I love reading the lives of the Saints – at least the ones that seem like ordinary and relatable people – and their journey to sanctification. But one thing that started to bother me was that I had trouble finding examples of Saints who were sanctified through their maternity.
That is, that they didn’t found a religious order, but rather their story was more home centred.
This is not a criticism, mind you, but I felt as though it might be easier for me to find inspiration among the Saints with women who had a domestic vocation rather than a religious one.
So I did a bit of research looking for some inspiration and this is what I found:
1. Saint Monica – no list of saintly Catholic mothers would be complete without Saint Monica. Her son, Saint Augustine, was literally a wild child and it was her persistent prayer that brought about his conversion. And some prayer it must have been to go from sinner to saint!
“Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being fulfilled.”
2. Saint Zelie Martin – it’s no secret that I am inspired by the mother of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Perhaps, by any standards, her life was dull and ordinary but she was a woman of tremendous faith and endurance. Despite losing 4 children she accepted God’s will in her life and was rewarded with her remaining children discerning religious vocations. Therese may already be canonised but her sister Leonie is also on the path to beatification. Zelie is an example to all mums especially those who have experienced the loss of a child and mothers suffering from cancer.
“I want to become a saint; it will not be easy at all. I have a lot of wood to chop and it is as hard as stone. I should have started sooner, while it was not so difficult; but, in any case, ‘better late than never.”
3. Saint Emilia – also known as Amelia not too much is known about this Saint except that she had ten children and five of them are canonised saints. Yes, five out of ten, that’s an amazing feat and she is called ‘mother of saints, as a result. Mother to Saints Macrina, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, Peter of Sebaste and Theosebia she obviously excelled in forming her children in the faith and the pursuit of holiness.
“To you, O Lord, I give the first fruits and the tithe of the fruit of my womb. The first fruit is my first-born daughter, and the tithe is this, my youngest son. Let these be for you a rightly acceptable sacrifice, and let your holiness descend upon them!”
4. Saint Gianna Molla – a contemporary saint, most of us are familiar with her story. Working mothers, mothers facing a difficult pregnancy and mothers who are ill all take solace from her example. A doctor and mother Gianna wore her faith on her sleeve and made the choice to be open to life and to protect and love that life at the expense of her own.
“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.”
5. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton – was a mother of five children who was widowed and left with no money. In order to support her family and provide for their needs she opened a school in her own home. This simple act, born out of necessity, would lead to her eventually establishing the first Catholic school in the United States. Her life is an inspiration for all mothers but perhaps in a special way, single mothers and working mothers.
“What was the first rule of our dear Saviour’s life? You know it was to do His Father’s will. Well, then, the first purpose of our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills; and, thirdly, to do it because it is His will. We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that He gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”
Two notable mentions – Blessed Maria Quattrochi and Chiara Corbella Petrillo may still be on the path to canonisation but that doesn’t make their inspiration any less remarkable. Maria and her husband Luigi were beatified together, and three of their four children discerned religious vocations. Chiara passed away only five years ago, in 2012, and is a contemporary witness to sanctity. Her story is poignant yet beautiful, a life freely given for another, that of her child.
Of course this list is not exhaustive – it does not include mothers such as Our Lady or Saint Elizabeth, but it might just help you find a little inspiration for your own spiritual progress.
About the Author: I am a reformed perfectionist who is now a stay at home mum with five children under nine years of age. I am a qualified journalist and graphic designer with a decided creative streak, and run a hobby business called Emily Shaw Design + Write. I will attempt most craft activities and love to write about topical - and especially controversial - issues.