Today we will focus on the inherent mercy of motherhood, Counsel the Doubtful.
This work of mercy goes hand in hand with instructing the ignorant. As our children grow, so does their doubt. I am reminded of the parable of the sower and the seed: “But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold” (Mt 13:23). We are called to tend to the soil of their hearts, making it rich and able to yield much fruit. In the early years, it begins with small doubts: Why do they have to be kind, or patient, or quiet? As our families grow older, their doubts about how they need to treat others, beginning with one another, grow as well. The domestic church you are growing and grooming is the perfect nucleus, not just for counseling them in their doubt, but for allowing them to articulate that doubt freely, because eventually those doubts become bigger.
I have one son who is particularly quick to doubt. He always wants to know the reasons “why,” and injustice enrages him (full disclosure he is a lot like his mother). Four years ago, when this son was almost four, we lost his little brother, Gabriel, when I was almost twenty weeks pregnant. Obviously, this was devastating to us all, but it was my sweet four-year-old skeptic who began asking very hard questions about the goodness of God and the efficacy of prayer. In his grief and sadness, he doubted the goodness of a God who would let his brother die; he also doubted the power of prayer because we had been praying daily for a full-term baby. I remember being so grateful that he was still small enough to bring those doubts to me, that his first response was to tell me he would not be praying anymore because God does not answer prayer. In that moment, I could be Christ to my little, hurting doubter. I could begin to unravel for him the mystery of suffering and the gift we have as Catholics to unite that suffering to Christ’s. I could also remind him that he was not alone in his doubt, that even his daddy and I were struggling with doubts as to how this could be the perfect and loving will of God, and we could pray together for the consolation and peace of a God who loves us so much he catches the tears we shed in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).
God has entrusted our children to us so that we may counsel them in their doubt, so that we will point them to the truth, to his love and his mercy. But most importantly, we are reminded that he is present in our doubt. When we doubt ourselves, when we wonder how on earth we can explain suffering and death, or the ugliness of the world, he is present to us. We are not alone in this! We have the great richness of our faith, our Blessed Mother, the saints and the doctors of the church to guide us, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit and these Works of Mercy that remind us he is always at work in and through us. Philippians 1:6 affirms us that “He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Do not grow weary, dear mother. You are about your Father’s business!