AnnAliese Harry emphasizes the importance of developing a circle of spiritual sisters, listing ways to nurture those bonds.
Life has a tendency to throw all of us curve balls. Sometimes, we are able to flexibly duck and bend, twisting to accommodate the curve balls. Other times, we feel the hit squarely in our gut, causing us to double over and recollect our breath.
May is known as the Month of Mary throughout Catholic circles. As I sat and contemplated curve balls thrown in my life, and Mary’s role in my life, I began to search deeper. Surely, the Blessed Mother had to have unplanned moments in her own life (the apparition of an archangel was most certainly unplanned). Yet, how the mother of our Lord moved through those unpredicted and unpredictable moments is something that is not fully discussed in Scripture.
We know she held all things in her heart (refer to Luke 2:19), but in pondering and praying deeper, I also realized that Mary had the support of women around her – enough so, that she went with great haste to serve one, her cousin Elizabeth, shortly after the annunciation (Luke 1:39-56).
Mary benefited from the bonds of spiritual sisterhood, and each of us are called to develop our own circle of spiritual sisters.
Each woman’s spiritual sisterhood circle is as unique as the next woman on the next block over. Yet, spiritual sisterhood is comprised of women from all walks of life whose mission is to serve the Lord, and support other women in serving the Lord.
Spiritual sisterhood could include the sisters that God placed in your family, but the membership for this sisterhood expands beyond that to the greater world around us. Spiritual sisters are women that God has placed in our lives, for however long, to lovingly remind us that we are on a journey to heaven. While that journey is individualized for each of us, it is also a journey made easier when we have the loving support, guidance, and reassurance of other women who have the same goal.
St. Teresa of Calcutta is quoted as saying, “Don’t expect your friend to be a perfect person. But, help your friend to become a perfect person. That is true friendship.” Spiritual sisterhood doesn’t expect perfection from friends. Rather, it’s a group that recognizes we are all flawed and succumb to temptations, and we are all committed to lifting each other up and encourage each other to move forward.
Sometimes, our spiritual sisters don’t even know the saintly impact they leave on our hearts. Time, distance, family commitments, personalities, and so much more can eventually separate spiritual sisters. Yet, what remains the same with spiritual sisterhood is that deep desire to point toward God and ask God to keep that spiritual sister close to His Sacred Heart.
Sirach reminds us,
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them. Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship, for as they are, so will their neighbors be. (Sirach 6:14-17)
Last year, I heard a bishop explain at a confirmation Mass that “fear of God” and “fear of the Lord” is less about the secular meaning of fear, and is rather, true, deep awe of God, enough so that we fear sinning, to avoid impacting our relationship with God. When we apply that lens to the above quote from Sirach, we see just how impactful spiritual sisterhood can be for a woman.
Just as family members squabble and don’t always get along, spiritual sisterhood comes with periods where we might not see eye-to-eye with the other woman. However, at the end of the day, spiritual sisterhood places God at the center, and allows the Holy Spirit to guide our words, actions, and deeds.
Your spiritual sister exists to help both of you focus on God and stay focused on your journey to the Father. They don’t always tell us what we want to hear, but they always remember that you are a cherished daughter of a King and remain committed to praying for you and remind you to focus on Christ when the curve balls of life are thrown your way.
This month, take notice of the spiritual sisterhood that surrounds you. If you don’t have a woman whose role is to help you focus on God and live as a strong woman of faith in your own vocation, ask God to send you a spiritual sister. I know from experience He answers those prayers. One of my spiritual sisters was met in the middle of the night at an emergency trip to an after-hours veterinarian hospital; the other was met in a bathroom during a break from a Catholic women’s study group. When we ask, He will provide you with women to uplift you in your vocation and encourage you to keep perspective with your sights focused on heaven.
Spiritual sisterhood makes our lives a little bit easier. Looking toward the example of Ruth and Naomi in the Book of Ruth, we see how truly beneficial it is to have a fellow woman traveling beside us. As Ruth mentions in Ruth 1:16, “Do not press me to go back and abandon you! Wherever you go I will go.” Spiritual sisterhood doesn’t abandon us in an hour of need; rather, the women that make up our spiritual sisterhood rally around us, remembering that each of us have a role to play in building up the Body of Christ.
Spiritual sisters desire that each woman meet that full potential in building up Christ’s Body in the world today.
This month, as the secular world focuses on Mother’s Day, the air turns more springlike than in previous months, and our thoughts turn to the Blessed Mother, let us each acknowledge the spiritual sisters in our lives.
Offer a Rosary for each spiritual sister, or your weekend Masses this month for the intentions of your spiritual sisters. Surprise a spiritual sister with a cup of coffee, a laundry-folding session, or a spontaneous Spiritual Sisters’ Night Out. Touch base and check in with a spiritual sister, letting her know how much she means to you. Celebrate womanhood with the women who have been instrumental in your own faith journey and continue to be open to adding to your spiritual sisterhood whenever God sends you another woman meant to join your spiritual family.
You will never forget or regret the bonds of spiritual sisterhood, as they will always lead you to the Master of Love, Himself.
Happy Month of Mary!
Copyright 2022 AnnAliese Harry
Images: Canva; "The Visitation" by Rogier van der Weyden, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
About the Author
AnnAliese Harry is a proud Army wife to her husband Chris, and a mother to their young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked with disabled veterans, troubled teens, and in early childhood intervention therapy. AnnAliese volunteers with several military chapel communities and serves as a lector, EMHC, Adoration coordinator, and Catholic Women of the Chapel (CWOC) chapter president and vice president. She blogs about Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life. Follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.