Call to Catholic women
On December 8, 2007, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a document from the Congregation for the Clergy was sent to all the bishops of the world. It was entitled Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity. In essence, the letter requested that women spiritually adopt priests and embrace Eucharistic adoration, in a spirit of genuine reparation and purification, for the sanctification of priests. In an answer to this call, our apostolate of “Spiritual Motherhood of Priests” was conceived.
We are not alone! Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit similar women’s groups (united in intention but unique in apostolate formation) continue to form worldwide: the best known of these groups is led by Fr. Mark Kirby of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Blogs, articles and Catholic TV are being used to spread the call. The spirit is moving and getting the attention of Catholic women everywhere!
All of this is part of a larger call from the Holy Spirit to women. We are called to use our God-given gifts of authentic femininity to fight the culture of death and to help transform the world. The Church has been confirming this call in many ways for many years!
The concept of “feminine genius” was first outlined by Pope Pius the 12th in 1957. Then, from a closing speech from Vatican II, December 8, 1965 came:
“The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world … an influence, an effect and a power … never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.”
This fire has been lit in the hearts of many Catholic women! One is tempted to believe that we are living in “the hour” predicted. We continue to confront deep challenges to the human race that Vatican II refers to. The horrific moral decay and loss of faith in the world is disheartening. In our own day, Blessed JP II exhorted Catholic women to employ their “feminine genius” to build a culture of life. Our whole being is called into play in order that we may love mankind with our “feminine genius” in all the aspects of our authentic femininity: receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity. Together with Our Lady, whose every fibre exudes “authentic femininity”, we are called to fight for the salvation of humanity – beginning with our own families and working our way into the world … to wherever the Holy Spirit calls us to become instruments of God’s love.
We see the apostolate of Spiritual Motherhood of Priests within this larger call. It embraces all aspects of authentic femininity, but especially maternity. Spiritual maternity is the heart and focus of Spiritual Motherhood of Priests (SMOP). We believe that it is a particular call from the Spirit to employ our feminine gifts to transform specifically the Church. We unite with the sorrowful heart of Mary, a heart concerned and distressed with the trials of the Church – and in particular the attack on her priest sons. The attack on priests is paramount because they are chosen instruments of divine grace, used to save and sustain us. If the enemy brings down a priest, souls follow: “Strike the Shepherd, and the flock scatters.”
Our call to SMOP
Words can’t express the beauty of what the Spirit is doing in the hearts of hundreds of women worldwide. For Maria Pirrone and me, this apostolate is the fulfillment of our God-given desires. It encompasses all the areas of ministry we’ve been involved in over many years – in particular, intercession for priests, Eucharistic adoration, and formation of women. In retrospect, we can clearly see the hand of God in all of this. We can see his direction and purpose for our lives. We can see how he and Mary have tenderly nurtured in us an appreciation for the particular spirituality required for this call: a tremendous love for Holy Mother Church, love for the mystery of the priesthood, a spirit of sacrifice, mature obedience, a hunger for adoration, and a spirit of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
It pains us to witness attacks on the Church at every level. Our hearts have been broken many times as we have heard of priests succumbing to weakness and temptation. Fully aware that our efforts could never be enough, a desire continued to grow within us to help build up, defend, and protect the faith we love and to support our beloved priests. While ministering to women over the course of many years, we have recognized the same call to pray and intercede for priests in some of them. Often, women shared with us about a “sacrificial love” for the Church taking hold of their hearts. They would share how Jesus was moving their spirits to offer themselves for the Church.
Through God’s grace and two years of discernment and prayer, SMOP Ottawa is now a reality. It was officially inaugurated on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (which is also World Day of Prayer for Sanctification of Priests) on July 1, 2011, with Mass and an induction ceremony. Fifty- nine women became spiritual mothers and there is already growing interest in our formation weekends next year!
We are immensely grateful to Archbishop Terrance Prendergast for his support and permission! We are also grateful to the Companions of the Cross, to Fr. Scott McCaig, CC and Fr. Terry Donahue, CC for their guidance and help in formation – and to Fr. Dennis Hayes, CC and Fr. Allan MacDonald, CC for their help in formation as well.
“No greater love is there, than one lay down his life for his brother” (Jn 15:13).
Spiritual Motherhood isn’t complicated. It’s about love: sacrificial love; the kind of love that the Father had for us by sending Jesus; the kind of love Jesus had hanging on the cross; the kind of love Mary had standing by her Son at the Cross and watching him suffer and die for our salvation. It’s also the kind of love priests have for the church: a love of total self-offering for the good of the other; life-giving love. It’s the kind of love all women have a capacity for, but must choose to live out daily.
Being a spiritual mother is a call within a call, but the spirituality and disciplines of this movement are meant to complement our lives – using the duty of the moment as our guide. We offer our everyday loves, joys, sorrows, sacrifices and prayers. We unite them to Jesus through Mary for the good of all priests, pastor(s) of our parish, new vocations, the Holy Father and our bishops. Primarily, it’s our particular priestson, entrusted to us through our offering, which we focus our hearts on. SMOP has its own crosses but it’s a tremendous blessing to our personal spiritual lives. It’s not for everyone, but it is a blessing to those who are called.
SMOP is meant to complement any women’s state in life, regardless of whether she is single, married, or in religious vows. The patronesses of this apostolate were all called to spiritual maternity of priests and reflect a remarkable diversity of life. St Thérèse was a nun, St Catherine of Siena was a single lay woman, and Blessed Anna Maria Taigi was a wife and mother.
I leave you with the words of one Spiritual mother. Filled with emotion, she relayed, “I don’t know my priest-son, but I already love him.” Is Jesus calling you?
For info: firstname.lastname@example.org
SMOP Spiritual Practices and Disciplines
Spiritual Motherhood of Priests
Dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows
· Spiritual Mother of Priests Prayer which offers one’s actions, suffering and merits united to Jesus, through Mary
· Hail Holy Queen for the intentions of Our Holy Father and local bishops
· St. Michael the Archangel Prayer
Weekly (obligation for spiritual mothers)
· Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Rosary on Tuesdays or Fridays
Monthly (strongly encouraged)
Annually (Obligation for spiritual mothers as it is our spiritual growth in our vocation)
· Renewal of Promises at Holy Mass and Induction Ceremony
· Spiritual Motherhood of Priests hosts a Retreat/Conference Day for all spiritual mothers, and it is opened to all men and women, priests and religious.
· 33 day Preparation for Total Consecration according to St. Louis Marie de Montfort – The preferred consecration feast day is September 15 for Our Lady of Sorrows which begins on August 13th.
(Note: The text of this preparation is also available online at http://www.iipg.org/consecration1.htm
Audio version: https://totalconsecration.newevangelizers.com/schedule/)
Strongly encouraged (as one’s state in life allows)