facebook engagement announcements, pregnancy announcements, baby pictures and wedding pictures. I remember a few years ago that there was some app you could install that would replace all baby pictures on your newsfeed with pictures of something else, like flowers. At the time, I remember some Catholic news sites frothing at the mouth about this being yet another proof of the anti-child Culture of Death. For sure, some people would have used the app to remove loathsome, horrible, resource-consuming children from sight, but I wasn't really prepared to bash everyone who downloaded the app. I think there would have been childless people whose hearts just couldn't take seeing another adorable newborn photo.

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    1. I totally agree with you on the app, Julia! You know, I really don’t think people-in-general are as terribly anti-baby as a lot of Catholics like to think.

      Recently on facebook, someone posted a picture of a cute little package that some parents had put together for the other people on board a flight they took. It had earplugs, a treat of some sort and a little note that read something to the effect of ‘I’m six months old, so I might get a little cranky today, and I’m sorry if I bother you!’

      I thought it was adorable and thoughtful, but you wouldn’t believe the outrage this generated among Catholic parents. How dare anyone make parents feel like a screaming baby is an inconvenience to others?? How dare anyone do anything but praise parents for having children and bringing them with them wherever they wish???

      I’m not saying it’s okay to be nasty to parent who’s child is screaming-of course it isn’t-but I’ve yet to find anyone who can explain why we’re supposed to be lauding parents to the sky for patiently enduring their own baby’s screaming and keeping them awake, but yet if anyone dare suggest that listening to someone else’s baby scream for hours isn’t the most pleasant thing on earth, they’re suddenly a horrible baby-hater. Gah.

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    2. Oh man. You wonder how parents have the time to comment-rant on the internet, seeing as they "have no time for myself anymore".

      This whole kids-on-planes thing is way out of control.

      Kids cry, parents should soothe them if possible, and if it's not, then everybody should just put up with it, and parents should realise that people are being kindly tolerant of their kids. Simple.

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    3. Parents rant for the same reason everybody in this comment section is ranting - sometimes it makes you feel better to get it off your chest. Yes people should be tolerant of babies crying on planes but the sad reality is, some people just aren't. Some people do seem to think that parents should never travel with or go out in public with their children. They seem to come out of the woodwork and comment whenever that picture of the earplugs is sent around. Let's all just try to be a little sensitive to each other's lot on life. I don't ever say to a single person that they should be happy they have so much freedom, can sleep in etc and shouldn't complain. I think it's nice in turn not to say to struggling mothers that they should be happy they have kids and that it isn't as hard as they say it is so stop complaining.

      Aussie girl in NZ

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    4. "I think it's nice in turn not to say to struggling mothers that they should be happy they have kids and that it isn't as hard as they say it is so stop complaining."

      Yeah, except...I, uh, didn't actually say that.

      As for people who complain about children being children in public? I think there are two basic types of those people -- the ones who were raised with "children should be seen and not heard", and the ones whose biggest hardship in life has been listening to a crying child for twenty minutes. And you are right -- that second type can be a problem these days, I think.

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    5. Ouch. I did not say that either, Aussie Girl, and I would never, ever dream of telling a mother to stop complaining, because at least she has kids. :( I'm the oldest of 11, and believe me, I know what a sacrifice babies are, and I know how mean some people can be to parents.

      All I was try to do was say that people don't hate babies as much as Catholics think they do sometimes. I'm sorry if it came across a little too ranty, but I was a little frustrated, and I thought this was a safe place to be able vent a little to other singles/childless without having to worry about moms popping out to chastise me for not having enough compassion for struggling moms. :'(

      If I had realized there were also moms reading/commenting, I wouldn't have posted it.

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    6. Oh, and, yes, Julia, I definitely agree with your second comment. :) Babies cry on planes, and people should be patient.

      I just loved the thoughtfulness and creativity of those parents. :)

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    7. Book lover, I didn't think you lacked compassion for struggling moms (and I am a mom, though mostly only struggling with puking too much from pregnancy). I agree with your comments in the previous post about mothers getting a lot of support from the catholic community, if not the wider community.

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    8. Oh, blast. Only saw these now. Aussie Girl in NZ is a long-term reader who used to be Single and how has been married for a while.

      Aussie Girl, nobody was interested in insulting you or hurting your feelings. This post was specifically for those childless women who suffer feelings of loss and/or loneliness (etc) on Mothers' Day.

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  2. Thank you so much for this, Auntie Seraphic!!! And thank you for being an amazing spiritual mother!! I had a rather hard thing happen this past week (re: family/baby stuff) and I thought about all of your advice and the fact that you pray for your readers and was immensely cheered.

    The priest who said Mass this morning did a lovely job of making sure that he didn't leave any women out of the blessing (that he gave while everyone was standing for the final blessing). While the effect was a little odd (he said something about women who carried a baby at any stage), it was so sweet.

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  3. All priests who go out of their way to mention spiritual motherhood today, and women who want to be mothers but aren't, should be especially thanked after Mass. Or emailed later with "Thank you!" as the subject heading.

