Hearing the Word of the Lord

By J. C. Wilson

I guess one of the things that has caught my attention since joining the Church at the age of 23 has been the focus from the Magisterium down, on the traditional family structure…of husband and wife and kids. I remember thinking that the experience of coming to Christ would shape my life in such a way that the traditional family structure may not be for me. When I became a Catholic, my world view underwent an extraordinary revolution. I had just finished training as a lawyer, and at that stage, I had set my sights on earning a lot of money and marrying someone with the same upwardly mobile values.

That all changed when I submitted to the presence of the triune God. I couldn’t wait to work from my new found life and slogged on as a solicitor until I had retrained as a psychotherapist…I felt that this was the best way, that as a woman, I could involve myself in ministry. Trying to organise marriage and family took a backseat to this vocational call and the endeavour to follow and understand what had happened to me.

It took years to study and retrain. Dating became secondary, as following, what I felt was a vocational call, became primary.

I dated some nice men,,,,and some not so nice. None seemed like the right partner. I recall that, as I neared 40, it wasn’t the absence of a husband that I felt most keenly, it was the absence of children. At about 39, a kind of private panic set in. There was now limited time to become pregnant, and I became engulfed in a kind of grief that took several years to lift. I have always sensed a mysterious guiding presence in my life, I had several friends who shared my Christian conviction and I drew comfort from Luke 8:22 “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of the Lord and keep it”.

I didn’t meet my future husband till I was in my 40’s. With one thing and another, it took a while for us to marry. I finally had a partner who shared my values and convictions. But it was too late for kids. I have often felt for my husband who can, of course, still have children.

So how do I feel about it now? I think I have worked it through, even though people I meet who find out that I don’t have children either express puzzlement, pity or faint annoyance that I have obviously overlooked to do something very important. In some circles, I have sometimes experienced childlessness as a personal failure, and as a source of shame when I have been appraised by my more fecund female acquaintances. I have young children in my life. No, they are not mine, but it is nice, just the same. I carry the faint memory of the grief I felt around 40. And I find it a challenge to go to Mass on Mother’s Day.

However, not having children to help define me has caused me to have to dig deep, really deep, to find out who, at the end of the day, I really am.

My patients and my friends benefit because all my mothering, nurturing energy goes into them, and I know that many receive life from me. Particularly those women who feel that they are of no account if they find themselves for whatever reason not living the traditional family thing. My work has shown me that each of us, even those with children, will experience loss of some kind which must somehow be faced and dealt with. Spiritual guidance to deal with this universal experience of loss is there in our Catholic tradition, if one knows where to look. For this privileged entry into other’s lives, I am very grateful.

And I can reach out and understand others, many others, whose life, like mine, has taken them on a different, less trodden pathway. My work has shown me there are many ways that people seek each other out, to get and stay connected. I often find myself wishing that the Church’s social focus on the traditional family structure could be balanced out by the communication of an understanding of the spirituality of those other ways that people affiliate. The human condition presents an extraordinary complexity. God is willing to make His home in that complexity, not just within the traditional family structure.

These days, my family is truly made up of those who hear the word of the Lord and keep it.