We could feel tremors before the break, the shift in how she spoke, in how she treated others. We could see his heart hardening to God, to the Church, to us. Some would say that’s adolescence, but it always felt like more.
Praying, engaging, hugging, creating special time—we did all of that and it kept our relationships alive, like blowing on the embers. We weren’t saints about it, we were parents. We’d be too hard, too soft, too talky, too quiet, too prayerful, and yet not witnessing enough. It felt like trying to maintain a sandcastle against the high tide of the world. It felt like the world would win and children would leave. As parents, it felt like the waves crashing over.
There’s no small amount of soul searching that goes on when someone you love leaves the faith. You look for that moment when you guessed wrong, and you view each step away a little like proof you failed as a Catholic in your darker moments; easy prey for despair and frustration. It’s a human desire to want to win, to present all of your children like talents in the Gospel, to the Master. “See, I had two talents, I made this many more.”
We tried to stay the course. They went to Catholic school. We took them to weekly mass. We prayed. They knew what we believed. We prayed with, we prayed for and still, somehow, some of them walked away, in little and big ways. Your family is the Body of Christ, and when someone, anyone leaves, it leaves a whole where flesh should be. Saint Monica knew this pain; she accompanies us. She persists with us in prayer. She also provides the model for us, the promise that Christ will seek our loved ones out, sit with them by the well, and invite them to follow.
The apostles cried out, “Lord, save us!” and Jesus calmed the storm. When you have children or loved ones far from the faith, you want to know that the storm will be calmed. In the Gospel, Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves and He was amazed at the apostles lack of faith. We need to ride out the storm, to trust in Christ. He wants all of us home more even than we do.
Being a friend of Christ doesn’t mean you will have a life free from suffering, being a friend of Christ means He is with you in the midst of the storm. He is with you in every scourge, in every ache, in every moment of agony, in all the pains of life. He died for us, He died for them, He is seeking them even now.
I know our job is to woo our children, not to win them. We are not their savior, Christ is. I need to revisit the lesson often because I am a fallen creature.
The false security of seeing all our progeny lined up in the pew can lead one to thinking that because we raised them, they would keep the faith. God created Eden for His children, they sinned. Anything less than Eden is everything else we experience, and we should not presume that we could somehow bubble wrap our children in the faith to entice them into believing.
It is Christ who will win them. Our job is to ride out the storm, reflecting His love, revealing His love, and always Trusting in His Divine Providence.
For more insights on how to hope, pray, and wait for fallen-away family, check out Maggie Green’s latest book, The Saint Monica Club. It is available as an ebook or paperback from Sophia Institute Press.