Thursday, October 30, 2008

Are you listening?

Sarah's "Blankie Prayer" post reminds me of a situation I encountered recently. A dear friend called, distraught. She was going through a tough time with her son, and needed to vent. He had made some choices that were both sudden and life-changing, and had thrown her for a loop. My friend was trying to be supportive and encouraging, even though she still had misgivings, and so decided to call her own mom for a "pep talk," thinking her mother would understand.

She was terribly disappointed. Instead of a patient, listening ear my friend got a lecture about what she should be doing, and what a terrible tragedy it all was. Instead of encouraging her, my friend's mother succeeded in adding to her burden. Instead of focusing on her daughter, my friend's mother made it all about ... herself. She had once been in a similar situation that had turned out very badly, and all she could do was bemoan her own past mistakes.

This was not what my friend needed, and she ended the conversation abruptly and called me to vent. I reminded her that even the best mothers can make mistakes -- they are only human, after all. On the other hand, when we do not get what we want most from them, it may be that they simply have a different understanding of what it is that we need.

When we are excited, our mothers want to protect us from the pitfalls. When we want comfort, they sometimes give us a little kick in the seat of the pants instead. They know that what we want is not always what we need. Our moms have experienced aspects of life that we have not, and so their perspective is necessarily different from our own. When this happens, "honoring" them means trusting that they have our best interests at heart.

If this is true for our earthly parents, it is also true of our heavenly family. We ask the Blessed Mother and the saints to pray for us (especially at this time of year, as we approach the feasts of "All Souls" and "All Saints"). And yet, it's important to remember these prayers are not like quarters in a gumball machine -- put in a coin, get out a treat.

Of course miracles do happen. God can and does answer prayer -- including the prayers of His saints -- though not always in the way we want Him to. We cannot manipulate heaven with our rosaries and lit candles, forcing the hosts of heaven to smooth out the bumps in the road ahead of us. All we can do is ask for their company to fortify us as we march along.

As we prepare for the upcoming election, it's important to keep in mind that -- as much as we might want Him to -- God does not stuff ballot boxes. He gave us free choice and expects us to use reason and a rightly formed conscience to make those choices.

Throughout history, we have reaped the results of those choices. All over the world, Christians are being persecuted under godless oppressors. It has always been so. Thousands of Christians suffered under Caligula, Nero, Dioclecian -- until the catacombs were piled high with the bodies of the martyrs. While it is possible that God will show mercy on us on Tuesday, and give us a president and vice-president who will stand for life, do we really think that our nation will escape judgment from more than 40 years of choosing death?

If indeed we end up choosing "obamanation," our land will receive far greater judgment for the murder of countless innocents. Their blood will cry out from the ground as surely as did the blood of the martyrs of the early Church. And yet ... we also do well to remember that the Roman Empire, which took the lives of Christians for the first four centuries, fell early in the fifth.

May God have mercy on us all.

Mother Mary, send your light,
Pray that we will do what's right
When shadows gather and darkness falls
Lead us to the Lord of All ... Jesus.