Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
A mother's back-to-school prayer

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Sept. 8, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell Dear God,

It’s me, Mary. The new school year is starting down here. I guess you know that. I have mixed feelings about it. My heart is full of gratitude for my children and for all the opportunities they have. And full of hope for their future and all the ways they will grow in this new school year. But I admit I have a few worries, too. What mother doesn’t?

Will they do their homework? Will they get along with the other kids and their teachers? Will they be safe?

God, please keep my children safe this school year. The possible dangers, should I begin to list them, would be endless. Anything could happen at school it seems these days. I must not give in to fear. I will trust that you will keep my children safe.

Yet, I find myself pausing here in this prayer to wonder…. Mothers all over the world are praying, “Keep my children safe.” There are children who face violence, starvation, and disease today. I can’t help but ask: What power does prayer have? Can a mother’s prayer stop a child from dying in Africa where whole villages are perishing from hunger? Can a mother’s prayer keep a child from dying in Iraq, where guns are shooting and bombs exploding? Can a mother’s prayer keep a child safe here in America from school shootings, bullies, drugs, or eating disorders? God, are you still there? Do you hear my questions?

I know prayer is not magic. God, you are not like some wizard in Harry Potter who waves a wand and keeps children safe. And I know my prayer sounds no louder in your ears than any other mother’s prayer. For you love all children alike. Why do some prayers seem to be answered and not others?

I try to do what’s right, raising my children to say their prayers, go to church and obey the Commandments. I try to teach them to love and serve as Jesus did. But doing all the right things does not guarantee bad things won’t happen. I realize I can’t earn your favor. Following rules is not faith.

So what's a mother to do, God?

Through your Son, Jesus, you promised to be with us always. I will try to trust that you are with my children, and that you are with me. I will try not fear, but to love as you love. Just as I care for my own children, I must care for all children. You have chosen to trust fallible human beings like me in your grand plan to redeem the world. As parents, churches, communities and nations, we keep children safe, or not.

Whenever a child is hurt, whenever a mother cries, I imagine your heart is breaking. Our hearts must break, too. Prayer without action is empty. Prayer without action is not faith, but magical thinking. In the 14th century, St. Teresa of Avila is credited with saying, “God has no hands but our hands to do his work today.”

God, help me to do my part while knowing I rely on a power and wisdom much greater than my own. Help me believe in you, a God who is engaged in this world you have created, loving and forgiving, brooding like a mother hen over all the children whom you have given life.

God, who wills the best for all, bless my children as they start this school year. Amen.

© 2005, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, will be published this month by St. Anthony Messenger Press.)

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