When I became a parent there were things I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to become immune to barf. I didn’t expect to have a child with the trifecta of allergies, eczema, and asthma. I didn’t expect to be happy to sit in a field getting rained on while watching someone play soccer. But one big thing I did not see coming was how important prayer would be.
In hindsight, that seems rather dim of me to not expect it, but a big lesson I have learned is that I absolutely cannot do this parenting thing on my own.
As my faith has matured, I have realized that I cannot do a lot on my own. The project that has the highest stakes though is the raising children one. I remember when they were little, going to Mass each week and praying for one week of patience. I had three kids in three years and there were times when my patience level played an important role in the success of a day. I promised God I would come back in one more week and ask for another dose. Each week he helped me and each week I returned for more.
Evangelizing Our Children
As my kids matured, it became evident that I needed to pray for more than patience and I had to pray specifically for each kid. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is super clear about our role as parents. We aren’t called to just procreate and then get out of the way as nature does its thing. We are called to create with God which requires us to educate them morally and form them spiritually (CCC 2221).
“Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children.”CCC 2225
It is both a responsibility and a privilege to evangelize our children. This is tough to hear when our children don’t embrace the Faith easily or willingly. Despite years of Catholic education and weekly Sunday Mass, not all kids go on to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
I was blessed with two freakishly faithful kids and one “normal” one. Those are his quotes, not mine. And it’s true. While I couldn’t find any statistics, I can assert anecdotally that most teens are not gracing the pews of their parish. But he’s not normal either. He goes to church willingly, says Mass is important, and plans to get a tattoo of a Bible verse one day.
I’ve seen that teens can love Jesus and desire to grow deeper in faith so I want more for this particular kid. My role is to get my kids to heaven. Obviously I don’t actually get them there but as their mom, it is my duty—my responsibility and privilege—to teach them the Faith, give them opportunities to practice it and learn more about it, and importantly, pray for them.
‘Pray for One Another’
It seems people think prayer doesn’t matter much. When we encounter a friend or family member who is struggling, we offer to pray but deep inside we may wonder if that’s enough. We want to do something tangible to help. If our loved one is questioning, we want to provide an answer; if straying, we want to give guidance; if suffering, assurance. We pray but do we really believe it will matter? Secular society tells us it is an empty offering. Do we sometimes wonder that ourselves?
I have joked that if St. Monica can pray her son St. Augustine into heaven surely she can do the same for my own son, the “normal” teenager. What I forget is that she also prayed fervently for her husband who was a philanderer and her mother-in-law who was just not a very nice lady. They both had conversions before they died. She also had two other children who entered the religious life. St. Monica knew about the power of intercessory prayer. Over the past several years I have implored her intercession often and I believe she intercedes.
Praying for others is a mighty thing and there is biblical support fo it. In James, we are told:
“confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” James 5:16
St. Paul implored the Romans:
“I urge you by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in the struggle by your prayers to God on my behalf.”Romans 15:30
The Catherine of Siena Institute, which offers the Called & Gifted program to help Catholics discern their charisma, includes the charism of intercessory prayer. This gift inspires some to pray often and heavily for others and the world is better off for it. Most of us do not have this charism, but we must pray anyway.
Persist in Intercessory Prayer
St. Monica was faithful in her prayer. She persisted in prayer for years and I assume there were times when she wondered about the fruitfulness of it. But it did bear fruit, particularly in the conversion of her son Augustine, who went on to become one of our greatest saints. My prayer for my own son is that he will grow in faith. I know that my kids will be just fine if they rely on Jesus despite the wacky world. So I ask St. Monica for her intercession on a regular basis. I ask her for a soft heart for him, a heart that is open to Jesus’ great love, a heart that longs to do his will. I pray that he will have courage, that when he no longer lives in our house under the “thou must go to Sunday Mass” rule, he will choose to attend. I pray that Jesus crashes into his life and fills him with love for the Father and others.
The world today scares me. I know that one of the best things I can do for my children to prepare them for life is to evangelize them and I’m trying. I also know that it’s not up to me how it goes in the end, but what is up to me is how much I pray for them.
So I pray a lot. I pray for them and their future spouses and future children. I pray and I pray. Hopefully, the Lord won’t get tired of hearing from me.
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Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three teenagers. She loves leading small faith groups for moms and looking for God in the silly and ordinary. She blogs and writes for her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee.
Featured image of stained glass by Paul Brennan (publicdomainpictures.net), sourced from Needpix.com
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