March 30, 2018

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Stay close to Mary in the ups and downs of parenthood

Sean GallagherLike most parents, my wife Cindy and I have had many ups and downs in our life as parents.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve rejoiced so many times: welcoming the births of our five boys; watching them grow as babies; seeing them take first steps; experiencing their personalities starting to blossom; and nurturing the minds and bodies that God gave them in school and athletics.

Greatest of all for us has been accompanying them in their journey of faith: in baptism, first penance, first Communion, confirmation, as well as worshipping with them at Mass and our life of prayer at home.

There have been many trials, too. Some are an ordinary part of typical family life: illnesses that can spread from one boy to another like wildfire; hourly or greater squabbles among the boys; their resisting at times what Cindy and I ask them to do.

Others are crosses that can feel a little heavier on our shoulders. Experiencing the hospitalization of two of our boys when they were babies stands out. But so do the special challenges that some of them face in their education and relationships. And, as parents, we have to accompany our boys as they get older and experience hardship as a result of their own misguided choices.

In light of the daily roller coaster ride of fatherhood, my heart and mind turn to Mary in a special way at this time of year when we focus our attention on her Son’s passion, death and resurrection.

We know Mary was there on Calvary to witness the cruel death of her Son. In the Stations of the Cross, we meditate on how she encountered Jesus as he carried his cross.

The traditional conclusion that Mary suffered in her heart the torture that Christ bore in his body on that first Good Friday becomes a concrete reality for so many parents who witness their children suffer in body, mind or soul.

Sometimes the trials that parents experience in raising their children can be so great that they are tempted to give up hope that they will ever witness the fulfillment of the dreams they had for them when they were born.

At such difficult moments, which most parents will likely experience at one time or another, call on Mary’s prayers, which she’s always ready to offer for us. Who more than her could have lost hope for a child after what she witnessed in those dark days in Jerusalem?

Yet, I firmly believe that, through the grace of God, she held onto her hope that the great promises for her Son spoken to her by the angel at the Annunciation would be ultimately fulfilled.

And they were—just three days after they seemed to be dashed forever.

The Gospels do not tell us that the risen Lord visited his Mother. But it seems fitting that he would have. Over the centuries, many of the faithful have held as a pious belief that this happened. I happen to share it.

Whether it happened or not, consider the joy that surely flooded Mary’s heart when she knew that her Son was alive and had conquered death forever. Meditate on how that joy overflowed when she shared this moment with his disciples who were her spiritual children.

Seek to stay close to Mary, then, parents. She will help you with her prayers to carry the crosses that inevitably come in life with children. And she will deepen the happiness you experience in your children’s everyday victories and in the fulfillment of their greatest hopes. †

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