My older sister was 2 years my senior. We never got along. As kids, we fought constantly, and she would tell me, “I hated you from the day they brought you home from the hospital.” I said equally hateful things to her.
When my sister graduated from high school, she was still living at home, and we did not speak much to each other. I could barely stand to be in her presence. There were problems between her and my parents, too, though I don’t really remember what the issues were. My mother used to lament that she just didn’t understand her eldest daughter.
Then one day, my sister announced that she was moving out, and that she was going to share an apartment with her boyfriend. My mother was in tears, which was not a common state for her. I hardly ever saw her cry.
Me? I told my mother, “Why are you upset? This is the answer to all our problems!”
Well, now I am a mother, and I know why my mom was so upset.
God gives us a precious gift when he gives us a child. I suppose I have always known that, but I know it more now, as a Catholic mother, than I ever did before. He gives us precious little souls to nurture and protect. It’s our duty to take care of them, to raise them properly, to form their consciences, to teach them the faith.
It’s a big responsibility, but God provides us with so much help, too! Under most circumstances, it is giving birth to a baby that makes a woman a mother; there’s no way to fully prepare for motherhood beforehand. She can take classes, read books, do a lot of babysitting, have younger siblings, etc., but it’s not the same. Having that baby makes her a mother, and she is changed forever. Spiritually, God works wonders in the mother.
Well, I suppose in a way He has just hardwired us to have those motherly inclinations – the instinct to protect that baby, to provide for that baby in the best way possible, to guide and discipline that baby, to give that baby a better life than we ourselves had.
Sometimes we lose sight of the importance of doing what is good for the child’s soul, though. We’re entrenched in the physical realities of this world, and those distract us at times from the fact that the real reality is in Heaven. The temporal goodies of this world are fleeting, but to us they seem like eternity…or at least a long time! When we consider a particular parental decision, it’s easier to discern the right one if we ask what will benefit the child’s soul – not what will make him stop crying, or make him happy, or make him see his parents in a favorable light. That doesn’t always make the decision easier, due to our fallen human nature, but it does help us make the correct choice.
Now, let me make what might seem to be an abrupt change of subject to popes, bishops, and pastors.
All of the same things that apply to parents as the shepherds of their children apply to these ecclesiastical shepherds of all of our souls, don’t they? The parish priest bears much responsibility for the souls of his parishioners; the bishop bears responsibilities for all the souls of his parish (plus those of his priests, to whom he is to be a spiritual father). As for a Pope, the number of souls for whom he may be held accountable is absolutely staggering.
And I thought being a mom was a tough job!