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:
Following the star

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Jan. 17, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell There’s tongue-in-cheek quip that if it had been Wise Women following the star to Bethlehem, they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.

We’ll never know. But listening to the familiar story of the Three Wise Men this Epiphany, I wondered, what stars do I follow?

We’re all seekers, pushing through the undergrowth of distraction for the path leading to peace and joy. We reach through the darkness of struggle and sorrow for a hand to help us find the light.

When seeking Christ in our lives, that hand is most likely to be real flesh and blood, rather than a sparkle in the heavens or angels singing the good news. And if we’re not on the lookout, we’re liable to miss it.

Sometimes a star is shining, but we’d rather keep our eyes on our difficulties. For example, once I had a decision to make about my job. I agonized over two choices, both of which seemed unbearable to me. I prayed, but was frustrated that I seemed unable to find a course of action I felt good about.

I complained to a friend. She had great faith and would surely tell me what to do. But she couldn’t give me an answer. She did sympathize and said, “when I find myself in a tough spot, I ask: ‘God, what are you trying to show me? What am I supposed to learn here?’”

I had never looked at a situation that way. My friend didn’t make my choice any easier. She couldn’t promise God would solve my problem. But she helped me ask a new question which shed enough light for me to see a new perspective.

We want such stars to illuminate the way for our children. From the minute they’re born, we shower them with all the radiance we have.

When my children were little we said family prayers, went to Mass, celebrated holy days in our home and practiced works of mercy. I taught them not to hit each other or call names. I tried to let them make mistakes and learn from experience before the stakes became too high to risk. I hoped to teach them to think for themselves. I hoped to shine a beam strong enough to guide them, but not so intense it blinded them.

Eventually, our children grow into teenagers who have little use for our advice. At times I am the last person my kids want to listen to. So, we try to surround them with others who will also lead them.

My biggest fear is that my faith in the Gospel has not been a bright enough star for my children to follow. That instead of compassion and justice, my children have learned a bunch of motions to go through, and rules to follow. We never really know what our children are learning from us day to day.

Recently my husband and I were discussing a news item about relations between Christians and Muslims. I didn’t know my son was listening, until he piped up.

“Why are people the religion that they are?” he asked. “I mean, why are we Catholic and somebody else is Lutheran?”

I thought about that one. “Mostly, because they’re born into a religion,” I decided.

“Well, that’s a stupid reason,” he said. He reasoned our faith was an accident of birth.

If we’re in a fearful state of mind, it’s easy to worry that our children may stray off into the darkness. It takes faith to believe that whatever path our kids take, they will find God.

Epiphany means manifestation, or simply, shown. We celebrate our belief that through Christ, God is shown to us. Revealed in the life of Christ, God is a seeker of lost lambs, lost coins, and (you can bet) lost children. God even seeks desperately after parents, when we lose our way.

© 2008, 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, has been published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Contact her at

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