|Mom, little brother and I - before he was taken.|
By the time I was five, someone new had entered the picture. This American Airman was kind and gentle. I fondly remember playing circus, with him carrying me on his back, while my mother warmheartedly looked on. Things don’t always work out neatly, however. Red tape and language barriers between the Air Force, the United States government, and Germany greatly hindered attempted annulment proceedings. As a result, a civil marriage was performed and then a little sister was born into the family. I can still remember hearing that my baby sister had been denied baptism because she was born into an illicit marriage. My mother, however, tenaciously persisted and found a kindly old priest to confer the sacrament. To complete the family unit, I was also adopted and became the daughter of an American. By this time, any efforts to reunite us with my little brother had been exhausted. Our family of four moved to the U.S. without him; he could not be found.
Fast forward a few years, after assignments to several states and retirement from the Air Force, we settled in Dad’s native Kentucky. We had become a family of seven—Mom, Dad, and a collection of five children. There was still no annulment, but we had never lacked catechesis. We were all baptized, received First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and were frequently taken to Confession. The poignant vision of our mother, tears of joy (for us) and pain (for her situation) was impossible to ignore at each of these special occasions. As each of us matured in the faith life as Catholic citizens, she was our teacher, our champion, and immovable anchor. We never missed Mass, attended Catholic schools when available, and had priest friends who frequently visited our home. For all practical purposes, we appeared to be the optimal Catholic family, with one exception —our parents were unable to join us in an actively Catholic life.
A few years later, we were reunited with my missing brother, now an adult. He had been raised to think his father’s wife was his mother. It wasn’t until her death that he was told the truth: “She wasn’t your real mother. Your mother lives somewhere in Kentucky.” What a reunion that was! At last, all eight of us were united! It was a true lesson in faith, love, and hope. Our mother had surely illustrated a strong faith in the face of adversity. Mom died of breast cancer a few years later, at the young age of 58. Yet, she had been an incredible witness to us. She lived through many trials but never lost her faith. She even met her estranged husband at one point and offered her forgiveness. His comment to her? “There was one thing I could never break—your Catholic faith. I always respected that.” Her years of persistent love and hope had culminated in a family strengthened by adversity. She had illustrated, with her very life, what it means to live your Catholic faith.
All of us are adults now, with children and even grandchildren of our own. The Catholic faith persists as the most important thing in our lives. We have learned, from loving example, what it means to stay faithful—no matter where your choices lead you. Mistakes will be made but how you face the resulting strife, determines who you are. If nurtured and fed, Faith will always win out!
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Note: How My Mother's Mistakes Strengthened My Faith was first published at CatholicStand.com