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  4. Our sermon today was on Mary, Mother of the Church.
    AgedP

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  5. My (single) sister took my niece to mass this morning and was given a rise afterwards. She tried to turn it down, saying she was her aunt, and the guy said she deserved one anyway.

    Apparently we did the stand for a blessing thing, but I was in the back puking (morning sickness/hyperemesia like Kate Middleton). So there's that.

    Last year I wished many friends without biological children happy Mother's Day (and even bought the above sister chocolate). This year one of those friends wrote on Facebook "if you are thinking of thanking me for my spiritual motherhood, please don't. I will slap you." So I can't win.

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  6. And i think we will all feel bad for you AND have a giggle that you were throwing up during the Standing for a Blessing. But why did you not stay and throw up on the priest's shoes?!?!?!

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  7. You seem to exercise spiritual motherhood in a particular way just through this bog even, in the sense of offering guidance often to others.

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  8. May I just tell you how much I like you all? Especially the comments on this post. Thank you, Auntie Seraphic, for creating this cosy little corner of the internet.
    I listened to a sermon today that was all about how much mothers do for their children, how much work they have, and how thankful everybody should be for their mother… Which I am, because my mother is great. But I don’t need to get reminded of that at church (the flower and chocolate industry does that sufficiently these days). Does any priest ever give a sermon about how great fathers are? I have never heard one. Today I thought mostly of my brother, whose wife left him and who is now looking after their four little kids more or less alone and tries to fill both the father and the mother role. And I wondered how many people were in the congregation who have a very bad relationship with their mother.
    End of short rant. I wish you all a very happy Mother’s day! :D

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    1. Thank you for your rant! I wonder how the childless married men feel on Mothers Day during the "Stand and be Appaluded" ritual when their wives can't stand. How very sad for your brother! I will pray for him in my evening prayers tonight.

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    2. Thank you, that is very nice of you! He really needs every prayer he can get.

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  9. Thank reminds me, I prayed very hard at Mass for all my childless readers, and also for women who have had miscarriages or who lost their babies after they were born. Oh dear, how sad Mother's Day can be. Well, I hope it was nice for MY mother.

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  10. I am happy to report that there was no standing of the mothers for a blessing at Mass today. Mothers were remembered in the Prayers of the Faithful "living and deceased, and for all women who nourish us spiritually" which makes me think our priest has been reading your blog on the sly! And then my husband wished me happy Mother's Day during the Sign of Peace even though we have no children. So, all in all, not a bad day but a beautiful one!

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  11. No standing at our Mass but I couldn't have stood anyway. Still recovering from c- section which makes standing very painful. I did have my boys send Mother's Day cards to their Godmothers, thanking them for their prayers. We had a general sermon about sacrificial love which mentioned mothers but other forms of that too.
    I took your advice, Aunty Seraphic, and spoke very clearly to my husband about what I needed him to do for Mother's Day and it totally worked so thanks for that!

    Aussie girl in NZ

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    1. Oh, Aussie Girl, good for you for all those things! (C-section, though. Eeeek!) Mother's Day cards from Godsons are a very nice idea, although definitely they should come from the Godsons themselves! But most of all, I am glad you told your husband what you needed. Good! After twenty years, he might figure it out for himself, but you never know with men. So terrible at mind-reading. (Sigh.)

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    2. Well since they are ages 22 months and 3 months they need a bit of help in sending cards. My hope is that if we make it a yearly ritual they will eventually do it themselves :-)

      Aussie girl in NZ

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  12. We had a "bow your head for a special blessing" at mass today, while we were all standing. So that was fine. At our parish mission, the priest wished a happy mother's day to mothers, grandmothers, and greatgrandmothers. And then he mentioned spiritual mothers. My elation was quickly squashed when he followed that with "I see some religious sisters here tonight." Sigh. Once again, I felt like I missed the vocation train. I really appreciate this blog on days like these! There's also a nice article being shared by Catholics on facebook that addresses all types of mothers and is very validating to all women in all their joys and sorrows. If I can find a URL I will share.

    -CS in the US

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  13. And the URL...scroll to item #2. Beautiful. http://timewarpwife.com/open-letter-pastors-non-mom-speaks-mothers-day/

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  14. newlywed housewife11 May 2015 at 04:10

    We were visiting my in-laws, with whom we have a rather challenging relationship, so we were at a parish we go to only very rarely (In-laws aren't Catholic, but they go with us when we visit). Everything was lovely, with no mention of Mother's Day at all, until the end of Mass, when not only did they do the blessing, but asked around for the mother with the youngest child to present her with flowers and notified all "current and expectant" mothers that there was a gift for them. At that point, I started crying, because even though I'm youngish and haven't been married long, I'm having to do quite a bit of work medically speaking to even entertain the possibility of bearing my own children, whom I want very badly indeed. And on top of that, I started my cycle this weekend, so am clearly not pregnant, but very hormonal...it was bad, and all my poor sweet husband could do in front of his parents (who know none of this) was to hold my hand and squeeze it lovingly. I was so sad it even put me off wanting to wish my own mother, who is lovely and deserves all kinds of recognition, a happy day. I did, though, and will commiserate with her about the sadness tomorrow over coffee (she is quite sympathetic to my lady parts woes)

    Thank you, Auntie, for a safe space on the internet to vent

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    1. Dear Newlywed Housewife, I am so sorry that happened to you. How well I know the cycle-starting heartbreak. Hang in there sweetie. It sounds like your husband is there for you, so that is very, very good.

