Magnanimous Motherhood


By Johanna Duncan

The Andes is the longest mountain range in the world. It starts in Argentina and ends in Colombia, where it opens in three branches. Bogota happens to be situated between the three branches. It is a lovely view. No matter where you are in the city, you won’t lose sight of the enormous mountains. People often give directions as “drive towards the western mountain rage” or “take a left as soon as you reach the eastern mountain range” or my favorite “I'll meet you where the mountain starts.” There’s no way out of them and we don’t complain. They change colors at times when the sun hits them and I have fond memories with my family hiking around them, or catching the last sun-ray of the day from the comfort of our living room.

Mountains are more likely to crush you mentally than physically. Turning back or taking breaks longer than necessary is an easy temptation, but respectable hikers know the satisfaction of reaching the summit. They know it's possible and a worthy deed.

Now I live in the American midwest and things are a bit more plain (pun intended), and whenever I miss the Andes I reflect on their magnanimity. I am afraid the definition of this word is not too easy to find. Even Wikipedia states that there’s some confusion about what magnanimity means, but I can assure you that it is easy to recognize by the sense of awe it produces.

The Greek defined it as “greatness of soul.” Aquinas called it the “insatiable appetite for great things,” and Alexander Havard defined it as “the habit of striving for great things.” Magnanimity is all that. It is quite a unique gift from God to men, for lions can be courageous, trees can be resilient, but only men can be magnanimous. It's what moves all other virtues and makes ideals for greatness a reality. It is the muscle providing the force necessary for all other virtues to be exercised.

I’ve been reflecting heavily on this term because my job at times feels like that mountain ready to crush you, and just like the Andes in Bogota, the challenge is constant. I work at a crisis pregnancy center in the most pro-abortion state at the moment, Illinois; and there’s something about putting the word crisis next to the word pregnancy that is truly crushing. Yet, the greatest gift is to see these women overcome the crisis with so much grace, or perhaps -magnanimity. They strive for what they recognize to be Good. They are motivated by love and they accomplish something that our current political rhetoric considers impossible. Single and uneducated? No family or man around? Raped? In school? Underage? Even when the answer to all those questions is a strong ‘yes’ women hike that mountain and make it to the top. That’s glorious, magnanimous.

Their legs might shake at some point in the journey, but that happens to every accomplished hiker. In those times, they take rest (often at the center). But they don’t quit, because as St. Catherine of Siena wrote, “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”

The journey through a ‘crisis pregnancy’ is, more often than not, the highest mountain these women have faced. It’s the type of thing nothing prepares them for, but in the process they demonstrate the greatness of their souls, their insatiable appetite for great things, and they build the habit of striving for greatness. These brave women describe and showcase magnanimity by all its definitions.

We live in a time when women are told they can do whatever they set their minds to, be whoever they aspire to be, and accomplish anything. We honor the women who through strong character and firm determination have paved new ways, not just for their gender, but for mankind. Our current times have so much faith in women; perhaps more than ever before, but that same faith shakes when it comes to that one really hard thing you ‘can get out of' through an abortion. Even if doing so puts your physical and mental health in harm.

The faith my Lord has taught me is unwavering. It's truthful and there's no exceptions to its capacity. Capital T Truths don't have contradictions and as St. Augustine said, it's to be left free as a lion and it'll defend itself. You and I, and the women facing a crisis pregnancy, are called and capable of magnanimity regardless of our circumstances or the size of our mountains. Embrace that. Women facing these pregnancies are often referred as victims by those with little faith in human capacity; while in reality, women go through each step affirming their own dignity, greatness, and trust in themselves. Be like them. Watch them and watch out for them, and their magnanimity will leave you in awe.