P. Stefano: School of Life for Families
"The expectation of meeting my son:
The desire to see him... the fear of meeting him"
The expectation of meeting your son usually generates two reactions:
1. A strong desire to see him.
2. You may experience fear, especially if you are seeing him for the first time and donít know what heíll be like.
Youíve had your son many years at home, but one could say that "youíve never really met him." After a few months of Community he may be different and has understood something. You as a parent have also matured. It is therefore a new encounter, unknown to both parties. You both see each other in a new way.
Let us review the different stages:
When you first arrived in the Community you unloaded the "package" at the gate of Saluzzo. When you got out of the car you said: "Stay here and donít come home!"
For the first few months when the telephone rang there is a great fear that it may be us calling to announce the sad news that things have not worked out. These first months are not very peacefull. You are afraid because you have heard from the parentís groups that your son is weak person who needs the Community. This fear remains for awhile and ususally a month or two will pass before parents are reassured. I doní know if there is peace yet but it is the first step towards tranquillity. You begin to breath again and have peace in your heart. You realize that your son is staying and you begin to experience trust.
Then what happens? The months pass and you begin to feel a type of nostalgia. You have unloaded a heavy package, but in a way you see it every day.Then the litany begins: "I miss him so much, I really miss my son...".
There is a great demand for news: "Where is my son? Which house is he in, which country? "
The Community festival approaches and you wonder: "Will I see him or not". The monthly magazine arrives. You examine all the photos but you donít find his picture. You try to call the office in Saluzzo. You ask why he doesnít write: You say ďDoesnít he think about us? Doesnít he realize he has a family?"
You may begin to have doubts about the Community and think: "They dont give me any news, they dont let me see him, they dont let him write. Itís fine to be strict, but this is really too much!".
You often see friends who agree with you in thinking something must not be right and that itís not fair that he canít telephone once a month etc.
Then you begin to write to your son. I am really amused to read the postcards that you loving parents or girlfriends write. You worry that he is probably working under the sun eight hours a day. Maybe he is even is in Medugorje breaking stones and your postcard from the Caribbean arrives saying: "Only you are missing! What a beautiful ocean, what beautiful scenery!". These type of postcards I burn immediately, because I know where they will lead.
Please understand! You have lost the sense of what your son is experiencing and the effect such a postcard will have when you write: "we are having a lot of fun, only you are missing".
Then if the Community phones you to say that your son has left you begin to think a bit more about yourself. This happens because the center of life and of everything we experience is still him. At the parentís meetings you only talk about him and with your friends itís the same thing. The other children are not there anymore and they get angry with the Community, where as you are the ones who are unbalanced.
Why does this happen? Because it is difficult to pass from him to us . Finally someone at the parentís meeting helps you to understand that you are not here for your son but for you. You should not only come to the group to have news about him, but to share how you are, how things are at home, what youíve been experiencing and not to know what heís experiencing.Often mothers come and ask: "How is my son". We normally answer: "How are you?"
Then, after many months of expectation, you begin to understand that world doesnít revolve around your son. Itís time that you begin to look inside and begin to understand your pathway. If he begins to pass his problems on to you and his disintoxication to disintoxicate the family, then a difficult change happens. There may be the temptation of run from the truth inside you. This is the reason you want to see your son, because you are afraid to see inside yourself. Actually itís not at all your son that you want since he only gave you problems and was the cause of all the problems at home. You still continue to see him as the guilty one..
For this reason the Community prefers that there is no communication for the first few months and does not allow you to see him. This is a type of protection. He has entered Community and itís better than you donít have any news. If no one phones you then sleep in peace. Thatís the way it is in Community.
Why does the Community cut the ties with your son that you seek through letters, telephone calls, etc? Your son is tryig to concentrate on looking inside himself and focusing on what is important for him, his problems and difficulties. What is happening in these first months? The first six months of a boy in Community are the most important because it is when he sees the things that count. He canít change them yet, but he sees them. In these six months of silence hi conscience begins to speak. The fog caused by drugs disappears as well as the confusion he experienced since he can no longer run away from himself. He canít use news from home as an escape so he is forced is to concentrate on himself with the help of the Community. During this time he becomes aware of his failures and the anger he has felt. He sees the situation with his family and that his character must change: the time of the truth has arrived.
