A good mother, a good parent, is responsible for the physical health and well-being of her child. As mothers, we feed and clothe the little blessings we have been given. We make sure they have a roof over their heads and that they are safe and warm. What is frequently left unspoken, however, is our obligation to feed our children spiritually. A mother’s love is safe; our children trust that we have their best interests always at heart. So it is up to us always – in conjunction with, or in spite of, our husbands—to raise God-loving, God-respecting, Catholic Christians. St. Monica can attest to this.
It starts with Baptism. We buy or make beautiful white garments, present our precious babies to be washed and anointed and celebrate with family and friends. But this grace goes far beyond all this. It is so imperative because it is the just the beginning of giving God’s graces to our children—the graces that protect them and help us mold them into true children of God.
After that, it is so easy to become complacent. They may, or may not, receive Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, or Confirmation. They may, or may not, “choose” to be married by the Church. This nonchalant attitude is NOT okay. We would never allow our children to go without food or drink. We would never allow them to “choose” to sleep where it is not safe and warm; we make these decisions for them, for their own good. Why should we “let” them miss Mass on Sundays, while we would never allow them to miss soccer practice? We should teach them Church Tradition and dogma and make it a priority; we pass on our family recipes and other traditions, why not pass along Tradition and Catechism? What I am saying is that all of these aspects of child rearing are just as important as making sure our kids are well fed and healthy, because their spiritual nourishment is just as, if not more, important.
There is a story of a woman who, during her confession to St. Padre Pio, was reprimanded by her confessor. He told her he had a revelation of her children all of whom he envisioned were in hell. He chastised her saying she did not bring her children up in the Faith; she allowed them to go astray. She was responsible for her children’s ultimate suffering. As mothers, we would gladly endure our children’s suffering—a broken arm, a trip to the dentist; how many times do we say to our kids that we would take their place during times like these if we could? Now, how would it feel to know we are actually responsible for their eternal suffering?
Once we have children, our lives are no longer about us in so many ways. We feed them from our own bodies, we go without food, so our kids have enough to eat, and we make sure they have new clothes before we do. It is not about how we tell them to act, but rather how our children see us act and our example to them. We keep them in mind always when we conduct our lives. With all the power we have, we must continue to make God’s graces accessible to our children. We must lead our lives as joyfully as possible in our Catholic faith. We must lead by example and show our children that God’s graces bring us peace—going to Mass regularly to receive the Holy Eucharist, going to Reconciliation on a frequent basis, and praying habitually, making prayer a part of who we are, bestowing God’s graces on ourselves and in turn on our children, keeping ourselves safe and warm in what St. Teresa of Avila call the “interior castle” and teaching them to do the very same.
However, when all this seems to fail us and our children rebel, or are led astray, we must never give up on the spiritual well-being of our children. We must pray fervently, again like St. Monica, who never gave up on her child and whose prayers converted even her husband and made her and her son St. Augustine saints!