Spiritual Paternity and Maternity
Presence of God – O my God, unite me to Yourself by a bond of fervent love; grant that by this union I may bring You many souls.
God has bestowed on man the great honor of willing that he be His collaborator in a work which is proper to Himself, as God, which belongs essentially to Him alone, that is, the communication of life, and not only of natural life but of supernatural life also. On the natural level, which we may call the plan of creation, the fathers and mothers of families are His collaborators, having been entrusted with the high mission of communicating life to new human beings, of rearing and educating them for the glory of God. On the supernatural level, that of Redemption, God’s collaborators are all those who, by dedicating themselves to the apostolate, have an even more noble and vast mission, that of communicating to men the life of grace, without which they are unhappy creatures, and in a certain sense, are unable to attain eternal life. In his [Apostolic Exhortation] Menti Nostrae, Pope Pius XII declares “The priest is … the organ of the communication and increase of life in the Mystical Body of Christ. Far from losing the gift and the office of paternity because of his celibacy, the priest increases them immeasurably, since if he does not beget children for this passing life on earth, he begets them for that life which is heavenly and eternal.” In due proportion, the same can be said of every apostle; for the final end of the apostolate is precisely to engender souls to the supernatural life.
“My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you,” exclaimed St. Paul in a letter to the Galatians (4:19). Every apostle has an equal right to feel himself both father and mother of the souls for whom he sacrifices himself entirely—a paternity and a maternity which are a reflection of, or rather, a sharing in the paternity of God. In the natural order, God has arranged that fecundity, the source of life, should be the result of the union of two creatures. In the supernatural order also, fecundity is born of union, but of an immensely superior and wholly spiritual union: the union of the soul with God. The more a soul is united to God by love, the greater is its participation in His inexhaustible fecundity, which has for its end the communication of the divine life to men. Therefore, consecrated souls, who have renounced natural fecundity, have not impoverished and stifled their lives, condemning them to sterility; through their union with God, these souls have been raised to a paternity, to a maternity, of a far superior nature.
“O eternal Father, You cannot fail to know that poor sinners are Your creatures and belong to You by the supreme title of creation.
“O eternal Son, blessed King, You cannot deny that these wretched beings belong to You, since You gained them for Yourself by the incomparable title of Redemption. Listen to me, O most obedient Son, listen to me and show Yourself propitious to my prayers, because when I present myself to the eternal Father with the pledge of Your Blood and Your Passion in my hand, He cannot drive me far away from Him without first hearing my requests.
“Come to my aid, O eternal Holy Spirit! No matter how abominable these sinners may be by the enormity of their sins, they still belong to You, since You made them Yours by admitting them to a share in Your goodness.
“O Lord, my only comfort is to see souls converted to You; and for this alone I suffer patiently Your absence. If You do not grant me this comfort, what can I do? Do not drive me away, most merciful Lord!
“You are resolved and already disposed to hear me, since in Your compassionate glance toward me, I perceive, clothed with Your light, my spiritual sons and daughters, my brothers and sisters and all those whom I strive to win to You day by day. May they always remain faithful to You.
“O sovereign and eternal Father, I recommend to You my beloved children, whom You have confided to me; I beg of You to visit them with Your grace, to make them live as dead to the world that they may enjoy clear and perfect light, and be united among themselves with the sweet bond of charity. I pray You, O eternal Father, that none of them be taken from my hands, and I beg You to pardon us all our offenses. I offer and commend to You my beloved children, because they are my very soul” (St. Catherine of Siena).
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Art for this post on spiritual paternity and maternity: Saint Catherine of Siena, anonymous painter, 19th century?, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.