November 26, 2021

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Waiting is a theme in Advent that parents know well

Sean GallagherEven though I’m north of 50 now and have much more gray hair on my head than my original brown, I still at times get called a “young man” by my seniors.

My creaking joints and muscles suggest to me, though, that I’m far from young.

But I’ve found that those called by God to marriage and family life need to always be youthful, no matter how long they’ve been at it. They are always entering new territory in their vocations.

I’ve been married for 20 years, and been a father for 19. Still, I find new challenges and blessings all the time in this sacred calling. As my five sons have entered into new stages in their lives, they’ve all been new to me because their own unique personalities make those transitions different each time.

And although Cindy and I first met in 1991 and were married in 2001, there are still days when we still find each other a mystery.

There are always new blessings to receive gratefully and new crosses to bear patiently with the help of God’s grace.

And there are always new experiences to anticipate.

My youngest son Colin will soon experience his first confession and later receive his first Communion—two events that I look forward to as much as I did with my four older sons.

Cindy and I also watch in anticipation as our oldest sons Michael and Raphael move into adulthood. How will they learn to navigate on their own all of its challenges? Most importantly, we ponder, anticipate and pray about how all our sons will discern God’s call in their lives.

Moments of waiting in family life can be difficult. My mind goes back to the anxious waiting Cindy and I experienced 17 years ago when our oldest son Michael, then 14 months old, laid in a hospital bed on a ventilator as he battled pneumonia.

Then there’s the waiting to see how each of our boys will work through the often-difficult process of psychological, emotional and spiritual maturing. All parents have great hopes for their children in these matters. Waiting for them to be fulfilled can be grueling at times.

The waiting that is part and parcel of the life of parents is filled with blessings and crosses. For in waiting to see how the life that God has planned for them for all eternity will unfold before our eyes through the years, we await at the same time the continuing manifestation of the life of Christ given to them at their baptism.

This happens as much in the times of laughter and joy as those marked by trials and tears. Sometimes in those dark moments, parents can feel like they’re in the middle of an endless night. But they can find solace in and make their own the deep yearning heard in Psalm 130:

“My soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on his word. My soul is longing for the Lord more than watchman for daybreak. Let the watchman count on daybreak and Israel on the Lord” (Ps 130:5-7).

Our Lord wants to make the times of trial in the lives of our children that moment of darkness just before daybreak. The first light of dawn might be very different from what we parents had envisioned. But its God’s light that we and our children are being offered. We’re invited to trust that it’s better than anything we can plan for our children.

The season of Advent that begins this weekend is a time of waiting and yearning for a gift from God that will brighten our darkness in wholly unexpected ways. May this holy season transfigure this waiting that parents live every day of their vocations.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter and columnist for The Criterion.)

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