Sometimes I think multi-tasking is going to kill me. With five kids running around constantly getting into various predicaments (usually involving the potty), a baby to nurse and hold, homeschooling to teach, meals to cook, things to pin, and Facebook posts to read I feel as if I'm juggling many brightly coloured and noisy balls in the air. Along with the multi-tasking of motherhood comes the never ending to-do list, and the constant responsibilities in and outside our homes. It all makes for such scant amounts of time for quiet prayer, meditation, and all those things we think we need in order to be holy.
Sometimes its easy to stay discouraged about our lot in life when we think of the saints. Do you think of the saints sometimes as a vague and stereotypical cloud of witnesses comprised of only those who had their entire lives to devout to silence, hair shirts, and no distractions from God at all? Well, sometimes I do. I think they can't possibly have gotten to heaven by doing a lot of different things at the same time. As is most often the case however, my vague and discouraged thinking is not based on actual fact! Most saints got to holiness through living difficult lives, lives led outside of the silent cloister, usually by overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles and difficulties. Saints continue to always surprise me by being so relatable when you get to know them. Here are three women saints who also happened to be mothers with full plates.
St. Margaret Clitherow
St. Margaret was a wife and mother during the persecution of English Catholics in the century after Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church. She converted to Catholicism and then was compelled to help harbour priests in her home, as it was illegal for Roman Catholic Priests to be in the country and perform Mass at this time. She was eventually arrested for harbouring priests, put on trial and sentenced to death if she refused to give up her faith. She was killed by being pressed against a stone while under a heavily laden door.
When you think about her life though, I think its easy to imagine a life a many daily responsibilities as well as heroic dangers. As the wife of a glazier, she was firmly middle class and probably dealt with society in her town a great deal. She raised two sons, one of whom went on to study for the priesthood in France. In addition to these responsibilities she was participating in helping the Church survive in England, although clandestinely; not something that could be too easy, but would require much organization and communication between communities, the secret faithful, and the persecuted priests. This was a heroic wife and mother who may have been martyred, but used her vocation in life to its fullest for the service of the Church both in her home and in her community.
St. Elizabeth of Portugal
A princess who married the Prince of Portugal at a young age, St. Elizabeth would go on to be a faithful example of marital fidelity to her husband, a peacemaker betweenkingdoms, a mother to two children, all while maintaining a constant devotion to the Daily Office and the Mass. Although royalty, Elizabeth's life couldn't have been easy. Her husband's infidelity became public early on in her marriage and she tried to remain a good example to him by remaining steadfast to her morals and Catholic faith. Eventually this example led to his repentance. She clearly had diplomatic talents as she became the go-between between her husband and a neighboring kingdom in a time of civil war.
All these responsibilities proved that she must have had a dynamic personality and the courage to continue to practice her faith with such devotion when it must have been similar to living in Hollywood with the amount of attention her social circle paid to morality. She's another great example of how Catholic women and saints throughout history were active mothers at home while participating in the political sphere. I think that women leaders outside of the home would greatly benefit from a devotion to the Daily Office and daily Mass like St. Elizabeth, so that must mean it would be doubly beneficial for mothers who feel like they're running countless different companies at once.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
A convert to the faith and the first American born person to be declared a saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton married young and had five children before converting. Her conversion came soon after losing her husband to illness and she was faced with having to navigate widowhood and raising a family alone while embracing a faith that did not make you popular in high society protestant New York. St. Elizabeth must have dealt with many of the basic pressures single mothers face, decisions about daily spending, economy, the education of her children, and even where to live. But while having to deal with these challenges God was clearly drawing her to an intense faith in Him and the Church. She felt a great need for Catholic education in America and began the first free Catholic school in the country. Elizabeth's passion for education developed into a religious order, one which allowed Elizabeth to continue raising her own children in addition to being Mother Superior of the newly founded Sisters of Charity.
St. Elizabeth's daily responsibilities must have been many, yet she maintained her strong connection with motherhood, both to her own children and to the sisters of her newly founded religious community. I would imagine that this multiplied the daily anxieties and responsibilities of motherhood, with not only questions and demands being made to her by her own five children, but those of a burgeoning community that looked to her for leadership. The amount of daily decisions that would have had to be made, as well as looking for the support of such a community would have required devotion to the small tedious tasks of daily life. St. Elizabeth obviously didn't let the daily tasks that can seem mountainous hold her back from making important strides in the education of Catholics and serving God through her community.
Although these great women didn't have the distractions of social media and television like we do, they did have to perform the many jobs that come with being a mother, as well as taking on more in service to the Church. Its a great reminder to me when I feel bogged down in a sea of small errands that only I can do for my family, laundry piling up everywhere, lessons to be taught, and babies to be loved. Maybe if we embrace our multi-tasking day in and day out at home with the grace of the saints we'll make more headway in our own road to heaven. Or, if multi-tasking really does end up killing me you can call on me as the patron saint of multi-tasking (or potty training - its a toss-up) if the Vatican puts my name up for sainthood!
Christy Isinger is a full-time, at-home, sometimes crazy, mom to five(!) children aged 6 to 6 months. She herds toddlers and tries to keep a chaotic but loving home in northern Alberta, Canada. You can keep up with the craziness at her blog
fountains of home where she writes about family, living the Catholic faith, books, and other random observations and opinions.