“How do your boys see this journey for you?” is probably the most frequently asked question by friends and acquaintances when they speak with me about my entrance into the seminary and study for the priesthood. Every once in a while, a unique variation on this comes up, as a good friend asked recently:
“Who takes care of your boys?”
That one made me stop and think about not only how to answer, but to look into the depths of the question. A significant part of the timing of my decision has to do with the fact that my sons are growing up into young men, and as I like to say, on any given day two out of the three are on my “good list.” They, like most twenty-somethings, wrestle with layers of challenges in their daily lives as they are maturing. Each has a unique, personal perspective on my journey that reflects their current status, with two still students in college and my oldest son out in the “working world.” Every parent will tell you that you never stop worrying about your children, whether they are in their teens, twenties, thirties or forties, so as their Dad, I do my share of worrying.
Which makes this question a little bit haunting: “Who takes care of your boys?”
In considering this, I was drawn to two items framed on the wall of my bedroom at home. The first was a gift from my brother, a calligraphy print that states, “A brother is like a strong tree to lean against in a storm.” That phrase is one that applies in a very real sense to my three sons today, who are not just sons, but have become mutually supporting brothers. As they continue to mature in the years ahead, they will learn more and more the value of their friendship as brothers, both in supporting each other and in the loving support and encouragement they offer to me.
The second item is a framed watercolor print by Sandi Gore Evans titled “Almost Grown.” It was a Father's Day gift many years ago from Ellie to me, and it illustrates a sneaker next to a baby shoe, a remarkable analogy to the stages of growth they have gone through, as have I. When that watercolor was new, the sneaker was “mine” and the baby shoe was “theirs.” Now, however, both are theirs, and it captures the notion that they have “almost” grown into young adults. Some days they seem closer than others to that goal. At any rate, for them, my phone sounds the same whether they speak to me in South Orange or Mount Laurel, and their respective time away at school or work is simply where each of them, and I, need to be right now. When we find the chance to actually be together in the same place, it is a great blessing; when we meet this year, it will be me as well as them coming home during fall break and holidays.
Some of you know of my particular trust in the Blessed Mother, and I try to say a Rosary daily for my sons. On each mystery, I contemplate not just the biblical moment for Mary and Jesus, but I apply that particular mystery to what they need, or what I hope for them. The “Visitation” might have me calling to mind an interview they have coming up as a visit of sorts, or the “Presentation” might have me asking the Blessed Mother to watch over them as they get ready for a test or paper in college. While meditating on each mystery, I place my needs and concerns for them under the protection of the Blessed Mother; each day, this Rosary is said just for their needs. (Don’t worry; the rest of my readers are included in other petitions during the Liturgy of the Hours each day!)
So the answer to the question, “Who takes care of your boys?” is really very simple for me: I have a role to play as their Dad, and it is a role I enjoy and cherish, but the real care comes from the Blessed Mother, whose intercessions for my sons with her Son I implore and count on every day.
Any parents reading this, consider talking to Mary about your kids each day; she is Our Lady of Good Counsel, the Seat of Wisdom, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Queen of Heaven. Trust her to take care of your boys, and girls, each day.