There's a boy who lives here. He's sensitive and obnoxious; precocious and juvenile; insightful and obtuse; mostly he's just good. We talk a lot. We butt heads a lot, too. We love each other very much.
There's a mom who lives here. She's well-intentioned and falls short; a success in some regards and a colossal failure; insightful and obtuse; mostly she's clawing to keep her head above water and somehow get herself and her family to heaven. She talks a lot. Sometimes she even listens. And she loves.
As parents who want to pass along something so great as our Faith, we do a lot. We keep Catholic our lifestyles, we observe the liturgical seasons, participate in tradition, and tell our children, every day, something about what it means to be a follower of Christ, and how to live out our Catholicism.
And then, sometimes, as Catholic parents, we are struck with fear.
One very late night, in a reflective tone, the boy says, "Mom. You know how you feel close to God? I know you do, because I see you get really animated when something moves you and all." "Yes, I guess I do feel close to God. Not all the time, but mostly. When I don't, it's because I've moved away from Him. We're all human, so I fall a ton." "Mom, how do you do that? I want to feel that. I want to feel Him in me. I want to 'feel' like I'm close to God. How do I know He's there? How do I get that?"
Instantly, my heart breaks and aches on so many levels. If one can internally sob, I think I did. My thoughts crash one upon another, "Have I failed him? Is it too late? Did I lose him? Did I never give him enough in the first place? Is my example too poor? Oh, child! I know...I know that longing!"
I have to stop myself. I have to collect myself. I have to trust that I have given him good things. Yes, I have given him knowledge and prayer and habit and examples, and examples of things to NOT do. I have given him richness and beauty, a faithful lifestyle. I have to trust that I've given him a foundation. That I have been, and will continue to do my job as "carer for his soul". I have to stop and think...
Yes, I have GIVEN to him, and then I remember being his age (which really isn't as long ago as he would think). I, too, had a foundation. A long, storied, firm foundation. I have good parents. I have good grandparents (who also formed me). However, there came a time when every day was closer and closer to me being farther and farther away from their influence. And go away I did (don't press, just trust me, I did). And then there came a time..when I had to go in search of instead of having it be handed to me.
When I had children I had to decide how to live and what we would pass on. Yes, I always knew we'd be a Catholic family, because, well, I came from a Catholic family. But I had to make choices, grow, and learn. I really hadn't thought about that as a stupid teenager. I didn't realize that faith and religion had to be cultivated. I just thought it "was". So I understand completely how it felt to my boy; that faith is something that some people have and some people want, and how the hell did people GET it and why don't I have that strong feeling?
"You know, I'm not sure how to answer that", I say quietly, "but I will try."
Silently, I pray, "Holy Spirit, give me words..."
"I had a child who was born with a pneumothorax, because he was such a strong baby and his first breath burst the alveoli in his lungs. On the second night of his life, he turned gray because he stopped breathing. They brought you back. I know that was God."
I whispered, "My eighth baby, the one who needed the most, had RSV, and then it turned into pneumonia, and then her lungs collapsed and then she went to the hospital, and it took three hours to stabilize her, and she should have died, and the hospital staff encouraged me to call a priest, and this holy, holy man administered extreme unction with a relic of Bernadette on baby's chest as he prayed, as he cried throughout the entirety of the sacrament, and then within hours she turned around, so that I could stop wracking my brain, wondering where we would bury her...I know that was God."
"Not for nothing, but my third baby had RSV, too, when she was twelve days old, and was in Children's Hospital for eight days, and then she got better and we baptized her the day after she got home. I know that was God."
"One day, and you know this because you were there, son, we all watched in horror as your four year old brother rode a bike with no brakes into route 140 at rush hour. No matter how quickly we reacted, no matter how fast we ran, we would never catch him in time. Oh, my Lord, I wondered in that split second what the accident would look like, what his body would look like in the grill of a box truck....and so as we ran down the driveway I screamed 'JESUS! JESUS! JESUS!' the whole time and then, as if a hand were pushing them, the cars, in both directions, slowed. Then they stopped. Ten cars in either direction. And not one squeal of brakes. I know that that was God."
"These things, and a thousand more close-calls, and a thousand comforts when they're not close calls, but the real thing, these are signs to me that Our Lord is with me. These are the things that make me feel Him in my life."
"Before all this, though, I had to decide to have faith. I had to decide to trust God. I had to choose to see him."
I was able to say to my child that night. We were both in tears; the written word cannot convey the emotion in what I told him. I know that the boy had a sense of what I was trying to say, but I need to expound on it. To give him just a little more. Even if it's only a smidgen of what he needs.
My son, (all of my children, for that matter) I want to tell you something. Jesus is always here. You are never alone, even if his presence is intangible. These episodes that I mentioned, they are my signs, and you will have your signs, but before I ever ever EVER felt a closeness, I had to seek him.
When I finally understood that I had to turn to God, I didn't have to look far, because He's always with us, but I did have to LOOK for Him.
When we genuinely seek Him, we know the route to follow, because the Church gives us the rubric to being in a state of grace. We have faith by knowledge, not feelings, but guess what? When we have grace, we are blessed with the feelings, many times, too. Not always, but very often. Our eyes must always be open, though. We have to search for, find, and get to know God. I didn't really realize, when I was a kid, that I needed to put myself into it, as well. I never want you to not know that.
My child, whom I love more than my own self, I want nothing more than to give you Jesus. I have brought you to him. He has given his own self to us. You know what to do, and how to do it (read the saints, scripture, apologetics, good Catholic authors, receive the sacraments frequently, spend time before Jesus in the tabernacle and at adoration, live a life of service). But, see, I alone cannot give him to you.
You. You must seek him. Never stop seeking him. He won't let you down, I promise.