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Sons and Daughters

by Msgr. Robert L. Stern

God spared my mother until she was 90 years old. Even during her dying days, she found time to marvel that she had become the mother of a priest. Somehow this had exceeded her fondest imaginings.

After she died, I found a little “baby book” she had filled out about me while I was an infant. How many hopes and dreams she and my father had for me and my sister, their only children. How much they sacrificed for us, that we would have opportunities denied to them.

It was only after both my parents were gone that I realized how much we, their children, were the real fulfillment and lasting achievement of their lives.

Imagine the parents of a little six-year-old girl in Baghdad. As a newborn infant, her sparkling black eyes were the joy of their young lives. What dreams they had for her – how she would grow into a comely young woman, the handsome young man she would wed, the grandchildren she would give them.

What indescribable anguish and pain for her parents to watch her stunted growth, because they could not find the food she needed. What an indescribable loss for them, to see her die of a curable childhood illness because no vaccine could be found for her.

In the lowlands of Eritrea, rural life goes on as centuries before. Simple farmers and herders live in their straw and mud cottages, scattered across the African savanna.

Maybe their hopes for their children are simple too, but still great expectations for their simple world. What satisfaction to see a son grow up straight, tall, strong and agile. What pride to see him learn the work skills for survival, master the intricate songs and dances of his culture, and gain the respect of peers and elders.

What a crushing blow one day to have someone from the “government” come to induct him into its army and send him to fight a meaningless battle in a meaningless war from which he never returns.

Put yourself in the place of a Jewish youth who fled Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and who almost miraculously escaped the destruction that befell all his family.

Israel offered him new hope and new life. There he wed and, full of great expectations, raised children of his own. What pride mixed with dread must have been in his heart to see his sons and daughters drafted into the endless conflicts that are the lot of his new land.

“Killed in southern Lebanon” is the message that tells of his daughter’s death. What a brutal awakening from so many wondrous, hope-filled dreams.

See the tears streaming down the face of a Palestinian mother as she tenderly washes the dead body of her young son. No soldier he, no daring youth, just a schoolboy who happened to be too near a place where stones and bullets were flying. Dead in an instant was his young life and the meaning of hers.

O Mary, remember all of us, you whose hopes, dreams and great expectations – all the bright promise of Bethlehem – died with Him that day on Golgotha.

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Msgr. Robert L. Stern, Secretary General of CNEWA



Tags: Children