The veneration of motherhood—whether spiritual or physical—is vital to the pro-life movement and to how our society thinks about mothers and motherhood.
Megan Madden—a Catholic mother and writer who has completed graduate courses in marriage and family—knows this well, and in her book Mary, Teach Me to Be Your Daughter: Finding Yourself in the Blessed Mother, she explains authentic femininity, virtuous womanhood, and how they relate to our Blessed Mother.
During graduate school, Madden read the works of many great Catholic writers—such as Edith Stein, Pope John Paul II, and Alice von Hildebrand—on femininity, womanhood, and marriage. Through her reading, she began to understand that “the ultimate end of femininity and womanhood is imitation of our mother Mary.”
She then asked herself how women of all ages and in all walks of life can practically imitate Mary. This led her to St. Louis de Montfort and his 10 principal virtues on Our Lady—deep humility, lively faith, blind obedience, unceasing prayer, constant self-denial, surpassing purity, ardent love, heroic patience, angelic kindness, and heavenly wisdom.
After much reading and prayer, she knew she wanted to write a book about these virtues and the feminine genius. Mary, Teach Me to Be Your Daughter takes each of St. Louis de Montfort’s virtues and matches them with a quality of the feminine genius. Madden then examines Our Lady’s life and motherhood through this lens and finishes each chapter with meditative and practical components for how we can imitate Mary.
Madden writes: “All women are called to be mothers, be it spiritual or physical. It is intrinsically linked to the psychological makeup of the feminine existence to possess deep within the recesses of her heart a variety of maternal qualities: gentleness, kindness, compassion, wisdom, counsel, protectiveness, purity, and loveliness.”
What this motherhood looks like is different for all women. Maybe it’s in physically caring for their own children; maybe it’s as a nurse caring for the sick or elderly; maybe it’s as a nun caring for the spiritual welfare of those around her; maybe it’s as a teacher, an aunt, or a godmother, who cares for the young people entrusted to her; or maybe it’s the single woman who prays for abortion-minded moms in front of an abortion clinic. As women, we all have different ways we are called to live out motherhood. But there is one thing we can all have in common—the guidance of our spiritual mother.
Mary is relatable to everyone because she too experienced the ups and downs of life. She felt the joy of carrying a baby and the joy of a happy marriage. And she experienced the heartbreak of losing her husband and of watching her Son die a painful death on the cross. Yet she likely encountered the mundane as well—caring for and nursing a small child, taking care of her home, and making dinners. But through it all, she remained humble, meek, giving, loving, and most of all obedient to God. There is no better example of motherhood than Mary.
Her perfect motherhood is something we can look to as we work to build a culture of life. It can help us to live out a love for others—even those we don’t like or those we disagree with—with kindness and compassion. Mary’s virtues teach fortitude and love, as we learn to know when to speak and when to listen. They teach us understanding in our encounters with single moms or with a child who has become pregnant out of wedlock. They teach us to be open to life in our own marriages.
Living these virtues can be incredibly difficult in today’s society because femininity and motherhood are often looked upon with scorn. In fact, in many ways, we see that today’s society wants women to be more like men. It even wants women to deny those special traits that make women so unique—the ability to carry a child in her body, the ability to nurse, and the nurturing quality that is intrinsic in women. Madden addresses this, saying:
The first step to break woman down in this manner is to strip her of her natural instincts as mother; in taking down a mother, one certainly takes down the family. The strange thing about this mindset is that it demands that a woman reject her maternal qualities to achieve true freedom and happiness. This is where Our Lady steps in and paves the way for all women, showing the dignity and privilege of authentic femininity and virtuous womanhood.
This is why it is so vital to stand up against these new societal norms and speak about the beauty and wonder of the female body and about motherhood. These good and beautiful qualities are too frequently dismissed.
In her book, Madden writes: “Our Lord calls us to ‘be perfect’ (Matthew 5:48), but he does not turn his back on us once he has made this call. He has given us a perfect mother to reach down to us, her beloved children, and help us to rise, to climb, to cling to the cross, to receive the graces her son yearns to pour out on us.”
Madden encourages women to become closer to Mary by saying a daily rosary and meditating on her life and to truly embrace her as our spiritual mother. She reminds us that no one could love Mary more than her Son and that, when we love and honor Mary, we are actually honoring Jesus and imitating Him.
So as we work toward building a culture of life—a life where both motherhood and all children are respected and loved—let us look to our mother and her love for guidance. No matter what we go through in life, we can be assured that Mary understands. She is our spiritual mother, and her perfect love will teach us to love more perfectly.
This article first appeared in the Catholic World Report at catholicworldreport.com/2023/10/20/our-blessed-mothers-life-teaches-authentic-femininity-and-pro-life-virtues.