Do Not Attempt to Carry Your Child’s Cross

What would have become of humanity if Mary had taken the Cross from Our Lord’s shoulders? With her firm, humble and detached attitude, She said “Yes” for the second time. The first time, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to Her that She would be the Mother of the Son of God; the second time, when She allowed her Divine Son to be crucified.

Newsroom (26/09/2023 09:00, Gaudium Press) Last week, I experienced an unusual situation that led me to deep reflection. On my way back from a birthday celebration, I gave a lift to a member of my family. The journey was going normally until I asked my relative how her son was. She started talking about the boy – and suddenly started crying convulsively, complaining of a strong pain in her stomach, followed by tingling in her arm and general feeling of malaise.

It happened very quickly, like an explosion, and the woman went from crying to screaming, which left me in a difficult situation. The other person accompanying us – who was on her way to a work appointment – quickly got the address of an emergency room in the area we were in that was covered by our family member’s health insurance.

Since we were close to her work meeting, I dropped her off and made my way to the hospital, with the woman screaming in the back seat. I was worried that she was having a heart attack or a stroke, but I soon realised that this was not the case, as she was screaming at every traffic light and was also very irritated by the distance and the heavy traffic (it was rush hour).

Her son knew what it was about

I started praying out loud and asked her to join me, which she did not do, but just carried on ranting. Although I did my best to drive faster and try to get to the hospital quickly, I realised that if she really were having a stroke or a heart attack, she would not even be paying attention to the traffic and I assumed, even though I am not a doctor, that it was certainly a panic or anxiety attack.

I accompanied her to the emergency room and, in less than five minutes, the doctor confirmed my diagnosis: it was an anxiety attack. Her son, who had already been warned by the person who had stayed at the work meeting, soon arrived at the hospital, where his mother had already been medicated and was calm.

After a little chat alone, the boy told me that he knew what it was all about:

“I am having personal problems and my mum takes it upon herself, tries to overprotect me and gets angry if I don’t act the way she wants me to. I just wish she’d leave me free to sort out my problems and that she’d realise that by doing this, not only is she not helping me, but she’s also making the situation worse and my life heavier and more difficult than it already is.”

Nobody understands me!

Two days later, I received a phone call from this relative. I assumed she was calling to thank me for helping her and I prepared myself to tell her that it was unnecessary, as I would help anyone in that situation, let alone a close relative. Her intention was not to thank me, but to ask for my support.

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She told me that her son was ungrateful, that she was doing everything she could to help him, giving him good advice, praying, and that he had been harsh with her, that he had asked her to stop trying to help him and even to stop praying for him. Outraged, she said that her son had asked her to “leave God alone”. When she began to suggest that I get involved and give advice to her son, who is a 45-year-old man, even though she treats him like a boy, I managed to have the presence of mind to praise his attitude.

“Your son is very mature. He’s right in the things he’s told you. That’s his problem. Did you see the situation you’re in? Follow the doctor’s advice, detach yourself from problems that aren’t yours.”

“Nobody understands me! You’re all against me! He’s even forbidden me to pray for him! I only want him to be well!”

“My dear, you know how much I love you. You’re a mum and you should keep praying for him, but just ask God to do what’s best for him and not what you think God should do. Pray in silence and let God act. Your son is an adult; this is his problem, not yours.

She started crying and raising her voice:

“But you don’t understand, I’m a mum…”

On the way to Calvary

I apologised and told her in a gentle but firm tone that I was not going to get involved in this matter, that I was relieved to know that her health was fine and that what had happened two days earlier was nothing serious. And I ended the conversation.

The next morning, I offered my Rosary for both of them and, while I was reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries, I had a very precious moment of spiritual enlightenment. Our Lady’s incomparable sorrow came to mind as She accompanied her Son through the crowds carrying the Cross on His way to Calvary. Since She was a mother and, above all, the Mother of God, I imagined the desire She might have had to put herself in her Son’s place and carry the Cross for Him.

