Saturday, August 28, 2010

Loved Ones and Lost Souls II

Loved Ones and Lost Souls continued:

"It is impossible that the son of such tears should perish.” These were the words of St. Ambrose to a mother grieving over her reprobate son.

The tears of St. Monica were the anointing applied to St. Augustine's soul before his sins were wiped clean from the waters of baptism. When a son or daughter strays from Christ, sometimes the tears of a mother make up for the lack of tears we ought to have for our own sins.

St. Monica's perseverance paid off. St. Augustine, along with his son Adeodatus, entered the Catholic Church in the year 387 A.D. After being initiated into his new life with Christ, he became Bishop of Hippo, in northern Africa. He would go on to lay the cornerstone of Western Civilization with his sanctity and theology. To be sure, St. Augustine is considered one of the most important Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic Church. All this was made possible by a mother who did not give up.

On her deathbed, St. Monica glanced at her son and said, "Remember me at the altar." It just so happened that prayers for her soul in purgatory were unnecessary; for she was not there. Instead, her intercession would be invoked by the Church in subsequent years.

On earth, St. Monica followed her son, St. Augustine, so that he might find eternal life. But in the year 430 A.D., St. Augustine followed his mother to heaven.

Throughout the centuries, these two great Saints became benefactors for those parents whose children had walked away from Christ and His Church. God counted the tears of St. Monica and they added up. What God did in the fourth century for St. Monica, He could do for twenty-first century parents who find themselves in similar circumstances.


Follow Up Commentary: Old stories do not help much if they have no relevance to today's circumstances. The story of St. Monica and St. Augustine provides a general lesson of perseverance and penance for those lost souls we care about.

I remember listening to Relevant Radio when a mother called in to express some of her concerns about her daughter. This particular mother said that her family prays the rosary everyday and attends Mass on a regular basis. However, she felt that she was losing her daughter over important moral issues like homosexuality. The woman went on to add that her daughter attended a public high school which itself was a challenge to her daughter's faith at times.

From high school to college, the social and intellectual temptations of young adults to abandon their faith only intensifies. In early 2010, a Pew Forum poll found that “nearly one-in-five adults under age 30 (18%) say they were raised in a religion but are now unaffiliated with any particular faith.” Younger generations are found to be more liberal on social issues and less favorable to organized religion.

Upon finding out that their son or daughter no longer goes to church on Sunday's, parents indistinctly want to push their children back through the church doors and into Mass. What these parents deem to be the solution is very often the problem. Participating in the Divine Liturgy (Mass), presupposes an active relationship with Christ. Daily prayer, Scripture reading, table conversations and a Christian social life are the conditions on which Mass attendance makes sense and is worth getting up in the morning for. If Catholicism is not a 24/7 lifestyle- and instead is a once a week activity -I am afraid that young adults will grow indifferent to it.

For parents who are concerned over the faith of their children, I have this suggestion: Don't worry about Mass attendance of your son or daughter right away. Instead of pushing Sunday Mass attendance from the start, talk to them about Jesus, about prayer, about heaven and hell, about your own answered prayers and your personal experience with the Lord. Cultivate their personal relationship with Jesus. If this sounds too fundamentalistic, it is not; it has been a Catholic principle since the beginning. The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist is built on the interior life lived during the week. Even the reception of Communion presupposes that the person is free from mortal sin.

As Jesus said, "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Before the altar, therefore, there are things that must be in order: Commmunication and reconcilation with God and with neighbor are paramount.

The encounter with Christ as an individual must come before encountering Christ at the altar, where the Church gathers.