Gina Loehr is a popular author and inspirational speaker, a theologian and the mother of six. In 2013 Gina was chosen as one of one hundred women from around the world to be a delegate for the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s study seminar on women and the Church. A frequent guest on national Catholic radio programs on EWTN, Relevant Radio, and Ave Maria Radio, Gina’s other books include Choosing Beauty: A 30-Day Spiritual Makeover for Women and Real Women, Real Saints: Friends for Your Spiritual Journey. Recently, Michele had an opportunity ask Gina a few questions regarding her book The Church is Our Mother.
MICHELE: This book really brings to light the meaning of “Mother Church!” Thank you for writing such an insightful book on this topic! Would you care to share how your relationship with your own mother influenced this book?
GINA LOEHR: I can’t imagine a better mother than my own. When I was thinking about what makes a mother as I wrote this book, I thought a lot more about her than I did about myself. The seven kinds of maternal love that I wrote about are all embodied beautifully in my mom – the care, the acceptance, the celebrating, all of it. It wasn’t much of a stretch to connect the way she has nurtured me and my brothers to the way the Church has nurtured us too. And a little secret for you: she wrote part of my book! The essay by the “mother of a priest” is my mom talking about my little brother.
MICHELE: As a mother of six, did you discover any particularly meaningful revelations about yourself that may not have been covered in the book? Or about motherhood, Mary our Mother, and the Church as our Mother as you were writing?
GINA LOEHR: Every book I’ve written has been part of my own personal spiritual journey. Each manuscript has resonated with me in a special way and I’ve always felt that even if no one else ever read my books, the whole process would still have been worth it. In this case, among other things, I came out of the experience with a new and surprisingly simple parenting strategy. When I’m dealing with the daily duties, frustrations or decisions of raising my children, I now think to myself, “What would Mother Church do?” and then I try to do it!
As for an insight about the Church, I definitely grew in my appreciation for the warmth, the relevance, the significance of Mother Church in the lives of her children. The Church is not just a cold institution, she is a loving mother! To the extent that we recognize and appreciate this tangible reality, I believe our love for the Church can really expand. It just makes me glad to be Catholic.
Also, I enjoyed learning about the history and spirituality behind Mary’s title, “Mother of the Church.” It became obvious to me that it’s inadequate to discuss the Church without incorporating Mary, which is how the chapter on “Mary, for Mothers” was born.
MICHELE: Would you care to share about your relationship with Our Blessed Mother? Have you visited any of her shrines or sites of her apparitions (approved or unapproved sites), and if so would you mind sharing any experiences that may have stood out for you?
GINA LOEHR: My New Year’s resolution is to pray a daily rosary, even if I have to split the decades up and do them while I’m changing diapers, spreading peanut butter or peeling the paper off the back of a Band Aid. I know for a fact that I am a better mother, wife and woman when I’m in daily contact with the Blessed Mother.
The most significant “moment” in my relationship with Mary actually came at Fatima. I had never planned to go there, but in my late twenties I won a trip to the holy site. In my book Choosing Beauty I tell the whole story, but to summarize what happened there: I realized that holiness and beauty are intimately connected, and that Mary is the perfect embodiment of them both. As we pray on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, “You are all-beautiful, O Mary! In you there is no sin.”
I realized while praying in the chapel at Fatima that Mary is my model, not just an abstract one for Catholics at large. She continues to be not only my model for motherhood, but also a source of strength and support along the way.
MICHELE: In what ways have your own personal spiritual practices, including your presence at mass, expanded or deepened since you have come to understand the true meaning of the Church as Our Mother?
GINA LOEHR: While writing the chapter, “Mothers care,” it dawned on me that the Church’s noble mission is often manifested in the small, practical daily details of running parishes, establishing offices, promulgating documents etc. So I have come to recognize more clearly that there is also a profound element of spiritual service built in to the daily duties of my vocation. Some days, carrying out those tasks is as much of a spiritual practice as I can muster. But this book helped me realize that that’s really okay. This is how I am called to love and serve God right now.
As for mass, I’m very interested in reflecting on how the Church’s maternal acceptance can be manifested more clearly at mass. Her sacrificial love is there in the Eucharist, but honestly as a mom of young kids, making it through mass is often an incredible struggle. I’m a committed Catholic and still feel alienated and embarrassed at times; I can only imagine what it’s like for parents who are on the fence about the faith and are just testing the waters by going to mass. Since writing this book, I have begun to wonder if there is some legitimate liturgical way to foster a more warm and welcoming feel for the families in the pews.
MICHELE: Time for signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What books are currently on your bookshelf to read?
GINA LOEHR: I’m reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to the kids: These Happy Golden Years is up next. My husband is dealing with chronic neck pain so I have a book on acupressure sitting on the nightstand waiting to be perused. Harvey, the 1945 Pulitzer Prize winning play by Mary Chase, is being produced locally in a few months so that’s on my list. I just cracked open Beyond the Birds and Bees by Greg and Lisa Popcak, and one of these days I’m going to sit down and read all of the Louis de Wohl saint novels that occupy an entire shelf in my study.