Tracy Murphy is a wife, mother and once communications professional for the Church now serving as a stay-at-home mom.
When my toddler son was an infant, I began a little prayer tradition.
As bedtime draws near, he and I cuddle in the dark, slowly rocking together as I softly sing three Hail Marys in his ear. Then, as I lay him in his crib and whisper to him how much God, his daddy and I love him, I pray a silent prayer of my own:
Oh Jesus, please protect my sweet, precious baby. Please bring him safely to the morning. But should you choose to bring him home to you, please, oh Lord, give me the strength to bear the loss, and the faith to see your eternal kingdom.
I cherish this prayer, even as it sometimes frightens me, for it causes me to daily ponder that which Our Blessed Mother so beautifully embraced: that our greatest joy and deepest peace as parents will come when we entrust our children to the loving will of Our Father.
I have learned much in recent years of this mysterious truth.
I am the oldest of five children. In 2009, my sister Angela (whose religious name is Sister Mary Servant of the Cross) entered the Servants of the Lord and Virgin of Matara missionary community. Several years later, her twin, my brother Andy entered their “twin” order of priests, the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE). God willing, Sister Servant will profess final vows in 2016, and Brother Andy will be ordained a missionary priest in 2019.
I can now say with all sincerity that our family is overjoyed and blessed beyond words by the twins’ “YES” to the Lord’s will for their lives. We have been forever changed by their gift, and could not imagine them walking any other path.
It is difficult to admit we didn’t always feel this way. Shouldn’t every faithful Catholic celebrate the gift of a religious vocation to the Church?
Yes. But the reality is that just as Joseph and Mary experienced “great anxiety” at the sudden loss of their 12-year-old son in the temple, we may also struggle with the disorienting loss of our own loved ones, particularly when they are “lost” to the piercing beauty of the Cross and all that its mission entails.
In the first few years after the twins’ entry into the convent and seminary, my entire family struggled. We mourned their inaccessibility. We mourned their detachment. We even mourned their future, which would assuredly pull them to faraway and potentially dangerous missionary lands. It was a very hard transition for all of us.
It is so tempting to grasp onto our children and our families. To a certain extent, it is natural and good for us to shield one another. Even Mary and Joseph went to great lengths to protect the Child Jesus, and they undoubtedly loved him with at least the same intensity with which we love our own children.
But the fact of the matter is this: they knew from day one that their son belonged to the Father. And when the time came, Mary gave him up to the Way of the Cross. She consecrated him as a baby in the temple, and she walked with him every single day, all the way to his crucifixion.
Certainly, death and martyrdom are very rare callings, and I join all mothers in praying that we, and our children, be spared this painful sword. But whether our children are called to the vocation of marriage or that of consecrated life, we can be certain of this: they will know suffering in the path God has for them. But only there will they will discover abundant joy and the greatest of peace.
We are called—as parents, as siblings, and as Christians—to surrender our lives and our loved ones in total consecration to the Way of the Cross, and to pray for absolute conviction in the many blessings promised to those who choose this path.
As we continue this Year of the Consecrated Life, may every father, mother, brother and sister pray for the courage to love the Lord so completely, that we are willing to surrender everything, and everyone, to his holy will.