“Ask a Priest: How About a Mom Who Kicked Her Son Out of Her Life?”

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Q: I met a family through church many years ago. Our sons grew up in the church together and were friends for many years. We have very different parenting styles, but we have always loved each other regardless of our differences. My friend’s oldest son, whom I have known for 12 years and whom I love, has recently become lost. He couldn’t seem to find his way. My friend wanted him and his pregnant fiancée to do things the way she wanted, and because he wanted to do things differently he was kicked out. They were staying there to save money for a car and an apartment. He had no car, no phone, no money, no food and no place to go. It was the coldest night of the year and she dropped him off at a storage shed with his pregnant girlfriend and walked out of his life. She told me all of this. I am having a really hard time being around her right now. I think there were so many things that could have been done to help these two young kids — they aren’t on drugs or destructive or anything like that — and instead I feel she abandoned them when they needed her the most. What is really hard for me is it’s like she has just moved on — she went home and cooked a big special dinner to cheer herself up (all I could think about was her son was hungry). She is a pillar in our church and runs a Catholic blog where she writes about helping those in need, giving of yourself, and other topics that I can’t even read anymore because I feel she’s a hypocrite — I hate even typing that word. I hate that I feel this way. I know I am not supposed to judge her. I love my friend and I don’t know how to get past this feeling I have — just disappointed, sad, disheartened. Father, what can I do? I have been praying daily and I cannot seem to shake this feeling in my heart. -J.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: What you describe is a sorry scene. Your feelings about the whole situation are understandable. There is no need, I think, to try “shake this feeling,” but rather to keep bathing it in prayer and using it to motivate yourself to constructive action.

Let’s say at the start that we don’t to fall into the trap of judging your friend. We probably don’t know all the details.

That said, where do we go from here?

First, it would help to pray for your friend as well as for her son and his girlfriend.

Second, you might see if there is anything you can do to help the young man and his girlfriend. Even a small gesture of support might help them — and help them avoid making another kind of mistake. What they need now is a reason for hope.

This pregnancy is by no means the end of the world. All things considered, their unborn child is precious and loved by God, and the couple themselves can bounce back. It’s just that they have a lot of growing up to do, real fast.

Perhaps you can direct them to some kind of structured help. Crisis-pregnancy centers could offer help, for instance.

Third, you might look for a moment to sit down and speak with your friend heart to heart. The fact that she has a Catholic blog, etc., could indicate that she has high ideals and high standards in regard to the faith. Thus she probably feels deeply disappointed by her son. Besides sharing your own impression of the situation, it might be useful to hear a fuller explanation of her own point of view.

Nevertheless, she might be missing the forest for the trees, overlooking the fact that charity is at the heart of the Gospel and that mercy and forgiveness are crucial ingredients in the life of followers of Christ.

Perhaps her break with her son is her way of trying to deal with what she perceives as an overwhelming challenge. She needs to be encouraged to see that this crisis isn’t the end of the world but rather an opportunity for her to show a different level of love for her son.

This isn’t to say that she should take on all the responsibility for her son’s situation. He got himself into this pit; he needs to work to get out of it. Still, your friend needs to think about the long term. Does she really understand the consequences of excluding her son and his girlfriend and her grandchild from her life?

If she doesn’t reach out to him, it might be much harder for him to get back on a good path. How will he learn of God’s mercy if his mom remains so aloft?

Perhaps you could encourage your friend to read the bull of indiction of the Year of Mercy. She might also benefit from our recent retreat guide “Father of Mercies.” Whether these will help change her heart is anyone’s guess. But it’s a start. I hope some of this helps.

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