However, She just followed Him, her heart bleeding with each of His three falls, tears streaming down her face as She listened to the insults of the mob who were watching this terrible event as if they were watching a circus show. Yet, She remained silent, taking her place, fulfilling her role. She saw Him mocked, crucified, given vinegar when He asked for water, and She did not leave the foot of the Cross until She received her dead Son in her arms.

Mary Says “Yes” Twice

There are no reports of Her screaming, raging, rebelling or even raising her eyes to Heaven and asking: “Why?” She knew that there was a purpose to it all and, even if She did not understand all the nuances of what was happening and what was yet to happen, She knew that God’s plan was being fulfilled, which is why She simply suffered in silence, making it clear to her beloved Son that She was there, entirely by His side, as She had been since the moment of the Annunciation.

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What would have become of humanity if Mary had intervened, if She had taken the Cross from Our Lord’s shoulders? With her firm, humble and detached attitude, She said “Yes” for the second time. The first time, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to Her that She would be the Mother of the Son of God: and the second, when She allowed her Divine Son to be crucified. Our Lady allowed the manger and allowed the Cross. She allowed birth and She allowed death. In this way, the resurrection took place and the divine plan for the redemption of the human race was fulfilled unchanged.

There is no point in talking to people who don’t want to listen

I wanted to call my relative and tell her all this, but knowing her and considering her stubborn and unbalanced state, I just recommended her to Mary’s precious hands. There is no point in talking when the person does not want to listen. I understand that her son is suffering, but it is an experience he needs to go through in order to come out stronger on the other side, to grow as a human being and become stronger in faith. If she keeps trying to stop it, she will end up getting really sick and she will take away from her son what could be the greatest opportunity for redemption that he is receiving in his life.

I wish this were a fictional story, but unfortunately it is a real one, in which, out of an excess of zeal, a person who had her life organised has allowed chaos to enter her heart and is living an ordeal that is not her own, thereby increasing the weight of the cross that her son has to carry, which would be much less painful if the mother did not interfere so much, trying to help in a matter that does not concern her and in which she has no way of helping.

This is not an act of love

Our children, however much we love them, have their own lives; they make their own choices; they sow what they want and we cannot reap for them or want them to pick flowers where they have sown weeds. It is painful, but it is reality. We can listen, give wise advice when asked, but without wanting to give solutions according to what we think is right.

We have to show them that we are by their side, we have their back, because that should be our role as parents. And pray for them with detachment, because prayer born of self-love often puts us in the position of wanting to bribe God to do it our way and leads to great frustration when things do not turn out the way we want, thereby shaking our own faith.

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In life, everyone suffers, including our children. Wanting to take away their pain or to suffer in their place is not an act of love, but an impediment that we place on them. By trying to prevent them from suffering, we end up preventing them from growing up, from freeing themselves and, often, from converting.

A father or mother who does everything they can to take the cross off their children’s shoulders is giving them the worst, making them weak and pusillanimous. Often, wanting to give them Heaven on earth, they take away their chance of salvation and push them straight into the abysses of hell.

Admitting that our children make mistakes, that they are human and therefore need to go through pain in order to grow is the greatest wealth we can give them. If the fathers and mothers of all criminals went to prison to serve time in their children’s place, on earth would be an impossible place to live. Love your children, but let them pay for the mistakes they have made.

There are things that only God can do

The ideal is to bring up our children well, especially to bring them up in the Faith, to teach them morals, to know how to say “No” and not to spare them from reprimands when necessary. Once this is done, our mission is accomplished, and all we can and must do for them is pray and respect God’s will and justice in their lives.

To take the cross off our children’s shoulders is to lose them and, in many cases, to jeopardise our own salvation.

If we do not introduce God to our children when we should, wanting to impose this on them when they are no longer under our wing is the easiest way to turn them away from faith and religion. We must trust in God and demonstrate this to our children with our attitudes, with the righteousness of our lives and with our knees bent in prayer.

We must never doubt that God does not forsake any of his sheep, but we must realise that the stray ones sometimes need to hurt and groan so that God can come to their rescue and save them.

There are things that only God can do and, as much as we love our children, interfering in God’s ways will only get in the way, because their problems are theirs and, if we are not part of the solution, we become part of the problem that will only make them suffer even more.

By Afonso Pessoa

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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