The Labor Pains of the Spiritual Life

It might not be the most common metaphor for the spiritual life, but God’s work in us can often look like labor and delivery. Fr. Mark-Mary asks you to stick with him on this one.

Father’s meditations on this concept began very literally. One day when he was younger and serving in Honduras, a social worker asked him and another friar to drive a woman in labor to the hospital. It wasn’t exactly the experience he bargained for. He and his brother friar felt utterly unprepared, and he honestly left the situation feeling like “If this is my only experience of the birth process, I’m like… no.”

The second experience he can recall is the redemption of the first. One of his brother friars was having a reception for his Mass of Thanksgiving, and a mutual set of friends—a young couple—were there with their newborn child. A baby girl, just a week old. There were a number of nuns present, and according to Fr. Mark-Mary, “They love to steal your babies and hold them.” Father’s first thought was, this mother must really be enjoying the break. Au contraire.

Not even 10 minutes later, Fr. Mark-Mary overheard the mother asking her husband if she could ask for the baby back. “I miss her,” she even said. The idea of being away from her child was too much for her. This love and this joy transformed Fr. Mark-Mary’s understanding of the pain that labor can bring.

There’s no great joy of holding your precious child without first going through the labor pains. And this is where we can begin to draw parallels with our journey towards intimacy with Christ. God is working in us, and what a wonderful work it is. But the only way to get there is through the cross.

A lot of Christians focus on the labor pains of the spiritual life instead of keeping their eyes fixed on the coming joy of rebirth. When Jesus is at work, he can seem like our enemy instead of our savior if we don’t have the end in mind. We can become afraid.

This month of May is the month of Mary. Let her be your example and your guide as one whose labor pains literally gave birth to Jesus. Let her intercede for you, and may it be the same in our hearts.

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Meet Fr. Mark-Mary

Father Mark-Mary was ordained as a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal (CFR) in 2018 and lives at a friary in the Bronx.

The mission of the CFRs is to wholeheartedly embrace Jesus through fidelity to the Church and her Sacraments. Paired with their commitment to prayer, contemplation, and study of Sacred Scripture, the CFRs serve those around them, especially the poor, in the footsteps of Christ.

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