A few weeks ago, I spoke with a couple who approached me with heavy hearts. We did not know each other. They were from out of town and stopped by the church to offer prayers for their oldest son who had just finished a less than average freshman year at college. I was dressed in clerics, so they walked up to me and asked for a few moments of my time.
It’s the age-old condition – parents worrying about their children. My parents worried about me and with good reason. I worried about my children and still do. It is what parents do. Are they safe? Do they have good friends? Do they make good decisions? Do they love God with all their heart, with all their being, with all their strength, and with all their mind?
The couple explained that their son was smart and capable, had always excelled, but his first year at college was disastrous. He had no friends. He was totally unmotivated. He stopped attending Mass. His grade point average was below 2.0 and he would have to take some courses a second time… if he chose to return to school. He was not sure he would.
“At least he agreed to see doctors,” the mother said, “and he allowed the doctors to speak with us. Nothing seems to be wrong.”
I thought to myself, “She could be my mother speaking about me after my first year college!”
Become a Saint for the Sake of Your Children
I listened to their concern for a few more moments, encouraged them to continue to be the best parents they could be – they seemed to be taking the right steps to help their child – and to be saints.
They asked what I meant. I said that in addition to being present to their son… in addition to being supportive and making sure there were not some social, physiological or mental health problems – all of which they were already addressing – they needed to turn to God, as they were obviously doing. And that they needed to make that their foremost priority along with their care for their son. They had indicated earlier that they did not pray much, but that they did attend Mass on Sundays.
We spoke of how Jesus revealed God as Father. We spoke of the vocation of husband and wife, father and mother… and how God wanted to be an active part of their family… that they did not have to raise their children without the grace of God the Father. So trust in Him, surrender to Him. Become saints for their son. They agreed to spend more time in daily prayer, to seek God’s particular will for them in each moment, and to trust in Him. I encouraged them to also seek the intercession of St. Joseph and Mary, turning also to them daily in prayer. (I know that is the path my mother took.)
It was God who had drawn them to the church; God’s actual grace. I suggested that they spend a while in the Adoration Chapel, silently before the Blessed Sacrament and pour out their concerns to the Lord asking for faith, peace, wisdom and reconciliation to be the parents that their son needed right now. Turn it over to God. “Be still and know that He is God.”
I asked them to share what they had done and learned with their son. “Lord, our son is in trouble and we are not sure what to do, help us help him. Help us to become closer to you so that we know what to do and be to help him become closer to you.”
This couple’s story is the story of many thousands of parents each school year. And they had already begun one of the steps necessary to helping their son. They had heard God call to them and they responded.
Into the deep…
Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, Editor-in-Chief for The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization at his parish and a deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
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