Isn’t the above picture great? One of these days I need to get around to ordering a portrait of St. Gianna from Portraits of Saints for my home. (What a great shop – I love their images!)
It’s the feast day of this blog’s patroness, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, and the one-year anniversary of the launch of this blog! St. Gianna, pray for us!
I haven’t been as prolific a blogger as I’d hoped (darn real life getting in the way), but our Facebook group is still going strong – we have over 1,300 members now – and I remember most days to post something to the blog’s Facebook page.
In other news, I discovered something tremendously exciting this morning. I’ve always wished that I knew about St. Gianna when I was confirmed in 2003 (she was “Blessed Gianna” at the time, as she wasn’t canonized until 2004), because if I had I would have taken her name as my confirmation name.
Guess what I found out? “Gianna” is another form of “Joanna”! I was named after my favorite saint, and one of the patronesses of working mothers, twenty-four years before she was canonized! Somehow, I don’t think that’s a coincidence (especially since family lore has it that my parents had another name for me in mind throughout my mother’s pregnancy, and only decided to name me JoAnna after I was born). Thanks, Holy Spirit!
God, our Father, You have granted to Your church the gift of Gianna Beretta Molla. In her youth she lovingly sought You and drew other young people to You, involving them, through apostolic witness and Catholic Action, in the care of the sick and aged, to help and comfort them.We thank You for the gift of this young woman, so deeply committed to You. Through her example grant us the grace to consecrate our lives to Your service, for the joy of our brothers and sisters.
Glory be …
Jesus, Redeemer of mankind, You called Saint Gianna to exercise the medical profession as a mission for the comfort of bodies and souls. In her suffering fellow men and in the little ones, deprived of all support, she saw You.
We thank You for having revealed Yourself to this servant as “one who serves” and who soothes the sufferings of men. Treasuring her example may we become generous Christians at the service of our brothers and sisters, especially those with whom You deign to share Your Cross.
God, Sanctifying Spirit, who love the Church as Your Bride, You poured into the heart of Saint Gianna a share of Your Love so that she could radiate it in her family, and thus cooperate with You in the wonderful plan of creation, and give life to new children who could know and love You.
We thank You for this model wife and, through her encouraging witness, we beg You to grant to our families the serene and Christian presence of mothers committed to transform their homes into cenacles of faith and love, rich with generous activity and sanctifying service.
O God, Creator and lover of mankind, You were close to Saint Gianna when, affected by illness, she was in the painful dilemma of choosing between her own life and the life of the child whom she was carrying in herself, a gift long-awaited. Trusting You alone, and aware of Your Commandment to respect human life, Gianna found the courage to do her duty as a mother and to say “yes” to the new life of her baby, generously sacrificing her own. Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Jesus, and after the example of Gianna, inspire all mothers to welcome with love the sparkle of new life. Grant us the grace we are praying for …………. and the joy to find an inspiration in Saint Gianna who, as a model spouse and mother, after the example of Christ, gave up her life for the life of others.
Daycare is a frequent topic of discussion in the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group. How to find a good daycare, what is a fair price to pay for daycare, what questions should you ask when interviewing daycare providers, how to resolve various daycare issues, lack of availability of good and affordable daycare in certain areas, and so on.
The frequent questions made me wonder if there was a specific saint for Catholics to invoke when dealing with daycare issues. I took an informal poll in the Facebook group and did some searching online, and here’s what I found.
There are actually several candidates for the patron saint of daycare issues/daycare providers, but no one official per se. The leading candidates are:
St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Given that St. Gianna is the patron saint of working mothers (as well as the patron saint of this blog!) she seems a perfect candidate for the patron saint of daycare issues as well. Both St. Gianna and her husband, Pietro, had demanding careers (she as a doctor, he as an engineer), and they no doubt encountered many issues with childcare as their family grew. I’m sure she interceded for her husband, Pietro, after her death as he left his children in the care of another and worked to support them without her.
St. Stylianos is primarily a saint in the Orthodox faith, but his page on Orthodox Wiki says he’s also venerated in the Roman Catholic Church. I didn’t even know he existed until I did a Google search for “patron saint of daycare,” but to my surprise I found out that my son Gabriel was born on his feast day (November 26). Now my son has a new patron saint!