This is also the time when parents must see clearly the path that your son follows in Community and all the things that must change.
The step that he makes during this time of silence is the same step that you should also take. The Community expects that you use this time of silence to look inside yourselves. You should take advantage of what is being shared in your local groups and ask yourselves: "My son was not the only problem at home. The fact that he strayed has revealed that we have other problems at home".
Why does the Community detach you from your son? You often think he is the only problem. Itís true that he has problems and thatís why you brought him to Community, but you also believe that all the problems of the family are centered on him.
Your son goes into Community and after the first enthusiasm of the family, the problems return. You still donít communicate with your wife. The other children are having difficulties. You go back to drinking, go to bars, and unfortunately all the house drugs are still present.
You need to be aware of your original thought; namely that the source of your problems was your son, except that now that the problems remain even though he is no longer present.
You need to ask yourself another question: "Obviously our sonís problems covered the other problems at home". This is the path: he was the inital problem. Our family is like a "tree" that needs healing and must find good roots.
Once the initial crisis has passed, your son realizes all the things that must change in his life. He is so consumed with this that he doesnít think to write. This is actually the main reason he doesnít write. He is living in a new world that shines light into his darkness and helps him to see the truth inside himself.
This may be painful for you. For him it is a positive sign since he can now concentrate on living his own life and not the life you projected on him.: This is why he has come to Community and it should give you joy to you to know that your son no longer depends on you. Finally he has started to look inside and for the first time is doing well you far from you. This is not a sin nor is it something ugly. Your son must mature and learn to respect you and the love that he will receive from you. He must also begin to be positive about his own life and to stand on his own two feet. He needs to make his own decisions and decide what needs to change. Evil is always present during this time. Your son or daughter, as well as all of us, do not fight alone with our wounds Drugs and a worldly life are a signs of satanís existence. They are the proof that evil exists and waits for the next opportunity.
When does evil approach us? In the life of Jesus it is very clear as well as for our own life: it is when we suffer that temptation is born. When you suffer the evil one begins to sing in your ear.
In the past years I have seen many boys leave the Community. The leave under the illusion that they are able to accomplish something. The evil one does not arrive like a monster that scares you. As we say in Community, he comes to you like a "beautiful woman" who makes your eyes dance. He bewitches you. Many boys after a few months think of the wife they have left. They think about their children and that they should go help them. All of a sudden your son seems to have become a "saint" and he deceives himself into thinking that he is capable of living correctely. He forgot who he was, although his wife children and parents have been there for many years and yet he never gave you all a thought.
This doesnít only happen to you parents. You often forget too quickly the suffering. Something that Elvira once said really hit me. She said we should remind the parents of what they suffered so they donít forget.
There is often a type of easy forgiveness which is not helpful to your son. In your heart you should forgive him, but he needs to know that he can no longer take advantage of you. Many times parents have the tendancy to melt when you see your son smile, that he is doing well and has a rosary in his hand.
I understand this and want you to keep this in mind. that We do this to help not to judge, but to see inside ourselves and be more positive about the encounter with your sons.
Considering the difficulties that we have sometimes experienced it doesnít take much for our feelings to fly off the handle. Try not to melt too quickly. This is what he expects. Allow your son to continue on his path. Donít believe everything he says and whatever he promises. Waits to see what his life has become. You melt so quickly that often when you see your son after six months you tell him to come home.
This is a big shame. Up until a few years ago it was the opposite because the same parents had to fight to keep their son in Community. Now the sons must fight to stay in Community against their parents who want them to leave. These are parents who are incapable of any introspection and admitting the truth about their own life. They prefer to have a dead son at home. Instead of facing the problems they prefer a beautiful "cover" to hide everything.
The first meeting takes place... and you canít wait to see him. We know how much joy there is in seeing a son who was dead. We are very happy that you can hug your sons again, that you can look them in the eyes and see how clean they have become. Your joy is our joy and it is not our intention to be substitutes for you.
