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Gloria Purvis on motherhood, mission, and her trick for dealing with nastiness

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 02/20/22

"There can’t be any threat to souls under the sun that our faith doesn’t have an answer for."

Christ is still speaking to us today—very much so. He reaches us not only through our personal prayer but also through the Church and through other people. 

Knowing this is part of what drew Gloria Purvis to accept a position as the inaugural pastoral fellow at The McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. 

Gloria Purvis was named Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic of the Year for 2020. She’s a consultant for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty, creator and host of the EWTN TV series “Authentically Free at Last,” and host of “The Gloria Purvis Podcast.”

Evangelizing in the modern world

She also recently accepted a position as the inaugural pastoral fellow at The McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. The opportunity came as a complete surprise, but she was intrigued by the work the Institute was doing. She knew she wanted to be a part of it. 

“What drew me to it was that they were going to have a truly Catholic response to the sin of racism,”she explained. “To evangelize in the modern world, right now, we need to have an answer to the sins that are plaguing our society.”

The Church has something meaningful to say about every problem and temptation human beings can face. 

“The Church is not dead. Jesus Christ has something to say to you, individual soul living today, about racism in the twenty-first century. There can’t be any threat to souls under the sun that our faith doesn’t have an answer for.”

That’s why Purvis felt it was so important to work on an authentically Catholic response framing how to deal with racism in a proactive way. Everyone can be part of the solution, especially with the help of thoughtful tools and resources. 

One of these resources is the Teaching Human Dignity series that Purvis is working on with the McGrath Institute. Its purpose is to “promote the culture of life through education.” The series is designed for teachers to incorporate life and human dignity issues into their existing curriculum. It’s completely free and widely accessible.

Learning from motherhood

Besides her work for the McGrath Institute, Purvis is a full-time stay-at-home mother. We chatted about how important it is for mothers to get the support they need to do their chosen work — whether inside or outside the home.

“We as a community need to step in to help one another,” she said. This support starts right in the home: “I wouldn’t be able to do it without a supportive husband and supportive network. Husbands have to step up. They’ve got to.”

At the same time, motherhood is not a roadblock but something that can inspire and enrich our professional work. As a Catholic writer and speaker, Gloria found that motherhood brought her a deeper understanding of God’s love. 

“I remember, when I was pregnant, a friend of mine said, “Oh my gosh, I couldn’t do that.” The idea of changing diapers was so revolting to her. But love makes all things possible and all things bearable. Children help us in a real way to understand the Gospel better. It makes me think about how God the father must have thought of Jesus suffering on the cross. Having a child has made me really ponder and meditate on the love of God the father for all of us. Love makes serving another person in uncomfortable or gross situations bearable, and even okay.”

She’s even found in motherhood a trick for dealing with ill-wishers. “Sometimes, when people are being nasty, I think about what they might’ve been like as a sleeping child. I remember that they’re somebody’s sweet baby.”

Deeply rooted faith

Knowing her love for Sacred Scripture, I had to ask: Does she have a favorite verse? She answered right away with Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

“It’s a focus and a reminder that all things work for good,” she said. “If I’m working according to his will and inspired and infused by love for him, whatever difficulty I am experiencing now is working toward his will.”

She’s seen it happen that “people can get lost in ministry and forget who it’s for. When they crowd out Christ and just let the light be on them, it’s not for God anymore. I think that’s a temptation of the enemy.” 

So she’s found it vital to keep her mind and heart focused on the end goal and what really matters. “It’s for God and his glory, because we love him and his glory. So we have to always remember and ground ourselves. When you’re doing things in service to God, you can’t be surprised if you’re tempted by the enemy.”

One way Gloria Purvis keeps her focus on God is through her friendships with saints. “We’re really not alone,” she encouraged. “We have so many that love us on earth and in heaven.”

Here’s her crew of beloved saintly friends:

  • St. Teresa of Avila: “I love her way of prayer, and she has so much spiritual wisdom: She said prayer and comfortable living don’t go together!”
  • The Martyrs of Compiègne: “Their sacrifice of themselves basically brought about an end of the guillotine through the power of their love. People might think that they weren’t victorious, but they were!”
  • St. Therese of Lisieux and the Carmelites, with their way of contemplative prayer
  • St. Francis de Sales: “His Introduction to the Devout Life had a major impact on me, his practical advice about how to be more serious about the faith and be really intentional about prayer.”
  • St. Catherine of Siena: “I can read two pages of her Dialogue and have something to meditate on for a year.”
  • St. Anthony
  • St. Boniface
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