I love what the Wiki page says about him:
During this period, Stylianos concerned himself primarily with children, not just the physically afflicted but also with those who were in need of spiritual guidance. Families from all walks of life were said to have entrusted to Stylianos the enlightenment of their children, and he was forced to seek out larger headquarters and to recruit from the ranks of his hermit friends the assistance needed to tend to so many. His was probably the first day-care centre in the world, where mothers could safely leave their children while tending to other matters of the home.
Stylianos was to become the patron saint of children yet to be born, owing to stories of his miraculous intercession for a young woman who helped him with children but could bear none of her own. When the woman conceived, her husband out of sheer joy spread the word of this miracle, and before long many barren women came to the great hermit. Those whose faith in Jesus Christ was genuine became fertile.
I love that he provided a service for mothers so they could attend to “matters of the home.” Just goes to show that stay-at-home-moms can appreciate good daycare, too! Here are some prayers to St. Stylianos.
The St. Nicholas Center has this to say about his patronage of children:
In the West Nicholas is most widely known as the patron saint of children. Many of his stories tell of children rescued from calamity and returned to the care and keeping of their families. In France the most familiar story, both told and sung, is of three little children lured into the clutches of an evil butcher and rescued by St. Nicholas. Other stories, as well, tell of children who disappeared, were kidnaped, fell into a well, or suffered some other disaster-all to be delivered through the good offices of St. Nicholas. These accounts of a child forcibly taken from parents, followed by a time of grieving and despair, then the miraculous return of the child, have profound and universal appeal which makes Nicholas the much valued Guardian of Children. It is no wonder he is the beloved patron saint of children.
Sending your kids off to daycare isn’t quite the same as having them lost or kidnapped, but sometimes it can be traumatic leaving your little ones in someone else’s care for the day (especially on the first day back from maternity leave, when you feel like you’re abandoning your tiny, helpless baby). St. Nicholas sounds like a good candidate for the patron saint of mothers who are struggling with leaving their children.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is one of my favorite saints! (I gave my youngest daughter the middle name of Elizabeth partly in her honor.) She was, like me, a Catholic convert and a mother of five. Unlike me, she was a widow and had to raise her children as a single mother, while working as a teacher and founding a religious order. (Incidentally, I didn’t realize it until just now, while doing research for this post, but her birthday is today! She was born August 28, 1774. Happy birthday, Mother Seton!)
I have to imagine that Mother Seton had many moments when her position as a teacher conflicted with the needs of her children, so I think she can sympathize with those of us who need to find reliable, safe childcare so that we can both work and make sure our children are safe and happy while we are away from them. She was also a kind and conscientious care provider to the children sent to her for schooling, which means she could be a patroness of both daycare seekers and daycare providers. She also started New York city’s first charity, the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, so I think she can sympathize with those of us who wince at the amount of money we pay to daycare each week!
Incidentally, if you are interested in watching a great movie about Mother Seton’s life, I highly recommend A Time for Miracles. I own it on DVD (as part of this collection, which I found in the $5 bin at Walmart last December) and it’s excellent — plus it starts one of my favorite actresses, Kate Mulgrew, as Mother Seton.
Blessed Zélie Martin is one of the patronesses of working mothers. She trained as a lacemaker and ran a successful business before and after marrying and having children:
Eight more children followed in the next thirteen years. Louis and Zélie rejoiced at each birth and grieved when three of them died as small babies, but the greatest sorrow, especially for Louis, was the death of Hélène at the age of five, on February 22nd 1870, her eldest sister’s tenth birthday. That same year Louis sold his business to his nephew so that he could help Zélie with hers. He had already taken over the book-keeping and was now free to travel to obtain orders. Zélie had fifteen women working for her in their own homes and every Thursday they brought her the work they had done and received the cotton and their instructions for the next week. Zélie assembled the pieces that they brought to her. She often worked late into the night as she always gave time to her children when they needed it and she wrote many letters especially to her two eldest daughters when they were in boarding school.
Blessed Zélie and Louis are the first spouses in the history of the Church to be canonized as a couple. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the canonization announcement of such an excellent and holy example of Catholic marriage came the day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Yay, God!
