Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,
Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer, in this brief reflection, captures for us the essence of Spiritual Motherhood and one of its exemplars in modern times - St. Therese of Lisieux. Though but very young she understood how important and beautiful it was to share in the motherhood of the Church - to give birth to souls for Jesus by sharing in his suffering. Her zeal for those cut off from the Lord by their sin was unmatched and her faith in the conversion of those she prayed for took on a kind of certainty when she sensed very clearly the Lord's desire for it. How could the Beloved put such a desire in the heart of His spouse if He did not intend to realize it? No, it is certain; for He desires to bring back the stray sheep more than we do!
Daughters - it is this confidence that you must foster in your hearts; for it is this confidence that works miracles! Such certainty comes not from yourselves but rather from God. Therese reminds us: "It is not our merits but those of our Spouse, which are ours, that we offer to Our Father who is in heaven, in order that our brother, a son of the Blessed Virgin, return vanquished to throw himself beneath the mantle of the most merciful of Mothers."
Therefore, do not waste the smallest amount of suffering. Accept and unite it to that of your Beloved's. "There is nothing more important than this. This motherhood can be brought about by a verbal apostolate and by an apostolate of prayer. However, suffering is the most effective means. Moreover, it is the most effective form of apostleship, since the greatest nakedness, which is a humble means, is found in suffering. In suffering, the Cross is outstretched the most."
Spiritual motherhood is realized through humble means because it is actualized by participating in Christ's death: "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat;" and in His Resurrection: "but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (Jn 12:24). Before all else, sharing in Christ's death is achieved through the acceptance of suffering since it inflicts death on egoism; and participating in the Resurrection is putting on "the new self, created in God's way" (Eph 4:24), the image of Christ who is Love. It is the apostleship of begetting Christ in souls. It means that the apostle shares Christ who is present in her soul.
Our apostleship as a spiritual motherhood is, due to faith, a participation in the spiritual motherhood of the Church. Through our faith, which fully manifests itself by the use of humble means, souls are reborn to live for Christ. Spiritual motherhood is brought about through the living word that is the fruit of contemplative contact with God. It is brought about through prayerful devotion to God and, in particular through sacrifice and suffering.
Two great sinners played a special role in the lift of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. When she was fourteen she learned about one of them, Pranzini, who had murdered three people. Despite being sentenced to death, he showed no remorse. Therese could not come to terms with the thought that he might die without being reconciled with God. For a month and a half, she offered all of her prayers and sufferings for Pranzini. Then God gave her a sign: this great sinner, in the last moment before his death, took a Crucifix and kissed the wounds of the Savior three times. When Therese learned about this, full of emotion, she said to Celine, "This is my first son." Therese being only fourteen, already had such a clear understanding of spiritual motherhood. Later she wrote, "Suffering alone can give birth to souls for Jesus." Pranzini was a prototype of all sinners, whom she wanted to offer here suffering. She knew that prayer alone was not enough, that, in order to save souls, one has to offer the greatest gift to God: one's own suffering.
The more dramatic figure of a great sinner, according to the testimonies of St. Therese, was Fr. Hyacinthe Loyson. His name is never mentioned in her autobiography, in Therese's letters, or in Story of a Soul. Only twice in her letters to Celine does she mention, "he is really culpable" and "a certain Lily faded and withered." We find out about her desire tree save this souls from the records of the process of beatification and canonization. Hyacinth Loyson, a Discalced Carmelite, superior to the convent in Paris, was a great and unusually gifted preacher whose conferences moved audiences in all of France. Even the Pope congratulated him on his successes. But, a a certain point in time, this exceptionally religious man turned from being a great preacher into becoming an apostate - a fighting apostate. He traveled across the dioceses of France and, despite many protestations, preached that the Church had moved away from the true Gospel. He fought the Church in this way for forty three years. This battle terrified the convent of Lisieux, so much so that no one had the courage to mention his name. He was never directly mentioned, and that is why his name never appears in the writings of St. Therese, who offered her prayers and sufferings for him for nine years. For Pranzini, a month and a half was enough for his conversion, whereas for Loyson, nine years seemed to be insufficient. Father Loyson was excommunicated, and later wrote an open letter incriminating the Church and the Carmelite Order. This provoked vehement protests and great indignation. Therese, however, did not lost hope. With great emotion she said to Celine that his conversion was her main desire. "Dear Celine, he is really culpable, more culpable than any other sinner who was ever converted. But cannot Jesus do once what He has not yet ever done? And if He were not to desire it, would He have placed in the heart of His poor little spouses a desire that He could not realize?" This is her often repeated statement: if Jesus gives us the desire for something, then it is not meant to remain unfulfilled. "No, it is certain," she writes, "that He desires more than we do to bring back this poor stray sheep to the fold. A day will come when He will open his eyes."
When we analyze St. Therese's faith, we see that her faith was a certainty. She knew that Hyacinthe Loyson would be converted. She wrote, "Let us not grow tired of prayer; confidence works miracles . . . It is not our merits but those of our Spouse, which are ours, that we offer to Our Father who is in heaven, in order that our brother, a son of the Blessed Virgin, return vanquished to throw himself beneath the mantle of the most merciful of Mothers." Therese so desired to save his soul that she offered her last Holy Communion for his intention. She died fully realizing that Fr. Hyacinthe Loyson was not converted, but the certainty of her faith remained unshaken. The priest did die fifteen years later at age eighty five. Jesus loved Therese so much that this time He did not have to give her any sign. Jesus knew that she would not stop believing that Fr. Loyson would be converted. When, in 1912, Loyson was dying, there was no Catholic priest with him and there was no confession. It is known, however, that before his death he received a copy of a Story of a Soul and read the writings of St. Therese in one reading, which he described as "a follow and something quite shocking." During his difficult death, those close to him heard him whisper the words, "Oh, my sweet Jesus." This last act of love directed toward Jesus allows us to assume that Fr. Hyacinthe was saved - thanks to the prayers and sufferings of Therese. He was also her spiritual son.
The statement by St. Therese that "suffering alone can give birth to souls for Jesus" shows us what spiritual motherhood consist in. A mother is one who gives life and who supports that life. A person fears suffering, but not one of us can free ourselves from it, just as we cannot free ourselves from the burden of each day. However, the advantage of our suffering and difficulties can be wasted. Only by accepting them and linking them with the Cross of Jesus will they allow us to enter the extraordinary mystery of spiritual motherhood. Taking part in the royal priesthood of the faithful, we are called to this kind of motherhood. We are called to gain and give birth to souls for Jesus. Think about all the many things that are difficult for you: may poor health, domestic conflicts, rebellious children or some spiritual torment. These things could be even more insignificant but, if they are accepted and offered, they cause you to participate in the spiritual motherhood of the Church, which means giving birth to souls for Christ. There is nothing more important than this. This motherhood can be brought about by a verbal apostolate and by an apostolate of prayer. However, suffering is the most effective means. Moreover, it is the most effective form of apostleship, since the greatest nakedness, which is a humble means, is found in suffering. In suffering, the Cross is outstretched the most.
Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer
The Gift of Faith