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    colorful painting of a mother and daughter

    Spiritual Motherhood

    Every Woman’s Calling

    By Alice von Hildebrand

    May 8, 2022

    Available languages: Español

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    • Mary Jane Wilkie

      It is valuable for children to have in their lives adults who care about them but who are NOT their parents. My own life has been enriched by being an aunt to nieces and nephews, a surrogate mom to my friends' children, and a teacher to my students.

    • Angie M

      I loved this! Although God has given me children, I often hear childless women who are grieving and lost. What a great encouragement it might be to them to think about being spiritual mothers, that their childlessness is biological but not spiritual or emotional. Yes, women are created to nurture and love and encourage and guide—but God never simply spelled out that we had to have our own birthed children to use what He gave us.

    • Tonya Underwood

      Thank you so much for addressing the supposed lack of motherhood for those of us who God has somehow blessed to be biologically childless and even single (what may seem a lifelong calling… and burden). I lament my lack often… yet you remind me that there is so much more to my femininity than bearing physical children. I’m saving this to reread. Much love, your sister in Christ. Tonya U

    This article was originally published on May 5, 2015.


    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.

    colorful painting of mother holding child in her lap and talking to another child under a tree

    Giovanni Giacometti Under the Elder Tree (Public domain)

    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.


    This article is based on an interview by Vivian Warren, Shannon Hinkey, and Erna Albertz.

    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, was known for her outspokenness on topics from feminism to liturgy, and for unabashedly witnessing to the joy of the gospel.

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