In some of his general audiences this past April, Pope Francis addressed gender roles. On April 15, the Pope intimated that men and women have been created with difference, and this difference transcends our physical bodies and permeates the roles each gender plays. Drawing from St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the Pope said that together a man and a woman image God, and they necessarily need difference to do so.
Unfortunately, the idea that men and women image God not only as individuals but also together in their union is not palatable to our current, secular belief system. Starting with the birth control pill and ending with gender reassignment surgery, modern society has tried everything it can to destroy differences between the sexes. It’s as if secular thinkers have applied the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision beyond race to also gender: women cannot be equal to men unless they are the same. So now there’s “gender theory,” which asserts that the differences we perceive between the sexes are socially constructed; women act like women because societal forces encourage them to behave a certain way. If only we would remove those pressures, men and women would be the same, thus making the genders equal.
The Pope called gender theory “an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.” He continued, “Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution.”
Contrary to the current secular mindset, we cannot negate our gender. Catholic thinkers such as St. Edith Stein (more on her later) have rightly pointed out that our gender goes beyond our physical stature and genitalia; our identity as a man or woman also has a spiritual significance. Though the fact is not often brought to light, modern science has demonstrated that the structure of the female brain differs from that of the male. Women literally think differently than men do. So if created gender differences exist, it follows that men and women have different roles to play in creation.
However, this does not mean that a man’s sphere consists of public life while a woman’s sphere is relegated to the home. While those particular gender roles may have been set in stone for millennia, it’s clear that Pope Francis sees them as cultural and not part of our faith. In his general audience on April 29, Pope Francis defended some of the feminist impulses that began in the 1960s: “Many believe that the changes that have occurred in these last decades [i.e. the decline of marriage and the family] were put in motion by the emancipation of women,” he said. “But even this argument is invalid, it’s false, it isn’t true! It is a form of male chauvinism, which always seeks to dominate women.” Later in the audience, the Pope lamented the male-female pay gap, calling it “an absolute disgrace.”
Because work outside of being a homemaker is a valid calling for women and gender differences exist, how should women consider their unique gender role in the capacity of what they do to earn income?
The American work world today is still not fully hospitable to women. Even though it’s now 2015 – more than half a century after Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique” and Second Wave feminism was born – women are clearly not equal to men in the workplace. While there are a few areas in which women command higher salaries than men (most notably in the STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – fields), the work world is in many ways an old boys’ club.
On average, women are compensated 12 percent less than their male counterparts are. Only about one in 20 Fortune 1000 CEOs is a woman. Women are severely underrepresented on corporate boards, even though studies have shown that companies with more females on their boards perform better. For every woman in a senior leadership position, there are more than four men. We’ve never had a female American president.
It’s widely argued that women take home smaller paychecks than men because they do not negotiate their starting wage and that they do not ask for subsequent raises as often (or at all) as men do. Yet when women do ask for raises, it is much more likely to reflect poorly on them. One 2014 study found that during annual reviews, 88 percent of women received negative criticism while 59 percent of men did. Moreover, the criticism the men received was constructive in nature while the women’s criticism was not very helpful. In office meetings, women are less likely to verbally contribute, and when they do speak up, their ideas are taken less seriously than those of men. And the preponderance of evidence shows that it does not work for women to navigate this situation by acting like men. When women deny their gender and act masculine in the workplace, they end up alienating everyone – men and women alike.
Pope Francis’s general address on April 15 started up a conversation about how gender roles should work in the public sphere. The Pope elevated the role of women, saying that society needs to recognize and value the “feminine genius.” Theology of the Body experts might recognize this term; TOB expert Katrina Zeno wrote a book, “The Feminine Genius,” devoted to the subject.
Many people believe that the thought of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, aka Edith Stein, strongly influenced St. Pope John Paul II’s conception of the feminine genius. In her writings, Stein argues that all human beings have three vocations as outlined in the first chapters of Genesis: to image God, to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth and subdue it. For Stein, women and men were different not so much in that they were called to all three; the difference lie in which vocation was emphasized for each gender. For men, their first calling is to subdue the earth; their second calling was as parent. For women, these orders are reversed so that being a mother is a woman’s primary calling.
Though Stein was never a mother herself, she stressed the concept of “spiritual motherhood,” something that all women are called to. Spiritual motherhood, a large part of the feminine genius, happens when women nurture the personal growth of other people. Women help others reach their potentials and are less attuned to their own narrow interests.
