I’ve been meditating on the lovely expression of Saint Teresa of Calcutta: “the call within the call.” Her approach to seeing Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor remains inspiring.
Of course, we are not all called to serve God within the religious community of the Missionaries of Charity.
Although we are called to serve. It is my belief that we mothers are called to be missionaries.
Bear with me.
St Therese of Lisieux is well known for her desire to be a missionary, yet she never left her monastery. Instead she prayed for those involved in missionary work.
And what is a missionary?
A missionary is a person sent on a religious mission. Especially, one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country.
We know a family who have discerned a call to the latter, and now reside in Cambodia with their three children. Whilst we admire them, and pray for them, we have not discerned the same call.
And yet, I have discerned a missionary call. But it’s not what you think.
If a missionary is a person sent on a religious mission, then are we not, as the primary religious educator (in tandem with our spouse) of our children, a missionary to them?
Mothers are the heart of the home. Often the primary caregiver and housekeeper; their realm is the domestic church. Our culture constantly tells mothers that staying home to raise a family is, alternatively, a luxury or, detrimental to our career.
We are somehow expected to live out the myth that women ‘can have it all’, and perhaps they can, but it’s my opinion that they can’t have it all at the same time.
Jesus tells us that we can’t serve two masters, [cf Matthew 6:24] but that does not eliminate a woman’s contribution to the workforce. Rather it illuminates the heart wrenching sacrifices mothers make to cater to both the domestic and the professional spheres. The underlying reason for the ‘mummy guilt’ they experience. In a similar way to ‘see Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor’ we are called to ‘see Christ in the demanding disguise of our family’.
For each of us, this may vary in practise, though the motivation remains the same. Sometimes seeing Christ in our family means putting the family Rosary on hold in favour of tending to a sick child; letting your husband watch the footy at a mates house while you’re at home with the kids, especially when you feel that you’re in need of a break, because you recognise that he needs the down time.
It may take the form of reading a story to your child – several times in succession – instead of hanging that load of washing on the line. Making dress ups for play when you should really be organising the documents for your tax return.
It may even be making the sacrifice to work full or part time in order to add much needed funds to your family budget. A sacrifice that cuts like a dual edged sword; guilt for being outside of the home and judgement from others for having made that ‘choice’.
The role of wife and mother separately or combined, as individual circumstances may necessitate, is far more than a duty or an obligation. It is a call, within the call of the vocation of marriage, to domestic missionary work.
If you approach the demands of family as though you were doing them for Christ, you can sanctify the most mundane of tasks.
Offering each task, especially the ones that are really a chore, will bring Christ closer to you and your family. Maybe we, the Missionaries of Domesticity, do not have a formal habit, charter or community but there is no reason why we can’t form networks of other like-minded parents, from all walks of life, and support each other in our vocational mission.
You are a Domestic Missionary, your religious mission is your domestic vocation and through living it to the fullest you bring Christ to your family and the decidedly unchristian world around you.
The going might be tough, but the tough can be sanctified.
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.