They’re Leaving Home…Will They Leave the Faith? | Leanne Rose
Recently I ran across this profound bit of wisdom from Pope Francis in which he uses kite flying to teach about letting our children go. He cautions:
“There’d come the moment when the kite would begin making a ‘figure 8′ and begin falling. In order to keep that from happening, you mustn’t pull the string. The kids who knew more than us would scream, ‘Give it some slack, it’s wobbling!’ … Flying a kite resembles the approach you need to take regarding a person’s growth: sometimes you need to give them some slack because they are ‘wavering.’ In other words, it is necessary to give them time. We have to be able to set limits at the right moment, but other times we need to know how to look the other way and be like the father of the parable (the Prodigal Son) who lets his son move out and squander his fortune so that he learns from experience.”
Letting go … and wondering if your children will squander their fortune and leave the Faith … is quite possibly the hardest thing a parent will ever do. And that is because – they just might.
The Season of Letting Go
As I reluctantly watch my own grown sons ‘wavering’, every maternal instinct I own screams, “Hold tight! Pull them back! Coerce! Preach! Beg!”. But now is the season in my family to give them slack, give them time, and let them learn from experience. Is it agonizing? Certainly. Is it frightening? Undoubtedly. Is it hopeless? Never! Because while I’m letting my children go (and grow) I’m learning to have a deeper faith and trust while I keep the salvation of their souls constantly in prayer.
I have to trust that I’ve done my best to ‘set limits at the right moment’ and raise them in the Faith, and I also must strive to always live that faith fully myself (for after all it is truly more by our example than our words that their hearts are formed). I am slowly learning to let them learn from experience, even when that brings me to my knees weeping.
St. Monica’s Prayers
I’ve found a trusted friend and advocate in every mother’s patron saint, Monica. Her son, Saint Augustine, completely rejected his faith as a young man and was spiraling downward in immoral living. Monica was ready to disown him but a dream revealed to her that he would return to the faith. So what did she do? Prayed and fasted for him for seventeen long years. She never gave up on him and shortly before her death, Augustine returned, with vigor, to the practice of his faith — and the rest is remarkable history.
The Prodigal Son
In a recent homily about the parable of the Prodigal Son, our Pastor lovingly expressed the thought that this anecdote would more aptly be named, “The Parable of the Good Father”. This was an astounding new twist on this ancient tale and is beautifully reinforced by Pope Francis’ kite story. What does the Good Father (or mother) do? Lets go. Our pastor also gave a homily recently about fear – and how fear is the opposite of faith. So when I find myself desperately afraid for my prodigal children and their souls, I try to remember this lesson and have a stronger faith in God’s timing and in the arsenal of treasures he has provided in our Holy Catholic Church.
Praying … always…
Praying for my children is nothing new. It’s the urgency that’s changed. My daily prayers now always include very specific prayers to each of my children’s Guardian Angels, Saint Michael and the Patron Saint each of them chose at Confirmation. My daily rosary intention always includes the salvation of their souls. I offer every single ache and pain for them and also every single communion and Holy Hour. Years ago I learned a prayer to offer for the souls of my children at every elevation of the Holy Eucharist. This extraordinary moment to entrust them to the Author of Life himself has become more critical as they have grown and strayed.
I have begun the beautiful Twelve Year Prayer to St. Bridget. I figure that if Monica persevered in praying for Augustine for seventeen long years, I can certainly manage twelve. Hope for the salvation of the souls of our children is attached to faithfully praying this meditation on the seven wounds of Jesus.
We have such powerful friends and allies in the Saints and especially in our Blessed Mother, Mary. I don’t know how many times when a crisis has descended on one of my children that the only prayer I can utter over and over is “Mother Mary wrap your arms around him and carry him through this …”. She had to let go of her own grown son even though she saw all the danger he was facing – and a sword of sorrow pierced her own heart (Luke 2:35). She will intercede for you.
My friends on earth are also my prayer companions. Of my four dearest Catholic mom friends, all of us have at least one of our grown children that we worry and pray about. I pray for their children and I ask them to pray for mine…always.
Like Monica, never give up on these prodigal children. When they come to you for advice or comfort – and they will – always be ready to “give them a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Use the moments you are given wisely. I’m learning the hard way to be gentle rather than condemning, joyful rather than forceful, and loving rather than judgmental… hoping with Saint Monica that, as her spiritual director Saint Ambrose promised her, “Surely the son of so many tears will not perish”. And praying that someday the agony of letting the slack out so my wavering child can grow will end in rejoicing with the ‘Good Father’ whose prodigal son returned.