At the heart of our chapels, amongst the faithful that I have met during my different assignments, I have come across a great number of mothers and grandmothers who weep over their strayed son or grandson. In general, they are pious and animated with a true zeal for the souls of their dear ones.
Death of St. Monica by Gozzoli
Each one of us has often had to deal with this type of situation and has had to console several of these mothers who suffer, cry, pray and sanctify themselves for their children, because, as they approach their final end, the more they realize that there is the possibility that those whom they have so loved on this earth might not be at their side in Heaven. And, thanks to the gift of faith, they realize that in fact the only thing that counts is to save one’s soul. How many times we have seen them weep the destruction of the temple that was their home. Mourning, like Rachel, for the children who already are no longer there. Fighting, like Jacob, for hours and hours with the Angel during a long night of anxiety. Wondering at what time the enemy of man came by to sew the cockle where they had only sown good seed. Wondering if the time proclaimed by Jesus has not already arrived: “blessed are the barren, the wombs that have not born and the paps that have not given suck.” (Lc. 23; 29). These poor women ask themselves what mistakes they could have committed during the course of years in the education for their offspring to find themselves so far from the Catechism that they had been taught. We have given them some loving and punctual advice in order for them to persevere while waiting for the return of a prodigal son or daughter (often, we would need to use the plural), or we have encouraged them to correct through prayer and sacrifice the errors of the past, to make up for lost time.
Sometimes they tire us with so many tears and complaints which seem inopportune and repetitive, and we prefer to direct our apostolate towards the young whom we find more dynamic and full of promise. But I wonder, in the first place, whether I have the right to remain deaf, as if this flock of my faithful was not part of my obligations, or was not an integral part of the big family which must make up our chapel. Then I wonder if, in supernatural terms, there are not in these pains treasures which we should uncover, a particularly fertile movement which we should put to good use, instead of neglecting it and directing our apostolate towards more pleasant goals, knowing that the youth themselves could benefit from it and “learn from the ancients” in order to continue to work in a more realistic way, while building the future of society, from the nucleus of the family, on the strong foundations dug by these pains. Thirdly, I wonder if, in fact, our passiveness is not contrary to the will of God, Who asked the women of the via dolorosa, at the fatal hour, to weep over themselves and their children, and likewise today, responding to the maternal instinct of the Divine Mother, to direct themselves towards the temple, looking for the lost fruit of their womb.
Let us comfort them with words for them to persevere in prayer and practice the Faith of the centurion of the Gospel and of the widow of Naim. Fidelity in assisting at Mass is almost habitual with them, which also gives us the opportunity to encourage them by offering as a model the one who “stabat dolorosa juxta crucem lacrimosa“, so that they can benefit more from the graces that the Mass obtains for us. This Holy Mass gives meaning to their existence as mothers of sorrows just at the moment when the spirit of the world begins to consider them as obstacles. Just at the moment, when, from a natural point of view, they can no longer give life. It is then that they can give in a supernatural way, because they continue to be mothers, Catholic mothers, like Saint Monica who, according to her son Saint Augustine, was “a mother twice over” (Confessions, book 9). Mothers who kept vigil near the cradle and who, today, do so near the Tabernacle; mothers, who, full of anxiety, have cared for their sick child and would not have hesitated to fetch the necessary remedy, whatever the cost, wherever it was to be found and who, today, pray and are prepared to do anything for Jesus to “say the word and their child shall be saved.”
Most of them are retired and have much free time as well as a prayer book that is already quite full. May they orientate these devotions so that they don’t broaden too much in their anxiety to find the Saint, or the apparitions of the Virgin from here or elsewhere “which work”, but rather to give it form, to prune and water this piety for it to produce good fruit. Let them moderate and structure this apostolic zeal, while especially taking care regarding vows and promises in order to avoid imprudences, and to stop them from losing hope, and with it, precious moments wasted in front of the television or a game of cards. The First Friday or First Saturday’s Holy Hour, night adoration, whether at home or in the chapel, consitute a good opportunity to unite them in such an intention, and to transform them in the heart of our chapels into a home of strong and sharing devotion. Let them put into practice the First Fridays and ask that the graces promised by the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary may be fulfilled, in particular those concerning their families.. which are not strangers to the Divine Concern.
