I was headed for a couple of the most stressful weeks I’ve had in a long, long, time and wondered how in the world I’d manage to work my way through them. Things were coming at me from every angle, and while I’m usually invigorated by a challenge, this time I found myself ready to crumble.
My spiritual director of many years had taught me the value and truth of the Communion of Saints and to make frequent and faith-filled use of their intercession, especially during times of stress and uncertainty. Those who have gone before us have the ability to do for us things they never could have done while still on earth, and we often forget the tremendous power of their prayers for us. If I was frustrated with the way things were going in my apostolate, Fr. Jonathan would urge me to call upon Betty, a friend who would particularly understand such situations, have lived through many of them herself. “Get Betty on the case,” he’d say. If I had trouble making an important decision, he’d urge me to call upon my spiritual director from my teen years – a priest adept at helping young people with difficult choices. “Get Fr. Carlos on the case,” he’d say. When things were getting hairy with the kids, Fr. Jonathan would recommend that I get my dad – who passed away when I was 15 years old – on the case.
Knowing these saints were interceding for me brought me great comfort. I felt as if they “had my back” and it gave me the boost I needed to forge ahead. It was even more meaningful for me in regard to my dad. In this way, he could help to guide and encourage the grandchildren he’d never met face-to-face, humanly speaking. So, too, he can advise me in my parenting, even without being able to speak directly to me.
As my two dreaded weeks drew near, and even though it didn’t deal directly with my kids, I put Dad on the case and called on him often during each day. Actually, I didn’t only call on him; in my spoiled-brat-youngest-child stubbornness, I demanded his help. How could he possibly refuse that?
Then, one day it appeared in my inbox. It was a photo of my Grandpa and Grandma with the two oldest of their three children: my dad and his younger sister, Anna. My brother had come across it by way of a cousin, scanned it, and emailed it to my two sisters and me. It was taken around 1930, which would have made my dad about 3 years old and Aunt Anna about 1-½ years old at the time. I’d never before seen a picture of my dad as a kid, and this was an exceptional treat for me. In the scene, my Grandparents are standing, proudly, stoically, while my aunt rests in Grandma’s arms and Dad stands in front of them in his little white knickers, leaning cautiously into Grandpa’s legs and looking quite uncertainly and somewhat shyly at the camera. That little guy was not so sure he was ready for what was about to happen!
In light of the weeks ahead of me, I figured I felt the way he looked – not so sure I was ready for what was about to happen. I sat quietly studying the photo for a good long time. My dad as a child…I just couldn’t get over it. My dad as a child…my dad as a child…my dad as a… Then it struck me. My dad as a child! Of course! Not only is my dad a child of my grandparents, but also he is a child of God.
I poured over the picture some more, realizing that it held a special message for me about – and perhaps from – my dad. What is the child in the 1930 photo doing in his time of uncertainty? He leans against his father. What does the child of God do in times of uncertainty? He leans against his Father. In this family photo, I could see both my dad’s childishness and his child-likeness. In his childishness, he was showing me that it’s only human to be pensive about what lies ahead. In his child-likeness, he was showing me that the only way to face it is by leaning against my Father.
Father Joseph Kentenich, Servant of God and Founder of the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt described this “leaning on the Father” in terms of a pendulum.
“…the more you see and survey real life, the more you will find – even in the face of the basic anxieties of human and Christian existence – that the daring of plain, unaffected child-likeness is what resonates on the ultimate an deepest level of your soul and being. […] We must not desire the security of a table (with all four legs on the ground) but a pendulum security. Here on this earthy no security from below can ultimately satisfy us, it much rather be a pendulum security whose anchor is above. This tender, simple, childlike attachment to the Father is how all problems are solved.”
The reality of the Communion of Saints allowed me to discover Dad’s advice for me conveyed by a timid little boy in an old snapshot: child-likeness. When the child is not so sure he’s ready for what’s about to happen, he leans against his Father. That’s the only way to make it through anything, whether it’s a tough two weeks, a tough year, or an entire lifetime full of ups and downs of all kinds.
Marge’s latest book, Strengthening Your Family, published by Our Sunday Visitor, was released November 1, 2011.
Visit Marge’s website: http://margefenelon.com/
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