Healing the Eight Stages of Life
Ann had tried unsuccessfully for twenty years to help her son Tom who kept angrily withdrawing from the family. Tom had acted this way ever since his difficult birth followed by many days in an incubator. During that time, Tom, alone and separated from his mother’s love, struggled to survive. Now twenty years later, Tom still lived as if he had to struggle to survive alone. His mother still found that the more she tried to love him, the more Tom would distance himself. Finally, Tom eagerly left home for college and had little desire to ever return.
One day Ann decided to hold Tom’s photo on her heart and ask for the love of Jesus and Mary to flow through her heart and change her son. But after praying this way for several days, she discovered that Tom was only getting worse. When she asked herself “why?”, she was shocked to discover that, even while she prayed, her love was conditional on Tom’s changing. She took the photo again and prayed for Tom, allowing Jesus and Mary’s unconditional love to flow through her even if Tom never changed. As she closed her eyes and prayed, this time she saw her son in a blue sweater rather than in the suit he wore in the photo. A few days later she saw this same sweater in a department store and bought it to give to Tom at Christmas.
Several months later Tom came home for a short visit and said, “I don’t know why but the last couple of weeks I’ve been eager to spend some time at home, perhaps stay during Christmas. Maybe you can put in a word to Santa Claus that I want a blue sweater like all the fraternity brothers have”. Tom then describe the exact same sweater Ann had seen in her prayer and had bought two months ago. Ann laughed and said, “We will have Christmas now!” So she pulled out of her secret hiding place the sweater Tom had just described for the first time. Ann told Tom how she saw the sweater as she prayed for him. Tom was amazed at how much God loved him, even telling his mother to get him a sweater two months before she knew he wanted it. They held each other and cried as they experienced how God was healing their relationship. Now they go for long walks together and share their hearts.
Prayer guarantees no fast or infallible solution. But if we love one another with the depth of Jesus’ unconditional love, our hearts–like Ann’s–will change even if our Toms do not. When we pray for another, that person may receive or reject the love of Jesus. But the more we give the depth of Jesus’ unconditional love, the harder it is for another’s heart to keep rejecting our prayer. Even stubborn Saint Augustine held out for only seventeen years when facing the prayer of his persistent mother, Saint Monica. Augustine’s stubbornness made Monica a patient saint. We simply pray and leave the results up to God who will deepen our love and is always full of surprises. Ann never would have guessed that a blue sweater would heal Tom. So too, Saint Monica prayed that Augustine would stay away from wicked Rome. But God’s answer was to send Augustine to Rome where he met Saint Ambrose who converted him.