To honor St. John Bosco on his feast day on January 31, every parent should see the movie St. John Bosco: Mission to Love (Ignatius Press). While he possessed many talents, it was his juggling that impressed me most. Not just juggling balls, but juggling the little souls that God entrusted to him. Yes – he actually juggled souls. And before you get too impressed with him, this is what we parents do as well.
I have taken just one quote from the countless choices of wonderful lines in the movie to focus on, because it reminds me of the juggler’s task: “You have chosen a difficult path. It will require enormous sacrifices and deprivations. Helping abandoned kids will bring you great joy but also much grief.” If this does not describe the vocation of a parent, I don’t know what does!
The enormous sacrifices and deprivations that go along with parenting are too numerous to count. Loss of sleep, loss of finances, loss of social and leisurely pleasures, and yes, loss of tempers! Moving each child from left to right, we give everything to them, expending all of our time and energy. Then, powered by these loving sacrifices, we take a leap of faith, give them some independence and toss that soul up to Our Lord.
The great joys of parenting come when we watch those souls soar towards God. We find joy when we realize that they are His, and we are pleased with their progress towards Heaven. There is joy when we catch them praying, when they generously give during Lent, when they work hard at their studies, and when they happily express love without holding back. The smiles, the peck on the cheek, growing in virtue – these are all joyful moments because we can see that they are headed towards God.
But gravity and Original Sin being as they are, no matter how high they may go, there will be times when they fall from grace. And so, the grief begins. We catch them; we mend their wounds as best we can by directing them back towards God’s path, and the sacraments if necessary. Then, we move them from left to right and up to Him once again. No juggler would let his balls fall on purpose, and no parent should stand by as their children fall from grace. We must remain vigilant, watching and ready for the next fall whenever it may come.
There is no telling how often we will be tossing and catching their souls on a daily basis. There are some days when all four of my children soar above the clouds and out of sight. Other days, even when I keep them at eye level I can’t keep up with the speed in which they continually fall. This kind of perseverance is exhausting, but necessary if we are to master the art of parenting.
Watch this movie and glean from it all the rich lessons and examples of successful parenting. Notice how the children flourish under his care. Don Bosco did not force his will on any of the children. He gained their trust through genuine love, so that when they fell, they came back to him for help. Some could only be tossed just a little above his heart, keeping a watchful and loving eye on it while others he could toss so high you’d lose sight of them. Those souls would only come down just to touch base with Don Bosco, and off they’d go again, towards God and their sanctification. Just as it is the juggler’s task to catch the balls and toss them up again, it is your task, as a parent, to build trust between yourself and your children so that when they fall, they return to you for help. Be sure to be there to catch them when they fall. Show them love. Teach them contrition and how to use the sacraments, then direct them heavenward again. As their souls fly upward, this also represents all we have undergone for love of God – the sacrifices, deprivations, joys and grief. God welcomes this offering. After all, one of our greatest gifts to God is to return His children to Him in a state of grace.
Don’t lose your rhythm; don’t get so distracted with external activities and worries that you lose a child to the world. Persevere in your challenging vocation as a parent and juggler and don’t forget to ask for help when you need it! St. John Bosco, the master juggler himself, is ready and willing to obtain for you all the graces you may need.
St. John Bosco – pray for us!
Cassandra Poppe juggles her time between homeschooling her 5 children, homesteading, her husband and writing. She currently blogs at http://ourladyschildren.blogspot.com.