When I first became a mom, I was not quite 23 years old. I lived 3 hours away from my parents and my friends, and I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have the internet or blogs back in those days, I really felt like we were completely on our own. I honestly couldn’t believe the hospital let my husband and me leave with a tiny human being. As I looked around at other human beings, I couldn’t fathom that so many people obviously had figured out how to do – what seemed to me – this monumental task of raising a little baby.
On our first night home, I was sure that our new son needed a bath. In fact, wouldn’t I be a neglectful mom if I didn’t bathe my newborn son? So we got out our “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book and opened to the chapter on newborns. My husband walked me through this process step by step and we got our “filthy” son cleaned up. We bumbled our way through and made many mistakes along the way, but about 6 weeks into being a new mommy, I understood what all the fuss was about. I was head over heels in love with my precious baby boy. I couldn’t get enough of him and thought he was the sweetest, smartest, most beautiful baby that had ever been born. (Except for Jesus of course.) 😉
As soon as we got into a groove and figured out what we needed to do to keep our child alive, we were able to kind of get back to what we wanted most for our baby. We wanted him to know that even though our hearts overflowed with love for him, God loved him even more. We enjoyed researching, reading, and talking about different ideas to teach him the truths of our faith and to try to prepare the garden of his heart to receive the love of God.
Before long, he also became interested in Super Heroes, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. One of the ways God showed His love to our son was through the presence of an amazing new priest who also shared these loves. ** God, Super Heroes, Star Wars and Harry Potter ** A match made in Heaven. So our son also started seeing priests as men who were fully alive and full of joy and men who cared about the small things, like talking to a 9 year old about which Harry Potter book is the best. We never prayed for our son to be anything in particular, but we prayed that he would know, love, and serve the Lord.
One of the most beautiful moments of my motherhood journey happened on a Confirmation Retreat. I was a small group leader, and my son, totally by chance, was my teen assistant. During Adoration, one of my teens, who had been struggling terribly with life, was overcome with emotion, and I think, felt the love of God for the first time. I was privileged to watch my son, my child, go to him and bring him words of peace and love. The other young man said, “Man, why do you even care?” My son cared because God cares. He had experienced the love and mercy of God in his own life and wanted to share this peace with another soul.
When he was in middle school, priests would ask him if he had ever thought about being a priest someday. He hated when people asked him this and from about 8th grade until 11th grade he started saying, “No way!” He loved Jesus though, and the Lord was always leading my son more deeply into a relationship with Him. My son also loved being Catholic, and since he attended a public school, was always looking for ways to defend his beloved faith. So, right before his senior year in high school, my son felt very strongly that the Lord was confirming in his heart a call to discern the Catholic Priesthood with a deliberate and an intentional heart.
At first, he told everyone, and I cringed. “Not yet,” I thought, “Not yet. Don’t tell people yet.” That year, after his initial zeal, I think he felt like maybe God was chaining him in and the only way God would be happy is if he succumbed to the chains. Time passed, he finished high school and went to college, and during this past year the Lord relentlessly pursued him. And my son couldn’t help but fall deeper in love with his Savior. Slowly, sometimes painfully, and sometimes full of joy, he began to see his calling as an invitation, not a chain. The Lord was offering him a gift.
So what do you say to your son when you know he is seriously discerning this life’s vocation? There is such a fine line. While you want to be supportive, you don’t want to be too excited. And honestly, you worry. The life of a priest is not easy, and your son is saying, “Yes, I will consider this completely counter cultural life.” I’ve learned that when a young man chooses to open his heart up to discern the will of the Father in this way, that young man will suffer vicious attacks from the evil one. I’ve learned that moments of consolation can be followed by moments of fear and sorrow over what is being given up. I’ve learned that people will not hold back what they think of this vocation, for good and for bad. And yet, how proud am I? My child is willing to say, “Yes!” to consider taking up the cross of my Lord, and follow Him. He is willing to sell all he has for the pearl of great price. But if he changes his mind, I want him to know that’s ok. That means it wasn’t his calling.
Jesus, I trust in You. That’s all I can say. I love my son, but I love You more. I want Your will for his life, whatever that is. This is so not about me, but I feel like when he is suffering with this decision, a sword is piercing my heart too. Mother Mary, pray for me to be strong like you. Mother Mary, how did you let Him go? Mother Mary, how will I let my son go? I love you, Son. No matter what you decide, I couldn’t be happier as a mom knowing that you love the Lord and want to serve Him with your life, no matter what. Be strong, child. The world is hurting and needs you to show them The Way. If you don’t, who will? Who loves people more than you? Who has a smile like you that brings light to the darkest places?
And then there are the details; the details that are really none of my business. My super smart, sweet, handsome young man is not very detail oriented. Quite honestly though, I’ve been a pretty great secretary for 19 years. But this whole process of saying yes to God’s call actually has nothing to do with me. I can’t even get his medical records for him because he’s 19. I have to sit back and watch and pray and trust. Last month I had this notion that I needed to go see the seminary where he was going to be staying. I needed to see if he should bring Tide HE or regular Tide for crying out loud. Due to various circumstances, the Lord said no this notion. My son has already seen the seminary and he has made this choice himself. He didn’t need his mom going there and hovering. So the Lord showed me, “This is not your journey, this is his. Walk with him, but trust Me and honestly trust your son.“
I cried very hard that day.
There are so many unknowns still, but there is peace because I know he is where God is calling him. When he looks back on his life, the Lord has been calling him for a long time. My son has a heart for the Lord.
God help me to keep walking with him and encouraging him. Help me, dear Lord, as my heart is sad sometimes because my world is changing. It is changing for the better, but it is changing.