Sunday, December 6, 2009

Parents and children are meant to be a source of mutual grace

“[There are many parents] who judge themselves to be failures … (or who at least wonder whether God sees them that way). Many Catholics are confused and upset because their grown children, in spite of receiving a Catholic education and a good example from their parents, have left the Church or remain only as nominal members, but no longer practice the Faith. Inadequate catechesis, youthful rebellion, the allurements of the world, the bad influence of peers and role models, selfishness, and laziness all play their part. Sometimes parents themselves fail not by living out their Faith in a genuine, committed way; but even living out their Faith sincerely is no guarantee that their children will remain true to the Faith.

If you mourn over a grown child who has let go of or rejected the Faith, it may console you to know that even some of the saints had this struggle or disappointment. They, more than anyone, knew the importance of teaching their children to love God and neighbor. Some of them succeeded; others failed.

One of [St Elizabeth Ann Seton’s’] two sons lived an immoral life, in spite of her ceaseless prayers and sacrifices on his behalf.

The sixth-century queen St Clotilda, widow of the Frankish king Clovis, suffered greatly as a result of her sons’ quarreling over the royal throne; one of them was killed in battle, and another tried to secure the throne for himself by murdering his nephews (Clotilda’s grandsons).

Something similar occurred several centuries later in the life of St Matilda. The widow of King Henry I of Germany, she was the mother of St Bruno (who caused her little trouble) and of Emperor Otto I and Prince ‘Henry the Quarrelsome’ (both of whom caused her considerable grief). Matilda, perhaps unwisely, favored Henry, which caused Otto to treat her poorly. Henry, instead of being grateful for her support, also treated her badly. The one thing the two brothers agreed on was that Matilda was much too generous to the poor and to the Church. She ignored their complaints, treated them with patience, and eventually died with the affection and respect of the common people.

Children can cause their parents grief by ignoring God’s call, but sometimes these roles are reversed. In the eleventh century, the future St Anselm, discerning a religious vocation, wanted to enter a monastery at the age of fifteen; his father strictly forbade this. Anselm rebelled by going to the opposite extreme: he abandoned religion altogether and lived in a carefree, irresponsible manner. Thus, an unsupportive parent was partly to blame for a youth’s rebelliousness. Fortunately, Anselm later repented and thereafter answered his calling.

It’s God’s will that parents raise their children in righteousness and help prepare them for their spiritual pilgrimage. This means that parents must have a living faith, and as St Francis Xavier observed, ‘No man ever really finds out what he believes until he begins to instruct his children.’ Our children are precious to us, for they have been entrusted to us by God. We want the very best for them, and so it’s only natural for us to be distressed if they ignore or reject their moral and religious upbringing. In such a case, the Lord wants us to remain loving and accepting toward them, but also unceasing in our prayers and unyielding in our Faith.

Parents and children are meant to be a source of mutual grace and encouragement, helping one another to come closer to God. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Your children may have caused you grief by their unrestrained lives or their leaving the Church. But the example of St Monica speaks of the need to persevere in hope and in prayer. God can work miracles of grace at an instant’s notice and in the most unexpected ways, and He rejoices in those loving parents who seek to cooperate with Him on their children’s behalf.”

-- Saintly Solutions to Life’s Common Problems by Fr Joseph Esper


Rebecca said...

Excellent post. As a parent I can so relate to what the author writes. A true understanding of grace and how grace works in our lives is so important. Our faith is a gift and a gift that requires a response. It is for me to stay true to Jesus and my faith and to pray for my children with the peace of mind that I did the best I could at the time with what I had to be a good example of a living faith. There is always hope. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I tend to keep asking *where did I go wrong*
and sometimes taking all the blame...even though there are times I have been at fault, I know that it is a two way street and after doing my best, they must in turn make the decision to follow God's will or not.

ocd sister said...

Yes, sometimes parents mess up; sometimes it's the children; sometimes both. But I think that, rather than looking at who's to blame, we should pray and accept those difficult times as: a) God's will - since He is the One to allow things to happen, and b) a source of grace through prayer, penance and the practice of virtue. One thing we, as individuals, can be in control of regardless of the actions and behavior of others, is our willingness to pray and trust in God. Then, no matter what happens, we can profit, at least spiritually, from all things through the practice of virtue. And, yes, in spite of momentary thoughts to the contrary, there is always hope for conversion - for every one.