5 Saints To Call On When Your Parent Needs Parenting

Photo copyright 2011 Rakhi McCormick. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright 2011 Rakhi McCormick. All rights reserved.

I lost my father quickly when I was twenty-one years old. He passed away over the course of 36 hours following some complications from a medical procedure. My mom was a young widow at just 58 years old. It was my second senior year of college, and I was getting ready to apply for graduate schools. My whole life would change nearly overnight.

Experts tell you not to make any big decisions for at least a year after a major life event, especially tragic ones. We broke that rule good. My mom decided that I should continue to apply for graduate schools, but in Texas where we had family. We sold the house, packed up a couple decades worth of memories, and off we went into a foreign land.

During those two years, we continued on as though very little had changed. Certainly, there was a giant hole in our lives, but mom was still social and spunky. It wasn’t until after we would go our separate ways following my graduation that I would begin to notice the changes.

True to her best self, my mother moved to Oregon on a bit of a whim after visiting Portland on vacation while escaping the Texas heat. I had been in Michigan for about six months at this point. Our once close relationship would begin to strain a little over the years as she struggled alone on the west coast while my career and life demanded my attention here in the Great Lakes region. My career path didn’t include a treasure chest, and my mother was retired, so there were not large sums of money with which to buy airline tickets. We would resign ourselves to two visits per year, three if we threw caution to the wind.

It was a few years down the road that I would begin to notice a difference in her behavior. She frightened more easily. She was depressed, but not eager to get help. She was understandably lonely, but isolated herself. The larger-than-life, brave mother I had known all my life was starting to fade, and I had no idea how to help her. She was used to her independence and my attempts felt too much like bossing her around. To be fair, I probably was bossing her around.

As time has gone on and the effects of age and illness have left their mark, I admit that I struggle to connect with my mom at times. I remember the woman who was fearless and full of life. Now she is a woman who seems withdrawn, easily frightened, and forgetful that there is joy left in life. She is not the woman I remember and want her to be, and in some ways, our relationship has reversed. While she would never admit it, my mother needs the nurturing of a mother, not a daughter.

It wasn’t until very recently as she was going in for surgery that I finally surrendered to the fact that I need help as our relationship changes. The beauty of the Catholic faith is that, alongside Jesus, there is always a saint in waiting when we are looking for a helping hand or shoulder to cry on. Here are five that have come to have a special place in my heart as I continue to learn how to have an adult relationship with my mom.

St. Monica

I’ve long had a love of St. Monica because of her devoted prayer for her children. She has inspired me to become more attentive to serving as an intercessor for those needing prayer. Imagine my surprise when I googled “patron saint for patience” and found her at the helm! While she patiently prayed for her children, that same patience in prayer can help me in loving and serving my mother without annoyance or despair.

St. Vincetia Lopez

According to a CatholicStand.com article, St. Vincentia is said to have written her mother the following: “Come and stay with us, and your ills will certainly mend. Imagination plays a large part in them, and here there are so many distractions that you will have no time to think.” 

These words of St. Vincentia serve as a vital reminder to me. It is so important for my mom to feel needed. I know I fall into a funk when I feel useless, and my mother is no different. Having no one to serve at home, I need to engage her in finding a way to serve others so she knows she still has gifts to share.

St. Jeanne Jugan

St. Jeanne is the patron saint of the elderly. She exemplified in her life total self-giving to love in the elderly the person of Jesus. As I understand it, Jesus appeared to St. Jeanne in the guise of an elderly woman in need of a place to lay her head. In response, St. Jeanne offered the woman her own bed while she slept in the attic. In my struggle to let go of myself to provide my mother the nurturing she needs, St. Jeanne serves as a model, mentor, and friend.

Blessed Julian of Norwich

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”

 These words are the gift of Blessed Julian of Norwich. Her words here are a message for both my mother, as fear begins to rise, and for me, as I worry about what the future might hold. Her words remind me that the victory has already been won, and that Christ has cared for everything in His time.

St. Faustina
The saint of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina reminds me that at the heart of it all, Christ wants to pour out his mercy on all of us – moms included. When tempers are high, when stress eats at our soul, when I don’t think I can do what I’m being asked, St. Faustina pushes me to surrender to mercy and pour it out. When impatience rears its ugly head and frustration mounts, I can implore Jesus to pour out His mercy, and I can say in surrender: Jesus, I trust in You.

