|Members of the Cenacle of the Spiritual Motherhood at St. Edward Church in Nashville pray for priests during their weekly meeting. Photo by Andy Telli
Linda Hardesty was at Mass at St. Edward Church in Nashville one day, when her pastor, Father Mark Nolte, talked about the attacks on Christians throughout the world in general, and particularly against priests. He asked the congregation to pray for their priests.
“I had never thought about it before, and it really struck me,” Hardesty said.
She was inspired to act and began looking online for groups that pray for priests. She found Spiritual Motherhood, which organizes groups, primarily of women, to gather in prayer for priests.
Hardesty took the idea to a group of her fellow parishioners at St. Edward who share a love of praying the Rosary. Together, they’ve launched a Cenacle of Spiritual Motherhood that meets once a week to pray for priests.
“We say a group of prayers for our priests to keep them strong and on their right path,” Hardesty said.
“The priests, they’re under attack. There’s a lot of priests walking away from the priesthood,” said Father Dan Rehill, the associate pastor at St. Edward who will take over as pastor on July 1. “So, I think it’s important to have someone praying for them.”
Father Rehill found an analogy with the work of the Spiritual Motherhood to the prayers of contemplative nuns. “When a bishop brings a group of contemplative nuns into a diocese, those nuns fuel all the apostolic work of the diocese,” he said. “On a smaller scale, these women are doing that for the parish.”
When people hear the term spiritual motherhood, they often think it’s only open to mothers, Hardesty said. “But a spiritual mother is a person who prays … for someone,” she explained. “Anyone can be a spiritual mother. … It’s when you take someone in your heart to pray for them.”
“Being a Spiritual Mother is a supernatural way to care for souls, especially priests,” according to the Spiritual Motherhood website. “It is a type of maternity that nurtures divine life in others by doing God’s will.”
The model for spiritual motherhood is Mary. “Spiritual Motherhood is a type of maternity women experience by grace, within their call to holiness, in imitation of Mary, Mother of Priests. This type of motherhood ‘according to the Spirit’ is made possible by participating in Mary’s universal Spiritual Motherhood,” the Spiritual Motherhood website says.
The group is following in Mary’s footsteps, Hardesty said. “She was the very first spiritual mother. Really, she was the first apostle, being there with Him for everything,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to pray the Rosary because we’re praying to our mother to take care of our priests.”
The spiritual motherhood group Hardesty found was started by Father Joseph Aytona, a Father of Mercy living in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
He offered to come to Nashville last spring to help the group at St. Edward get established. “For our very first meeting … he came in and did the meeting for us,” Hardesty said. “He really got us excited.”
The group meets at 6 p.m. Thursdays at St. Edward. Based on the Vatican document “Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity,” Father Aytona has developed a Holy Hour of prayer as a guide for spiritual motherhood groups, called cenacles, to follow.
A Holy Hour includes several prayers, including St. Therese Lisieux’ Prayer for Priests, the Memorare, the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, as well as the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday, and contemplation of the reading.
Hardesty has suffered several tragedies in her life and has found peace in Spiritual Motherhood. “I needed something,” she said. “Being part of this group has been really healing.”
About 50 women are part of the Cenacle of Spiritual Motherhood at St. Edward, Hardesty said. “It’s come as you can,” she said. About 15 gather each week at St. Edward, and the Holy Hour is open to anyone interested, Hardesty added.
For more information about Spiritual Motherhood, visit: www.spiritualmaternity.org.