Often, despite the most sincere efforts of parents, a child for some inexplicable reason fails to develop into a normal adolescent or adult who lives up to his responsibilities respectably and honorably.
A son or daughter may be attracted to evil companions and may lead a life which causes public scandal. An offspring may drink, gamble, or develop other habits that become occasions of sin, if they are not sinful themselves.
Or, after acquiring a limited education, he may become sophisticated and turn away from the teachings of the Church because they are not modern enough for him.
Whenever such conditions occur, good Catholic parents are sorely tried.
If they could they would correct their child’s conduct and place him once again on the path to Christian virtue. Unfortunately, however, their influence over a child begins to wane after his early years.
A tendency toward evil that you can correct easily in your child of six will be difficult to eradicate when he is fourteen and may become impossible to remove when he is twenty-two. The plight of parents with offspring who cause shame should remind all mothers and fathers that the time to implant habits of virtue is when children are young–not when they are adults.
With our present knowledge of the causes of delinquency, promiscuity, and other shameful deviations from normal behavior, we can advise parents that scoldings, recriminations and threats are almost always foredoomed to failure.
Our Lord clearly taught in his gentleness toward Mary Magdalene that sinners can be won over by love, affection and sympathetic understanding–and that one may legitimately hope for reformation regardless of the depth to which the sinner has declined.
Parents must never cease to strive, by prayer, example and teaching, to help their wayward child to save his soul. They should create a framework of love and affection in which to discuss his problems with him and, by reasoning with him, try to get him to mend his ways.
Of course, you cannot condone sin. If your child uses your home for sinful purposes, you are morally obligated to prevent him from doing so.
If he refuses to be married in the Church, you cannot attend a civil ceremony and thus implicitly bless his action. You must always avoid giving others the impression that you support your child in actions which violate moral teaching.
On the other hand, you should make it plain that while you deplore and detest the sin, you love the sinner. By your unquestioned concern, kindness and sacrifice, and despite obstacles which seem insurmountable and disappointments which bring you to the border of despair, you may yet see a reawakening of his conscience and his ultimate return to you and the Church.
The need for sympathy and love is especially important in the case of a daughter who becomes pregnant outside marriage and faces the awful prospect of bearing a child without a father.
In older generations, such a sin was often considered justification for her parents to turn her away from their door and to thrust her, hopeless and friendless, upon a scoffing world. Such cold-blooded lack of charity was often a greater sin than the act which prompted it. Fortunately very few modern parents so lack compassion that they would reject a daughter at the moment when she needs them most.
Girls in such a predicament often have not received the parental love to which they are entitled. Some grow up in an atmosphere where they are deprived of natural objects for their affection, and they respond unthinkingly to the first individual who offers them kindness.
Of course, every person must fully accept the consequences for his or her own sins. But parents should also humbly consider whether their actions have not contributed to the tragedy. Even where they are not at fault, they should have charity.
When pregnancies occur outside of marriage, the question usually arises of whether the girl should marry the man responsible for her condition.
Experience teaches that marriages based solely upon a physical relationship which has produced unforeseen consequences stand little chance of providing happiness for either man, woman or child. If a strong bond of affection exists between the boy and girl, however, marriage may be considered a wise solution.
If marriage is impossible or undesirable, plans should be made for the girl to live away from her home community in the later stages of her pregnancy. Many institutions exist to provide kind care and sympathetic attention to unmarried mothers.
Often, they also arrange for the infant to be adopted, because the unmarried mother almost invariably lacks resources to provide the proper home environment for her child during his long years of dependency. The parish priest will know where institutions of this kind are located within convenient distance of the community where the girl lives.
When this procedure is followed, the unwed mother can return to her home without becoming the subject of a public scandal. Now, as during her pregnancy, her parents should display the Christian virtue of forgiveness. They should do all within their power to encourage her to turn from past habits and associations and to build a new life with courage and trust in God.
“Patience is a powerful help in married life. It controls and restrains strains angry feelings and outbursts of anger. It is a mature virtue that shows superiority of intellect, practical wisdom in daily life, strength of will, and a good, humble, and benevolent heart.
The more spiritual progress you make, the more patient and gentle you will become. Patience procures for you love and influence. It attracts people to you and is of the utmost importance in the family, since you spend so much of your lives together.” – Fr. Lovasik, Catholic Family Handbook https://amzn.to/2Dbcimb (afflink)
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