Dear Father Angelo, I am a 21 year old girl and I am asking you for some advice regarding my situation.
There are 5 of us in my family:my parents , two younger brothers , 19 and 15 years old and myself.
I love them a lot, but I feel different from them and misunderstood.
Although my parents are neither believers nor practicing Catholics, they made us attend catechism, receive sacraments including confirmation and frequent the oratory.
By such experiences – and having met many people of faith outside my family – I found myself eager to seek faith and to let it grow. I have been able to experience God very closely and I hope that this will continue in the future. As I told you, in my family I’m the only believer and practicing Catholic. I’m not comfortable with this. Sometimes I feel caged and unaccepted as I am. Since I have lived in another town several days a week for two years due to my university studies, I experienced a lot of independence and this allowed me to live my faith serenely: I can go to Mass every day, fast, pray before eating; all things that I hide from them when I’m at home together with my parents, for fear of being judged. They wouldn’t stop me from doing anything for sure, but too many times I’ve heard sour jokes about my faith and this makes me feel unaccepted.
My mother doesn’t say much: she just throws a few bewildered glances.
On the other hand, my father really bothers me sometimes. For instance, on December 26, talking with relatives, it turned out that on New Year’s Eve I would have taken part in a training course on love and affectivity. He said as follows: “You must know that my daughter is a convinced Catholic and she is going to go to a convent on New Year’s Eve”, making fun of me and adding that he is actually happy that I am in the faith, but that he gets bored in church and hopes never to become a believer. These episodes repeatedly occur when we are among relatives. My cousin as well made hurting jokes like that one on Christmas Day.
I don’t feel free to be myself, because I know that if I (were to tell) told them that I go to Mass almost every day, I am used to fasting, I regularly go to confession, I pray the rosary every day, I would be even more attacked.
Unfortunately, I don’t benefit from testimonies of faith in my family, except from some distant cousins, whom I seldom meet. My paternal grandparents were believers but they both passed away and now I really feel abandoned in fighting this battle alone.
Hiding one of the most beautiful parts of me, my faith, hurts me and I am sorry that my parents don’t realize that faith is the key for me to be who I truly am – actually, both of them tell me how proud they are of me and my achievements. They are not aware that by praising me they praise the One who inspires me, who made me as I am. Undoubtedly, without Jesus I would not be the same.
Another aspect to point out is this: I disagree on how my parents have raised my brothers. My 19-year-old brother smokes weed. Once he spent Boxing night at our grandparents’ house with a girl to whom he has recently got engaged. Not to mention that I found his weed in the bathroom and that he leaves condoms on the bedside table in his bedroom, which he shares with my youngest brother.
The latter, in turn, worries me when he listens to metal music and goes around wearing t-shirts with “death” logos and various skulls. I care a lot about him because I am his Confirmation godmother and it always seems to me that I am not doing enough for him, who has stopped going to Mass. But when I try to mention this to my parents, they tell me that I exaggerate, sometimes even that I am a bigot. Meanwhile they say almost nothing to my brothers, replying that they did those things too when they were young.
I cannot admonish my brothers, since my parents are the first to disagree with my views. Sometimes they say to me: ” Poor thing, your children, you won’t let them be at peace not even for a moment” and this makes me suffer even more. I feel a very strong vocation to family life and those kind of remarks make me really worry, because I heartily long to be a good mother to my future children and certainly not too strict
Lately I’ve been making up my mind to take a vow of chastity until marriage and I would like to tell them that to testify to my choice and talk about it, but this situation is destroying me and I’m afraid to fall apart.
Is it possible, father, that my parents would get less troublesome if I behaved according to the world? Is it possible that my brother, who smokes weed and changes girls in a short time, is less attacked than me? Shouldn’t my parents just be happy to have a daughter like me, who gives them less problems and worries?
The truth is that I love them very much, even if they do not realize it, and I wish that they too could experience the love of God. For this reason, I try to pray a rosary for them every day, in addition to the prayer of Sister Faustina Kowalska for the conversion of sinners, and also I always remember them at Mass. This is my real mission: I know that no one else would pray for them. When I happen to be at home for long times,, I am always torn because being with them makes me doubtful about my faith. This is also why I love staying away from home during the week.
A month ago a priest told me in confession that I have to rebalance the relationship with my parents. On the one hand I am looking for independence, while on the other I refuse it and would like something more from them. I think he is right. They are excellent parents but, perhaps because I’m the eldest daughter, I have always desired more affection, even just a “I love you” and more hugs. Not that they don’t show me love, but many times I need more physical and verbal demonstrations. Just because of my independence and strength it doesn’t mean I don’t need it. I’ve learned to defend myself from their judgments in this way.
