Mother of a Seminarian
I am not usually a girl’s girl. I have always faced something of a challenge in developing closer relationships with women. So, it is not much of a surprise that when I converted to Catholicism I found it harder to identify with Mary, the mother of Jesus. However, a few years into my conversion experience, about fourteen years ago, actually, God began answering my prayers about this need in a most unexpected way.
That was the year my eldest son, Jonathan, then fourteen, entered the minor seminary with the Legionaries of Christ in the ninth grade. Before Jonathan went to the seminary, I specifically told the Lord that I knew Jon had a personal relationship with Him and that He would lead him into His perfect will for his life. I was very confident of this. That confidence, however, did not prepare me, or quell my shock and dismay when Jonathan actually did express a desire to stay at the seminary long term! The Lord reminded me ever so gently, “… Jo, you said you trusted Me to lead him….” I replied, “But Lord, You didn’t ask me for permission or warn me or anything about it before You did it!” Even as that thought was forming in my mind, I knew that it was not my prerogative to act as the gateway to my child’s life and that I had indeed already affirmed my confidence in the Lord to accomplish His perfect will in Jonathan’s life. In fact, I know now, that this ‘conversation’ was a pivotal moment in a great drama of drawing nearer to Him, and to His Mother, for me. At the same time in this exchange in prayer, I realized that Jonathan was never coming ‘home’ again – I had relinquished him to God and He was indeed His own to direct according to His purpose, and, in our case, that meant he was effectively gone from us. As I considered this reality, I felt as if Mary came close to me and invited me to begin to share in her life and experience in a new and profound way.
I think I cried every day for the first six months, and then every other day for the next six months of that first year in school for him. Every time I prayed the joyful mysteries of the Rosary and came to the Presentation, I was in tears all over again. However, in the midst of this sense of loss, I came to develop the understanding that I could be closer to Jonathan in the Real Presence of Jesus in prayer, than even if he was living under my roof all the time. These beautiful consolations, however, did not stop me from trying to find some other way, any! other! way! to bring him back home to us for even a short time before this leaving forever for the sake of the gospel. So, I found a Legion-affiliated high school in my area and applied for him there – he won a full scholarship with all kinds of perks, a computer, a trip abroad for study, etc. So after that first year at the minor seminary, we toured the local school and discussed the possibilities. Jonathan thought the school close to home was wonderful and he was honored and very grateful for the opportunity they offered him, but he turned to me and said to us, “Mom and Dad, I know this is a great opportunity and could be a wonderful scenario for me here, and I will do whatever you ask of me, but I really believe I am supposed to be at the Apostolic School.” This time, there was no escape for me from the facts of the Lord’s will in this situation. So, I finally really did concede all things to God and His plan. I was overcome with the beauty of the work of God in this situation, although it was incredibly painful for me in so many other ways. Perhaps it was my own participation of the Finding in the Temple.
Through these many years of Jonathan’s priestly formation, as a high school student, seminarian, young Legionary brother, etc., I have become aware of a variety of aspects of the sacrifices made by religious and priests for the sake of souls. I have found my heart expanded in ways that give me a profound love and regard for priests and religious, and for any who care for them or for whom they care and lead. I know Jonathan belongs to everyone, especially the Legionaries and Regnum Christi family, but also to all Catholics, and in actuality, to every soul and he bears responsibility for laying down his life for all for the sake of the Gospel. I find myself joining him in that ministry and apostolate in practicality and in spirit all the time. We bend to the rule of his order, in the little things, like how often he can visit us at home and talk with us on the telephone, and in the larger things like his poverty. I depend on others to provide for him where he is and as they notice his needs; and I, in turn, try to provide for those around me as if it is my part in caring for Jonathan by extension, or in repayment for the gifts of prayer and material assistance given to him by benefactors. I offer my humble gratitude to countless folks I do not know, for their love and provision for my son and all his brothers in religion. I am with Mary as the Mother beholding my son… as if, through Brother Jonathan’s formation, I join him in his vocation and become one who carries Mary’s maternal loving concern for the whole human race deep within my heart, in union with my son’s sacrifice of a life of prayer and service to the world in drawing others to Jesus.
At the Wedding at Cana, Mary approached Jesus to ask for his supernatural help with the problem of the wine. Jesus, in that moment, posed his response to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with you and Me, my hour has not yet come?” as a type of request and reality check about an impending shift in their relationship, and she knew what He meant. When he called her ‘Woman’, He spoke to her about her role as the new Eve, whose seed would crush the serpent’s head, but Whose heel the serpent would strike as well. This was indeed a new moment for her. Up to this time, Jesus had been living with His Mother and foster-father in submission to their desire to have him in their care. His foster-father, Joseph, had passed away and He was caring for His Mother in her widowhood. But, in this event, He was asking her if she was now prepared for Him to enter into the fullness of doing His Father’s Will. Mary, knowing He was never coming ‘home’ again, affirmed her Fiat!, her whole-hearted acquiescence to the salvific plan of the Father, by responding to the world with the faith-filled exhortation: “Do whatever He tells you.”
When Jonathan is ordained, I hope she will give me every grace to live and respond, even more fully, with the same Fiat! of encouragement and testimony about the home we all find together deep within the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our Lord. May we all, always, with her help, “Do Whatever He tells you.”
Art: Mirror detail of Clerical Clothing, KF, 11 September 2005, PD-Worldwide; modified detail of Lamentation of Christ in Erfurt, sculptor unknown, c.1480, photographed by Andreas Praefcke, 2007 own work, PD-Worldwide; detail from Crucifixion, Evgraf Semenovich Sorokin, 1873, PD-US copyright expired; detail from Codex Egberti fol. 20v. Weinwunder auf der Hochzeit zu Kana (Codex Egberti [created for Egbert, Archbishop of Trier, 977-993] fol.20v. Wine miracle at the wedding at Cana.), anonymous 10th century monk, 10th century, PD-US copyright expired; all Wikimedia Commons.