Being a "spiritual auntie" to many children sounds sweet, but it's a warrior's calling.
As one who lives an “anchorite” or eremitic lifestyle, I feel a calling to pray for the whole world, every day, but also to pray in a special way for children. That calling began seemingly by accident – if accidents actually exist. It started when an acquaintance asked that I pray for his children.
I had a desire to pray more specifically, and asked for the name of each child. There were several; his was—and thanks be to God, still is—a large Catholic family that was nearly run off the rails.
I’ve never desired the gift of maternity, or the sacrifices of bearing and rearing children. Since I am without family, there have been few opportunities to be around kids, so when the opportunity does arise, I am attentive to the sons and daughters of friends. I remember a close friend told me the prayer he said for his sons and daughters, and another friend told me of tracing a cross on the foreheads of her children as she kissed them good-night.
The evening after I was asked to pray, the verse in Isaiah 54 came to mind:
Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the LORD.
… and the one from Psalms 113 also nudged me:
He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.
Here, I thought, was a way to love children that were not through me. And so began my tiny ministry to pray for the future of our Church by praying for her children, a ministry I hope you too will take on.
I purchased a small notebook that would fit in my purse or pocket and began seeking opportunities to ask permission from parents to add their children’s names to the book. The usual response was an enthusiastic, “Oh, please do!” The little book goes with me to Adoration and Mass, and has been touched to the Blessed Sacrament.
Included in the notebook is a familiar parent’s prayer for the protection of children against demonic influences.
Eternal Father, you have entrusted the lives and souls of these children to my care. I beseech Thee now to offer them protection from demonic influences. Protect their eyes, ears, and lips from the lies, deceits, and seductions of the devil. Defend them from the attacks of the evil spirits, as well as those from wicked persons who align themselves with the dark forces. Guide them to virtuous desires and interests, shielding them from music, projections, and written words which are of a diabolical nature. Enlist your angels to stand beside them, leading them away from circumstances which would seduce them to sin. Keep them pure of heart to avoid the temptations of the flesh and physical gratification outside the confines of holy matrimony. Assist them as they struggle against the enticements of the world, showing them that all good things come from you alone, and that by following your laws they will not only attain true happiness, but the gift of eternal life with you in heaven. Amen.
I like being a kind of spiritual auntie to so many children, and feel a deep joy when I see pictures of those children for whom I pray shared on social media, or when I hear good news of them.
Each morning I ask Mother Mary to pray with me for the protection of the little-lovelies whose names I bring to her Son.
I kind of like having kids in the oratory.