“How do I know that I didn’t fail as a parent? My kids have left the Church, and they seem to be moving away from everything we as parents have taught them”.
How often have I heard this complaint, this anxious cry from men and women of deep faith, who cannot find peace with their adult children leaving the practice of the Sacraments?
This is certainly a very legitimate concern, one that hits home with most of us, whether because our own children have abandoned an active Catholic life, or because we have friends or family members who have done so.
I wonder if this is what Jessica and Katie’s parents also struggled with when thinking about their daughters. These two women didn’t know each other, but they both had, in their own way, walked away from a good Catholic upbringing. Katie, a college student, found herself pregnant out of wed luck; Jessica, a mid-wife, had left the practice of the Sacraments and was living as a “fallen away” Catholic.
Let me share with you how God has indeed written straight on crooked lines, using the mistake of one to bring the other back to Himself…
Katie approached me on my first day back on campus after the summer vacation, and poured out her heart, sharing her fears about being pregnant after only a few months of dating her boyfriend. Having walked with her a journey of spiritual direction in the previous year, I knew her heart well, and I could sense the depth of her anxiety. But I was also able to witness her rock-solid desire to keep the child and to love him/her, no matter what the future held in store.
When the time for the delivery approached, she asked me if I could be present with her at the birth, to offer moral and spiritual support. And so I found myself on one side of her hospital bed, holding her hand, while her boyfriend was on the other side, trying his best to be of help as well.
This is where I felt that the Holy Spirit took over and began to plant the seed of a little miracle that would eventually unfold in the life of Jessica, a mid-wife that was assisting the birth.
I began to pray out loud for Katie, holding the Rosary in my hand, alternating the prayers with the chanting of some Hail Marys and other Marian songs in Italian. The atmosphere was indeed surreal, as she was so peaceful and courageous during the delivery, and was breathing to the rhythm of the prayerful singing. A beautiful baby girl was born that night, and the Lord abundantly blessed Katie and her boyfriend, who eventually got married and are now the proud parents of 3 beautiful children.
All the while, unbeknownst to me, the Holy Spirit was working in the heart of Jessica. But time moved on, and so did I, being reassigned to another campus.
4 years had passed when, upon checking my emails, I found an email titled “Sweet Memories” from a sender whose name I did not recognize. This is what the email said:
Good day, Sister
I don’t know if you will remember me. I am the midwife that attended Katie’s birth. I have attended about 600 births and was a labor nurse for hundreds more. Katie’s birth is one that I will never forget and your constant prayer (the Hail Mary in Italian), and Katie’s quiet strength are two of the reasons it was so incredibly special. I was so touched by that experience and feel so blessed to have been there for it. It is one of the most peaceful births I have ever seen.
When I met you I wasn’t actively practicing my Catholic faith but I am proud to report I have found my way back and am embracing it! I wonder how I got so far away, but am happy that the prayers of my mother, grandmother, and others have brought me back. I am praying the rosary on a regular basis and am learning all I can about my faith.
I hope all is well with you. I just wanted you to know you have a special place in my heart.
Wow! I certainly had not forgotten that unbelievable experience, and Jessica’s email brought me to my knees in thanksgiving for how God had used a seemingly messy situation (a good catholic college student pregnant out of wed-lock) to bring about the conversion of a fallen away catholic woman. And I was very happy to read that Jessica had also attributed her reversion to the faith to her mother and grandmother’s prayers.
Every time I now encounter someone who doubts that their prayers for someone’s conversion (or re-version) really matter, I share with them Katie’s and Jessica’s story. It might indeed take a while, even several years’ worth of daily prayers and sacrifices for the ones we love. But rest assured that not a single one of those pleas goes unheard. The Lord is always at work, sending inspirations in the hearts and minds of His children. Let us trust in His infinite wisdom and in His timing. Let us do all that we can to witness to our faith, to inspire others to seek the Lord. Then, let us set our hearts at rest, knowing that “He gives to His beloved while they sleep” (Psalm 127). Continue to plant the seeds, but let the Lord do the growing.
Recall a particular person in your life for whose returning to the faith you have prayed for a long time. Ask the Lord to give you the grace, today, to entrust them completely to His mercy. Pray also that He would put someone along their path to be a witness to the joy of the faith.