Lindsey Weishar: Giving thanks for spiritual mothers, fathers in my life

My Vocation is Love l Lindsey Weishar

Though never quite ready for the transition within this season — from early fall, where the leaves vividly bear witness to the fact that both “nature’s first [and last] green is gold,” to the bare-limbed frosty reality of later fall — I find the dip into November presents extra room for reflection.

As the colors around us begin to fade and evenings lengthen, what a delight to find ourselves in a month that opens with reminders of the spiritual mothers and fathers we have in the saints and those souls whose gilding has rubbed off on our own lives. This year, I’m also reminded of those still living whose lives have touched my own.

I love that no matter the particular vocation we are called to, we are all called to be a mother or father. For some of us, this motherhood and fatherhood will bear physical children; for all of us, we have the opportunity to be spiritual mothers and fathers in the lives of those around us.

I love that no matter the particular vocation we are called to, we are all called to be a mother or father. For some of us, this motherhood and fatherhood will bear physical children; for all of us, we have the opportunity to be spiritual mothers and fathers in the lives of those around us.

In a general audience given on Jan. 10, 1979, Pope John Paul II speaks about Mary’s physical and spiritual motherhood beginning together, and that her spiritual motherhood continues to touch our lives today. He says, “Spiritual motherhood knows no limits. It extends in time and space. It reaches so many human hearts. It reaches whole nations.”

During this same audience, the pope reflects on a prominent Italian’s words about his mother: “he remembered his mother as the one to whom he owed, together with life, everything that constitutes the beginning and structure of the history of his spirit.” How breathtaking!

TWO SPIRITUAL FATHERS

Throughout my own life, spiritual mothers and fathers have been close at hand. Along with my own dear parents, these figures have shaped my life and added to the history of my spirit. Here, I’d like to mention two spiritual fathers who have woven into my spirit threads of tenderness and hope.

One of these fathers is St. Francis de Sales. I’ve known about this “gentle saint” for years but only recently discovered some of his letters in a book called “Letters of Spiritual Direction.” It was astounding to read the deep, Christ-centered love with which he pursued his spiritual directees, especially his spiritual daughters. To one of his directees, he says the following:

. . . from the very beginning . . . God gave me a tremendous love for your soul. As you became more and more open with me, a marvelous obligation arose for my soul to love yours more and more; that’s why I was prompted to write you that God had given me to you. I didn’t believe that anything could be added to the affection I felt for you, especially when I was praying for you. But now, my dear daughter, a new quality has been added. . . . All I can say is that its effect is a great inner delight which I feel whenever I wish you perfect love of God and other spiritual blessings.

His openhearted affection is captivating, reminding me that in our spiritual fatherhood and motherhood, we have the ability to encourage and nourish the souls around us.

As we enter into a month punctuated with reminders to give thanks, I encourage you to reflect on the spiritual mothers and fathers whose lives have touched yours. Further, I encourage you to ask who God is calling you to mother or father in this season.

This brings me to a living spiritual father, whose presence in my life over the past two years has strengthened me not only as a writer, but as a person: Tom Dermody, the now retired editor of The Catholic Post. My first in-person meeting with Tom took place in March 2020 on the cusp of the pandemic. One of his gifts, which I think many of us who are blessed to know him have experienced, is his ability to keep in touch and be genuinely interested in the lives of others.

That first meeting, he knew I liked tea, so he met me at the train in Galesburg and we grabbed cups of what we’ll forever remember as Galesburg fogs (they didn’t have the earl grey tea for London fogs, so the substitute was a raspberry tea, which worked surprisingly well). His kind attentiveness and desire to keep in touch have reminded me of the importance of reaching out to others and that friendship is a relationship of intentionally sharing one’s time, attention, and the joys and struggles of life with another.

HOW IS GOD CALLING YOU?

As we enter into a month punctuated with reminders to give thanks, I encourage you to reflect on the spiritual mothers and fathers whose lives have touched yours. Further, I encourage you to ask who God is calling you to mother or father in this season.

What a gift that we are asked to be sons and daughters, mothers and fathers of others outside of our biological families. What a gift that we may we joyfully say along with St. Francis de Sales that “God [has] given me to you.”

Lindsey Weishar

LINDSEY WEISHAR is a poet, freelance writer, and native of Champaign who has a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is executive assistant to the president at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. Write to her at lweisharwriting@gmail.com.

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