Like Mary, helping children along the path to God

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

Back in the day of nuns in habits filling schools and hospitals, little girls saw the mystery and beauty of religious life before them all the time.

They had a first-hand view of a counter-cultural life that would give them education, purpose and joy.

Today, fewer of us teach or nurse. (We established the institutions and then taught young women how to run them. They didn’t need us there anymore!)

Today, you’re more likely to see us in parish offices, social justice venues, college campuses and even on the bus! (We do all of those things, and Sister Janet and I teach, too.)

And after Pope John XXIII suggested we return to wearing the clothes of those we minister to (as opposed to the habits that were the common clothes of Middle Ages folks), we began dressing like common folk.

The upshot? We aren’t as visible. Now, we must ask you, the parents, to help your daughters and sons see the value and blessing of religious life!

I thought about this during our Christmas Vigil this year, as Sister Mary Jane placed the Infant in the manger. Jesus’ mother certainly knew she would raised her beloved son to walk another path entirely … whether it was what she would choose for him or not.

My own mother talks about the dreams she had for her children. She says she realized they had to change as she got to know each of us. Instead of a particular career, she began to want happiness for us. Instead of grandchildren, she began to want purpose and engagement for us.

I wonder if Mary’s feelings for Jesus evolved the same way. Surely a part of her would have longed for him to settle down into the carpenter’s trade, with a loving wife and children. But a much bigger part of her remained open … open to his call … open to saying, “Yes.”

So, my question to you today is this: Have you opened yourself to the possibility that your daughter – or son – may be called to a life other than what you imagined for them? Are you willing to forgo grandchildren? Are you willing to tell them, as Mary, “Yes, I will love and support you along your path”?

Mary held her beloved child close, wanting to keep him safe and happy all the days of his life. All parents do. But, as my mom says, children must find their own way. My prayer is that you – all parents! – will be like Mary, not only in her love, but in her encouragement of her child to live a life for God.

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