"Nothing is far from God" St. Monica
I really needed this feast day today. Really. needed. it.
Because when you have adult children, you have to find a different way to parent them. You can't put them in time out, or send them to bed without a cookie. I can't even threaten to turn off cell phone service because they pay their own! I am no longer their teacher, comforter, best friend or companion.
But I know that I am not nothing either. Their very presence as babies in my womb changed my body from that of a woman to that of a mother. No amount of exercise or dieting will ever erase the stretch marks or the loose skin. In fact, cells left over from each pregnancy will be with me for the rest of my life. Biologically at even the cellular level, the children are always part of the mother. My brain is literally, swimming in the particles of my children. Besides the biological let's remember the rest of motherood - all of the sleepless nights, the worries, the late night vomit cleanups, chauffeuring, feeding, nurturing and teaching that I spent the better part of two decades doing.
That's what they are to me.
What am I to them? And does that even matter any more?
I think the answer to that is, yes of course it matters. And St. Monica beautifully illustrated this. A tenacious prayer warrior, Monica followed her wayward son, Augustine, all over the place, praying for him and encouraging him with all of her strength. She never gave up. Eventually her prayers were heard and St. Augustine became a great doctor of the church.
Today I suppose we would call such a woman a nag, or worse. It certainly isn't the fashion to follow grown children around and encourage them on their Christian walk. But that's what Monica did and it paid off. I take a lot of heart in that.
It seems that in our culture the emphasis is on pushing the kids out of the nest as soon as they graduate from high school. We pretend that somehow magically getting that high school diploma or moving to a college campus automatically transforms teens into wise adults who are totally self-sufficient and don't need much from their parents any more (other than regular checks and use of the laundry). Yet even the colleges themselves don't seem to believe that. Noah's college, for all of its rhetoric about the adulthood of their students, assigned them the classes they should take this fall, and also demands that its freshman athletes log and document their study time. Doesn't seem like they are being trusted as adults to me.
The transition from teen to adult is a tricky one in our culture. It's hard to make that jump gracefully. Even harder for many to make it and keep their Catholic faith intact. And surprisingly for me, it seems to be just as hard if not harder for kids who have been homeschooled most or all of their lives than for kids who attended public or parochial schools. I base that on my own experience with my three oldest sons and with some of the stuff I've been seeing on Facebook the last few years from young people I watched growing up in our Catholic homeschool community.
In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that I am not entirely pleased with the way my oldest adult children started living their lives either. Mr. Pete and I had a lukewarm faith in our early 20s and we had hoped to spare our children from those years in the desert, but it didn't turn out that way for the first three. We saw the desert; they apparently saw Vegas.
For the past few years, I been prayed the St. Monica novena in preparation for her feast day. I've prayed that my oldest children find their way back into the church and don't stray to far from her. In return my granddaughter was baptized and my oldest son married in the church. But I also see other signs of maturity as they talk about following their consciences in this upcoming election cycle. I definitely see some steps in the right direction over the past year.
Then there's the son I haven't heard from in over a month, but I pray for him too. It took St. Monica years and years to get results - so I remain hopeful.
I remember being 18, 19 and 20 years old and although I thought I knew a lot, I realize in retrospect that I didn't know very much. My mom was a very steady presence in my early adult years and even more so in my late 30s and 40s when she helped with the homeschooling, gave her help and opinion on our home school, or even when she just called me everyday to see how I was or to share some chit chat. Dear Lord, how I could really use those calls now.
The church really does see a place for moms who take that vocation seriously right on up through adulthood, for the sake of the souls of her children. It reiterates that motherhood is a lifelong commitment, one that doesn't end on the 18th or 21st birthday.
Father Lawrence Lew via Flickr licensed via cc
So now I understand why mom kept checking in on me, even in my 30s and 40s. And I totally understand and appreciate that even when she was dying she wanted me to know how much she loved me - and we told each other that over and over and over again in the week before her death.
I think mom knew that I might have regrets later and that was her way of reaffirming to me that to her that didn't matter - it was the love she wanted me to keep!
You're never too old to take advice and love from your mom either! And I am grateful to my own mom who embodied that, although I couldn't always see it at the time.
St. Monica, pray for us.
St. Monica - Catholic Online
Catholic Culture- St. Monica
for further reading:
Life of Saint Monica
Charlotte at Waltzing Matilda has created these coloring pages:St. Monica
Charlotte also has a link to a tasty Algerian dish to celebrate the feast with!