Stay-at-home moms. Working moms. Widowed moms. Moms who lost their children. Moms who went on to be religious. Moms of difficult children. Moms of saints!
The Church honors all types of mothers! With the Blessed Virgin Mary as their example, each of these women lived lives of exemplary faith in the face of whatever life threw at them. There is only one right way to be a mother and that’s to be wholly devoted to God. Here are six saints who were mothers.
1. St. Monica
You’ll know her best as the long-praying, ever-patient mother of St. Augustine. For years and years and years she prayed for her son’s conversion and now he’s regarded as one of the greatest saints of our Church! This is not the only thing she did with her life, though.
She is the patroness of wives and abuse victims because her pagan husband and his mother both had violent tempers that they would take out on Monica. She prayed for them daily and, before their deaths, they ended up converting. She also had two other children, Navigius and Perpetua, who both ended up in religious life.
St. Monica is a terrific example of a mother who, in the midst of trials, never gave up her faith and worked hard not only on her own relationship with God but also to impart this faith to her children. Her efforts totally paid off. Her feast day is August 27th.
2. St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Are you looking for a modern Catholic woman taking on the trials of the times with faith, love, compassion, and tenacity? St. Gianna Beretta Molla is 100% your girl.
Gianna was the tenth of thirteen children and grew up to study medicine. She received degrees in medicine and surgery and opened her own practice near her hometown. She saw medicine as her mission and had a special affinity for mothers, children, the elderly, and the poor.
After being disallowed from going to the missions with her brother because of her chronically ill health, she accepted God’s will for her to stay in Italy with her practice. It was there, in her early 30s, that she met her husband Pietro. This part of her story is probably the most well-known: she and Pietro had three children together but when they were pregnant with their fourth, a tumor was discovered in Gianna’s uterus. She refused any treatment that would harm the baby and then died a week after that baby was born. This child, Gianna Emanuela Molla, whom she gave her life for, also grew up to be a physician.
Though she was a working mother, Gianna’s priority was her family. This can be easily seen in the collection Love Letters to My Husband, a collection of her letters to her husband, as she talked quite frequently of how she doted on their children (and how much she loved Pietro). She accepted both calls God placed on her heart–– that of a physician and that of a mother. The impact she made on her family, her community, and now the world is undeniable. Her feast day is April 28th.
3. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Elizabeth is cool because she is the first American-born saint. But what makes her amazing is her motherly heart for all in need. After she and her husband married, their time of happiness was brief. When her father-in-law died, she and her husband came to be in charge of his seven younger half siblings. They then also had their own children! When Elizabeth’s husband William died, she converted to Catholicism and founded an order of religious in Baltimore, Maryland to educate poor and orphaned children. She and her order of sisters established the first free Catholic school in America and today, many children continue to be educated by groups of sister who trace their origins to St. Elizabeth’s initial order.
Where did this motherly spirit come from? Elizabeth had lost her own mother at an early age and so found great comfort in the idea that the Blessed Virgin Mary was truly her mother. Inspired by this confidence, Elizabeth went out to care for all children and to bring them into the embrace of Mary’s arms.
She died at age forty-six, only sixteen years after she entered the Catholic Church. Her impact on education in America is certainly undeniable. But it is her motherly spirit that enflamed the hearts of others with devotion and conversion. Fun fact: The author of this post was educated at an elementary school named for and devoted to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Her feast day is January 4th.
4. St. Elizabeth
St. Elizabeth, cousin to the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of St. John the Baptist, old woman past childbearing years. She was really the first recipient of the Gospel as she welcomed pregnant Mary into her home. Elizabeth was the first to recognize Jesus as our Lord and Savior (maybe only second to her son leaping within her womb at the presence of Jesus in their midst) and this caused her to cry out, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (cf. Luke : 39-45).
Obviously, Elizabeth was holy from the get-go but can you imagine being parented by one like her? God knew what he was doing when he elected that St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Christ, be born to this woman. She was strong, faithful, receptive, and joyful; a forerunner to Mary herself, we could say. Elizabeth is a wonderful mother and role-model because she modeled what it means to be open and receptive to Christ and she clearly passed this on to her son. Her feast day is November 5th.
5. St. Frances of Rome
Frances had always wanted to be a nun, but her father had arranged a marriage for her instead and she, very reluctantly, gave in to this will. Her husband was a good man and did not discourage her charitable efforts, though her parents-in-law scolded her for fraternizing so much with the poor when they were a noble family and had an image to uphold. Through all of this, Frances was always devoted to God. She was stubborn but always prayed that she would do God’s will and not her own and she did.
St. Frances and her husband had six children, three of whom survived infancy but only one of whom reached adulthood. As did her mother-in-law, Frances’s daughter-in-law ridiculed her and openly mocked and shamed her. But Frances simply went about her life as usual and prayed for her daughter-in-law, that she might open her heart more fully. Eventually, this did happen and then her daughter-in-law joined Frances in her work fervently.
Frances nursed her husband at the end of his life and took tender care of him. The last words he spoke to her were, “I feel as if my whole life has been one beautiful dream of purest happiness. God has given me so much in your love.” After he died, Frances went to live with the Oblates of Mary, whom she founded, and lived the rest of her life there.
Frances was a bridge of unity to her family and was so because of her love and faithfulness. Her feast day is March 9th.
6. St. Bridget of Sweden
St. Bridget led a fairly average life–– nothing of spectacle ever happened during her lifetime. But she was a devoted wife and mother. She and her husband Ulf were married for twenty-eight years and led a very happy life. They also had eight children, all of whom survived into adulthood, which was a very rare thing at her time. That openness to life was a great sign of her generosity of spirit. She traveled extensively and taught this compassion for and tolerance of the diversity of human life to her children. One of her children, Karin, even grew up to be a saint! It is her faithfulness in these seemingly small tasks of raising and educating her children that makes her extraordinary. Her feast day is July 23rd.