In this series, Women and Men for Others, I’ve invited people I’ve met over the years to share what God has made known to them about how to use their gifts and life experiences for the good of others, truly putting their prayer into action and living the Ignatian principle of being a person for and with others. This week, my friend and fellow spiritual director-turned-author, Lauren Burdette, shares about the spiritual path of Motherhood. Lauren embodies the spirit of being a woman for others, making her mission helping others explore how everyday life can be a way to connect with God.
My four-year-old daughter loves her blankies almost as much as Linus loves his. Two tattered grey squares that were once white and pink, swaddle blankets from her infancy that have become her most treasured companions, she does not part from them easily. When she started preschool in the fall, she could only leave them behind if she knew they were well cared for. Each morning she would deliver detailed instructions for their care. “They are going to miss me, so you will have to rock them and sing to them. Feed them blankie food in the kitchen when they are hungry. When they get sleepy, read them a story and then tuck them in.” I would solemnly promise to take good care of blankies in her absence. As soon as she returned from school, she would go over the list once more, making sure I had followed her instructions.
The steps of caring for her blankies echo the steps she has seen me follow every day as I care for her and her brothers: feed them good food, read them stories, tuck them in when they are sleepy, cuddle and sing to them when they are sad. I feel silly as I tuck her blankies into her bed and pull the curtains closed. I also feel awe at my daughter’s tender expression of love. I can see how the love I pour out for my children is being received, taken in, and then poured back out. It is a tiny glimpse into how my mothering is an act of service for others.
Sometimes it is hard for me to see what difference the hidden hours I spend with my children might make in the world. It can be much easier to recognize my work as a spiritual director as a place I am living as a woman for others, as I give of myself and bear witness to God’s love in the lives of my directees. It can feel like the truly holy work in my life is the work I do away from my children.
And yet, Jesus says the second greatest command is to love others as ourselves. And He says that whatever we do for the least among us, we do for Him. What better place could there be to practice loving service than with these small, chaotic, joyous beings I share my life with? Where else do I give of myself until I am poured out completely? Parenting is holy ground. It is an act of loving service, a training ground of living for others. And sometimes, like when our children model the best of our actions in their care for others – a friend, a sibling, even a blankie – we get to see the fruit of this holy life of service.
- If you are a parent, what might it be like to see your parenting as place of living for others? How would that change your perspective on the time you spend with your children? Are there moments that you have seen your children embodying the loving care you give them? Take a moment to savor these memories, and to listen for what God might wish to say through them.
- Lauren writes about how seemingly foolish moments can be places of living a life of service. Are there playful spaces in your life that are also places of living for others?
- Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27 // Love your neighbor as yourself
- Matthew 25: 31-46 // Whatever you do for the least of these
- Luke 13:34 // Jesus expresses desire to gather Jerusalem to him as a mother hen gathers her flock under her wings
- Lauren’s book, This Life That Is Ours: Motherhood as Spiritual Practice provides a retreat in daily life for moms, creating space to explore how becoming a mother can draw you closer into the heart of God.
- Read Lauren’s blogpost with imaginative reflection on how motherhood is a place of service for the least of these.
- Listen to podcast episode: A conversation about motherhood as spiritual practice between Lauren and Barbara Mahany, author of Motherprayer: Lessons in Loving.
- Mother’s Day brings complex feelings for many. These beautiful prayers for and by mothers remind us that we can always turn to God in prayer.
- More about people for others: Watch this video from Loyola Press explaining more about this Ignatian principle and Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who coined the term.
- Be a part of the Women and Men for Others series. Share with us about a person who is an example to you of what being a person for others means via this simple Google form. Watch for us to share submissions on social media!
Cultivating Space for God Together:
- I’m in Canada soon! On May 15 I’ll be at the Calgary Catholic Leadership Retreat.
- Will you be at the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership on May 20? Come see me! I’ll be facilitating a Retreat Day.
- Lake Tahoe! I’m doing two events in the beautiful Lake Tahoe area June 14-15.
- On June 29 I’m leading the SJA Parent and Alumnae Retreat on Making Hope Real at St Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge.
- I’ll be in Atlanta on August 17 for the Atlanta Catechist Conference
- Join me for a Silent Women’s Retreat August 22-25th near Baton Rouge, LA