It all started with some severe storms we had a week ago. I try to teach storm awareness to my five-year-old son. Coming from a region where tornadoes were frequent, yet being married to a man from Florida (who didn’t have a basement), it’s is a topic we discuss. It’s a hard line between awareness and fear. I try to prepare my son for what the proper actions are, but not to scare him too much. I have actually seen with my eyes a tornado before — while I was driving — and a water-spout (tornado on water) when I was on a cruise ship. Weather can be both majestic and fear-provoking.
As I had my son grab our dog and I grabbed the cat, and we all went to the lower level of our house when the tornado warning went off on my phone, I was worried about the practical (turning on the local TV channel, minimizing hazards, and so on). My son got down on his knees and promptly prayed to God out loud for the tornado to go away. On one hand I was very proud of him and a little ashamed that prayer wasn’t my first response. On the other hand, it’s kind of a hard walk to promote prayer and yet let him know that even if our prayers aren’t directly answered, it’s not that God’s not there. It’s not that God’s not listening. Fortunately, there was just a potential for a tornado and no damage was done and everyone was OK. My son concluded this was a direct answer to his prayer.
I think he was becoming more aware of the power of prayer as we have been listening to many stories about the saints. Between St. Joan of Arc, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Rose of Lima turning pirates away, my son has quite an awareness of miraculous happenings and awesome prayer warriors.
A couple of days later, we were at the dinner table and my son mentioned, “I’m not sure God is listening to me.” We tried to reassure him that God does listen to him. He doesn’t always answer us, or answer us in the way we’d like. My son said, “Well I don’t hear anything at all. He’s supposed to talk, right?”
We tried to tell him that while some prophets and saints and others have directly heard God’s voice, it’s pretty unusual. I told him I’d never heard God’s voice, but I’ve felt His presence. My husband gave an example of a time where he was in prayer and he felt the presence of someone/something clasping his hands in prayer. The supernatural is pretty uncommon, we tried to explain. I told him that when I was discerning whether I should become a religious sister or a mommy, I was led to the answer by spending time with the Eucharist and feeling peace with my decision.
We tried to explain that listening is not just done with our ears, but with our heart and faith. My husband and I looked at each other and said, “even grown-ups have difficulty learning how to listen to God.”
I truly believe that sharing the lives of the saints and the mysteries of our faith with our son is the correct thing to do. Sometimes, it might make him think that the miraculous and unusual are expectations he should have. I’m not sure I should totally quash these expectations. While we should prepare our children for reality, I don’t think we should minimize or rule out the possibility of extraordinary events.
It also reminded me how when I was puzzling over some things going on with the Church, I kind of threw up my hands and said, “I’m no Catherine of Siena, I have no prayer life like she did and I’m just a mom and veterinarian who’s trying to do her best.” I don’t have the expectation of miracles in my life or of God directly speaking to me.
Sometimes I’m content with good enough. Perhaps my son reminding me of the largeness and greatness of God and large expectations is something I should be a little more open to. Yes, becoming a canonized saint is unlikely for most of us. But we are still called to aspire to that.
Copyright 2019 Meg Herriot