Even when I’m behind the screen, I am sure that my priest knows that it’s me – that parishioner with N.A.P.S. (Nutty, Anxious Parent Syndrome).
Worrying is my hobby. I worry about the economy, politics and toy recalls. I practically obsess over germs and the weather, especially during tornado season. Let’s not even mention unemployment rates and grocery prices. As a mother of three boys, Joseph (5), Nicholas (3) and Richard (12 months), my worries naturally turn to my babies. Then I worry about my worries.
“Father,” as I confess for the twentieth time, “I want to be a faithful Catholic who places all of my trust in God. How do I love my boys… and let go of the anxiety?” Through my priests and the wisdom of the Church, I have employed several wonderful – albeit obvious – worry remedies.
I discovered that one way to refocus my anxieties is to read the Holy Scriptures. After all, when I read that Jesus cured the lepers and brought Lazarus back to life, I realized that He would watch after my boys if they bumped their heads or ate a bug.
One Scripture passage that I continually return to is in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 RSV-CE).
Reading the Bible, I learned that all of our worries are meaningless. God wants to handle our problems. He took care of everyone from Moses to Mary Magdalene, and we are no different. We see throughout Scripture that God is not some distant figure; He is a loving Father.
One week at Mass, I heard a Scripture passage that helped me greatly. It was the account of Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22). In the story, God wants to know how much Abraham trusts Him, and the ultimate test is for Abraham to surrender his own child. Amazingly, Abraham does have enough faith in God to obey Him. We should follow that example: we should trust God with our babies. At Mass that evening, I understood for the first time that, as faith-filled people, we must be willing to give our children to God.
I have found that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is particularly helpful: not only am I forgiven of my sins, but I am strengthened in my resolve to trust God more in the future.
Plus, a good priest will provide invaluable advice and reassurance. At one particular Confession, a priest told me, “It is natural for a mother to have strong concerns for her children. It isn’t healthy to worry excessively, but it’s not uncommon. Just remember to trust God and pray often.”
Even though the advice was simple, I felt liberated. Of course, I didn’t completely stop worrying, but I tried to put my worries in perspective. Even though anxieties are common, I found that – to grow as a Catholic Christian – I must rely on God.
In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul says, “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
God listens to all of our requests, big and small. He is there when we want a good parking space and when our parents are diagnosed with cancer. We just have to remember to ask Him, instead of carrying the burdens of daily life.
And, to me, the best time to pray is during Mass or in Eucharistic Adoration. When I was pregnant with Joey, I was able to go to daily Mass, and I had a weekly Holy Hour, but now, like most mothers, I do not have that luxury. So at Sunday Mass, I take the opportunity to pray for all of my concerns, and I always make sure to thank God for my family as well.
When Nicky was an infant, we had a health scare with him. I had a difficult time getting through each day as we waited on test results. I was almost consumed with anxiety, so I decided to channel my fears in a different direction: the Rosary.
Prior to this, my view toward the Rosary was casual. I would pray the decades a few times during Lent and several other times throughout the year. But when I started praying the Rosary daily to alleviate my fears, I actually looked forward to the prayer throughout my day. In fact, the boys occasionally enjoyed it as well. Sometimes we would sit together, and they would hold the beads while I prayed aloud.
Even though I have always prayed daily, this was different. I was focusing on Jesus, not on myself and my own worries. But, paradoxically, as I turned the attention away from myself and onto the Mysteries, my fears lessened. And Jesus and Mary’s love brought me closer to both of them.
The fact is God loves us infinitely more than we can love our children. We just have to internalize that truth and let go of our worries.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina understood the human condition very intimately. This saint, who bore the wounds of Christ on his body, had a simple motto: “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” If we could learn to live by these five words, we could attain great holiness and, incidentally, become better parents.
I cannot say that I have entirely learned this lesson yet. I wish that I had already trampled the worry monster, but I haven’t. However, I can say that, deep down, I know that God is the one who holds our future in His loving Hands, and we should trust Him with everything – including our precious babies.