Unlike the idea of traditional missionaries traveling the world to bring religion to those who never knew God, the family—and specifically mothers—serve as missionaries simply by the way they live their lives, according to theologian, wife and mother of eight, Lisa Lickona.
Lickona presented the most recent installment of the 2014-2015 Archbishop’s Lecture Series, focused on the Catholic family, in her Oct. 7 talk: “Love At the Heart of the Family: Motherhood in the New Millennium.”
[ LISTEN to LICKONA’S TALK HERE ]
“For most of the Church’s history, a mission was something you went on,” she began. “No one thought of the family as a mission. What does it mean for the family to have this missionary impulse?”
The notion of the new evangelization comes into play because evangelizing through family life addresses “a new situation that requires a new approach.”
“Our contemporaries are not looking for Christianity as a solution,” she said.
Because so many people see faith as irrelevant, and at times, severe and unattractive, outreach must take on a different look and sound.
“This is how the family can be a mission,” she continued. “This is how your family can witness to the world.
When families live married life and family life with joy, love and mercy—focused on Jesus Christ—people are drawn to them.
“It’s not just about going out and telling someone,” she said, “but about doing.”
Continuing with a blend of theology and biology, Lickona described the essentials at the heart of motherhood on earth, such as feeding, supporting and protecting; as well as the essentials for eternal life.
“These children entrusted to me are all made for… eternal life,” said the mother whose children range from age 20 to 2. “It’s about a final destiny they have, it enlarges our role as mothers. We’re raising our children for heaven.
“If possible, we’re going to get them to heaven and to Harvard,” she added with a laugh.
But in the course of their maternal roles, many women struggle in their vocation.
“I think about this stuff every day,” she said of the challenges. “It doesn’t seem very easy to me right now.”
She compared two extremes: the “Catholic tiger mom”—whose kids are good at everything, involved in every activity—with the Catholic moms who are trying to do the “tiger mom thing” and are burnt out or couldn’t do it from the beginning.
“A lot of us go between the extremes,” she said.
To break a cycle of feeling overwhelmed and pressured, or feeling the need to be constantly “doing,” a mother’s faith cannot be separated from life.
“When things go wrong and we just want to check out, the Christian response is to kneel down and pray,” she said, “and acknowledge that it is much bigger than you.”
Life must be lived with a profound trust in another person, she said, Jesus Christ.
“Nothing is going to change in our lives as mothers until we put Christ at center.”
She offered two key pieces of advice for mothers: pray and receive the sacraments, and read the Psalms because they cover the full range of human emotions.
“You have to take care of your own heart first,” she advised.
The next talk in the Archbishop’s Lecture Series, slated for Feb. 17, 2015, will feature Frank and Genie Summers, founders of Family Missions Company.