History of Spiritual Motherhood

Mary – who was given to St. John at the foot of the cross, by her Son (John 10:26-27), is the mother of the Church and the original spiritual mother for all of her Son’s consecrated ministers, his priests. “…God the Father chose to await a Virgin’s ‘Fiat‘ to an angel’s announcement. Christ decided to entrust, so to speak, his own Life to the loving freedom of his mother: ‘She conceived, brought forth and nourished Christ, she presented him to the Father in the temple, shared her Son’s sufferings as he died on the Cross. Thus, in a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason, she is a mother to us in the order of grace.'” (Lumen Gentium, No 61) (Letter on the Occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, 4/22/08). Over the years, many have taken to heart Our Lord’s admonition in the Gospels to “… ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38). These prayerful efforts on the part of the faithful have yielded abundant, fruitful results for the Church as the following examples show.

Eliza Vaughan – “Convinced of the power of silent, faithful prayer, Eliza spent an hour in adoration every day praying for vocations in her family. The mother of six priests and four religious sisters, her prayer was bountifully heard. Mother Vaughan died in 1853 and was buried in the grounds of her beloved family property, Courtfield. Today, Courtfield is a retreat center for different groups in the Welsh diocese of Cardiff. In consideration of Eliza’s holy life, the family chapel was consecrated as the shrine of “Our Lady of Vocations” by the bishop in 1954 and confirmed as such in the year 2000.” (Eucharistic Adoration For the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity, pg 14).

Lu Monferrato – “[In 1881, in Lu, Italy] the deepest desire of many mothers was for one of their sons to become a priest or for a daughter to place her life completely in God’s service. Under the direction of their parish priest…they gathered every Tuesday for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, asking the Lord for vocations. They received Holy Communion on the first Sunday of every month with the same intention. After Mass, all the mothers prayed a particular prayer together imploring for vocations to the priesthood….From the tiny village of Lu came 323 vocations!” Id. at p. 18-19.


St. Monica
– Another example of Spiritual Motherhood, this time from the early church, is St. Monica. She prayed continually that her son, St. Augustine, would reconcile his life to God. Even though it took a very long time for his conversion, St. Monica did live long enough to see her prayers answered for her son. In fact, her prayers were answered beyond her wildest belief, as St. Augustine went on to become a priest, bishop and finally, one of the greatest saints of the Church. He himself said of his mother, in Confessions that she wept “more than a mother would over the bodily death of her son” (Id. at pg.11) on his behalf. He also said, “I have my mother to thank for what I have become…” (Id).

“There are so many mothers today in the same situation as St. Monica. Nobody can thank them enough for what they have done through prayer and sacrifice for the Church and the Kingdom of God. May God reward them for it. If the desired renewal of the Church depends for the most part on its priests, then it will also depend to a large degree on the families and in particular women and mothers.”– Blessed Pope John Paul II May 4, 1987

Vatican Convent – In the Vatican, there is a convent of contemplative nuns, established by Blessed Pope John Paul II to consecrate their lives to the “Mother of the Church”, for the needs of the Holy Father and the Church. This responsibility is assumed by a different order of nuns every five years.

“Through this initiative, [Blessed] John Paul II made a very clear statement to the whole world about the indispensable importance of silent prayer and hidden sacrifice for our modern and hectic world. If he wished for a cloistered convent of sisters in the immediate vicinity praying for him and his pontificate, then it also reveals his profound belief that the fruitfulness of his ministry as universal shepherd, and the spiritual success of his immense works, was due first of all to the prayers and sacrifices of others.” (id, page 35)

For many other beautiful examples of this long-standing tradition of the Church which we are being urged to fervently renew please refer to the Vatican document. 12/8/2007

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