My parents have often said,
“The best gift we can give to you is your faith with all our love.”
And they have given it, devoutly.
They taught more by example than by word. They worked hard; they prayed harder. They celebrated the victories, great and small; and they laughed a lot. And if I’ve learned one thing from them, it’s that there is GENIUS in the guidance of our Church.
We often refer to the Church in the feminine, as bride or as mother. The term ‘Mother Church,’ or Ecclesia Mater, was introduced early in salvation history.
St. Paul revealed a great mystery when he told the early Christians that a man must love his wife in the same way that Christ loves His Bride, the Church. He made her holy “by washing her in cleansing water with a form of words, so that when he took the Church to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless” (Eph 5:25-27).
Truly, the Church is a Mother, there to guide those who will listen to her many, many years of lived wisdom and inspired counsel.
Growing up, I strived to follow the rules my parents set and the teachings of our Church, though sometimes blindly and many times with a luke-warm and wondering heart–is this really what will make me happy? Sometimes I wandered, sometimes I strayed, but the voice of faith and reason alive in our Church always called me back.
I remember many lonely days in high school as I strove against the current of my peers who were living a different life than the one I knew my parents wanted for me and the one our Church taught was right. Out of OBEDIENCE, I trusted and I acted, having faith that the guidance was rooted in love and wisdom. This was a grace.
Looking back today I can see how the direction of my parents and our Mother Church has saved me from a lot of brokenness.
And it’s brought me to a most beautiful, new, and affirming chapter in life. One with many amazing relationships–relationships with mothers, with fathers, with brothers, with sisters, with friends.
What I can say about my journey is that I would not be where I am without the wisdom and counsel of my mothers–both the mother who bore me into this world and the Mother who we call Church.
What mother does not want her child’s joy above all else?
In the Catechism we read that it is “in the Church, in communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfills his vocation” and it is “from the Church that he learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary” (CCC 2030). We look to tradition, to years of experience, to find where we are called to serve.
For a time, I struggled to know my vocation–what kind of “motherhood” I was called to–whether it be biological or spiritual. I discerned consecrated life and saw the beauty of it. I witnessed married life and saw the goodness of it.
When Pope Benedict XVI gave his final Wednesday Address, he told us that “one receives one’s life precisely when one offers it as a gift.” And so, eager as I was to know what that ‘life’ would be, with faith, I gave it back to God and asked Him to show me how He wanted me to offer it as a gift.
Not long later, I met my husband. He is amazing.
The joy I feel in marriage is like nothing I’ve experienced before.
What God showed me through my process of discernment is that vocation is ALWAYS fulfilled in a PERSON. Whether it be the Person of Jesus Christ–lived through a celibate and consecrated vocation–or the person one is called to marry–lived through a free, total, faithful, and fruitful self-donation between a man and a woman.
I am overwhelmed by the beauty of what our Church teaches and the Good News she proclaims of her bridegroom, Christ, our Lord. It is His example that we are called to follow above all else. St. Paul beckons us to do the following:
“Follow Christ by loving as he loved you,
giving himself up for us as an offering
and a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God”
This is big. This is beautiful. And this is the best way we can live our lives, receiving the gift of faith and, in turn, offering ourselves as a gift, first and foremost to God, with all our love.
Mary Jean Jones is a wife and mother to her son Shepherd and daughter Reagan. She graduated from Ave Maria University in 2011 with her Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Theology.