You arrive and you see him! The first thing you say to him is: "You look great! Look how much weight youíve gained!" Maybe your daughter has even become anorexic and the past six months have been difficult for her. You see that she also looks happy now and begin to take a lot of pictures.
I want to give some advice especially for those who will see their sons for the first time: Donít give him any news that relates to his past. He doesnít need this! Your son needs to hear you talk about the present, about his experiences and yours. Experience the joy of the present and donít let him use your cellphone to make any calls if you have your cellphone with you. The boys know that this not allowed. Weíve already told them that when he sees you that the cellphone is off limits. If you let him use the telephone, he will also ask you for other things. You may turn off the phone and go home on Sunday evening happy. Your son, however, is completely disturbed from all the questions youíve asked. They are turning around in his brain and his psyche which are still very weak. You bask in happiness and go off to tell everyone how well your son.is doing. It is important to respect how hard it is for your son to meet you. He will probably not tell you everything and will not be very open. He is perhaps not able to share with you what he is experiencing. You need to be patient with him and not interrogate him. Allow him to be serene and free and able to just enjoy being with you. Let him breath because heís only just begun to breath. Talk to him about positive things that can give him hope and confidence without covering up the truth. Donít forget that they know you very well and can see through you. Show your support for him and your faith in the Community. This way you remove the doubts that may come into his mind when he sees that youíre pleasant and open. He may even think that he can worm his way back into the house.
Donít base your exchange on what he doesnít have. Even if there is something that he needs he is not dying of hunger. Donít send him things immediately because he is learning to trust in providence and to do without certain things. This doesnít mean that later on his outlook will change but itís better not to react to everything your son may say to you, especially do not emphasise material things. Donít let him see the bag with the new pants and designer T-shirt which gives a desire to buy things. You can give him gifts but donít let it be the primary object of your meeting or else the time together will be based on a material relationship. Your relationship has changed and the things that he likes he can wait for. They can even be given another day or to the leader of his house as a future Christmas present. If he asks you for designer clothes it only shows that he is interested in you for what you have and what you can give him. Your son must learn to respect you because you invest in the community, go to meetings and are faithful. At this point six you can tell your son that instead of only looking to you for material things that you would rather speak about life. You must change the dialogue from the material to a deeper level because you have rarely communicated on a deeper level with him even when you saw him everyday. The true basis of life is being, not having.
Meeting your son in a deeper way where he can share experiences is a new discovery. You have never known each other before and this is an important part of the Community.
Perhaps your son will tell you that he is not well or that he canít handle community life. Donít agree with him. Help him to fight and deal with the difficulties and not run away from them. Donít make things easy for him because thatís what you have always done in the past. When he doenít accept what you say tell him the door is locked at home. He may be going through a difficult time or perhaps heís under the illusion that heís doing well and wants to come home to help you. Tell him that first he needs to put his own life back together and then you will see. Ask Our Lady to help you convince your son that he can make it. If there is something that doesnít seem right to you, perhaps a specific difficulty in his house, then talk to us. Talk to the leader of your group, but not in front of him when in he is suffering. Otherwise he will try to use you like an escape hatch to run away. You must make him understand that this exit is closed. After sharing with us we can help him to see and understand if there really is a problem that his unable to deal with or if we need to intervene in a different way.
Perhaps your son is not present because the boys in his house didnít think it was the right time because you recently saw him during a pilgrimage. You can spend time with other boys who havenít seen their parents for some time. Donít think we do this to hurt you, but simply because itís not the right time. Try and receive the other boys as your sons.
The day after we can see the fruits of the meeting that you donít see. We see it on Monday morning when they get up and come down the stairs. We see if the barometer shows fog, nice weather, or a storm on the horizon. We can see it right away..
After the meeting the fruits are collected. One boy may have received a great encouragment from you because you noticed how much he has changed and that he prays. Perhaps he found out that you have been attending parentís meetings. You are very important for him.
There is also however the danger that he feels held back rather than pushed forward. Perhaps seeing you makes him feel abandoned again on the community pathway.
