The Most Important Person on Earth is a Mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral-a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body…The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation…What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?
~ Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty
I thought about this quote when Jen talked about our work as Christian women, building cathedrals, at the Edel Gathering this summer. Cardinal Mindszenty’s words praise the vocation of mothers and it’s a beautiful quote. As a tired mama, it’s a message I need to hear. Your work matters. But there’s more ways to mother than to raise children. Every woman is called to mother, and by that I mean that we are all called to love.
We are all called to acknowledge that every person we come in contact with was created to be a cathedral–a heart that God himself will dwell in.
Sometimes I forget what I am about. I know that my vocation as a mother has value. That this living Church-building of motherhood matters in a way I can barely wrap my mind around. But it’s so hard for me to live the little moments of my day as if that is true.
The weight of this calling feels like too much. When I fail, I only grow more frustrated and irritable. Because I know that my job is simple to express, but almost impossible to live: to love well every moment. To always let love win. But sometimes my anger, my frustration, my impatience, and my selfishness win–not my love.
I have in my charge three little people to love every day. And they are made in the image of God, have infinite worth, and deserve to be loved perfectly. God graced me with the job of building up these little cathedrals, these little hearts that were created to be His throne. But the stuff of life and my own sin makes me forget. The dishes pile up and the socks don’t match and when I can’t find a clean shirt for the toddler and step on a LEGO while I search, I am distracted from the true nature of this life. I explode with frustration and sometimes even rage at my tiny, intricate, messy cathedrals.
And the easiest thing is to decide, “that’s it. The day might as well be over. I’ve already ruined it. I’ve already failed. Why even try anymore?” Instead of painstakingly crafting the beauty of these little cathedrals, I smash a stained glass window with my frustration. My yelling, my temper, my inability to love as I should.
My love isn’t enough and it hurts to confess it. But God’s love is. And I have to have faith that if I let Him, He’ll help me become the mother He wants me to be. And If I take a deep breath and look around the cathedral of my work as a mama, I can see that it’s not all broken glass. There’s arches and carvings and bright windows God is making in me. Because He’s really the cathedral builder, after all. And His Love never falls short.
If I look around my heart there are colorful windows that weren’t there a few years ago, repaired from stain glass that was broken and strewn across the floor. Beautifully restored through grace, prayer, and the sacraments.
Dante writes of a seven-story mountain traveled by the souls being purged of their sin. The path is so long, but the road is an upward spiral. Our vocations are designed to draw us slowly closer to Heaven. When I think back to how often my temper used to flare up and I would rage and fume, I can see that He has slowly brought me along closer to Him. It’s slow going but I’m closer to the clouds than before. Even though I still yell and lose it, I have more love now. His love wins over my anger more often. Patience and peace are more familiar companions than they used to be. He is making me a better mother and he’s not giving up on the work he’s doing in my heart.
But it’s so easy to let the despair and discouragement creep in. To cry over the broken pieces instead of grabbing a broom and getting on with the work of this day.
My eyes fill with tears. And I say I’m sorry to the little people who deserve a far more patient mother. And, as always, the forgiveness they offer is so sweet and full. They do not harbor resentment or bitterness like I so often do. And their chubby arms around my neck are a source of the sweetest grace.
Let’s not give up on our work, cathedral-builders, no matter what our tasks are or how often we fail.
Whether or not you have children to raise, you have cathedrals to build. The Great Cathedral Builder wants you to join Him by filling the lives of those around you with the light of his love. Whether you’re a young mother or a skateboarding friar, there are plans laid for your cathedral that are different than any other. Because He has made you are like no other.
But even when we KNOW this. How do we really live it out? I think it takes the journey of climbing the whole mountain to find out. Maybe in 60 years, I’ll have a better idea.
As a mother, I feel blessed to participate in creation in a unique and beautiful way. But what every Christian is called to do, as modeled by the Blessed Virgin Mary, is to participate in God’s Incarnation. To allow Jesus to be infleshed in us. To give God’s Love a home in our hearts. To be cathedrals. To build cathedrals. To always let love win.