Let us put them under the protection of the Sorrowful Heart of Mary, by the practice of the First Saturdays, as well as the frequent meditation of the Seven Sorrows and the recitation of the Holy Rosary. It is a good opportunity to make reparation for the offenses which their children and grand-children give to the Immaculate Heart, by consoling it with the same pains that their hearts suffer from, because I think that only a mother like the Most Blessed Virgin, will be capable of understanding the heart of another mother, just like only the heart of a mother can understand what the Immaculate Heart suffered in being offended by her children. Like the Most Blessed Virgin they must prefer to keep these things in their heart and modestly avoid exposing their pain to the eyes of the ignorant, and cause dishonour, as much for themselves as for their children. May they favour contact with the priest so that they can receive the relevant advice which will enable them to use all means that are still possible, beneficient and advantageous.
May they take note of the consoling example of other mothers who sanctified themselves thanks to this same cross, like Saint Monica, and repeat to them what a Bishop said to the Saint: “Be at peace, the son of so many tears cannot be lost.”
It is also our mission to recover all these lost sheep and that is why I think that the tears of these mothers united to the ones of the Supplicating Omniscience will no doubt be very efficacious, united like the small drop of water in the chalice, to our daily Mass. I would be very surprised if these tears did not bear fruit. It is up to us to make the best of this participation in our apostolate, because they will transmit grace to souls who are furthest away from us by the privileged vessel of blood ties. And it is in this way that we will have the joy of reaping what was sown and watered with so many tears.
I have observed that they react in a generous way and participate by making huge efforts for those who are dear to them, often far more than they would do for themselves. And that they then wish to grow in perfection to be more effective apostles, and in Charity to offer a prayer more acceptable to God.
I think it would also be good if they told us priests the possible reasons or occasions for which their children or grandchildren no longer practice. I note with astonishment that they are always the same. This could help the mothers whose children are still young so that they educate them correctly and don’t commit the same errors, if errors there were, and so avoid falling into the same traps. A list and summary of the different causes will help us avoid (as St Paul asks) that other mothers, younger or not, exasperate their children which results in their leaving the Faith. This will also help us to convince them to avoid bad schools, whose influence is only rarely fought at home, as well as bad company which is often the prelude to vice, fashions which destroy the notion of modesty in a woman, the presence of television which replaces the education which parents no longer provide, lazy holidays which open the door to pleasures which sadden the Holy Ghost, fights between spouses, even divorce, which destabilise the character and weaken family ties, or a life of excessive comfort which exacerbates selfishness, compromises with the spirit of the world, which leads to irreparable concessions etc, etc. It is often the crisis in the Church which underlies these problems. What harmful consequences for this poor generation which has had to live a crucial period in the history of the Church! Or then, many Catholic schools which have betrayed parental confidence. Or even, the imprudences of certain brothers in the priesthood which have been the cause, or the excuse, for abandoning the practice of religion.
The ways of Divine Mercy are unfathomable. Perhaps one or other mother will have the joy of welcoming anew the Prodigal son, but even if this joy is refused her, this mother or that grandmother will have grown in virtue, in love for God and souls, and she will have repaired the negligences of the past. This constitutes a great richness for the Mystical Body and we, as priests, will have fulfilled the mission of gathering the tears of those Jesus asked to weep, not for Him, but for their children.
I remember that it is written somewhere in the Book of Ecclesiastes “do not forget your mother’s tears”, and also, “he who honours his mother is like one who amasses a great treasure”. For these mothers, in whom Saint Paul asks us to see our own (Tim.5; 2) , and for the the Mother we have in Heaven, I hope that these words will find a favourable echo in many hearts.