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May 2019

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Motherhood & Scripture: How God Mothers Us
Laura Kelly Fanucci

Years ago, as I rocked my first child as a new mother, trying to keep him quiet in our parish’s cry room, I heard the choir sing a song I’d never heard before. The lyrics made me stop, mid-rock, and look up to make sure I’d heard what I thought I’d heard:

“Still You empower us, Mothering Spirit / feeding, sustaining from Your own heart.”*

As a cradle Catholic, I had never before heard a hymn about God as mother. I felt my heart leap up at the wonder and joy that God might nurture me in the ways I was trying to care for my son. Since childhood I had prayed to God each day as “Our Father.” But could God be like a mother, too?

As months went by and I kept growing into motherhood, I wondered what it would be like to understand more of God’s Mothering Spirit. I turned to Scripture, and what I found there amazed me. Scripture sings of God’s maternal love, too.

Traditional titles honor God as Father, Lord, King, but throughout the Bible we also find offers us images and metaphors for God that draw from motherhood. Consider these tender examples:

“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” (Isaiah 66:13)

“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; but they did not know that I cared for them. I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks; I bent down to feed them.” (Hosea 11:3-4)

Beyond biological motherhood, Scripture tells of God protecting and nurturing with a mother’s care. Jesus even compared himself to a mother hen concerned for her young:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (Matthew 23:37).

Over the years as I have continued to reflect on motherhood and faith, I have been inspired, encouraged, and challenged by these metaphors of God as Mother. Scripture does not hesitate to confront us with the image of God as a fiercely loving mother who refuses to give up on her children:

“You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, you forgot the God who gave you birth.” (Deuteronomy 32:18)

“For a long time I have kept silent, I have said nothing, holding myself back; Now I cry out like a woman in labor, gasping and panting.” (Isaiah 42:14)

I have sought solace in the images of God as a Divine Parent, too, turning to the Psalms that remind me to rest in God’s embrace just as my children have sought comfort, warmth, and love in my lap.

“Rather, I have stilled my soul, Like a weaned child to its mother, weaned is my soul.” (Psalm 131:2)

In this month of May when we celebrate motherhood, remember those who have mothered us, and pray for those who long to mother, these images from Scripture invite us to reflect anew on God’s tender, compassionate love. God created each one of us, deep in the dark where our mothers carried us, and has been present to us from the moment of our birth:

“Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me
you have been my God.”
(Ps 22:9-10)

How beautiful to think of God as the wise and strong midwife who catches each of us upon our birth and places us into our parents’ arms. This is God’s Mothering Spirit: watching us, guiding us, keeping us safe, never leaving our side, whispering words of comfort and strength and hope.

“For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.”
(Ps 71: 5-6)

(*Lyrics from “Fresh as the Morning” by Tony Alonso. Text by Shirley Erena Murray Words © 1996 Hope Publishing Co. Music © 2001 GIA.)

Laura Kelly Fanucci is an award-winning writer and blogger ( She has authored three books in the Alive in the Word series exploring grief, dashed hopes, and mercy. Her newest book, Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage, is co-authored with her husband, Franco David Fanucci. Laura is the director of the Communities of Calling Initiative at the Collegeville Institute.


Our annual Bible Institute in Little Rock is just around the corner (June 21-23). We’d love to have you in Little Rock as we explore The Parables of Jesus with our speaker Fr. George Smiga. You’ll meet so many faith-filled people and enjoy great teaching and prayer. Download the brochure and register by Friday, June 7.

Later this month Matthew Part One and Part Twothe new edition of the study of
The Gospel According to Matthew will be available
for your study groups. Part One covers Matthew 1−16. Part Two covers Matthew 17−28. With the purchase of the printed study materials, you also gain free access to online wrap-up lectures for each lesson!


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