The last month and a half, there has been non-stop social media talk and debate about whether Christian wives/women should stay home or work outside of the home. I believe it all stemmed from a conversation between 2 Catholics (who I will not name) when one of them cited some Church documents about how wives should be staying at home. Cue the best and worst conversations, twitter posts, opinions, and Catholics on either side of the debate. The Catholic internet basically imploded.
As a wife and mama of a sweet 11 month old, and as someone who works part time inside the home most days and outside the home one day a week, I was kind of stumped by this debate, wondering which side I’m on. There’s nothing specifically biblical for this debate and although there are some Church documents on the topic, I know that Catholics have made the case for both working outside the home, and staying home with children.
So, I thought maybe we could take some hints from some amazing saint women, mamas, wives, and workers that show us a both/and approach to this debates. Saints that show us examples of staying home, examples of working, and some in between.
SAH (Stay-At-Home) Mama Saints
Let’s talk about St. Bridget, and St. Frances of Rome.
St. Bridget of Sweden was a wife for almost 30 years and mother to 8 children, 1 of which is a saint! After her husband’s death, she lived an aesthetic life and she worked to be a good influence on the king of Sweden. He eventually gave her land to form her own order, the Bridgettines. She made a pilgrimage to Rome and in true St. Catherine of Siena fashion, she helped to reform the Church by influencing political leaders and the Pope himself. She was a pretty legit wife and mother and one of the only women to found a religious order.
St. Frances of Rome was married young even though she had a desire to become a nun, like St. Rita. She suffered much in her early years, even though her husband was kind and loved her. There was a lot of pressure as a wife to a wealthy and prestigious man. But, she and her sister and law banded together to live their lives of prestige, but use their influence to help the poor and needy. She eventually founded a lay order and after her husband’s death, she became the superior. She modeled a motherly love to all she met that is worth imitating.
Working Women Saints
Here are some working women saints we can look up to. These mama saints & the working debate wouldn’t necessarily get along (they didn’t have time to debate those issues, I bet). Servant of God Dorothy Day, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Zelie Martin.
Servant of God Dorothy Day was an amazing woman, convert, and social activist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. She was a journalist and a mother who worked hard to make changes in America, and her Catholic Worker Movement did and still does help so many poor and needy people in many places in the USA. She was one amazing workin’ mama.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a wife and mother of 5 children. Her husband died and sometime after she became Catholic. She founded the first free Catholic girls school in America and started an order called the Sisters of Charity. She worked as an educator while educating her children, and leading her order of sisters in some bitterly tough conditions.
St. Zelie Martin could be a patroness of working women (if she isn’t already). She was a lace maker and wife to Louis. She was also the mother of 9 children, 4 which did not make it past infancy. St. Zelie died quite young, but her five daughters all became religious sisters and her daughter, Therese, became a saint! She provided for her family with her lacemaking along with her husband Louis, the watchmaker. Check our collection of St. Zelie medals and accessories here.
The In-Between Saints
There are some female saints that had a sort of mixture of working and staying close to home (which I love because I can so relate). Here’s a little bit about these 2 fabulous ladies, St. Gianna Molla and St. Teresa of Calcutta.
St. Gianna Molla, patron of mothers, was an Italian pediatrician who had a great passion for caring for mothers, babies, and children. She married Pietro in 1955 and had 3 children. When she was pregnant with her 4th child, doctors found that she was carrying a tumor as well as a baby. She had surgery to remove just the tumor even though she had the options of abortion or hysterectomy. There were complications after this surgery, but she successfully delivered her baby girl. She was always adamant that should anything go amiss during delivery, doctors should save the baby’s life. Even though the birth was successful, Gianna died about a week after the birth. She was canonized in 2004 and her husband and children attended the canonization. She raised her family while also taking care of her patients
St. Teresa of Calcutta was called “Mother”. She balanced a life of serving the poor and working tirelessly in Calcutta, with leading the religious order she formed, the Missionaries of Charity. Her infamous “call within a call” on a train ride in September 1946 is what began her mission to satiate the thirst of Jesus and to help people understand how much Christ thirsts for them and desires a relationship with them. Many laypeople, non-Catholics, and non-Christians came to serve with her and her Missionaries because of her incredible work and witness. She also traveled the world, speaking to world leaders and regular people about her work and mission. This mother balanced a life of real work and a life of prayer with her spiritual sisters and daughters.
No Sides Needed
So, maybe we don’t need to take sides in this debate. Maybe we can look to these beautiful, intelligent, skilled, mamas, sisters, and women and see the unique mission and gifting God gives each of us. Just like Mother Teresa had a “call within a call”, so too each woman has a call within the call of womanhood in her own vocation. The Lord is calling each one to live that specific call in her life. So kudos to the mamas and women who stay home, and kudos to the mamas and women who work: You have a unique call on your life, given to you by God, and we think it’s beautiful.
Interested in building relationships with some of these amazing female saints? Visit our website here and click the links above to check out their individual collections.