I was once told, by a priest, upon learning that I wasn't interested in getting married and having children, that without that desire for biological motherhood, I could not be a good religious sister.
I'd be lying if I said that his comments did not have a detrimental effect on my vocational discernment. From that very moment, I think I stopped really discerning, because if what he said was true, then it was not possible for me to be a religious. It was a slammed door that left me in limbo.
I didn't understand at that time what "spiritual motherhood" was, or that the intuition that I was not called to be a mother in the biological sense was actually not a sign of "not being good enough" for Jesus, but should have been a sign to both me and that priest to look more deeply into God's designs. Instead, for a couple years, I walked away, certain that, since I didn't want children, I couldn't possibly be wanted by Jesus Himself. I went away sad, thinking that something was very, very wrong with me; so much so that God Himself would reject me if I truly sought Him.
Now, to be fair to the priest, he came from a different culture, and I honestly believe that his own cultural experience and perhaps faulty formation, or even lack of ability to communicate what he really meant was not adequate to address what I was really seeking at that time. It is years later now, and I don't think badly of the priest, nor should any of you. But that doesn't change the fact of my experience and what went through my head, my heart, and straight to my soul at that time...and in the years following that terrible and destructive conversation.
I suspect that this has happened to other women, perhaps to be blamed upon the confusion brought about by radical feminism which has done so much damage to so many souls. There is a huge difference between a woman who senses from her very soul that she is not called to motherhood versus a woman who outright rejects motherhood for selfish reasons. For my part, I was once one of the latter, but when I finally began seeking God, even though I didn't think I wanted children, I told God over and over again that I would trust in His decision for me. At that moment, I opened to life, if called to marriage.
I do not at heart think, even now, that I am called to marriage. I have no interest in marriage, nor in dating. I am not looking for "a partner" of any sort. That's not to say I'm not attracted to men! On the contrary! Gosh, every so often I meet a guy and lose about a hundred IQ points, and in the most RANDOM of places! This is actually a sign that I am actually a very normal woman!
However, though, along with that lack of call to marriage, I also am not bothered by the fact that I will never have children. I love children, and they seem to love me, but I don't mope around pining for a little bundle of joy or the pitter-patter of little feet. Now, when I hear people in certain camps suggest that women who don't sense that draw are somehow disordered, I look more closely at the source, and find that their beliefs don't line up with Catholic teaching on the nature of Vocation.
We are all called to something. Because of that, it means, obviously that we are NOT called to other things. Not every woman is called to be a biological mother. Not every man is called to be a biological father.
None of this is new for the faithful Catholic who prays every day, or even every week, for Vocations to the priesthood and/or religious life. This is one of the most beautiful teachings of the Church; that God calls us all out of eternity to fulfill a particular mission with regard to Salvation of souls, and as part and parcel of that Mission He calls us to a specific Vocation with which to live it out and find our way to Him ourselves.
It took me a long time to really understand that spiritual motherhood has its own call, one separate, but which is an important counterpart to the other call to biological motherhood. Each facet supports the other. One cannot be a true spiritual mother and support abortion. One cannot be a biological mother and reject spiritual motherhood.
As created beings, we have within us the desire to reproduce, to co-create with God. We all have this creative force within us, this incredible creative ability. Especially as women, we recognize that, if called to biological motherhood, God touches us at a very certain point and creates new life. Not just a combination of DNA, but an entirely new SOUL to infuse the DNA, imprinting upon it His own likeness and image! It is a miracle, it is a tender moment begotten out of the Divine love of God!
Ah, yes, procreation is a beautiful thing! Only our Salvation through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ is more stunning!
For me, though, although I appreciate the beauty of new life, I do not desire it for myself. Every so often I experience a twinge of regret and anew, search my soul for the meaning of this, looking for defect. Unfortunately, I find many defects, and it is very discouraging.
What I forget to look for is the beauty in my own state in life, and the beauty of, as a friend put it once, "being set aside". In the Bible, many women were "set aside". Not out of ignorance, but for a special purpose. It's not an occasion of Pride, but rather a recognition of something different, something particular for which they have been created. In my case, it doesn't matter that I don't yet understand what that is. What matters is that I realize there are legitimate options, and those options do not depend upon me, or come from me, or glorify me. No. They all glorify God.
Tonight I was watching a random TV show, and I admit I felt a twinge when considering the family and children on the show. It wasn't a twinge of jealousy or the sense of that proverbial "biological clock."
Instead, it revealed to me the nature of Vocation, fully in union with the Mission of the Church. In that moment, I understood what the Single life is lacking and why it isn't a Vocation, and can never be so.
I've said before, and I say it now, drawing from solid Catholic resources: a Vocation involves a formal Consecration, a Vow. Anything that floats around without an anchor is just a temporary state. The Church, for this reason, recognizes only Three Vocations: Priesthood, Marriage, and Religious Life (Consecrated Life). There are some forms of Consecrated Life that do not involve living in community, and I suspect this is why some people mistake it as a "Single Vocation". It is not. Consecrated Virgins and Eremitics are not "Single" in the Vocational sense; they are formally espoused to Christ Himself.
They are not dangling participles. That's what I am, and I hang out with question marks.
The Consecration of each Vocational state in life is linked to permanency, and thus, a certain responsibility. Something, or more commonly, someone in their charge. It had a particular charism, and a specific Apostolate, or in the case of the Priesthood, a ministry.
A parent is confirmed in their Vocation through their children, who were co-created by them and depend upon them. They are responsible for them.
A Priest is the spiritual Father to a congregation, and even beyond. He is a spiritual Father to any soul that comes his way...any soul.
A Religious, be it Sister or Brother, or Consecrated Virgin or Hermit, likewise; there is spiritual parenthood present within their area of responsibility.
I know that what is lacking in my life is that area of formal responsibility. We all desire, inherently, even unconsciously, to leave a legacy. For some that is biological, which implies also the spiritual. For others, it is simply spiritual, and when the focus is on that, it is still just as important, if secondary to biological life.
Tonight I looked around and realized that I am lacking because I am not directly responsible for anyone. I have a house, I have stuff, I have a dog. Anyone can pay for 4 walls and care for a dog. Although I pray for priests, and have "adopted" a few, that doesn't mean I'm Consecrated to that purpose. I've made no formal vows. I don't have any formal obligations outside of those of any other person in the secular world.
I'm not directly responsible for another human life, or by extension, their soul.
That is at the heart of a Vocation; Responsibility. Chosen and accepted responsibility. It is a calling, only to be followed by a choice; to reject or accept.
For now, I am in waiting, and I accept that fact. I see this sign of desiring to be responsible as a mark of Grace. That is not to say I am immature for my age (although that may be quite true!), but rather, a sign that in the order of grace, in the order of God's plan for Salvation, that I have been in formation under His hand and perhaps am nearing the next level.
No one becomes a parent from infancy.
Do not take these thoughts as dogma, but only the musings of a woman who once thought she had the world in her hands, only to realize the joke was on her.