By Kathryn Sadakierski
Throughout my academic career, it seemed that everyone had different visions of what I should become. Some teachers saw me as a future doctor or lawyer; others encouraged me to pursue studies in the social sciences, education, business, or psychology; another suggested that I simply focus my energy on writing. Imagining myself following these paths, I was overwhelmed by the vast array of possibilities and variables. How would my life change if I chose one over the other? I felt torn, knowing I couldn’t do everything, that I had to define my own dream, my own way forward, amidst so many conflicting views of my calling.
Having worked with young children in early childhood and elementary school settings as an assistant teacher, I’ve come to realize a vocation broader than any single career: that of a spiritual mother. There is nothing I love more than nurturing and guiding other souls, pouring myself into helping them to grow, and being present for them, sharing the insights God gives me because He knows what they need to heal.
Being a spiritual mother involves being a teacher, and the most important thing I can teach is love. In fulfilling my vocation and living my life for God, I draw upon my variegated academic background and wide array of interests to discern how best to teach and nurture a love for learning, for life, and for all that God has created, in others. Beyond imparting specific skills and content knowledge, a spiritual mother fosters faith and empowers others to live it out, finding wonder and inspiration in all of the little miracles that make up daily life so that, moving forward each day, a spirit of hope can be preserved.
At one preschool where I worked, by the end of the day, the 13 three-year-old students in the class were loath to wake from their naps, tired and sometimes teary. As I assembled a collection of books at the table and began to read aloud, tears evaporated, weariness forgotten. Like little listeners of the Sermon on the Mount, all of the children gradually walked up, or sat down in a chair beside me, gathering around to hear the narratives. I channeled all my dramatic skill stemming back from the illustrious days of my roles in elementary school plays (perhaps it was apropos that I’d been cast as the queen once!), bringing characters alive with inflection, connecting the stories to the interests of the students, polling them as to what they thought would happen next, pointing out the vibrant details of the illustrations in the picture books. Enraptured, smiling faces ringed the table, laughter brightened the room, and, once one story ended, I was flooded with requests to read another favorite book, turning the pages again, starting a fresh chapter. In this small way, infusing my love into sharing a story (or several), I could comfort and uplift, offering the spiritual equivalent of a hug, a warm and maternal benediction to go forth with peace.
I was led to my calling by a spiritual mother herself: St. Therese of Lisieux, the Carmelite nun known for her “Little Way,” a path toward Heaven paved by a sincere heart and given through everything humbly done for the love of Christ and others. St. Therese viewed each task, no matter how seemingly menial, as an opportunity to joyfully serve God, offering everything up for His glory. Her view later inspired St. Teresa of Calcutta’s life work: to “do small things with great love.” Through each experience, small steps building up towards a larger goal over time, great things can be achieved. Just one kind act has the power to convert another soul. Similarly, starting in middle school, the experiences I had with assisting as a counselor at my church’s Bible Camps, and later with teaching children’s catechism classes, all came together to strengthen my understanding of spiritual motherhood, as I learned how one smile, one encouraging word, could make a positive difference for a child.
In her autobiographical masterpiece The Story of a Soul, St. Therese teaches spiritual truths through natural symbols that readers can relate to, just as Jesus did in his parables, illustrating the story of her own soul with rich imagery that captures the many blessings God gave her throughout her short, but no less impactful, life. Specifically, St. Therese likens souls to flowers in a garden, all resplendent in their own unique patterns and colors. If the garden were lacking one type of flower, it wouldn’t be the same, since each blossom radiates its own beauty that can never be replicated. Being a spiritual mother means tending to this garden planted by God, cultivating the seeds of His love, helping others bear fruits honoring the Spirit, and reaching out to Him as they bloom.
Just as flowers gravitate to the sun, through nurturing others, I strive to direct them toward the eternal light of the Son. Spiritual teachers like St. Therese have shown me through the legacies of their lives that love is the root of every vocation and makes the greatest impact. This is what allows for growth, for gardens to flourish. It’s not only about providing the necessary tools, but about applying them and always caring. When I consider the far-reaching influence of global leaders, I see my own role as quite humble in comparison. How can I make a difference in my corner of the world? But, as saints such as St. Therese and Mother Teresa have taught me, change truly does start in our own backyards.
Transformation is a cumulative process. Every part of our life is used to help us realize our calling and to aid others in finding theirs. Each moment is a stepping stone, another stair that can lead us above the limitations of circumstances so that we can be united with God. God hasn’t made any mistakes, hasn’t failed to take anything into account. What we see as small is an integral part of His plan, a thread in a tapestry of interconnected souls. In God’s eyes, every step matters.
Cast in this light, helping children tie their shoes and button their coats are small things done with great love, love that doesn’t need to be communicated in words. Just by being their vibrant selves, the children I work with bring me so much happiness. Similarly, Jesus’ humility, compassion, and patience awe me--I love Him for being all that He is. To be in His Presence, whether at Eucharistic Adoration or in the yard watching the light dance across the sky, is everything. To pray, to do whatever He asks, even the ostensibly small tasks of the day, is important, if only because He has asked them. Anything done for Jesus is valuable.
I have come to understand more than ever why God calls everyone to be more like children, so pure-hearted and full of life. It is my goal to help them retain their luminosity, to celebrate it, and carry it well into adulthood. Children learn best when treated with love--but then we all do, regardless of age. My work in the classroom inspires me to lead with love outside of the classroom too, as I realize the incredible need for kindness everywhere in the world. I can bring what I have learned from working with children to helping each person I meet, keeping in mind that love is what all of our hearts long for. My calling involves teaching everyone who comes into my life, through the written and spoken word, about God’s love for them.
Not all of us may be called to be biological mothers or fathers, but we all can be spiritual parents, bringing new souls into God’s family by shedding light in the ways unique to each of us. In comforting, healing, teaching, writing, and speaking, I aim to point back to God, to instill hope in His mercy. But whichever route I take in expressing my vocation, God’s love is at the root of each little way, each little seedling that can go so far in brightening the garden.
Kathryn Sadakierski’s writing has appeared in anthologies, magazines and literary journals around the world, including Agape Review, Critical Read, Edge of Faith, Ekstasis Magazine, enLIVEN Devotionals, New Jersey English Journal, NewPages Blog, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts, Refresh Bible Study Magazine, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art and Healing, Today’s American Catholic and elsewhere. In 2020, she was awarded the C. Warren Hollister Non-Fiction Prize. She holds a B.A. and M.S. from Bay Path University.
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