You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.
My family which includes my parents, my brother and I were an ordinary Catholic family who lived in the Gulf. We went for Sunday mass and prayed regularly. My parents were both God fearing Catholics and despite their busy schedules, they brought us up well.
However, that’s where the fairytale ends. Like any other family we had our weaknesses. For starters, mom and dad would find it very difficult to agree on anything resulting in an argument more often than not. My brother and I found it better not to take sides and we tried our best to restore some peace.
When my mom, brother and I moved to Mangalore, India, we had other matters to deal with; my grandmother, whom I had the hardest time forgiving. She didn’t really like us and would do her best to create misunderstandings among us. I really hated what she did, but being taught from a young age not to back answer my elders, I did my best not to scream at her.
Staying away from dad affected us in a positive as well as a negative way. Mom had to learn to manage a lot of things on her own, including taking care of my grandmother; while my brother and I had to do a lot of the household chores to help mum out. On the downside however, we all missed dad. The long distance put a strain on my parent’s already fragile relationship and taking care of all the responsibilities caused my mom a lot of stress. My brother however, seemed the most affected since he had no man to look up to, and was always surrounded by two highly emotional ladies (me included)
I myself was no perfect child. While my brother was trying to learn how to groom himself into a man, I was lost in my own world. I was a strong believer that fear is for the weak and weaknesses are for sissies. I would always try to show the world that nothing could hurt me. There was an invisible wall that I created around me that affected my relationship with the members of my family. It not only worsened the already deteriorating relationship with my grandmother, but I now started resenting my mother too, which eventually translated into a resentment of women in general.
In the midst of all this chaos, the Lord led me to the CFCI community at the age of 14. During the pray over at my intake camp, I had one clear prayer in my heart, to be able to love my mother more. But after the camp, nothing really changed, no “magic happened“, things were as bad as they previously were.
I believe that it was these crosses in my life that helped me grow as a Catholic. My prayer time gradually improved and over the years that prayer that I had made for my mother grew to include my entire family. I prayed that relationships may be healed, that understanding may grow, that I would be able to forgive my grandmother, that my father would settle in India soon, that my brother would grow to love the Lord; the list was endless and I cried every time I brought my family before God.
I must say that it wasn’t easy. There were times when I would just stop praying, thinking that nothing was ever going to change. There were many times, when even though I prayed with my lips, my heart was full of doubt. Nevertheless, in whatever little capacity I could, I prayed for my family for 9 whole years before I began seeing some fruit.
Slowly but surely, I was able to forgive my grandmother. This was followed by the realisation that I had a lot of unforgiveness towards other members of my family too. The Lord also opened my eyes to show me how I was living a double standard life by being very concerned and caring in the CFCI community but being lazy and self centred at home. I then began asking God to show me how I could be an instrument of healing in my family. By now, I had shifted to Bangalore to pursue further studies and hence I couldn’t physically be with my family. I however, made it a point to talk to my family with a little more love, be genuinely interested in what was happening in their lives as well as share what was happening in mine. I also kept claiming this Bible verse for my family daily:
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
The Lord then led me to fast for my family and prompted me to offer the “Divine Mercy Rosary” for them daily. It was during one of my customary visits for adoration to the Blessed Sacrament, that the Lord revealed something beautiful to me. I saw a vision of a big bundle of scrolls tied up together. They were old and dirty and I didn’t know what they represented. So I asked God and He said: “These are the sins of your forefathers“. The Holy Spirit then led me to pray the Divine Mercy Rosary and as I did, I saw the bundle burn away until nothing remained, not even the ashes. Then I saw a huge tree with a golden kind of liquid flowing from the top all the way to the roots, and the Lord said “Hold on to this, this is my promise for you“. I was overjoyed! After all these years I had something to hold on to. But the doubts I had still lingered.
It was during a retreat that I subsequently attended, that the Lord inspired me to seek His mother’s help to bring healing into my family. From that day onwards, I began offering at least one decade if not the whole rosary for my family. With Mama Mary on my side, things kept getting better. As St. Josemaria Escriva writes,
“Before, by yourself, you couldn’t. Now, you’ve turned to our Lady, and with her, how easy!”
My father who likes to have a peg daily has been working hard at stopping it completely. He has even been initiating and encouraging my mother to say the rosary while travelling and from time to time shares how God is helping him in his work. My parents talk more lovingly to each other. They do have their disagreements on and off, but by the end of the day, they are at peace with one other. My mother joined the community in 2015 and has been growing in the Lord so beautifully that you can’t but see the joy on her face. She has even started praying for the people whom she struggles to forgive.
I always feared for my brother. He was one who didn’t feel the need for an intimate relationship with God and who felt that going for mass on Sundays was enough. Seeing his deep love for politics and the way he studied about communism, I feared that he may one day become at atheist. But the Lord seems to be working on him as well. I am very sure that one day, he too will testify about Gods work in his life.
As for me, I still struggle with laziness and being self-centred when I’m at home. God continues to make me aware of that while Mama Mary teaches me to serve more in my family by being a patient listener, a gentle healing voice or even by helping out around the house instead or sleeping, texting or watching TV.
My prayer for my entire family is that one day
every knee shall bow to the Lord, and every tongue shall give praise to God.