GROWING UP CATHOLIC | Mary’s encouraging parenting example

Like most parents, I've warned my children, in no uncertain terms, not to punch each other during disagreements. Recently, the 3 year-old was in trouble for taking a shot at her brother. She carefully explained, "You never told me not to hit back." She'll be a lawyer when she grows up.

The other children have equally interesting interpretations of life. They're home-schooled and claim their favorite subjects are "Latin" and "walking on stilts." Asked if they want anything added to the curriculum, they asked for "pocket-knife skills." Other than Latin, I promise this isn't an accurate reflection of their lessons and our children aren't armed to the teeth. They have a tenuous grasp on reality, but I do suspect my son was onto an important truth when he informed me, "The more pancakes you eat in a day, the more points you get."

Parenting is an adventure. On the one hand are delightful conversations, funny stories and open-hearted love. On the other are time-outs, lack of privacy, being kicked in your bed all night by a squirming toddler and suffering along with them during their ups and downs.

None of the parents I know would change a thing. At the same time, it's OK to admit that parenting can be discouraging. May is Mary's month, and I thought it might be helpful to share some encouraging parenting insights from her life.

It's all in God's plan. The angel Gabriel is clear, God has a plan for this child and for these parents. Whether you're currently exasperated and overwhelmed by parenthood or are loving every second of it, you are right where God wants you to be.

Even perfect children can be difficult. Our Lord was perfect, but He still caused His parents heartburn. They famously left Him behind in the Temple, and they almost certainly had moments of exasperation with Him as He grew up because people simply see life differently. This diversity of viewpoint, though, is actually a feature and strength of family life.

Simply being there is enough. It's tough to see our children struggling with homework or a bully. It's hard to watch them be cut from a sports team or experience disappointment. It's even harder to realize you can't fix it. A sword pierced Mary's heart from the very beginning. She knew her son would have a hard life, but she was still there at the end, staying as close as she could and sharing His suffering. Sharing sorrow is sometimes all we can do — and that's enough.

God's love is sufficient. Parents cannot love their children perfectly. We might be too tired to throw the ball around in the backyard or we take out our work frustrations on them. Mary did love her son perfectly, and although we may not be able to follow her example, we do our best and rest in the knowledge that God knows our children and loves them perfectly. So too, for that matter, does Mary.

Father Rennier is parochial administrator of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have five children. 

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