What is your advice for me, father? Am I exaggerating or even too rigid? How can I show them, who are among the dearest people I have, my faith? I fear it would be useless to try with words. I wish they would see me changed in the way I behave, but I’m afraid they don’t notice anything. Is it true that I would be too rigid and severe as a mother? How do I keep myself steadfast in my faith and self-worthiness while still living with them? Thank you very much for your attention! I will remember you in my prayer!
1. your experience of Christian life reminds me of the one of a great French woman, Elisabeth Arrighi Leseur, whose beatification process is underway.
Coming from a Christian background, she was married to Felice Leseur, an official of the French colonies in North Africa. He, a non believer, put great effort in making her lose her faith.
When he realized he was succeeding, he had her read a book that purportedly would get her faith extinguished.
That reading had the opposite effect though, because she cross – checked between implausible statements in the book and the Holy Scripture, so as to verify their reliability.
Thus, keeping contact with the sacred texts, or rather with the One who spoke to her through those divine words, she felt drawn back to the Lord and started a great journey of Christian life.
2. It was impossible for her to talk to her husband because he would be bored with such issues and he would not understand anyway.
She only had to pray, and shortly after suffer and offer, as she was struck by an illness that led her to death.
During her illness she had a broad correspondence with many who were impressed by her deep spirituality, while at home she could not talk about that with her husband, because in no way did he understand her language.
3. All of this somehow mirrors your story as well.
Nobody in your house understands you. They appreciate your intelligence and talents, but they pity you for your faith. In their eyes you look like a poor woman, deprived of many experiences of happiness.
Just while you are experiencing an immensely deeper, more lasting, sweet and irresistible happiness.
It is the experience of one who lives in grace and feels that the words of St. Thomas Aquinas are true: “Whoever loves God possesses Him within himself (qui diligit Deum, ipsum habet in se) in accordance with the words of St. Thomas of Aquinas he remains in charity, he remains in God, and God in him (1 Jn 4:16) “(St. Thomas, In duo praecepta caritatis et in decem legis praecepta expositio).
4. Then came the moment of grace for Elisabetta Leseur’s husband. After his wife’s untimely death, he discovered that she kept a secret diary. Reading that she had offered her sufferings and her prayers for the conversion of her husband and perhaps seeing how the Lord had supported her,, he was struck and converted.
He immediately went to a great Dominican, Father Janvier, who at that time preached Lent at Notre Dame in Paris, and began his itinerary of Christian life. After five years he joined the Dominican order, became a religious man with the name of Albert, a priest, a preacher.
5. For you as well any word is inadequate to touch the hearts of your family members.
It is necessary for the Lord to touch them from within.
Only then will they understand everything.
6. While waiting for this moment, I tell you to go on as you are doing now and not to abandon any of the practices you have started.
If it’s true that God arouses in us the will and the work, as Saint Paul says in Phil 2:13, certainly those practices are inspired by the Lord.
7. In addition, I would tell you to put into practice what Pauline, one of the older sisters of Saint Therese, suggested to the future Saint on the occasion of her first Communion.
Here is what she wrote: «What I ask of Teresa is to seek every day all the means to please the Child Jesus, and therefore to offer Him all the flowers she finds on the road!
Goodbye, my little Benjamin, yes, pick all these little mysterious flowers we have talked about so many times; they are flowers that will not wither like the flowers of the earth, but will be preserved by the Angels to perfume the gardens of heaven and one day form your crown».
8. The Lord is offering you an opportunity after another to perform virtuous acts and immediately transform them into flowers to be presented to Him.
Teresa was happy to tell her sister that, in those days, she was not satisfied with offering the Lord just one flower, but with filling a whole basket with them and making a bouquet, as her sister had suggested.
9. Precisely by the virtue of these prayers and these continuous acts of offering and love to the Lord, one day Saint Therese will be able to write those great words that we should never forget: «Ah, prayer and sacrifice form all my strength, they are the weapons invincible that Jesus gave me, they touch souls much more than speeches, I have often experienced them» (Story of a Soul, 315).
10. I can say that the Lord’s strategy in the present situation of your life is precisely this: He allows the lack of faith of your parents, the almost null Christian practice in your family and sometimes even the brazen presence of what is contrary to God’s plan for human love, in order to lead you to greater holiness, to an ever-increasing capacity to love and, meanwhile, to make His way in the hearts of your family members and bring them all to salvation.
So keep going as the Lord has suggested you.
I gladly accompany you with my prayer and bless you.