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“Ask a Priest: Mom Died, Dad Is Failing — Is God Punishing Me?”
Q: I lost my mother suddenly at the start of the year, and my father, who has terminal lung cancer, barely opens his eyes anymore. I have prayed and prayed and prayed for a miracle for him (and before his health took a turn I included my mother in those prayers as she was still living). I feel like I’m not being heard or that God has more important things to deal with than the likes of me. I am an only child and was born to older parents. For over 10 years I was their caretaker, and now at the age of 29 I feel my life, my purpose, slipping through my hands like sand in an hourglass. Did I do something to enrage God to put such a plight on both of my parents? I do believe, I do pray, but perhaps I am just not worthy. What could I have done to have both of my parents taken from me so soon in my life? My mother was very sudden, but my father … he lingers. I don’t know how much more I can take. – R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your mom and the ill health of your dad.
Your life has certainly not been without purpose. Your prayers and dedication to Mom and Dad are a great sign that God’s grace has been working in you.
The presence of suffering in the world can shake our faith at times. But when we look at the crucifix, we are reminded that suffering can have a redemptive meaning. Suffering is also a sure sign of love – Jesus’ love for us, yours for your parents.
You mustn’t think that God has abandoned you. You are his beloved daughter, and he is as close to you now as ever.
A mystery of our faith is that God has a way of testing those he loves the most. Just think of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the heartache she endured on Calvary.
Your fidelity to your parents in their declining years is a great witness of charity and family solidarity. We need more of that in the world.
Also, the need to help your parents these past years has probably helped you to grow in a lot of ways. I can imagine that you have a big heart and that your values aren’t centered on the frivolous things of this world. Not all of your contemporaries could say the same thing.
This would be a good moment to double-down on your prayer life. Try to see that Jesus is allowing you to share his cross in a profound way.
You do, however, want to try to look after your own psychological well-being. This means trying to network with others, and looking to maintain some semblance of a social life. Your life certainly isn’t over. And it hasn’t been wasted.
You have been loyal to your parents. You have stood by them in their time of difficulty. You have honored the Fourth Commandment. In a word, you have loved in the deepest sense.
My guess is that God is giving you the grace to become a saint. “If you knew the gift of God” (John 4:10).
Again, try to look for chances to network and socialize with others. You need a sense of community outside the home. To this end, “The Complete Christian: A Retreat Guide on the Calling of the Twelve Apostles” might help. Count on my prayers.
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Like you I am the child of older parents and they are long dead.
Your care of your parents should bring peace to your life as you will have no regrets as you did your best for them .As to the future your dedication and love will prepare you well to live out whatever vocation God has in mind for you