As Catholic mothers, we have the same vocation. But God calls us to live out this vocation in diverse ways! Although Tolstoy claimed happy families are all alike, we know holy families are all different. Allow me to highlight 7 different ways Catholic moms can go against the current “super-Catholic” grain and still find sanctity.
Homeschooling is not a cure-all.
It might be the best thing for your family. But if you and your children are better served by public or private schooling, that is nothing to be ashamed of.
Mother Teresa attended public school. Catholics were and remain a tiny minority in her hometown of Skopje. Attending her school’s missions club sparked the first desires in her missionary heart.
Saint Zelie Martin tried her hardest to breastfed her children. Since formula wasn’t available in the 1800s, she was forced to send St Therese to live with a wet nurse. Luckily women today have a variety of safe ways to feed their children.
Catholic women have always preferred fed babies to dead babies, and you should too.
I used to be one of those skirts-and skirts-only gals. Not as a rule for other women (mercifully I never went that far into it) but for myself.
As a lifelong tomboy, I made the decision to wear skirts and dresses for a period of years to embrace my femininity. Our infertility caused a great deal of emotional estrangement for me. I felt my body less feminine since it did not fulfill the promises of the female body.
Thanks be to God, we were eventually able to conceive our son. You know what? Wearing sweatpants and a nursing tank top, pacing the floor with a colicky infant, felt more feminine than all the maxi skirts in the world.
Pope Nicholas I settled this very topic in 866 AD. The Bulgarians wrote to him asking if they could become Christians even though men and women alike wore pants. He responded:
“We consider what you asked about pants to be irrelevant; for we do not wish the exterior style of your clothing to be changed, but rather the behavior of the inner man within you, nor do we desire to know what you are wearing except Christ — for however many of you have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ [Gal. 3:27] — but rather how you are progressing in faith and good works… For whether you or your women wear or do not wear pants neither impedes your salvation nor leads to any increase of your virtue.”
Giving Up Your Career
Saint Gianna Molla, a pediatrician and working mother, would like a word.
Every Single Devotion
If you’ve been on Facebook anytime In the last month, you’ve seen probably a million and one devotions. There’s the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, the 54-day Novena for life, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Chaplet of Saint Jude, and your good old-fashioned everyday rosary.
No one is doing all of them at once!
If you have a favorite devotion, great! If you want to add another, even better. But just as you can’t be all things, you can’t pray all the ways.
Having A Large Family
Many moons ago, I attended a talk on Catholic families. The speaker asked for a round of applause for all the hard-working moms. We all cheerfully clapped. Then the speaker asked for a special round of applause for the brave moms who chose to have large families.
I wanted to die.
I wanted Jesus to take me home right then and there.
Maybe you are infertile like us, and the choice is made for you.
Maybe your babies are in heaven.
Maybe you have discerned serious reasons to avoid pregnancy. I’m not the NFP police.
Perhaps your heart wants more children as much as mine, but you have to be stronger than your feelings. I imagine your pain is a very special one.
Holy families come in all sizes. Saint Anne had only one child, the Blessed Mother. And though their circumstances were different, a friend once reminded me that the Holy Family also had only one Child.
Saint Rita’s husband was a total lout. He got caught up in a classic Italian feud between warring families and was stabbed to death. St Rita’s sons wanted to uphold the ancient and bloody vendetta tradition and avenge their father. Through her prayers and interventions, she convinced her boys to forgive the killers.
Not stopping there, St Rita even brought the warring families of the entire city into a tenuous peace. None of this could have happened if she silenced God’s prompting and if she held her tongue.
As Catholic mothers, we have the same vocation. But God calls us to live out this vocation in diverse ways!
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There is a big difference in not being physical able to breastfeed, and deciding not to due lack of fortitude or patience. There is a natural standard set forth which is upheld by St. Zelie sending her to a wet nurse. There may not have been formula but there are recipes for goat milk substitutes since the 1600s.
This is amazing! Thank you so much! I have always found great peace and comfort in St. Zelie because I could never breastfeed any of my kids no matter how hard I tried.
Body of Christ is big and diverse!!! Amen!
This needs to go viral, Amen!
This post is great. I am glad there are other Catholic Moms and families that understand you can be a good Catholic without having to do every single Catholic thing imaginable.
O Lorelei! I just discovered this post as a Google search for “Catholic tomboy mom”. I have spent way too much time untangling whether I’ve been acting un-Christian, impious, irreverent in my life or whether I’m just not very composed, girly, and genteel. I realize, with gratitude that the former set of traits is not antonymous with the latter and it’s certainly a temptation to focus on that latter set and somehow believe that is the path to Christian discipleship, piety and reverence. *Hint: It’s not* Anyway, your list is more comprehensive than my own set of private concerns: Do I talk out too much? Am I not praying enough of the right devotions (not, am I praying too much — big difference)? Am I a terrible mother because I love my part-time work gigs? Do I not dress matronly enough every moment of my life? (You know what, I am the best mom, wife, disciple I can be when I am mucking about at the riverside glorifying God in the wonder of the aquatic life that springs up there, and I never want to get muddy when I’m in a dress. I love dresses – they’re pretty as heck, but they have their limits!) Your post here is a great reality check and an encouragement not to follow an external checklist as a measuring stick. Our femininity and our daughtership is not reducible thus. I think in this crazy ridiculous heated gender-identity culture it’s crucial for pieces like this to reclaim womanhood as being not constrained outward markers, but by our irrevertible identity as created in love by Love Himself. You are a breath of fresh air, sister!!
Thank you! Nothing makes me not want to do something more than someone telling me that I “have to” do something! Like you said, all these things are well and good. But thanks for affirming all of us that can’t (or don’t want to) do a, b, or c. It’s our hearts that God’s after, not the details!