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Child running toward her mother

Spiritual Motherhood

Every Woman’s Calling

Alice von Hildebrand

Available languages: Español

12 Comments
12 Comments
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  • Wendy Silvers

    Thank you for your blog. I am a Spiritual therapist/counselor, writer, mama, and founder of an organization called, Million Mamas Movement. This organization is dedicated to awakening within women, particularly mothers, their sovereign power as changemakers in the world, ensuring that all children thrive and bringing forth a paradigm shift around parenting. I think spiritual motherhood is vital, however, it is not more important than biological or adoptive motherhood. I invite you to revisit the statement, Spiritual motherhood is more important than biological motherhood. It is demeaning to biological and adoptive mothers.

  • Clara Vitale

    Yep, it bother me, a victim of coerced abortion, unraveling the darkness that lead me to that point, were I allowed to be coerced, fearing my father, and forgetting my real Father, now I come to realize that was idolatry, slowly but surely, the sins of my parents, unmarried and of a step brother abuse, led me to seek love outside home, making people god, I, like Judas, sold Jesus for pleasure. in ignorance a stronghold become my soul chain, so depression, self hate and unable to love, I become a living corpse. I am free now, not because of what I did well, but because that misery made me cry to Christ who had Mercy, forgave and cleansed me.

  • Kris McLaughlin

    To those who were offended by Dr. von Hildebrand's mention of abortion, she's not referring generally to all women, but only to those who choose to abort their child for the sake of convenience. This certainly does happen, but of course, it's not the only reason, nor is that what she's saying here.

  • Joanna Tipple

    I am a mom of two now adult children.and grandma to one. I have been a foster mom and spiritual mom to others. It has been a gift. I appreciate the overall gist of the article but I think it does take a judgmental tone when it comes to the issue of women choosing to have an abortion. Until one had walked in another's shoes I think one should be careful of making such a sweeping generalization. I also think it is naive to believe that all women have a desire to be a mother. It is not every woman's calling no matter how much one might want it to be. And I know of at least one instance where a woman willingly had children. Yep. But it was in order to sell the babies to an infertile couple. Things worked out in the end...but don't see that indicating much of a maternal instinct. Yes it is true. I was the baby and my brother as well. So yes, this article can be an encouragment to women who want to be moms, no matter what it might look like but I don't think it speaks for every woman.

  • Kim

    Re: the comments about the author's mention of abortion for the sake of convenience - I took that as an acknowledgment that there can be many reasons a woman may have an abortion and that, in the author's view, to have one ONLY because this pregnancy and/or the child to be born is inconvenient is perhaps not the best reason. I didn't take it as slamming all women who have abortions. Maybe we shouldn't read more into it than what's there. Indeed, there might be more, but I don't see that just in this one article.

  • JS

    That is a huge generalization, carrying the presumption that every woman is cut out for motherhood (biological/adoptive [or] spiritual), and a slap in the face at the women's liberty movements that fight for our choices. Like it or not, not every woman wants marriage nor children, and not all women desire men. No, I'm not one of those annoying types who gets offended at everything, but please do not lump us all in the same category as though we are incomplete without those things. To each her own.

  • Clara

    This is beautiful! As a married woman with the cross of infertility this really hits home. It is inspiring me to maintain my involvement with my parish and children / youth God puts in my path.

  • Margaret

    Wow! A beautiful piece til the judgement & morality came in re: abortion. If the world were only as simplistic as the author makes it sound. And no, I've not had an abortion. I did relinquish a child at birth. No regrets.

  • Lee grace

    Motherhood is an essence rather than just a biological function. It is a spirit of caring that extends to all aspects of existence. This nurtering aptitude heals, creates and gathers life into itself. Actually, it is an extention of the creator who makes all things good. It is a delicate touch found in the hearts of women and men. I have seen motherhood in my husband and son as they have gently cared for others. True motherhood transcends gender, it is unconditional Love.

  • Betsy Heilman

    Lovely and inspiring piece except for perpetuating the myth that women make the agonizing choice to have an abortion for convenience. Every woman is different and it is far more complex than you make it seem.

  • Pat Martin

    I have no biological children. But, my entire career life and much of my volunteer efforts have been focused on children and youth and the not so young in the pursuit of education and a better life. High School, college students, adult students, counselees, interns, colleagues, fellow students, and now the very young ones who I am working with to get my teaching credential so I can sub until I am older and greyer. All the years babysitting, working for Headstart, and girl scout and campfire camp, and being with my bio mother friends and grandmas, and being an auntie. I am glad to claim this title of spiritual mother.

  • Judy Smith

    if it had not been for those willing to be My other mother I would not have had one at all . So thank you to my aunts, Grandmothers, cousins mothers of friends and all others that were there for Me Happy Mothers Day to them all

I never had the incredible privilege of having children of my own, yet last year I was bombarded with Mother’s Day cards and wishes. If you don’t have children, for goodness sake don’t believe that you have to give up motherhood.

Motherhood is not only biological maternity. It is spiritual maternity. There are hundreds of people all around who are desperately looking for a mother. A number of people have come to me to tell me about their problems. I listen to them. And I love them. And I say very little. But they know that I care for them. In this sense, I have become their mother.

Therefore, it’s not a matter of either having biological or legally adopted children, or being childless. No! A mother is the very essence of femininity. We have got to be mothers! It’s interesting that sometimes even little girls already understand this in the way they help their little sister or brother. I totally reject the idea that you are not a mother unless you have children of your own.

Last year, I was kept busy answering all the good wishes for Mother’s Day. Your vocation is the same. If you are married that is wonderful. And if you are not married but one day God sends you the right man, gladly and gratefully accept him. But your motherhood should come long before that. Pray to God that he sends you spiritual children.

Spiritual motherhood is more important than biological motherhood. There are plenty of women who are biological mothers and yet are not mothers at all. Some consider their child to be a nuisance and an accident, saying “I didn’t want it.” Take for instance women who have an abortion for convenience’s sake. God offers them a tremendous gift but they say, “No, I don’t want it; it’s going to disturb me.”

From now on your daily prayer should be, “God, send me spiritual children and I will never turn any one of them down. The more the better.” Simple as that. Pray for the gift of spiritual children. It might very well be that in your beautiful desire to be a biological mother you have overlooked cases where you could have become a spiritual mother. Many of my students became my spiritual children, even though they were young adults already.

You are called to motherhood right now. Not next week, not next month. I’m absolutely convinced that God has placed people in your path and called you to motherhood. Your task is to love those that are weak, unhappy, helpless, and unloved. Sometimes you can do this just by saying one word. At other times you’ll just have to listen. In every life there is suffering; most people keep it inside. When they feel loved, they will open up and tell you about their suffering. Then you will find that by carrying other people’s suffering your own suffering becomes lighter.


Dr. Alice von Hildebrand is a Catholic philosopher and theologian, and the widow of philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand. She taught philosophy at Hunter College and has written several books. This Mother's Day article is based on an interview by Vivian Warren, Shannon McPherson, and Erna Albertz.

Detail from Giovanni Giacometti’s painting, Under the elder tree, depicting a woman surrounded by children. Giovanni Giacometti, Under the Elder Tree (detail)
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Contributed By Alice von Hildebrand in 2012 Alice von Hildebrand

Alice von Hildebrand, professor emerita at Hunter College and widow of anti-Nazi German philosopher, Dietrich von Hildebrand, is known for her outspokenness on topics from feminism to liturgy, and for unabashedly witnessing to the joy of the gospel.

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