Wednesday 16 June 2010

Stark Reality.

John and Fiona were very distraught parents. They stayed behind in church after Mass and asked to see Father Ignatius.

He suggested they wait until everyone had gone, and eventually he came back in the church from the car park, having seen the last of the parishioners leave.

The couple were sitting up front next to the statue of Our Lord. Father Ignatius joined them and said jovially, “how are you both? And where is Lea today?”

“It’s about Lea that we want to talk about Father,” said Fiona.

“She doesn’t want to come to church any more …” added John, “she’s met some new friends and they’re leading her astray … she says church is boring … and she wants to do her own thing …”

“And you feel there’s nothing you can do about it …” continued the priest.

“That’s right Father, the more we argue with her the more she becomes stubborn …”

“That’s understandable …” said Father Ignatius gently, “parenting is not that easy despite what many people might think … and despite what the experts would tell you to do …

“In reality, there’s nothing you can do about it … your daughter is old enough to do what she wants.

“As they grow up, children want their independence … Lea may get in with bad company, as you say … she may go totally off the rails … get into real trouble … and there’s very little a parent can do.

“I don’t mean to sound harsh … and I sympathize with you and what you must feel … but in reality we can only live our lives and not the lives of others.

“We may try to control other peoples’ behavior, through persuasion, pleading or downright force … but success depends on a number of factors and to a large extent the other person should be willing to alter their behavior to what you wish it to be …

“This isn’t helping much is it?” asked the priest quietly as he prepared them to understand the situation.

“Do you mean we do nothing?” asked Fiona holding back her tears.

“I didn’t say that …” continued Father Ignatius.

“I wonder how Mary and Joseph felt when they lost Jesus when He was twelve … they looked everywhere and were concerned about their young teenager …

“But in reality … they had no need to worry did they? Perhaps they should have trusted God a little more … maybe they did, and I’m judging them too harshly …”

“What exactly are you saying Father?” asked John.

“Do you trust God?” was the direct reply from the gentle priest.

“Eh … yes, of course …” mumbled John.

“OK … let’s consider the facts … you say she met some new friends …”

“Yes … she’s left school now and she is at college … she’s made new friends there … they’re OK I suppose … but they’re not Christian and she feels she’s becoming independent by not going to church.”

“And does God know about this?” asked Father Ignatius.

The couple were stumped and said nothing. The priest continued.

“I suggest you let her be. If she doesn’t want to go to church, don’t make an issue of it!”

“But … it’s mortal sin!” exclaimed Fiona.

“It’s her mortal sin … not yours,” said the priest, “besides, let’s assume you can force her to get to church every Sunday, and she does attend against her wishes, and sits there fuming and cursing under her breath … would that make you feel better? Would it be a bigger sin do you think, than not attending church at all?”

“So you’re advocating we do nothing? I’m surprised at you Father” said John getting a little angry.

Father Ignatius smiled.

“That’s the second time I’ve been asked whether I’m suggesting you do nothing … and I repeat, I did not say that.

“I suggest first of all that you trust God, and I mean really trust Him that He has a hold on this situation and He is in full control. Can you do that?”

They nodded silently.

“Good … then I suggest you don’t force her to come to church on Sunday … or even mention it. Just come by yourselves as you always do …

“If you do so already, continue with your family prayers. Before meals … evening prayers or whatever prayers you say together as a family …

“She may or may not join you … leave it to her to decide.

“Lead by example … if you really trust in God you will hand over your daughter to His care. If you stumble and wobble and if your Faith falters you will set her a bad example; and you’ll give her proof that your own Faith is only skin deep.

“She is free to decide what she wants in her life. It’s a gift given to all of us by God. Not to be restricted or controlled by any one else; this is what you’d be doing, albeit with good intentions, if you force her to go to church.

“Pray for her, like you’ve never prayed before. Ask God to protect her, to guide her and to bless her.

“Praying is not doing nothing; it is the most positive action we can take.

“She may well return to God in due course, or she may never do so … it’s a risk we all have to take with our loved ones. But it is their choice to make … no matter how hard or how painful it is for us to watch and to accept.

“We can only live our lives, not that of others. Let us be a living example to others rather than pay lip service to it.

“I’ll visit your home perhaps a little more often than I usually do … and let us pray that God will one day soon welcome her back as He does any prodigal child.”


  1. Even after reading this I still hope my daughter doesn't take the long way to God. I did and wouldn't wish it on anyone. I started praying for her before she was born that God would give her the grace to make the right choices in life. If she does falter I know I will have to accept it and trust that God has everything in hand but as a mother I can't help but hope that she will be strong in her faith and love for God.

  2. Hi Mary,

    Being a parent is certainly not easy. The best way is to lead by example and pray.

    God bless.

  3. Well written. I anguished over this when one of mine strayed...Still praying he'll come "home" but it's his choice...He is a faithful christian just on the wrong path right now. This was the same advice offered me and it was what really helped. Cathy

  4. Hi Victor, just published my comment but I think Cathy bumped me out....LOL
    This is a wonderful time lasting message, prayer and example can and should be used for many lifetimes........:-) Hugs

  5. Hello Cathy,

    I feel and share your anguish. I join you in prayer that your loved one will come "home".

    Hi Bernie,

    You're so right ... prayer and good example is our only positive action in such circumstances. Trust too, that the Good Lord is in control of every situation.

    God bless you Cathy and Bernie.

  6. Great story and analogy. God DOES bring His prodigal children home eventually, grabbing His lost sheep from the bushes, when it is time. It is the waiting, I think, that is difficult, maybe even more difficult than the trusting.

    Have a great day!

  7. Thank you so much for this post - I so need it! My middle son is a senior in high school. He's a good person by the world's standards; hard working, decent grades, athlete, doesn't get sexually involved with girls. But he does not seem to be motivated to seek after God; he doesn't want to go to church or participate in any kind of Bible study, nor does he read the Bible on a regular basis on his own. I'd been requiring him to attend either church (any Christian church in our area) or a Bible study. But he's become more obstinate against doing that lately and my husband John has suggested we just leave him to it and pray for him. Seems Father Ignatius would agree with John. I guess it really does come down to trusting God with my sons.

  8. Hi Elizabeth and Tracy,

    The more we try to persuade yougsters the more they'll want to do their own thing. I was like that once ... surprise!

    I am praying for your son, Tracy. As Elizabeth says, the waiting is more difficult than the trusting.

    God bless you Elizabeth and Tracy; and your families too.

  9. This is great parenting advice. I hope I won't need it, but surely I will. My son is 13 and still hasn't really given his heart to God. So far he's been compliant with going to church, praying, and reading the Bible together, but I know that could change as he gets further into the teen years.

    Thank you for this excellent story.

  10. Hello Sarah,

    I pray for your son, and your whole family. I'm sure you're giving him a good example to follow.

    God bless you and yours.

  11. Victor, this is the second time today that I have heard this advice regarding family members. Seems that God is trying to drive the point home! Trust and prayer, really they are all we can do anyway.

  12. Hello Anne,

    That's true ... we can only trust God and pray again and again.

    God bless.

  13. Thank you Victor for sending me this link. Father Ignatius is wise. Yes...Praying..trusting and waiting is really all I can do as a mother of a college age child. I sometimes forget that I too had to seek and find God for myself. May God bless you.

  14. Thank you Beautiful Whispers. I shall pray for you and your family.

    God bless.



God bless you.