As a parent it is easy to catch yourself thinking about all the terrible things that could go wrong, either with yourself or your children. Before our precious little gifts are born into this world we wonder just exactly what may or may not happen under our care and instruction. Of course we dread having to ask that infamous question “what did I do wrong?” when our beloved child or children fail to meet the expectations and moral guidelines we put forth for them to follow.
It is absolutely understandable to ask and even beg an answer from God, but sometimes as parents it’s not what we did or didn’t do, it’s what God permitted to happen. This is not an easy pill to swallow. This is a painful mystery. Why does God in all His goodness and omnipotence allow people to make terrible decisions? This is something we will not fully understand in this life, but what we can understand from it, is that the Lord let’s these things happen according to one’s salvation journey.
As Catholic parents we are obliged to instruct our children in the ways of the faith and explain to them why we do certain things and why certain things are to be avoided. What cannot be avoided, however, is our fallen human nature. Our children are sinners just as we are. We don’t like to be reminded of that. It hurts us. I believe that, though all Christians are called to love as God loves, parents especially experience the full ramifications of what that means. Like God we are asked to love our children even when they wound us in their shortcomings and blatant sins. I believe God is especially close to grieving parents who are dealing with children in very difficult and heartbreaking situations. The difference is that we are all His children and He feels this pain infinitely magnified in our sinfulness and refusal of His love.
However, with the grace of our Heavenly Father we must pray and help our children when they do fail. What would be more of a crime on a parent’s part is if we lost our patience and never helped our children pick themselves up again. Yes our children may have greatly wounded us, but our job has really begun as God-like parents when we don’t give up on them. To stay in their dilemma without remorse is far worse than the actual sin. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen put it so eloquently “sin is never the worst thing that can happen to a man. The worst thing is the refusal to recognize his sins.” (Way to Happiness.)
We need to remind ourselves that one thing we can’t keep our children away from is suffering; especially when it is to the benefit of their salvation. It is difficult to imagine how a child who is unfortunately struggling with the varyious addictions of this world, or the one in an abusive relationship, or that the one who has had an abortion can recover, or can ever be redeemed. As a Catholic we hope for this, but in our human nature deep down, we fear that the battle is lost. The reality is that the battle has just begun. God is at work. I believe he is working the hardest when we are broken down to nothing, when we are vulnerable and wounded. Not all will experience such drastic crises, but for those who do, this is their chance to really encounter Christ. This is their way to salvation.
When we find our children in such dire situations, we should not fear. Blessed Pope John Paul II is often noted for saying, “be not afraid,” do not fear what has occurred, but be vigilant in helping your child not to fear to ask for the forgiveness they ought to receive. For as parents, if we act like the father of the prodigal son, our children will not fear to come before their Heavenly Father as they are. If we show them mercy and compassion and pray for their return, they will be shown the heart of God and His merciful love.
Our children’s capacity to sin is real, but the keeping of their faith must be fought for at all costs. Parents, please let us pray daily for our children, and let us pray for ourselves that we may not have fear before any seemingly unsolvable trial, but trust that God is directing us through it all. What matters most is the ability to proclaim one’s faith even after one has committed grave offenses against our Lord’s Sacred Heart. We always have the chance to pick up our cross and follow Him no matter how often we fail. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23 and 25) Parents it is our obligation to help our children carry their crosses no matter how burdensome or hopeless it all may seem. Please remember that it gives Christ glory and joy to be our Savior.