I have posted before about my hero, St. Monica, who prayed so steadfastly for her rebellious boy. Things turned out well for them–after a few decades of persistent praying.
I ask her to pray with me for my own sons, who have turned away from their faith in Jesus, and for me, that I might be as persistent in lifting them up to the Lord as she had been.
I pray for my boys daily, always hoping that the Lord will put the right words in my mouth when I speak to them, or send somebody else to cross their path in life and point them back to Him. Like St. Monica, I hope that I live long enough to see them turn back to the Lord.
In the meantime, I have come upon a few readings that bolstered my own spirits and given me renewed hope that my prayers will be answered.
The most important have been in scripture–remember the story of the centurion with the sick servant? Jesus healed the servant, not because the sick man himself was filled with prayer and faith, but because somebody else was.
And the Canaanite woman who begged the Lord to heal her daughter who was being tormented by demons. The daughter didn’t ask–her mother did. Jesus healed the child through the faith of her mother.
I recall also the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof by his friends, who asked Jesus for healing. Because of their faith, the man’s sins were forgiven, and he got up and walked home.
Pope Francis, in his first encyclical Lumen Fidei, had these words to say about our loved ones who strayed from the Church, yet are good people: “To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith. . . . Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by his help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk toward the fullness of love.” (section on Faith and the Search for God)
Ronald Rolheiser, in his book The Holy Longing, spoke more specifically on this topic in his chapter 5:
“If you are a member of the Body of Christ, when you forgive someone, he or she is forgiven; if you hold someone in love, he or she is held to the Body of Christ. . . If a child or a brother or a sister or a loved one of yours strays from the church in terms of faith practice and morality, as long as you continue to love that person, and hold him or her in union and forgiveness, he or she is touching the hem of the garment, is held to the Body of Christ, and is forgiven by God, irrespective of his or her official external relationship to the church and Christian Morality. Your touch is Christ’s touch. When you love someone, unless that someone actively rejects your love and forgiveness, she or he is sustained in salvation. And this is true even beyond death. . . your love and forgiveness will continue to bind that person to the Body of Christ and continue to forgive that individual, even after death.”
And so, with these words and thoughts of encouragement, I continue to pray for all of my family and friends who have strayed away from a relationship with God. St. Monica, pray for us.