“Ask a Priest: What If My Sons Have Drifted From the Faith?”

Q: I have three sons who are young men living their life away from their faith. To some extent, away from their family as well. The oldest is 27, living with his girlfriend since two years ago. The second, gay, is living with a partner since a year ago. The youngest, 20, living at home, is in frontal battle with family life and a young man’s independence. I really, really struggle between loving my sons by expressing that love in deeds and accepting their voices and who they are becoming. I confess to be afraid of the day when I cannot be part of their lives, except in spirit. In the meantime, there are life issues that I have doubts with: When they visit, do I offend God by allowing them to stay as couples at our home? How can I humanly avoid my details of affection to their partners or partners, without falling into “acceptance/approval”? I greatly appreciate your advice. – A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: My heart goes out to you. It must be heartbreaking to see your sons, at least two of them, living apart from the ways of Our Lord. A few ideas might help.

First, people are on a spiritual journey. They might drift from the faith for a while; some find their way back with the grace of God.

This means that you want to keep a horizon of hope in view. Try to see where your sons might be in three or five years if you pray for them and sacrifice for them day by day. You are still their mom, and they still need you, whether they know it or not.

A corollary is to cultivate your motherly heart. Remember that it’s the devil who is usually tempting people to stray. The devil is the culprit here.

As a mom, you know the value of tough love. There are times when you need to say no to your children, even if they are adults.

You already seem to sense that it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to spend the night with their partners in the same bedroom under your roof. To allow this would amount to direct material cooperation in evil and possibly formal cooperation.

Here, you might want to make clear even before they visit that they wouldn’t be allowed to sleep together in your house. It’s better to say that now, rather than breaking the news at dessert time when they come for dinner.

As for the 20-year-old living at home, it is understandable that he wants to exert his independence. This is healthy to a degree. Here you might consider giving him as much as leeway as possible, while insisting that he shows respect to you and that he observes the moral norms you set for your home.

The thing that will help him mature is for him to pull his weight and to feel the consequences of his decisions. So it might not be out of line to ask him to make contributions to the household, for instance, by doing housework.

Young men need space to mature. They also need to feel those consequences of their decisions.

As for your sons and their partners: it doesn’t hurt to be charitable, even though their respective relationships are very different.

You might find it helpful to see our Retreat Guide A Mother’s Tears: A Retreat Guide on Our Lady of Sorrows.

In the short term, there might not be any easy answers. But keep up those prayers. And stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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