Losing several children to miscarriage taught me that motherhood is a very strong- and ultimately primal- identifier. And while this post isn't really about that horrible, defining environment of death that I experienced, you need it to see why the next bit makes some sense.
A battle often rages in my emotional center when people ask how many children I have, or when, for example, someone with a childlike concept of motherhood says happy mothers' day referring to the lost ones. It's painful. Hurts like hell. But my soul assuages my heart ultimately as I choose to give where I can instead of where I can't. I am convinced more than ever that we were designed to give, because of the pain I know when I cannot.
When I began working with teenagers, even though I wasn't old enough or silly enough to try to "parent" them (yes, that job belongs to their parents...) I began to get a glimmer into a concept often reserved in church discussions for celibate women, of which I am not one.
Only a few years ago, when I began to work with teens, there were those who would refer to me as a "big sister" or "older cousin." I was joking with one of the senior boys that within only four years I had gone from this label to "fun aunt" and soon to "mom". (I guess ministry ages you quickly!) But Tuesday night I had a unique experience.
At our senior dinner there was a time to share or honor or encourage anyone in the room. That boy explained to everyone that his own mom wasn't Catholic, and therefore she could never really understand his faith. He shared that he felt he couldn't ask her questions, or share insights about his faith journey because she wouldn't understand. And then he looked at me and said: But I can with you, because you're my Catholic mom.
No, I am still not old enough to be his biological mother. And I still don't know why God asked me to remain a mother only in spirit. But if these kids find any joy, any comfort, in me as a Catholic mother, then they are sure to look next to Our Catholic Mother, and through her come to know Christ who loves them. And that is reason enough.