From a young age, we all understood the basic facts surrounding seeds, and knew that those little black bits extracted from an apple could do wondrous things if popped into a cup of dirt. If that cup was watered and placed in adequate light for long enough, to our delight a sprout emerged.
There are no hints of green leaves and willowy stems in those seeds, but proper care produces marvelous gifts—despite us. Now very few seeds jammed into cups of dirt ever matured into trees, but even as children we all grasped that this is the stuff of which apple trees were made. Not seeds alone, but seeds that are planted and nurtured over time.
In our antiseptic culture, we rarely eat apples from trees, but find them on pristine displays in grocery stores. Our standards are such that we expect abundant apples year round in many varieties—and then we pick them over, finding the ones without bruises or dents and with enough firmness to withstand the grip of children and the abuse of lunch boxes. So, although we may not think about seeds, we know fruit.
And yet, moving onto a spiritual plane, our feminine fruitfulness is often misunderstood. What God asks women to receive are His the seeds of love—the very nature of Himself. “The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way” (MD, 30). Where these seeds are to be found is in the nooks and crannies of everyday life. Although abundant, they are often overlooked, underappreciated and even discarded by the world. Surely, well-scrubbed children who mature into Eagle Scouts do exist, but authentic fruit is far more diverse than that.
Holy Scripture, for example, is referred to as a seed, a husband has the capacity to plant seeds, Jesus is the Word Incarnate or “seed of life,” and prayer plants seeds of faith. The common element in the fruitfulness of women is that it is a nuptial response, in collaboration with the fatherhood of a bridegroom. Man or woman alone is each sterile, but the spousal love to which we are called bears within it a tremendous fruitfulness.
Our Lady is a model of both physical and spiritual motherhood. It is said that she conceived Jesus in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb, and that reality is instructive. The free invitation to collaborate in love hinges on the Yes of every woman—for motherhood is at its core both a work of the Holy Spirit and a gift to be personally received.
Thus it falls to each woman to pray sincerely to know how her motherhood is to be manifest. Just as various seeds surprise us with unforeseen fruits and flowers, it is not for any of us to contain the breath of the Spirit which wants to take root in our souls. Collaboration between men and women, docility to the Word which continues to incarnate Himself in our midst, and a prayerful acceptance of the will of God are all essential to the growth of the Kingdom. “ Motherhood has been introduced into the order of the Covenant that God made with humanity in Jesus Christ. Each and every time that motherhood is repeated in human history, it is always related to the Covenant which God established with the human race through the motherhood of the Mother of God” (MD 19). My sisters, dare to receive this gift, nourish it with care, and prepare to be astonished at what sprouts—despite us.