Out I stepped into the glorious sunshine one Sunday morning after Mass, the church steps a bustling ground of laughter and pleasantries. However, looking around, I noticed a group of mothers gathered together. There were many tears and hugs being shared. What was happening, I wondered? Was there a miscarriage? A child in physical or spiritual harm? A weighty financial burden? The feeling of failing at homeschooling? The feeling of failing at life? I do not know. But I can say that there was a realness to what I saw. It was raw, severe, sorrowful, and, I think, holy.
Rather moved by what I saw, I attempted later to connect with my long-neglected inner-feelings and write what my wife calls a mom blog. Unsurprisingly, I failed miserably at appearing compassionate. The best I could muster was to vituperatively tell a few Catholic moms that they needed to stop beating themselves up if supper was late, the potatoes burnt, the house a tornado disaster area, the children worn out from crying all day, or if they themselves were worn out from crying all day. Mrs. Facebook-Perfect does not exist. The only Mrs. Perfect is Our Lady, and she would be far too sensible to spend a moment on Zuckerberg’s leftist paradise anyway. Yes, life is hard, but a mother nurturing needless guilt helps no one.
The response I received from several moms after this little write-up surprised me. I expected to be told to mind my own business, or even that husbands should try complimenting their wives occasionally. However, this was not the case at all. Apparently, many tears were shed from hearing the simple words, “stop beating yourself up.” It took me off guard, and it enlightened me to the feelings of guilt many Catholic mothers struggle with when their lives are, inevitably, not in perfect order.
I am not here to excuse laziness, social media addiction, disorganization, or moodiness, though I will note Christ’s words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Yet, to the mom trying her best to raise children in the Catholic faith but still feeling guilty that every day is a struggle to have meals cooked, diapers changed, and to remember when the children last had baths – a struggle indeed – I ask: Have you stopped recently and considered how wonderful and necessary a Catholic mother truly is? I do not mean necessary as in simply putting food on the table and maintaining an ordered home – though studies routinely show that a mother’s market worth is at least $160,000/year – but necessary in leading your children to heaven. For that, the role of the Catholic mom is as beautiful as it is incomparable.
I will leave off the beauty of motherhood for now, and instead offer a harsh dose of reality to make this point. Behold an ordinary scenario:
A girl is born to Catholic parents. As per diocesan policy, her parents must attend a Baptism preparation course. It makes no difference if they have never set foot in a church for twenty years, or if this is their tenth child, they attend daily Mass, and their oldest child is already in a seminary. Equality supersedes rationality. The parents take the course and hear what the diocesan staffer, with the ominous “M.Div.” behind the name, has to say on the importance of water, discipleship, and her personal analysis on Laudato Si and being a new creation.
The girl is baptized, and eventually sent to a Catholic school. She learns about social justice, systemic racism, community, and acceptance of the lifestyles of others. She also develops a special ability for drawing posters urging the government to ban plastic water bottles. In fairness, the girl is given some religious instruction; just enough to act as a vaccine against the religion she in theory professes.
First Communion and Confirmation day arrives (in her diocese they occur together). At the Mass, the bishop asks her what the Eucharist is. “Jesus,” she replies, not at all understanding her memorized response. All are awed by the answer. “Such amazing faith! This is the future of the Church!” they marvel. The Mass then continues with Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do, I Do it For You, Communion on the hand, and jovial chatter and clapping. While the girl says “Jesus” is here; everything around her shouts, “Jesus is not here.”
The girl becomes a teenager, and her “amazing faith” falls by the wayside. Catholic high school is rough. Sex, drugs, and TikTok dominate the scene. And that is just speaking of the teachers. Unsurprisingly, the teenage girl is not interested in watered-down parish youth programs or, worse still, youth Masses. She muddles her way through these ungodly years, gets her diploma, and heads off to college. There she meets a young man and, after living with him for a few years, eventually agrees to get married. The chance to wear a wedding dress is simply too whimsical to forgo.
She is required to take a Marriage preparation class. The instructor (also boasting an M.Div.) mentions something about contraception, but quickly downplays its gravity. Guest speakers are brought in. All but one couple has lived together before marriage. Some are open about not wanting children. Others state that their careers are integral to fulfillment in their marriage. Little mention is made of Marriage as a sacrament. No mention is made of her moving out of her fiancé’s apartment.
The wedding occurs. It is a festive occasion, with drinking, merriment, and more drinking. Thankfully, a baby is soon expected. Our girl, now a mother, is urged by her own aging mother to have the child baptized. And what shall our girl, now wife and mother, reply? The predictable: “No. It’s not worth the effort.” The New Evangelization has claimed yet another family.
There is nothing shocking about what I have described. We are perhaps too numbed by the recurrence of such stories to adequately grasp the failure of our modern Catholic Church. But failure it is, and shocking it still should be. How shall heaven be sought in such an insipid, dry, and utterly meaningless environment? From where shall a child learn the demands of the cross, or the beauty of faith? From the status quo of systemic “spirit-led” hierarchical failure, aptly titled by author Eric Sammons as “deadly indifference”? I once heard an overburdened mother complain, “What do priests do all day?” (This mother also happens to be my wife). She immediately apologized, stating that there are many faithful priests who work tirelessly. Of course there are, and I commend them, yet I will let her words stand. Her frustration contained a deeper truth, for who knows more than a Catholic mother about offering total sacrifice for the salvation of another?
Therefore, amid this spiritual maelstrom, I ask the guilt-plagued mom once again: Do you not realize how necessary you are? I say this not to add pressure, but reassurance, for with necessity comes grace. Noted exorcist Fr. Chad Ripperger has said that an “extraordinary” amount of graces are currently flowing to the remaining faithful Catholics. If true, I imagine that mothers are near the top of Our Lord’s list, for how could the greatest Mother of all not offer special intercession for the enervated mother here below?
However, if the Catholic mother, over-burdened by sacrifice and strain, is still inflicted with feelings of guilt, so be it. I admit that I cannot take this away. In fact, I will add to it. To such a mother, I declare you doubtlessly guilty. You are guilty of neglecting personal care. You are guilty of being counter cultural. You are guilty of hiding in the bathroom for a few moments of alone time. You are guilty of cleaning the bathroom during those few moments of alone time. You are guilty of being the first one to teach a child to cross himself and sweetly say, “I wuv you Jesus.” You are guilty of not buying yourself a new sweater because of the cost. You are guilty of loving your family without counting the cost. You are guilty of only finding time to pray while nursing a baby in the dark. You are guilty of being a light for a darkened world.
I end with perhaps a naïve thought. I imagine such a guilty mother approaching the end of a long, weary, and fruitful life. She is surrounded by her devoted family, and by God’s grace is persevering faithfully to her last breath. Then all passes. When divine justice is satisfied, she rises towards the heavenly realm of unimaginable splendor. In this magnificent place a special greeting awaits, from the greatest Mother of all – angelic to behold, and of exceeding beauty. And this Mother of mothers, in all her glorious radiance, speaks the formidable words of eternal comfort: “Come. I have long prayed for this moment.”
Then, with the slightest hint of a knowing smile, the Mother adds, “finally… you shall have a rest.”
Dan Millette is a husband and father of four. He teaches in Saskatchewan, Canada. Millette is a graduate from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Ontario and has a Master of Arts degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in Connecticut. His personal blog is www.bravestthing.com.