Mothers & Priests: Giving Ourselves to Others
I remember the moment I realized my mother was a person. It’s a strange thing to say; but prior to my twenties, my mom more closely resembled a resource. I could turn to her with my needs, confident she would have the solution. As a mother, she gave; and as her child, I took. When the light bulb turned on, I recognized a depth to my mom of which I had been totally unaware. I stopped looking at her as a well of provision and saw instead my sister in Christ, with emotions, thoughts and needs unique to her.
It was impossible to fully appreciate the sacrifice my mom exerted until I was a mother myself. It’s a blessing that contributes to who I am and calls me to a depth of love I couldn’t previously comprehend. Still, when the final drip of coffee is downed and the last sock is matched, what remains is a person with spiritual, physical and emotional needs.
Recently in church, I watched the parish priest slowly make his way across the narthex. He took a few strides, then a parishioner stopped him with a question or a hello. Another few steps, then he was blessing a Rosary. His short walk was riddled with halts, and though the finer details were different, it all looked familiar. Another light bulb moment: his life and mine were more alike than not.
Think about the priests and moms you know. Do you see the parallels? Our vocations call for putting others ahead of ourselves. We are awakened up in the middle of the night—a child has a bad dream, a parishioner needs anointing. We frequently tend to souls. The people we serve come to us when they need something.
Whether we’re talking about priesthood or motherhood, it calls for a lot of GIVE. Mothers and priests need fellowship, spiritual rejuvenation and rest. Our callings consist of pouring ourselves out for the sake of others, who will likely lose sight of our humanity. As a kid, I regarded priests as existing somewhere above mankind but below angels in the hierarchy of creation. It didn’t occur to me that a priest might need a break, an extra cup of coffee or an understanding ear, like I do now as a mom.
Beyond the physical and mental demands, how well priests and mothers reflect the love of God has a significant impact on those we serve. At his ordination, a priest begins acting in persona Christi, in the person of Christ; he becomes the face of Jesus in his community. Similarly, a mother’s love and attention will shape the way her children see God.
It’s common and natural for us to interpret God’s regard for us according to our experience of our parents. Did your mother provide, but remain emotionally aloof? Was your mother gentle and lovely? These scopes of influence are as deep as they are wide; and since priests and mothers are called to the imitation of Christ in very particular ways, we need Jesus and fervent prayers.
Several years ago when my husband and I lived out of state, we invited our bishop over for dinner. I was so nervous; “hosting the bishop” sounded so important, and I was determined that our attire, house and dinner all reflect that.
But when the bishop arrived, he wore a button-down and slacks. During dinner, it was clear he didn’t want to discuss diocesan matters, but when someone casually mentioned gardening, he lit up. He delighted in growing his own ingredients. He couldn’t garden or cook as often as he wanted, so he jumped to do so every chance he got. Surprised, I sat back listening. “He’s a normal guy,” I thought, and shook my head at my own short- sightedness. Future dinners with him were far more relaxed and fun for everyone.
As the Lord has given me a glimpse into the lives of his vicars, I’ve felt my heart catch on fire for their sake. Consider this a heartfelt invitation to mothers and clergy alike: Let’s uphold each other in prayer, begging God to give us hearts like His own so we can love with abundance and lead souls to Heaven.
Katie Sciba is a national speaker and Catholic Press Award- winning columnist. Katie has been married for 14 years and is blessed with six children.
This article appeared in the May 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.