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  15. There was a special blessing at the end "for all mothers, expectant mothers, and spiritual mothers." Between being particularly peeved for the last couple days, and figuring I might as well stand as a spiritual mother, I did. God knows there's enough young men I've got to pray through seminary and ordination. The only saving grace to the entire Mass was the solid homily, that had absolutely nothing to do with Mother's day or fall into heresy (a big improvement over the rest of the week).

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    1. Good for you for standing! Whoo-hoo!

      Since I have not mentioned this for the past two days, I will point out that these made-up Stand-for-the-Blessing-and-Here's-a-Flower shenanigans do not happen at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

      Meanwhile, the "Prayer over the Bride" (hee hee hee) in the N. O. wedding service (and maybe it comes from the E.F., admittedly) --there is no prayer for the groom--gives the slightest impression that the woman has Gone Off the Rails by getting married instead of deciding to stay a virgin and is now at risk of some horrible fate. Personally, I liked the extra attention the bride gets during the wedding service, although really at the end of the day I wish I had taken more trouble about my hair. Sigh.

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    2. How did the Standing-Ovation-Flower shenanigans become so widespread in the OF though? I'm not puzzled that a bunch of priests decided to play fast and loose with the Liturgy -- I'm surprised they all did it the same way. Do they have, like, annual conventions where they discuss New Ideas For Staying Relevant?

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    3. Apparently there is a legit OF Mother's Day blessing for mothers, but as for the Stand Up and Be Applauded, plus flowers, plus whatever else--who knows?! Three quarters of what priests came up with for the liturgy during and after Vatican II had no mandate from Vatican II. They made stuff up and it spread like wildfire.

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    4. No standing up blessing from the EF Mass I attended yesterday, but they were selling roses for Mother's day outside, proceeds to go to the local crisis pregnancy center. The homily, though, was about the power of prayer; it was a visiting priest, and I've heard him preach before, and it's one of his go-to topics.)

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    5. No standing up blessing from the EF Mass I attended yesterday, but they were selling roses for Mother's day outside, proceeds to go to the local crisis pregnancy center. The homily, though, was about the power of prayer; it was a visiting priest, and I've heard him preach before, and it's one of his go-to topics.)

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    6. I tried to make it to my regular EF, but it didn't happen. Ever since learning about the EF's extra prayers for the bride, if I ever get married, I'll make sure it's in the EF because I need all the prayers.
      Attending daily Mass at the same church today, a different priest had to point out that yesterday was Mother's Day and to make his belated wishings of happiness. And I wondered if anyone cares about belated father's day.

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    7. I always say that it takes adult men three years of seminary to learn what girls instinctively know from the playground. But in some cases they still don't get it. I remember a seminarian telling me, his eyes wide in shock, about a woman who came weeping up to his priest-friend who had given a hearty homily about how great mothers are to tell him how awful her mother was. "If you can't give a homily on Mothers, what can you give a homily about?" he wondered, and I thought, "Buddy, do YOU have a lot to learn about women!"

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  16. Thank you Seraphic, and all other spiritual mothers, for your care and prayers. A great blessing to the church to have your nurturing of those often overlooked by the church family.

    I was thrilled that our fantastic young polynesian priest gave a blessing for all mothers, but did not ask them to stand (which has been past practice) after he was asked not to prior to mass (and reasons given). It does seem to be sinking in... :)

    Newlywed housewife - I'm sorry to hear of the challenges you are facing, but at least your husband is with you in mass! That's a great joy. A sad aspect at our parish is the number of mothers you think are widows until their husband turns up for an occasional Easter or Christmas mass. I often think how hard that must be for them.

    Aussie Girl - haha, yeh, you may have to spell it out in capitals for your hubby. Antipodean males not known for our mind-reading skills, proven every Valentines Day and Mothers Day, and wedding anniversaries, birthdays, ... ooops! sorry. Congrats on the new baby too :)

    Magdalena - our priests normally give encouraging sermons on fathers at Fathers Day.

    Southern Bloke.

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  17. A day late, but I wanted to say thank you to Shelia, whom I remembered during the awful moments of the sheep-from-goats stand/sit blessing. I looked around at all the (older than I) women, some sitting with husbands, and prayed for them. I do wish priests would be more attentive to the statistically-likely high numbers of women who suffer from regret of an abortion, in addition to those who are infertile, had miscarriages, etc. I plan to write or speak kindly to the pastor about it, but was too emotional yesterday to do so. Thanks, Seraphic, for the community of solidarity and Shelia, for stubbornly sitting with us.

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  18. You're welcome. And as tomorrow is Tuesday that is a good day for people to email their priests to say "Thank for mentioning spiritual mothers!" or "Dear Father, I don't know if you noticed the faces of the married women who had to sit when the others were asked to stand..."

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