I was the very best mother. I felt sorry for those other mothers who saw their sons or daughters leave the faith. My “sorrow” for them, however, included just a little bit of reproach for these parents-of-children-who-had-left-the-Church — parents who must not really have worked hard enough to keep their children fervent. Maybe they cared too little. Maybe they cared too much. It must have been something they did that kept their kids from really appreciating the beautiful truths of the Catholic Church. Deep down I secretly blamed them.
I, however, had it all together. Our sons were taken to Mass every single Sunday and holy day including all Sundays on vacation. We never failed to find a local Mass wherever we were overnighting. My husband and I made sure they learned the beauty and truth of their faith even to the point of searching for some old Baltimore Catechisms, which we discussed around the dining room table.
We sent our sons to Catholic schools or CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine). And because we were keenly aware that, despite these efforts, the surrounding toxic culture could still hold sway over their lives, we sent them to a faithful Catholic university, paying full tuition and not counting the cost. We believed that it was worth this considerable sacrifice. We wanted our sons to learn to think deeply about important First Things and to live their faith to the fullest.
We did everything right. I was a proud mama.
Well, whatever I did turned out not to be enough. Or maybe it was enough, but our enough came face to face with a world gone mad.
Was it the culture? The flesh? The devil?
Well, we all know the sparkle of the world and its allurements. And the flesh — how difficult it is to live in this time of “sexual freedom.” The devil — we encounter him and his influence daily all around us. He’s been prowling like a roaring lion since his success with Adam and Eve. Anyone who has read C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters knows that Satan is trying hard to take over lives. So, yes, all these factors undoubtedly have had their part in my son’s decisions.
But in the end, they will not get my son, this one who is flesh of my flesh, claimed for Christ at his baptism.
“I didn’t leave the Church. The Church left me,” our son claimed when he was still communicating with me.
I could be devastated, and I almost was. I have prayed fervently and continue to do so every single day, and I cry when I can’t hold back the tears, often shed in the silence of the small hours of the night.
Jesus ends the parable of the persistent widow by asking, “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?” (Luke 18:7) I also find solace in these words spoken to Saint Monica, mother of that great Father of the Church, St. Augustine, by her local bishop, “Go now, I beg you; it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” Not only did her son not perish, but he became the means through whom thousands upon thousands of seemingly lost souls have found their way back to the Church. Augustine, thanks to the constant prayers of his mother, became a great saint.
There is always holy hope, and I’ll not lose that. “God’s time will come,” the bishop assured Monica. It took 17 years. (I’m hoping for something a little sooner.)
I know that I did my best, and I also now know that I am no better than “those other mothers.” That’s one of the lessons of this cross. I mourn, I cry and I wonder a lot about how this happened. But I will pray and not give up calling out to Him day and night. Yes, I will keep bothering God because I live with confident hope that my boy will come back.