This morning I woke up to the news that a little boy who has been gravely ill might not make it. His family is preparing for the worst news today and they have been praying for a miracle all week long. On this week. Holy Week.
They have been surrounded with prayer and have had prayer requests made all over social media and yet the reality is that they could have the worst day of their lives today. All those prayers and it could still go either way.
I know the feeling of praying constantly for the life of your child and thinking that God will swoop in and save their life by a miracle of some kind. I prayed for my son Anthony’s safety for ten months. I begged God to bring him back to me and for him to come back to the Church. When Anthony and Ariana decided to baptize their girls I thought that was a sign in the right direction. Up until then Anthony insisted he was an atheist. I asked everyone I knew to pray for him all the time, in fact a priest I know was in Rome the week that Anthony died and was already praying for him there in the days leading up to his suicide. I prayed novenas, I venerated relics and sent prayer requests for Anthony with the relics and I went to so many masses praying and begging God to please help Anthony. And yet, on March 8th, 2017 my entire life flipped upside down when Anthony died by suicide in my house.As I looked at his body in his casket I said to God “this is a real fucked up way to answer my prayers.”
I am not the only one who has been on this road. Tommy Tighe and his wife prayed for a miracle for their son Luke (St. Luke is my son Anthony’s confirmation saint by the way.) They prayed for a miracle to heal him and I remember the same community that was praying for Anthony all praying for Luke to get a miracle. That miracle never came and the Tighes lost their beautiful son shortly after he was born.
There are so many stories like ours. Catholic families who pray and pray and still end up at the grave of their children. We tend to want to focus on the stories where the miracle comes. Like the story of a little girl who fell in a pool and was on the brink of death but by a miracle is still alive now. It is good to focus on those stories on the miracles that God has performed for our own sake but for some of us it is not that easy.
For some of us, our stories are different and there is no denying that our prayers were not answered in the way that would have made us jump for joy and praise God. You just don’t jump for joy and praise God when your child is dead. No matter how much faith you have, it is just not going to happen. It is not a faith issue, it is a human issue. It is a heart break issue. It is a shock, grief, anger, loss, how the fuck can this happen to my kid, issue.
And it is normal. As Tommy tweeted this morning, Jesus gives us something to meditate on in His agony in the garden. He asked to have the cup of suffering taken from Him. Meaning that not wanting to suffer is not a sin because Jesus was incapable of sinning. I would go even further to His words on the cross asking “Why have You abandoned me?” because that also shows that asking that question is not a sin. Therefore, asking these things are not an issue of having a lack of faith but it is because we are human. The only thing we can do when it is us asking “why” or feeling abandoned or begging God to make this suffering a bad dream is to look at the Cross and cry with Jesus. Because He does cry with us. He does feel the pain we feel and He does completely understand what it is like to pray for something and to be handed a death sentence for an answer. And He also understands when we shake our fists at Him and tell Him this is not fair and it sucks to the thousandth percent. He didn’t agonize in the garden, suffer in His Passion and died on a cross so we would have to white knuckle it through our own suffering pretending that it does not break us and make us question everything. NO, He did all of that so that we could know that we are not alone in our suffering. From the beginning to the end, we are not alone. He is always with us and He knows exactly how much it sucks.
Please, this Holy Week, pray for those of us who are all walking the way of the Cross in a way that makes no sense at all and that most of us wouldn’t wish on anyone else. Walk with us as we visit the graves of our children and we pray for their souls and we cry as we pray each step of the way to be able to make the next step. And pray especially for the family of those who are suffering from illness, new loss, addiction and all the other wounds that plague the human heart.
We Adore You, O Christ, and We Praise You. Because by Your Holy Cross, You Have Redeemed the World