You are not aware of certain things that the Community asks. The boys know how they should behave because they live in Community. They know you should be involved and attend the parentís groups and listen to the Community. Remember that your son is aware that what the Community tells the parents are for his own good, even if this his hard for him to accept. We know this because we have taught this to them. We have learned from listening to them. Your son can take the easy way out. You need to show him that you believe the Community by acting according to what you think is right for him. At this point he can still trick you although he is hoping that you will see through him and make him pay for this trickery. Actually he will be very angry if you do let him get away with tricking you. His hope is in you and in spite of himself he is really saying: I need you! Help me to go forward.
If your son sees you change and that this change is not easy for you it gives him security and the will to go forward. He will also be proud of you. The day will come when he will thank you because you have not given in to him and you gave him a push in the right direction when he needed it. If your son asks to you to attend the parentís group donít make excuses because this will make him very unhappy. Or else, he will be able to manipulate you however he likes. On the other hand he will will feel betrayed. He will sense that you are not on the same pathway to a new life. Now for those of you who are not seeing your sons for the first time. Every meeting has itís own emotions and disappointments. For your sons this may also be the case. For you the disappointment may be that you see your son is still confused and lost. Perhaps the first time you saw him he seemed to have made a step forwared and this time he seems sad. The path your sons have chosen is long and tiring so be prepared for this type of disappointment. You should be happy even if he doesnít look you in the eye. Perhaps he is tired because heís been practicing hard for a performance. Or maybe he has the responsibility for younger boys in the community. These are all things that are difficult for him to share with you. I believe this is a sign of maturity. If your son has attained this type of maturity and still finds time to spend with you as well as performing the tasks the community has entrusted him with, itís a sign of maturity. This is especially true when he is able to accomplish these tasks. Perhaps you can give him a hand during the festival. The boys are always very touched if you do this and will often share how coherent your life has become. These actions are much more important than your words.
Perhaps your son meets someone and he is suddenly in a hurry to leave. As in the beginning the end is also a delicate time. It is another beginning for your son where he will be tested on how far he has come. This may be a period of confusion because it is an important time in his life. If you see he is in a hurry to leave and seems agitated, try and calm him down. Help him to understand that the community is not a prison where he has spent the last three years carrying out a sentence and now he is free. Help him to learn trust in the community and ask him if he has really chosen God, prayer and truth. Your help is important so that he doesnít fall into the trap of only thinking about the material aspects of leaving, such as finding a job or a girlfriend. Help him to consider his interior state and inner truth.
On the other hand maybe you as parents are impatient for him to leave. You may like what the community has done for him, but you think he is ready to leave. You maybe tell your son that he should start thinking about his future. You donít ask him if he feels he is ready or if he feels cleansed inside. You donít ask him if he has chosen truth, God, or honesty. You deal with him on a materia l level. I would say to you ďCalm down!Ē Leave your son room to develope his inner freedom. He needs to mature and learn to decide for himself. Donít force your projects on him and donít force him to get back on the ďladderĒ of your own plans for him. Respect him because he may need more time to prepare, to pray and to reach a decision.
You need to advance together on the path from things that you have heard which must now be integrated into your daily life. Your sons havenít been neglected materially at home. Itís more likely that theyíve been neglected on a deeper level and they sense that something is missing in their lives. You parents need to be aware of this try and live a deeper life as well.
The lesson here is to have understood that what really counts in life are the unseen things. The most important aspects of life are inside of us, what we experience in our hearts. We wish you parents during this time of Advent the expectation of meeting your sons. Together we want to support them and watch over them. Your sons meet He who comes at Christmas, who comes into their hearts to help them recognize what true goodness is. We pray that Our Lady would be with you to prepare and guide you.
I wish you all a great time with your sons and real encounter with the God of Christmas. Weíve examined this important moment together in Community life: the encounter with your son. Weíve looked at the different feeling and situations which may arise when you see your son. Weíve also touched on the fruits of this meeting so itís important to experience this prayerfully and not superficially.
Ask God to give you the right words to anticipate what your son has in his heart. That way you can help him stay on the right path and to choose correctly the best life. Thank you for coming.