Monday, August 27, 2012

The Power of a Praying Mother

Monday: 27 August, 2012 –– 21st Week in Ordinary Time
Feast Day of St.  Monica
The Power of a Praying Mother

On this Feast Day of St. Monica, I am reminded of the power of a praying mother.  Monica is remembered for the way she prayed for her son Augustine when he was running from God and embracing the pleasures of sin.  The effect of those prayers are illustrated by the Church calendar tomorrow: the Feast Day of St. Augustine.

This is especially meaningful to me because of my own praying mother.  Throughout my life my mother told me that from the time she learned of her pregnancy, there had never been a day she had not prayed for me and given me to the Lord.  Some of my earliest memories are of my mother kneeling beside her bed each morning, sometimes for 30 minutes.  Evenings were always times of family prayer. When I was in my mid-teens, running from God and hungering for all the things that marked Augustine’s sinful dissipation, Mom discerned the perilous state of my soul and prayed mightily for me.  My capitulation to the Lordship of Jesus and my call to vocational ministry are a witness to the power of a praying mother.

My mother died in 1996 after a nine-month battle with a malignant brain tumor.  When she died one of my first thoughts was “I’ve lost the prayers of this godly woman.”  But as soon as the thought crossed my mind it was followed with another: “No! My mother can now pray even more powerfully for me because she has entered into the fullness of reality.”  At that moment I knew that I had sensed the Communion of the Saints.  This was not part of my own tradition, but I knew about it from my theological studies. Suddenly it was part of my reality.

Over the couple of years that immediately followed I began to have a dissatisfaction with my personal prayer life and intimacy with God.  There were some “thorns in the flesh” deeply rooted  in my spirit that needed healing and suddenly there was a corresponding deep desire to face them fully.  I had an intuition that Mom’s prayers were leading the way into spiritual renewal.

It was during this time I began to pray The Liturgy of the Hours.  The Lord used the Psalms to put my soul in touch with feelings long buried.  As I got into the Office of Readings I discovered a centrality of the Eucharist that offered to fill an ill-defined hunger I’d always had for what I came to see as the historical Liturgy of the Church.  The result of what turned out to be an eight year process brought me into the Catholic Church.

In early 2008 I was on EWTN’s The Journey Home.  Near the end, when people phoned in or emailed questions, a listener wanted to know what my mother would think about me becoming Catholic.  I answered that the woman my mother was as a provincial Southern lady might not understand, but that the person I believe my mother is, in the presence of the Beatific Vision, is a major reason I am where I am today. I believe Mom prayed for my renewal and my enlargement of Faith –– the power of a praying mother.

I would encourage any of you who have children who have strayed away from the Lord to pray.  Follow the example of St. Monica and take heart.  I hope my story of a mother’s prayers will encourage you.

And then remember: our Lord has given us his mother as our own to pray for us. On this Feast of St. Monica, we are invited into the fullness of the power of a praying mother.

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