Spiritual Parenthood: Bring God’s Love to the World


In my last column, I wrote a response to Mary from New York, who asked me about the point of a Catholic marriage between a man and a woman who are unable to have children. 

I told her that God always brings new life out of sacramental marriage, when a husband and wife give of themselves in complete openness to God’s will. If He doesn’t bless them with children (or even if he does), He will use their love to bring His Divine life into the world.

After I wrote the first column, I got to thinking. This doesn’t just apply to childless couples; it applies to couples with children—especially when they leave their childbearing years behind—and it applies to those of us who are single.

In that article, I quoted a priest who once told me that today we have a lot of physical conception without spiritual conception. What God needs from us is the openness to conceive spiritually and to allow ourselves to become vessels through which He brings His Divine life into the world. 

We can all do that. We can all be “spiritual” mothers and fathers even if we aren’t physical parents.

So how do we do that?  Well, first and foremost, we have to take our focus off of ourselves. Believe it or not, I have a favorite line in the documents of Vatican II.  (What?  Doesn’t everybody?)  Gaudium et Spes 24 says that “Man, being the only creature created for his own sake, finds himself only in a sincere gift of himself.” 

In other words, we find real fulfillment through giving ourselves in love, not through obsessively focusing on our own selves, our pleasures and our satisfaction.  Narcissism is the road to misery.

We must first give ourselves to God. By surrendering our will to His, we can “give” ourselves to Him just as a wife gives herself to her husband.

This is done formally through consecration, when a single person vows to remain celibate and gives himself or herself only to God. It can also happen informally when we tell God, “I don’t know what my future holds, but I surrender it to You, to help bring Your love into the world.” 

Once we surrender our wills to God, He is free to work. He “conceives” His love within us, and with our cooperation brings that love into the world.

I have seen tangible evidence of this in my own life. During speaking engagements, I’ve seen God work in ways that couldn’t possibly be “me.” 

I also saw it during the month I was privileged to be “Mommy” to the 3-year-old girl that I unsuccessfully attempted to adopt. In both cases, I was called to step significantly out of my comfort zone, to “give myself” in a way that went beyond the ordinary.

In both cases I had to leave the final result up to God, doing my part (with a lot of His help), and then surrendering to Him when the situation moved out of my control.

Physical fruitfulness comes with pain—the pain of labor. Spiritual fruitfulness will often come accompanied by suffering. Just as a woman considers her labor pain a small price to pay for the miracle of her child, we can also realize that our sufferings are mere “labor pains” that God will use to bring His love into the world.

To quote a line I saw on Facebook this morning, “we must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

And, with a lot of faith in Him and His plan, that life will be fruitful—in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine with out Him!




  1. James-403019 October 7, 2012 Reply

    Mary Beth,
    I enjoyed reading your article, and thought it was wonderful. I have one comment. A priest once shared with me that God in His perfection is incapable, in His perfection, of being anything but perfect, and therefore, He is incapable in having a will for us that is anything but perfect. Therefore, God is incapable of “Plan B” which is second best. Rather, when “Plan A” goes by the wayside because we or someone else make bad choices, God doesn’t give us a second best plan. Rather he gives us “Plan A+”. And if we mess that up, we get “Plan A++”. I always thought was a great way of looking at these things.

    God bless,


  2. Lois-765906 October 5, 2012 Reply

    Mary Beth,
    Thanks so much for reminding us that, no matter what stage of life we are in, we can still be spiritual parents to others. As someone who was unable to conceive biologically, I have found that many spiritual children have come and gone in my life for a season of mutual edification. After reading your latest article, I now look forward to the prospect, hopefully, of being married again, confident in the fact that there is just as much ability to produce spiritual fruit in marriage for Catholic middle aged couples as there is for younger couples who produce physical children. Thanks for the clarification.

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