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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tattoos on the Heart

Sister, my brother has a a heartbreaking problem with. his son who is 11 and losing his faith. My brother has divorced and remarried (there was an annulment), and now this kid spends half his time with his mother (who has since divorced & remarried twice), and the other half in my brother's new home. Very ugly circumstances--the "natural" mother has had little interest in raising her son, though she wants "her share" of custody. He is in counseling, Catholic school, attends Mass and the sacraments, and in my brother's house practices the faith devoutly. But he is sinking under. Is there a saint whose intercession we could beg? Anything we could give him to read? How can we help this poor kid?

Poor kid. 

We could turn to the Holy Family.  But that's not my recommendation for today. Not that is ever a bad idea.  It's just that when we think of the Holy Family we call to mind a family full of love and peace and compassion for each other and the people around them, not a family blown apart by divorce and rancor.

Wait a minute.

I've changed my mind. That is my recommendation. Because what that boy needs is a family full of love and peace and compassion for one another and the people around them, including his poor mother. Whatever she may be or how ever she may fall short, she is his mother. 

In order for the child to have faith, everyone around him must live theirs.  That is the very best you can do.

I think of Father Greg Boyle, the Jesuit who has spent his life working with gang bangers, the lowest of the low, the meanest of the mean. He approaches only with love.

“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” 
― Gregory BoyleTattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

He isn't just talking about a lack of money and what that causes people to do. He is also talking about the poor of spirit and also reminds us:

“Kinship– not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.” 
― Gregory BoyleTattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

If Father Boyle can make as much headway as he does with these people, imagine what we can do, leading by example, with more 'ordinary' folks!

Don't run around with your hair on fire. It's also perfectly normal for an eleven year old boy to question religion and philosophy. Children at this age are figuring out who they are, who they want to emulate and more than anything else, they yearn for autonomy from their parents and authority figures. It sounds as though the family has already done everything they can to give him a firm base from which to grow. Sometimes questioning your faith helps reaffirm it.

Teach him the Memorare. 

Remember, Oh most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known, that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly to thee, Oh virgin of virgins, my mother. To thee I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. Oh mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition, but in they mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

Tell him the name of the prayer is "Remember".  He will, for his whole life and in times of great need.

And call on St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children.  Santa Claus never let anyone down.


Hattie Heaton said...

Sister that is my all time favorite book. I recommend it to anyone and everyone. It is a practical guide to love.

Anonymous said...

Me too. I was blessed to hear him speak, and I can not recommend it enough. He is truly humble as well, and places all the changes of the people he helps on God, and the people's own persistent spirit.

Uh, and I think the Saint of the Day must be St. Rock.

nebula said...

Sister what a beautiful, compassionate and wise answer you have given to this problem.You inspire me to become a better person. Thank you and God bless.
Unrelated: my question from the other day was what is you favourite book or passage from the bible?

Gigi said...

Thanks Sister MM! Way too long since I've seen The Memorare written out anywhere; takes me straight back to my school days. I probably have a lot of remembering to do too.
God bless x

Katie said...

Oh, thank you, Sister. He is a good kid--so sweet, generous, loyal and so many other things, and he has such a tremendous burden to bear. I would do whatever I could to help build him up.
It's so awesome that you mention the Memorare. My own son was just on the phone with his stepmom, reciting it to show that he had learned it, and she told me later how much of an impression it made on her. I don't think it was an accident that we "happened" to be studying it right now!

abishag said...

I'm so glad you mentioned shaky belief often leading to a greater faith. That's how it worked for me. If I had never questioned, I wouldn't have sought the answers. Sometimes I still do, although my foundation is more secure. I don't freak out about my doubts anymore because I know they lead me to a stronger faith.

Also, I'd like to thank both SMM and the commentors who are recommending this book. One of the truths I have learned through all my questioning is that the hardest part of really being a Christian isn't the 10 Commandments stuff; that's pretty straightforward and binary - you get to make a choice and you either do or don't steal, or honor your father and mother. No, the hardest part is loving your neighbor, turning the other cheek, being compassionate. We don't always realize we're making a choice from moment to moment, and it is easy to get wrong. I look forward to reading Fr. Boyle's book for another example of how to get it right.

Kathy (not the other one) said...

I was going to post this link in the "White Smoke" thread, but now I think it's more fitting here.

Pope Francis to wash feet of young inmates on Holy Thursday:
Pope to wash feet of 12 young people in Casal del Marmo penal institute during afternoon mass on day before Good Friday

Anonymous said...

Sister, could you and your readers please pray for me? I'm feeling like I have to change my life in ways that have always terrified me (having children) and repent that I haven't done so yet, but this has sunk me into a very deep depression and panic attacks and anxiety. I haven't had kids yet because I've been anxious and apprehensive around them from the time I was a child myself. But I know the Church's teachings and God's promises of children being a blessing. I just have become very very depressed at the thought of changing our life so radically, but I also fear being outside the church and regretting not having them. I have never been so confused, depressed and anxious in my whole life, and I don't know what to do. Thank you for your prayers.

Anonymous said...

Hi, SMM. I thought of you this afternoon. My religious studies professor finally cracked a joke towards the end of the 22nd lecture. He was discussing people believing whether or not animals have souls, and if they did, would they need to be baptized. "Well in the case of dolphins," he said, "You might have to put them in burboun, because they are being baptized in water every day" lol

Anonymous said...

Sister, I could really use your prayers. I've really grown in my faith over the last year, but every time I try to get more involved with the Catholic Church, I get pushed away. I've had too many Catholics over the last year call me a bad Catholic and discourage my involvement because my politics are different from theirs, because I voted for the current President (even though I support the Catholic Church's positions, the best I'm able). I've been told by so many essentially that because I'm not a Republican or conservative I am not a true Catholic. It hurts, and I'm beginning to think I'm a spiritual orphan, not right for the Catholic Church, but too in love with the Church to be anywhere else. I don't want to be anywhere I'm not welcome, but I love the Church and her sacraments and traditions far too much to leave.

Anonymous said...

The above poster is a troll. DO NOT GET INTO A POLITICAL DEBATE on this blog. This is not the place.

Saintify App said...

What a thoughtful reply. Thank you.

St Nicholas of Myra is indeed a very worthy protector for children. Although little factual detail is known about his life, all stories surrounding him involve protecting or aiding children in dire circumstances.

Another Saint worthy of consideration might be Aloysius Gonzaga, patron of teenagers and Catholic Youth.

Anonymous said...

Martyrs. Are they automatically saints or do they also need to perform miracles? I'm particularly interested in Thomas Byles who, instead of taking a life boat off of the Titanic, stayed behind to administer sacraments to those about to die. Does that make him a martyr?