By: Gregory Popcak
She came up to us in tears. “Thank you so much for your talk. I never realized how important what I did actually was.” We had just finished discussing what we lovingly refer to as the “corporal and spiritual works of mommy.” That is, the little way of holiness that all mothers walk which allows them to both be a blessing to their families and become more saintly themselves. We often fantasize about great Christian heroes like Mother Theresa or the Saints and think, “If I could just abandon everything to serve the poor in some far off distant land, then I could do something really important! Then I could be holy. But I’m just a mom.” But nothing could be further from the truth! The path to holiness is not tied to geography, it is tied to the willingness to pursue virtue in whatever state of life God calls you to. Everyday, mom’s across the globe practice the same acts of heroic generosity that the great saints have always done; specifically, they exercise the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
To feed the hungry
When moms work hard to provide thoughtful and nutritious meals for their family they don’t just feed the body. Family meals provide an important way for families to bond together and to feel cared for. Studies consistently show that families that eat regular meals together are physically healthier, have stronger and happier homes, and have lower rates of depression and other mental health problems.
To give drink to the thirsty
Getting up late at night to give a child one more drink of water can be such a sacrifice, and yet doing it with love is such a simple and beautiful way to say to a little child, “you are precious to me.” And whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.
To clothe the naked
If negotiating the clothing choices of a fickle toddler or teen, patiently, isn’t a path to holiness, then we don’t know what is!
To give a home to the homeless
Moms do so much more than make sure that their families have a roof over their heads, they work to make a comfortable, hospitable, and safe home where the seeds of God’s love can take root and flourish.
To visit the sick
Where would any of us be without the comfort of “Dr. Mom”? Wiping those runny noses and standing by to help with those tummy aches does as much good for the child’s (and the Mother’s) soul as it does for the child’s physical well-being.
To visit the imprisoned
How many children long for Mom to come and deliver them from the dreaded Time Out? Gently correcting, educating, and comforting the child who has done wrong and finding godly ways of welcoming the child back into the bosom of the family is one of the most important activities a mother can take up.
To bury the dead.
When Gordon the Guppy or Ben the Bunny goes to his glory, who offers the comfort, the prayers of commission, (and the shoe box)? It is mom who helps the child learn to grieve these losses and feel God’s love in the presence of this sadness. In these small acts of consolation, the child learns that God cares about all of our sorrows, great and small. Of course, the value of the mother’s role extend beyond taking care of the family’s physical needs. She plays a valuable role in forming the hearts and souls of her family whenever she exercises the spiritual works of mercy.
To instruct the ignorant
From teaching a little one to tie his shoes, to helping an older child with her homework, it is often mom who takes primary responsibility for sharpening the child’s mind and enabling them to see God at work in his world.
To counsel the doubtful
When we are ready to give up on ourselves, or God, or life, Mom is often the first one to notice, and help us find hope again.
To admonish sinners
A mom is never more like the Good Shepherd, who leads the lost lambs back home, than when she takes the time to lovingly correct a struggling child.
To bear wrongs patiently & forgive offenses willingly
A mom is often challenged to respond to the angry words or the disobedience of a child with kindness and a desire to instruct, not shame, the child. The mother who masters this is not only on her way to sainthood, but also models dignity and grace under pressure to her children.
To comfort the afflicted.
Whether she is called upon to minister to the burn of a skinned knee or the pain of a broken heart, a mother has ample opportunity to be an instrument of peace and comfort to the afflicted ones in her care.
To pray for the living and the dead
Most importantly, a mom is a woman of prayer. She prays for guidance for her family. She prays for the souls of those who have gone before, and she prays that both she and her family will be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of the communion of saints.
Sadly, many moms doubt their worth these days, or worse, are treated as if they are worthless by children who don’t know better and husbands who ought to. But, this sad fact aside, the woman who practices the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in her home can have an equal if not greater impact on the world and achieve equal if not greater heights of sanctity as the greatest missionary or martyr because, like them, she too images the very heart of Christ to a community that needs her more that it even knows.