By Jenna Kandas
My in-laws have a beautiful Holy Thursday evening tradition at their house. We read the daily readings, wash each others’ feet, and share how we are grateful for each other and the highlights of the past year. This is such a special event for me because my love language is words of affirmation, and I love to spend Holy Week dwelling on all the reasons I’m grateful for each of my in-laws, my husband, and now my 5 month old son, Benedict.
As I was meditating on my pregnancy and his birth, I was overcome with gratitude. The Lord is always so faithful to me. I had this vision where I was back at the doctor's office a few years previous when I first found out I wasn’t going to be able to have kids. I could feel the devastation in my bones, but as I left her office, I remember telling myself the Lord had a different plan for me. I was only 20 years old and at the time, I was going through marriage prep with the love of my life, preparing to graduate college, and working full-time.
Infertility wasn’t anywhere in my plans. I had always dreamed of getting married, starting my dream career as a professor, and having a handful of kids running around the backyard laughing. But God works all things for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). The news was crushing, but having recently converted to Catholicism, I trusted that the Lord's plan was greater than my own. I found consolation in the Church’s teaching about spiritual motherhood and found myself drawn to study it more deeply.
As the years went by, I found great comfort by immersing myself in the study of authentic femininity and motherhood; I quickly learned that motherhood is not just a physical reality, but a spiritual one that is innate to womanhood. Josef Cardinal Mindszenty wrote in The Mother, “Motherhood is a call to love and service. She is ever giving service. During her girlhood, she prepares her soul for this sacred service.” This book gives numerous examples of how a spiritual mother participates as a servant through different means than a physical mother, but the need for her is just as great.
Fast forward to January of 2017 when I was writing my master's thesis on authentic motherhood and went on a retreat that changed my life. The whole weekend I was wrestling with something but I didn't know what. I was restless and the Holy Spirit spoke through some of my co-retreatants by asking questions that encouraged me to continue to wrestle with whatever the Lord was calling me too.
Immediately after this retreat, I had a deep longing to have children; the yearning was so deep that I could barely carry the weight of it. I begged the Lord day after day to take this desire away or solve my medical issues. It didn’t seem fair that I had this desire but could do nothing about it. After all, He is the Giver of Life. This struggle continued throughout Lent, and then halfway through Lent I discovered that I was pregnant.
The joy, anticipation, and fear were all so real. I was sure that the Lord had answered my prayer and had journeyed with me throughout my studies of authentic motherhood, but the risk of miscarriage was so high that my joy lessened. When I announced my pregnancy to my friends at Easter, we all celebrated the tangibility of new life. It was finally then that I came to the realization that the Lord is always faithful, and my sweet Benedict is my gift for surrendering to Him. The name Benedict means good or proper praise, and he’s the reward for my proper praise (aka wrestling) with God.
God’s plans are always far greater than anything I could have dreamed of, and in His time He will answer the desires of our hearts. My prayer for you, dear sister, is that during this Easter Season, this celebration of new life, you will unite any struggles you are experiencing to Christ on the cross and celebrate His victory over death. And for my sweet sisters struggling with infertility, you are not any less of a mother than I am. You have the freedom to serve and love those on the peripheries freely, without hesitation, and I pray that the Lord’s plan continue to beautifully unveil in front of you.