The Heart of a Spiritual Mother

From The Divine Heart, chapter on “Vulnerability”

In the courtyard of St. Mary’s Elementary School, in Miami, Florida, I looked up at Mary, the Holy Mother, eight feet tall, made of alabaster. The smooth white statue watched over all of us and became my friend. Running up to her every morning for six years, I could feel her strength and gentleness, her compassionate eyes always looking down upon me. In front of her, I felt seen in a way that was never true in my family, where my mother often called me by my sister’s name, and I was referred to as “number eight” (of ten children). Alabaster Mary was larger and stronger than any woman I knew. As I stood in her presence, I felt held in grace.

Every day with my palms touching in front of my heart, I would say, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace.’ I loved saying those words and wondered, “Could I be full of grace, too?”

I liked telling Mary the little things I did, like how my sister and I would whisper to each other from our twin beds after the lights were shut until we fell asleep. I’d tell her about the big things too, that my mother was drinking and how scared it made me feel. Every day when I visited Mother Mary, she looked at me with a mother’s love. I could step into her eyes and rest my head upon her heart.

Spiritual ancestors—saints, mystics, and teachers—help us trust what we hold in our hearts. Without being conscious of it, Mary became my spiritual mother and held my vulnerability. Our hearts long for recognition and companionship as we step into the unknown depths of our hearts. The intimacy of being seen is both disarming and com forting, encouraging us toward life and love. In my work as a librarian and a spiritual director, I’ve come to see that vulnerability is inherent to the human experience.

Pause and reflect: 

  • Take a moment to come into yourself with three conscious breaths. Breathing in, you know you are breathing out; Breathing out, you know you are breathing out.
  • Allow the breath to bring you into your heart, which is your spiritual center.
  • Reflect on who is a spiritual mother for you. Sit with your spiritual mother in prayer and ask her for what you need.