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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Journal of a Soul Wk 5 of 12

October 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

Journal of a Soul Week 5

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The Sorrows of Motherhood

During this retreat, the Lord has been pleased to show me yet again all the importance for me, and for the success of my priestly ministry, of the spirit of sacrifice, which I desire shall from now on ever more inspire my conduct ‘as a servant and prisoner of Jesus Christ.’ And also I want all the undertakings in which I shall take part during this present year to be done in this spirit, in so far as I have a share in them; all are to be done for the Lord and in the Lord: plenty of enthusiasm but no anxiety about their greater success. I will do them as if everything depended on me but as if I myself counted for nothing, without the slightest attachment to them, ready to destroy or abandon them at a sign from those to whom I owe obedience.

O blessed Jesus, what I am proposing to do is hard and I feel weak, because I am full of self-love, but the will is there and comes from my heart. Help me! Help me!

The keen sense of my own nothingness must ripen and perfect in me the spirit of kindness, great kindness, making me patient and forbearing with others in the way I judge and treat them. Although I am only just thirty years old, I begin to feel some wear and tear of the nerves. This will not do. When I feel irritable I must think of my own worthlessness and of my duty to understand and sympathize with everyone, without passing harsh judgments. This will help me to keep calm. 

The work I am doing now requires great delicacy and prudence as it frequently means dealing with women. I intend therefore that my behavior shall always be kind, modest and dignified so as to divert attention from my own person and give a richer spiritual quality to my work. Past experience is an encouragement for the future. Here again, if I think poorly of myself and distrust my own powers and raise my thoughts constantly to Jesus, returning to his embrace as soon as I have ended my task, it will be a great protection. It would be dangerous if in this work I were to presume on my own powers for a single moment. – Journal of a Soul, pg. 179-180

Whether or not we are biological parents, we are all spiritual parents. So please bear with me as I discuss motherhood – not in the universal sense, but in a very personal way.

These days our sanctuary feels more like a battleground. At this moment, one of my children is cleaning our vehicle inside and out before he can come back in the house and another had to leave the dinner table (without having eaten dinner). Somehow, the teen and tween years have hit us like a ton of bricks and we’ve been caught completely off-guard.

As I read the excerpt above, I felt strongly that if I changed PRIEST to MOTHER and THIRTY YEARS OLD to _______ YEARS OLD, I could have been reading about my own vocation.  Allow me to walk you through the passage.

The Lord has been pleased to show me yet again all the importance for me, and for the success of my [motherly] ministry, of the spirit of sacrifice, which I desire shall from now on ever more inspire my conduct ‘as a servant and prisoner of Jesus Christ.’ The joys of motherhood are often discussed. But the difficulties, not so much.  I never thought I’d say this, but motherhood is actually a cross. Despite all its joys, there is a very painful aspect to my vocation. Whether I'm concerned about a child's character, sufferings, future decisions, safety or any number of other issues, my heart can become overwhelmed with a love that is so powerful it would be better expressed as excruciating sorrow.  At times, the responsibility is too daunting to comprehend.

Until recently, I never paid much attention to the Seven Sorrows of Mary, but I've been reading about them lately.  Mary was such a powerful example of Paul's instruction in Romans 12:1, “…Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  As I've heard Kimberly Hahn say several times: “Each day I must crawl back up on that altar.” It’s can be a challenge, but I must continue to persevere in faith.

And also…all the undertakings…are to be done for the Lord and in the Lord: plenty of enthusiasm but no anxiety about their greater success. I will do them as if everything depended on me but as if I myself counted for nothing… This is the greatest challenge of all. I know of many parents who have done their best to raise their children to become saints, praying and sacrificing daily for them; but their children still left the Faith, lived in sin, and tormented their parents with their decisions. This is a difficult one for me. I realize I’ve learned to trust God with everything but the salvation of my children. Shame on me! I must let go of my own pride and know that whatever happens, He is a God who answers prayer, and He will lead them to His home in the end.

O blessed Jesus, what I am proposing to do is HARD and I feel WEAK, because I am full of self-love, but the will is there and comes from the heart. Help me! Help me! I can only carry on from day to day by the sheer grace of God, because when I presume to act on my own, it is disastrous, as noted by Pope John XXIII.

I’d like to say that the keen sense of my own nothingness [has ripened] and [perfected] in me the spirit of kindness, great kindness, making me patient and forbearing with others in the way I judge and treat them, but I think it has only made me question everything I do as a mother. Like many parents, my husband and I have some children who, although they are certainly not perfect, tend to be kind, gentle, patient, compassionate, diligent and full of faith. And we have others who, while good at heart, insist on rocking the boat at every turn. Because of the friction, I’ve taken to questioning myself on a daily basis. Have I not been kind enough? Strict enough? Loving enough? Available enough? Am I too matter-of-fact? Or too wishy-washy? Am I too harsh? Or too meek? Sadly, while I often turn to my Lord in desperation, I've realized that in the midst of trial I must lean too hard on my own understanding. Why else would I be so unsure of myself?

The work I am doing now requires great delicacy and prudence as it frequently means dealing with [children]. I intend therefore that my behavior shall always be kind, modest and dignified so as to divert attention from my own person and give a richer spiritual quality to my work. Recently I read the biography of Saint Monica. (Interestingly enough, I read her biography several years ago, but never identified with the anguish she must have felt until now.) Reading her biography gives me hope.  Unfortunately, I am not a living saint.  When dealing with my children, too often kindness and dignity go out the window. When everyone needs mom and the chores all need to be done, patience is the virtue most desired, and I must admit it is sometimes wanting now that I have a teen on one end and a toddler on the other.

Here again, if I think poorly of myself and distrust my own powers and raise my thoughts constantly to Jesus, returning to his embrace as soon as I have ended my task, it will be a great protection. When my oldest was five years old, I remember sobbing through a rosary, begging Mary to lead my children to her Son in spite of me. Being aware of my lack of power has never been problem. But these days I find myself on my knees more often than not. And of course, this is where I should be. My failings aside, I am well aware that it is by God’s grace alone that my children will grow to know, love and serve Him, and it is my daily prayer that, like Saint Joseph, one day (in the far distant future) they will each die in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Despite any difficulties, what has inspired you in your vocation?  Are there special prayers, devotions or sacrifices that have brought about great progress in your spiritual development or in that of someone you love?

2. Open forum – comment on any of the reading for this past week.

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 6: 1915 – End of 1934  (pg. 190-223)

Happy Reading!

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club:  https://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

 

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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