The Power of Mothering


Rediscover the healing power of women’s spirituality. “Man or woman, become the mothers the world needs us to be.”

Our book The Way of the Rose explores the pagan roots of the world’s most popular spiritual devotion. While meditation seems to have evolved from masculine hunting behaviors that privileged silence, stillness, and focused awareness, bead practices emerged from the communal experiences of women gatherers as they moved about gathering nuts and berries, chatting, and sharing stories along the way. In a world dominated by so many forms of human predation, it is time to rediscover the healing power of women’s spirituality.

Most of us crave mothering—the shoulder to cry on, the soup when we’re sick, the shared laughter, that little bit of juicy gossip and, from time to time, the good kick in the behind. Mothers grow things and cook things. They birth babies and close the eyes of the dead. Mothers are the ones who show up with casseroles when there is a calamity. And not just mothers, but grandmothers, too. They are the keepers of the old stories and the lost lore.

Yet few people, even parents, aspire to be motherly anymore—much less grandmotherly. Motherly means dowdy, fussy, nosy, and probably a bit old-fashioned. It’s become a derogatory term that says more about the ways that women, and women’s ways of being, are devalued in our culture. Still, in most institutions, religious or otherwise, there is usually someone, slightly removed from the chain of authority, who hangs out in the kitchen and offers a friendly ear and a little something sweet when we really need it. You can mock that person, or ignore her, but you can’t do without her.

The rosary is the story of a woman’s journey through the joys and sorrows of motherhood, but it is also an invitation, for both men and women, to get to know the Mother directly by entering into her experience and seeing the world from her point of view. Gradually, as we do that, we begin to trust her with our most intractable problems and dilemmas, along with our barely acknowledged desires. We bring to Our Lady everything that is in our hearts, and we trust that she will take care of us in ways that we could not have imagined.

We begin, too, to recognize those people in our lives who manifest her generosity and her wisdom. It’s the gutsy, outspoken woman without any kids of her own who fights tooth and nail for the drug treatment program in her town. It’s the man who organizes a string of protests against a lumber company and somehow manages to save a stand of old-growth trees. It’s the friend who always intuits when we’re in trouble and instinctively knows when to call. The more we begin to trust the rhythms of the beads, the easier it is to let ourselves, man or woman, become the mothers the world needs us to be.

And who is to say that Our Lady, in the midst of caring for the world and everything in it, does not need us as well to be mothers? Perhaps that is why she often appears in the guise of a young girl—to awaken in our hearts the power of our own motherliness … for ourselves, for one another, and for the Earth.

It seems like there are mothers
and children in the world—
but there are only Mothers.
The truth is, there are only Mothers

Keep reading: "Joy in Her Bones"

Read more from Clark Strand & Perdita Finn in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of Spirituality & Health.

Excerpted with permission from THE WAY OF THE ROSE by Clark Strand & Perdita Finn. Published by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright 2019 by Clark Strand and Perdita Finn.

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