St. Monica is the patron saint of Mothers. Her life as a single Mom after her husband’s death was no easy journey. On top of it all, she had a willful and rebellious child (Augustine) who put her to the test regularly. He grew to be a source of great pain to her as his self-confessed life of sin brought him to avenues and experiences his saintly mother could not even imagine. All she could do in her helpless pain was relinquish him to God and pray that his path would eventually bring him home to faith and salvation. I offer that many of us who are parents, have had to face disappointments, and what it means to relinquish our children to a larger world of experience over which we have little or no influence. We must relinquish them with our prayers and hopes as they follow their own paths.
Early in my parenting, I was highly aware of the pain relinquishing a child meant. As adoptive parents we witnessed the anguish of birth mothers as they surrendered children they loved, but did not have the means, and sometimes the parenting skills, to provide the life they wished for their beloved children. Like Jochebed, the mother of Moses (Exodus 2:1-10), they set their babies forth on a river of uncertainty praying they would float to a safe place. Years later, when they met their birthchildren as young men and women, the relief, joy, and abiding love were palpable. Each birth mother recounted their constant prayers for the wellbeing of their child. After they surrendered their children, all they could do was pray and hope. I am confident that St. Monica interceded on their behalf and continues to do so for all parents.
The best wisdom I have encountered in this regard came from a birth mother who sat with us on a panel for Children’s Aid Society (CAS). We were there as adoptive parents; she was there with her recently reunited adult birth daughter. We told our story. She told hers. Then, it was time for Question and Answer. One of the participants directed, in a very respectful way, her first question to the birth mother. “How was it possible for you to relinquish your baby?” In a calm and insightful response, the birth mother said, “I had two days to do what every parent must do eventually, and that is relinquish their child. Other parents get about twenty years or more to do it, but the emotional process is the same.” This wisdom informs every parent presentation and workshop I offer. I remind parents that the same God who watched over them all their lives, is watching over their children today. The Holy Spirit that awakens and enlivens us in the 21st century is as vibrant, inspirational, and powerful as when the Spirit descended on the disciples in the upper room over 2000 years ago (Acts 2:1-47).
We are now entering the season of little ones going to kindergarten, older ones returning to school, and even older ones heading to post-secondary education. Our call in each of these scenarios is to trust that our love has prepared them, and the love of God will continually guide them. We relinquish them with love, hope and a huge dose of prayer as they journey. St. Monica is the perfect model for us in this.
And so we pray,
God, Parent to us all.
You give us freedom to explore.
You inspire us as we follow our paths.
You offer mercy and forgiveness to us when we fail or fall.
Be with my child as they move forward in life.
Inspired by the example of St. Monica,
May my fervent prayer be for their success, well-being, safety, and joy.
May my love and actions teach them,
That in all their decisions,
They will know mercy and forgiveness as a free offering.
And if they stumble, fail, or fall,
May I have your grace within me
To always provide a soft place to land.
Your Spirit of Wisdom that they know the difference between right and wrong.
Your Spirit of Prudence that their actions be for what is good and holy.
Your Spirit of Protection to keep them safe.
We ask this through Jesus Your Son, and Mary our Mother. Amen.
Michael Way Skinner is a retired Coordinator of Religion, Family Life, and Equity with the York Catholic District School Board. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy (1st Class Honours) degree from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. He also completed the Program in Religion and Secondary Education (P.R.S.E.) with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Michael was a contributing author to World Religions: A Canadian Catholic Perspective, and co-authored There Must be a Pony in Here Somewhere with his wife, Christine Way Skinner. Michael is a public speaker and award-winning educator who is deeply committed to faith as a source for inclusion and justice.