You’ve got a pretty good handle on this mothering thing, right? I mean, your kid is fed. Even fed reasonably healthy food most of the time. He’s clothed… At least he was 5 minutes ago when you put his pants back on for the 8th time this morning. You are giving him an education. He knows who Jesus is. You’ve even got him to the point where “socializing” means more than “throw sand at the other kids!”
Feeling fairly confident that you have a handle on things?
Yeah, so was I.
But then I learned that I was pretty much an idiot, and was missing something major. Something fundamental to our family.
What is the most important thing you can do for your children?
What’s the point of motherhood? As a christian, we would say to raise children to share in God’s eternal happiness of heaven. And how do we raise our children to be holy? *hint. It’s not the way many parents try to do it* We gotta get that beam out of our own eye before we can help them!
If we want our children to become saints, we need to become saints ourselves. Sure, some saints had lousy families and God’s grace made up for that loss. But look at Louis and Zelie Martin! All six of their children who lived to adulthood became nuns… and one of them is a doctor of the church! THAT is what God can do with good, holy, Catholic families.
So let’s forget the discipline techniques, the philosophies, the strategies, the to-do lists, and the box-checking for a little bit. All that stuff is secondary. Not really important at all if we aren’t working on this one main pursuit.
The only way to be a good Catholic mother is to work on our own holiness first. That’s it.
What does exorcism have to do with mothering?
I heard a story from a modern-day exorcist. (yes, they still exist and yes, they are very busy!) Now, exorcism isn’t as simple as just saying the right prayer and poof, no more possession. Unless it happens to be a particularly wimpy demon, the exorcist usually has a bit of a fight. One of the first things the priest does is get the demon to tell him how he got in, and what he is holding onto. Because usually, the demon has a foothold somewhere in the person’s soul, and until the person and the priest work to fix it, the demon will just hold onto that thing and not be forced out.
Well, in this particular story, this young man was having a hard time forgiving his parents. And that unforgiveness was letting the demon stay. Which was rough. Because this poor man’s parents had been satanists, and subjected him to horrors from infancy! How could he possibly forgive that? How could a loving God possibly ask him to forgive that?
What the wise priest had the young man do was pray daily “Jesus Crucified, I cannot forgive them. But You can. Forgive them for me. Forgive them in me. Forgive them through me.”
Within a year the man had completely forgiven them, and the exorcist was able to liberate him.
Unforgiveness invites evil into our lives, and lets it stay.
So, basically what I’m saying is that if you have someone you haven’t forgiven… you obviously must be possessed.
Kidding! But I think that story really drives home just how very important forgiveness is. This isn’t a trivial thing. Not forgiving is a wound in our soul. It prevents us from advancing any further in the spiritual life.
God doesn’t make arbitrary rules. If he commands us to forgive, you can bet your biscuits that He does so out of perfect love, for our own good. He commands us only to act according to His nature, which is also our nature because we were made in His image. Every single one of God’s commandments to us is basically just Him saying “Dude, just act in the way I made you to act, in accordance with your very nature, and you won’t be getting hurt all the time!” But after Original Sin we are pretty dumb when it comes to figuring out our nature, so He spells it out. His laws are a self-help book. “YOU for Dummies.”
So not forgiving when God clearly tells us to, no exceptions, goes against the nature of God, goes against our nature, and therefore does us harm. St Thomas Aquinas says, (and I may not have the wording exactly right) that “violence” is defined as the use of a thing against its nature.
Refusing to forgive, or refusing to forgive completely is a violence we commit against ourselves! And that continued violence in our souls leads to all kinds of other problems. Anger. Depression. Anxiety. Moodiness. Self-centeredness. It completely stunts our spiritual growth. (Plus it gives a bad representation of God’s love to our children, who look to us to see how God loves them.)
Forgiveness is the foundation of the spiritual life. Without forgiving everyone and everything, we simply cannot become holy.
Which means we connot be the mother God wants for our children.
Perfect Forgiveness is a Gift from God
We’re just coming out of a rough few months. Slander turning loved ones against us unjustly. Heartache. Financial loss. Moving cross country twice. Job hunting. Instability and uncertainties.
It’s been quite a journey! And it’s changed me. In fact, I believe the reason we’ve had to go through all this was God wanted to shape a few things in me. Sometimes I’m pretty dense and He has to smack me upside the head with His lessons. Lessons like… Detachment. Reliance on Him.
Through the slander, He helped me learn to actually forgive and love the person. And a funny thing happened. I noticed that after I learned to forgive that person, all the other grudges melted away. All the people I had been fighting unsuccessfully for years to forgive, well… it was just done. Boom. No anger left. Vague sorrow over what might have been, but no grudges.
And let me tell you, the result has been almost tangible!
God wants to help us forgive.
Forgiveness is beyond us. Sure, we might be able to forgive the little things on our own. But great big gnarly forgiveness is impossible without God. He knows that. All He wants us to do is show up.
St Augustine wrote “Oh Lord, command what You will, and give what You command!”
If God tells us to do it, He’ll help us. If we pray consistently, and keep trying our best to forgive, He will work the rest in us. And thankfully most people don’t need to be smacked in the head as hard as I do!
It’s simply not our burden to carry. God holds all wrongs. It is His job to make them right. He doesn’t need us to help him remember! We can completely forget about a wrong, and he will STILL make it right. We should pray that he heals the brokenness in us, heals the brokenness in others that caused them to hurt us, and heals whatever brokenness we inflict on others. And pray for the grace of forgetfulness. Fix our desire on His mercy, instead of his Justice, and hope that we will ALL be healed and in His glory some day.
Forgiveness is the most important thing we can do as mothers.
To raise holy kids, we need to grow in holiness ourselves. We can’t grow in holiness if we don’t forgive.
Jesus Crucified, I cannot forgive them. But You can. Forgive them for me. Forgive them in me. Forgive them through me. Amen.
Forgive everyone who has ever hurt you. Forgive everyone who hurts you from now on instantly. Forgive yourself. Forgive your children. Forgive your spouse.
As mothers, we can’t afford to hold grudges. We just can’t afford the price of pride.
In Corde Maria,