It is not easy to be a caregiver to young children at home and a parent at the same time. I can sometimes feel invisible and stuck in the middle. In the example of the Saints and in surrendering to Christ, I am learning that giving completely of myself doesn’t equal losing myself in the process. In Jesus there is enough time, patience, and mercy to fill us all.

Have you become a caregiver to a parent? What has helped you to embrace your role without losing yourself?

Copyright 2015 Rakhi McCormick
Photo copyright 2015 Rakhi McCormick. All rights reserved.


About Author

Rakhi is a Catholic wife and mother who works in parish communications part-time while trying to keep up with her husband, three young children, and a growing creative business. She is a convert from Hinduism and spent many years working in young adult and campus ministry. Rakhi’s blog and artwork can be found at The Pitter Patter Diaries, where her mission is to share the love of Christ with the world.


  1. Rakhi, this is a super thoughtful reflection and resource, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m in a place where I’m wondering what the next stage of relationships with the parents might be and where to go for help and support, so thank you for this!

  2. Rakhi, what a lovely blogpost. Thank you for sharing your heart and wisdom. I am not a caregiver to my mother, but I can relate in losing my father suddenly. I’ll be sharing this over at the CM Facebook page today as well.

  3. Rakhi, thanks for his honest and hopeful reflection! It’s hard to adjust from being a child to being more of a carer – yet to the one person who raised you and therefore may be insulted when you tell HER what to do! My own mother has dementia and crippling osteoporosis and has struggled with anxiety and depression her whole life. But I am grateful to have any relationship with her at this point, knowing that she may get much worse and one day may not even know who I am. But it took time (years) to feel at peace with her and our relationship!
    I suppose when I read your reflection I also thought about myself aging – about making conscious decisions for the future, about fighting depression, anxiety and isolation as an aging woman, about growing in faith… I saw your description of your mother and thought ‘that could be me one day’ and ‘how will I find joy in the changing landscape of life’? Some of our households may be busy today, but how will we feel in the future when they are totally quiet and tidy?

  4. I know exactly where you are coming from in what you write. My Dad passed away over 12 years ago and my Mom was not one to go into a deep depression. Yes, she grieved for her loss – they had just reached 50yrs married 10days before he passed. They fell in love at first sight and had five children and a true lifetime of memories together. Everything seemed fine until like you said…no purpose in life. I married, first time, very late in life (mid-50’s), and now she was spending more time alone. I tried to spend as much time as I could with her, eventually she came to live with me & my husband in Florida but insisted on going to NY every so often to be with her other children & grandchildren. As always, I went with her. I don’t know if it is because over time everyone moves on & gets busy with their own lives, it gets harder to “fit in time” for Mom but I sensed she was feeling the “neglect” & loneliness & decided to spend all her time in Florida with me. Shortly after that, I began to notice changes in her. The repetitive questions, the forgetfulness of whether or not she brought her pocketbook along, and so on. More recently, she doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that someone died. she’ll ask over & over again how they are feeling. My brother moved from NY to Florida & she is surprised every time he calls & tells her, no, he doesn’t live in NY anymore. He’s here forever! My mom can’t follow a TV show, let alone a movie, yet growing up it was she who taught us how to pick out the person “who done it”! From Phi Beta Kappa to now! But he is still my mom & I love her and will do what ever it takes to make her happy. I never, or almost never, show my emotions, and try my best to be ever so patient with her. I see how fragile she can be. The other night, when we were going through her goodnight ritual after a lovely visit to my brother’s, the reality of it all hit home…my mom wears a St.Simon Stock/Lady of Mt Carmel Brown Scapula & for the first time ever didn’t know what is was or how to put it on…she attaches it inside her clothing when we go out, and around her neck when home. My mom has been very religious for as long as I can remember…going back to before she was 8 yrs old she would tell me stories of going to churches on her own. She is now almost 86.
    I thank you for your beautiful blog…I, too, have always found comfort & support from my religion. I have a devotion to St Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, but the way you wrote of St Monica gave me some peace. I do need to find more patience…as I am also dealing with a husband that is not well…from before we even married. You know, I find the nights that I have trouble falling to sleep, I say my prayers and then I find my self softly singing or humming church hymns…some nights I even wake myself up during the night singing these hymns…they are almost like lullabies.

  5. Just make sure you and your mother are also getting the self-care (unconnected to serving) that you personally need and that she may need. It sounds like in addition to issues relating to aging, she might have unresolved grief that could have turned into depression. Service is good, but you need to recharge and have moments to yourself just like God resting on the seventh day.

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