While this calling of sacrifice and self-negation seems like the lesser of the two gender callings (and it certainly is in the eyes of the world), it fits in with many other Christian paradoxes, e.g. the last will be first, the meek shall inherit the earth, whoever wishes to save his life must lose it, etc. What seems to the world as weakness is actually something that is extremely spiritually strong. That is why Paul can say in 1 Timothy 2:15: “Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.” Certainly not every Christian woman will be a mother, but every Christian woman can “bear children” by adhering to her gender role of nurturing others.
That same gender role can be brought to the workplace. Women can act as mentors, helping others improve their job performance. Women can lend their natural proclivities to look at situations holistically and consider people and emotions. Women can foster collaboration and fruitful discussion, cutting to the quick of the competitive, individualistic nature that drives the business world designed by men. While a woman who embraces her feminine role at work might be taking a risk (not playing by the “rules” could close her off from some financial success), she will help transform the workplace from within into something that better serves people created in God’s image.
And to Stein, the feminine gender role was not entirely about self-negation. She taught that by helping others experience wholeness, a woman becomes whole herself. She didn’t view the role of “helpmate” as something separate from the development of a woman’s own completeness.
Finally, Stein offered practical advice to working women, whom she acknowledged as people who were quite busy. She suggested that the “first hour of your morning belongs to God” through prayer, Bible study or attending Mass. While it seems paradoxical that someone who is busy should take on another commitment, Stein argued that being spiritually filled up would help a woman better attend to the needs of her children and those at her workplace. “Tackle the day’s work that [God] charges you with, and he will give you the power to accomplish it,” she said. Given a woman’s role to nurture others, it makes sense that she would have to be full of God’s grace before she could pour herself out.
How is your calling as a woman expressed through the work you do outside your home? Are there other women in your workplace who model “spiritual motherhood,” and what can you learn from them? How do they make your work environment a better place?
About the author: Holly Hosler is a mother and a health care marketing copywriter. Reintroduced to Edith Stein/St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross while researching for this post, she recalls that seeing the “Edith Stein” play in 1994 was one of the many foundational events that would culminate in her becoming Catholic on Easter 2003. Her next baby is due on August 9, St. Teresa Benedicta’s feast day.
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Today is the feast day of St. Gianna Beretta Molla (patroness of Catholic working mothers) and the official launch of this site! Hooray! I’m so happy this day is finally here!
The most common refrain I hear when I meet another Catholic working mother, whether online or in person, is, “I’m so glad to know I’m not alone!”
If you are a Catholic working mother, you are not alone! I want this site to be a source of encouragement and inspiration for Catholic working mothers who are struggling to balance the duties of their vocations as mothers with the responsibilities of being wage earners, whether outside of the home or from the home.
We are Catholic. We are lay Catholic women faithful to the Magesterium of the Catholic Church. We hold, believe and practice all that the Holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be true, whether from the natural moral law or by way of revelation from God through Scripture and Tradition.
We are Working. We earn a wage in addition to our responsibilities as mothers and/or wives. Some of us work part-time; some of us work full-time. Some of us are freelancers or saleswomen; some of us are executives, teachers, or retail employees. Some of us have spouses who work, some of us are the primary breadwinners for our families while our spouse is in school or stays at home, and some of us are single, divorced, or widowed. Some of us are working by choice; some of us only work because we have no other means by which to support our families.
We are Mothers. Some of us are pregnant. Some of us have children by adoption. Some of us have one or two children on earth. Some of us have three or more children. Some of us have children in heaven. All of us recognize that our vocation as a mother is one of the most important jobs we will ever have.
We don’t compete with stay-at-home moms – we complement them. We both have tremendously important jobs with equally difficult responsibilities and unique challenges. Some of us may transition over time depending on our season of life. Regardless of where we are, it is so important to have community – a group of like-minded women who we feel will understand our trials, tribulations, triumphs and successes as we strive to serve God in all things, whether at work or at home.
Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.
Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.
To celebrate the launch of this site, I’m doing a giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a copy of Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor by Pietro Molla and Elio Guerriero, in either paperback or e-book format (winner’s choice).
To enter the giveaway, check out the options below!