Motherhood is one of those indispensable positions. We really can't do without it. The same is true of fatherhood. Catholics hold that every child has a right to a mother and a father. Although some instances make this impossible, outside of anyone's control, to purposefully deprive a child of either parent is to violate their rights and to act contrary to their dignity. We each begin life as a child, with a calling to be sons and daughters. As we grow older we gain a new vocation, to be mothers and fathers. This is universal to every person who has ever or will ever live.
A vocation is a calling, it is what you are called to be. We each have many vocations. Some people are called to be priests, they have a priestly vocation. Some people are called to be doctors, having a medical vocation. Every little boy is called to be a son and every little girls is called to be a daughter. As we travel through life we discover ever more vocations. Our very first vocation is to be children and we never grow out of our vocations, for heaven belongs to such as these.
Vocations are never callings to receive, they are always callings to give, to the gift of self. As children we gave ourselves in trust and obedience. We trusted our parents and teachers to guide us and so we obeyed them. In so doing we gave up our own desires and gave ourselves over to them. As adults we gained a new calling, to be more than children, to be parents. Every man is called to be a father and every woman is called to be a mother. Not necessarily a biological father or mother. If this were it would make life awkward for Catholic nuns and monks and priests. It would also be very unfair to those men and women who can't have children.
Nevertheless, all men and women are called to a type of motherhood or fatherhood. We are called to give ourselves to those who may find themselves under our authority, to be worthy of the trust they are called to place in us, to guide for their sake and not for our own. This is the servant leadership Christ taught us. We so often think that having the position of power entitles us to privilege and honor, it makes us better than those we have authority over, but Christ came as one who serves. You see, the essence of God is love and the essence of love is humility, to place another before ourselves. This is the essence of being a parent, to wield whatever power you may have for the good of another.
The president may think he is the ruler of the free world, but the truth is your parish priest has more real power in his pointer fingers and thumbs than the United States President has in the whole of his office. However, the priest does not seek to force his will on others or enrich himself at their expense. Rather, he pledges himself to poverty, chastity and obedience. In his voice is found the greatest power ever bestowed on mortal man, and yet he does not benefit from it in the slightest. He wields it only for the good of others. This is why we call him father.
Within the womb of a woman is found another great power. The power to bring forth life. A man is necessary for the first fifteen minutes or so, but after that his involvement is more or less voluntary. It is within the woman's womb that this new life finds incarnation, where it is nurtured for nine months, where the mother literally gives herself to her child, providing it with her own nutrients and sheltering it within her own body. The relationship between a mother and child for that first year of life is the purest embodiment of what it means to be a mother.
Within the Church we find nuns and religious sisters, women who have pledged themselves to be be the mothers of the world. They give themselves to God in the three vows or solemn promises of poverty, chastity and obedience. In this way they give themselves not only to God, but to us as well. Although they will never be biological mothers to anyone they become spiritual mothers to all.
To give ourselves in love, for the good of others, is to find the meaning of our existence. For adults, this means to be a parent. Sometimes to our own biological children, sometimes by adoption and sometimes to some person we have never met before and may never see again. This willingness to be a parent is more than just something we do on occasion, it is a state of being. You don't get to be a mom or a dad on a part time basis. Every moment of every day must contain the willingness to be a parent to whomever may have need of us.
This is part of the reason the Church opposes contraception. When we create physical barriers to pregnancy in the midst of sexual union we close ourselves off from our purpose of self giving love, from being moms and dads. Even Natural Family Planning can be contrary to God's will for us if it is done from a desire to avoid having kids. That is, NFP can be done for the sake of being a better parent to those who are already here. Neither it nor any other form of birth control should be used for the purpose of avoiding our parent vocations.
Every woman is called to be a mother and every man is called to be a father. Sometimes we get to be mothers and fathers to our own kids. Sometimes God has other plans for us. Sometimes we only get to embrace this love for an hour. Sometimes for a lifetime. Sometimes our openness to parenthood leads to us being parents. Sometimes it doesn't. What really matters is the openness. God is always open to being our Father, but we have to let Him. We too ought to be ever open; open to being mothers and fathers, open to being sisters and brothers, open to being sons and daughters. As long as we are open to love, we are growing closer to God. The second we close ourselves off, we have lost sight of our very purpose in being and have condemned ourselves to a misery of our own making.
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