A few years ago, my son came home from school and said, “Mom, I heard some kids say that the devil isn’t real, is that true?” Well, a lot of moms would probably have assured their 11 year olds that the devil isn’t real especially those 11 year olds who tend to get nightmares. But I felt it was an important moment. I told him not only is the devil real, but the thing he loves most is for people to believe that he doesn’t exist. We look around the world today and see evil surrounding us, washing up on the shores of our lives almost choking us and yet people still say it’s not real. On any given day read the headlines or watch the news about wars and unrest throughout the world and you’ll know in your heart of hearts evil is persistent throughout the world. It’s palpable. We can rationalize a lot, but these days it’s hard to ignore or avoid the even greater war closer to home, our morals and values under the greatest attack. And we can protect our children for only so long. If they go to school in the United States in 2011 they are subject to things we didn’t have to deal with until much later. Evil does exist and the devil roams the earth looking for souls, especially the young, who are confused and unsure and want to rebel. He seems to be most active in our schools, young children learn about sex and drugs and a lot of other dangerous behavior, that seem exciting and dangerous, but often they don’t realize that these behaviors can ruin their lives forever. And usually they’re too young to even understand what they’re faced with.
I strongly believe as parents it is our responsibility to teach our children and equip them for life. With all our advice about studying and working hard, we need to also inform them about the insidiousness of the enemy and give them the tools and the weapons with which to fight. As Catholics we’ve seen movies or heard about things like exorcisms and praying over people, we’re all familiar with The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror and scary movies like that. What we might not realize is there is a lot of truth in those movies. We would never consider sending our child out without a warm coat in the winter, yet we send them out in the world without the knowledge and the means to protect their very souls. The Blessed Mother has told us time and again that the Rosary is our very best defense against evil and sin in the world. At Fatima, Guadalupe, Garabandal and more recently Medjugore, she has begged us to help her save the world and souls through our recitation of the Rosary and prayer.
In our society the nuclear family is under attack. Divorce, infidelity, drugs, addiction, even boredom can cause families to be ripped apart. Many of us are directly affected. How do we combat the trauma that divorce has on our kids? We do everything we can to support and protect our children, we feed them, we clothe them and try to love and care for them as best we can, then we send them off into the world with nothing to give them hope and protection from the things that can truly destroy them. We say children are resilient, yet we all know wounded children who grew up to become scarred adults. We ourselves may be damaged from our own childhoods or distraught over poor choices we’ve made or are making in our lives. Friends suggest therapy, exercise, a new diet regimen. The hollowness that exists must be filled and we go off searching for the next best thing, a new guy, a new girl, a piece of jewelry, another high. After we’ve exhausted ourselves being promiscuous, trying drugs or stuffing ourselves with food; when we’re done maxing out our credit cards and getting drunk every weekend, maybe it’s time to try prayer.
It works. The amazing thing is that you don’t even realize how it happens. We turn to God as a last resort when we’re in trouble and we pray, desperate for a miracle to fix the situation at hand, but often instead of altering the circumstance, prayer changes us. God has such a cool plan for each one of us, and sometimes we flounder through life trying to find our purpose or meaning. Perhaps we should ask Him. Any relationship is only as good as the lines of communication. Open the door. Ask, speak, yell, cry or whisper. Or even better, don’t say a word. Just listen. The problem is that in the world we live in, there is never any silence, especially for our children. If they’re not texting, they’re on the computer, or playing video games or watching television or listening to their Ipod. How do they know what they’re missing if we don’t tell them?
Everyone speaks of having no time these days and it’s true. I recently visited Rosary Hill Hospice in Hawthorne, NY run by the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne. As I walked the halls of this beautiful, peaceful place one of the workers explained, “Out in the world, we are all so busy, then you come here and you meet someone who is dying. They are literally running out of time, yet they take your hand, they look you in the eye, they ask “How are you?” Not only do they wait for the answer, they really want to know”.
Perhaps that is another trick of the devil: to keep us so busy and distracted, we don’t get a chance to really live or think about our lives. Many friends complain they never get to see their families, parents get older and pass away and siblings are too busy to get together. Work is too unstable, so we have to work longer hours, there’s not enough time in the day. Logically we say that’s ridiculous, we still have the same 24 hours we’ve always had, but our priorities have changed. Family time seems to often be the first thing to go. How often do we sit down as a family for dinner together? What about a board game or a walk together? Is it as hard for your family as it is for mine to turn the television off?
We are halfway through Lent, this is our time to meditate and reflect on the passion of Jesus. Maybe tonight we can pull out a pair of Rosary beads and say a decade as a family and teach the children that it is the greatest of gifts, the greatest of weapons, the greatest of jewels. If we don’t teach our children who will?
These days every news program and magazine has a special about preparing your home for an emergency. Stock up on water, canned goods, flashlights and batteries. I say throw in a few pairs of rosary beads, a bible and some holy water as well.
At some point in our lives, most of us come to a time when we are in deep despair. We hit the wall, we are at our lowest. We are dealing with death, disease, divorce, unemployment or worse. Terrible thoughts may enter our minds, thoughts of hurting ourselves, thoughts of ending it all. We are down on the floor on our knees. It is our job as parents to tell our children that that day comes to most everyone. A moment may come when everything seems to have failed, when they have been betrayed, when the worst has happened. They need to know that it is real and that they might feel as if there is no hope. Tell them when it happens to fall to their knees. It is there where we can begin again. The noise has stopped, we can’t run anymore. It is the middle of the night and we are all alone. There is no one to turn to. And then, after awhile, in the midst of our tears, we look up. And He looks down. That’s when He can begin to heal us. But we must ask. We must turn back to Him. We must teach our children that not only does evil exist but what also exists is a God who loves them unconditionally. He is real. He is mighty and He will overcome. He is waiting for you and He is eternal. He is our Father and we are His children. Talk to Him.
Copyright 2011 Maureen O’Shea