Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sacrificing One's Child

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

One of the inhabitants of the Thebaid came to see Abba Sisoes one day because he wanted to become a monk.

The old man asked him if he had any relations in the world. He replied, “I have a son.”

The old man said, “Go and throw him into the river and then you will become a monk.”

As he went to throw him in, the old man sent a brother in haste to prevent him. The brother said, “Stop, what are you doing?”

But the other said to him, “The abba told me to throw him in.”

So the brother said, “But afterwards he said do not throw him in.”

So he left his son and went to find the old man and he became a monk, tested by obedience.

Of course, there is the similarity to the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac, but there is some personal meaning here for me.

I have a daughter. She’s an adult, but not married, still living at home. She hopes to be married in the next year or so, and of course children will come along after that, according to God’s timing. I wonder often what my responsibility is as a grandmother.

So, suppose it happens – she marries and becomes pregnant. The question in my mind goes like this: if my husband precedes me in death, am I free then to pursue the vocation that seems to be mine – that of a hermitess? Or should I remain as I am, as a helper to my daughter and her family?

Sometimes it seems to me that I should make myself available to help my daughter, especially as more children come along. Other times, I think that, well, she is an adult; she will have to make her own way.

I put the question to my spiritual director. I told him I thought that because of certain issues in my past, it seemed to me that it might be the right thing to stay close to my daughter and help her as needed, as a sort of penance for my own failure to be open to life. But he said he thought it was a distraction from my vocation. He said that as long as my husband is alive, then yes, I am in this lay state of life, married; therefore, doing what we can to help our daughter is appropriate. But if I become a widow, then the door is open to the vocation that has been pursuing me for almost a decade.

I know that I would struggle with the decision, though. 

God’s will be done.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

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