Life First

A letter to parents of the graduating class of 2017

By Father Don Braukmann/Parochial Vicar - St. Philip’s, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington

Over the years I have written an annual column to graduates encouraging them as they enter the next chapter of their lives. I always wrote as if I were writing to my own nephew or niece including what I would want them to hear from someone other than me. This year, I am more aware of the support the parents of seniors may need!

For some parents there is a feeling of grateful relief! “We got them through high school and now they are on their own! Alleluia!” For others it is a bitter sweet time of remembering the first day of kindergarten for their “baby” and how proud they are now when pictures are taken at prom or high school graduation. For others, especially if the youngest is graduating, it is a time of anxiety. After so many years with kids in the house they face an empty nest!

Finally, and these are the parents I am writing to this year, there are the parents who worry they have been failures in raising their children. It may be discipline problems at home and school, poor grades, or their child suffers from an addiction.

The feeling of failure I come across most in parents is when their child’s faith in God and the Church goes dormant or seems to die altogether. Any priest can tell you of the heartache we often hear in the reconciliation room from parents grieving children who have wandered away from the faith and somehow blame themselves for the heartbreak.

In the end, in my opinion, it comes down to this: Parents, you have done what you could with the faith, inspiration and gifts you had while raising your graduating son or daughter. No more guilt or shame, live your life and your faith and trust your example and witness will carry the day in the end.

You know, in your heart, there are many voices in the world that are not your own, nor the Lord’s. Those voices are loud, tempting, seductive and gripping.

I bet when you graduated from high school yourselves you did not rank your parent’s opinions in the top 50 which carried any weight! It is only later in life that we learn the wisdom of our elders!

One of our great saints of the 4th century, St. Augustine committed every sin you can name during his youth and into his adulthood. His mom, St. Monica, abhorred his actions and then prayed for 30 years that God put someone in her son’s life to remind him who was ... whose he was ... Jesus Christ’s! The prayer was answered all those decades later when St. Ambrose stepped into Augustine’s life and the rest is history ... Augustine is now known as Saint Augustine!

As a priest, especially after being in a parish over several years, it is hard to watch so many members of one confirmation class after another wander off into the septic tank of our society and suffer from dementia when it comes to their faith. As priests, our hearts ache right along with a parent’s blaming ourselves for not having “done enough, taught enough or cared enough” to help them see what we, by the grace of God, already see.

St. Monica could have blamed herself for the actions of her son, Augustine. Instead, she fell to her knees for 30 years praying for someone like St. Ambrose to step into her son’s life. That is what I pray for at each Confirmation and graduation I attend. “Lord, I have done what I could with what I had and with what I knew ... send someone to guide them the rest of the way home.”

An organization called “Casting Nets” ( was recently in the parish for a Lenten mission. They shared with us two prayers. One asking for the intercession of St. Monica and, the other, the intercession of St. Ambrose. I offer these prayers to you, parents, as you nudge your kids out into this crazy world.

St. Monica, as you prayed so faithfully for your son’s conversion to Christ for many years, I ask for your intercession as I pray for my loved one. Please grant them, by the power of the Holy Spirit, clarity of mind and purity of heart according to the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Church, so that they will have the courage and conviction to live in knowledge, love and service of Jesus Christ in this life and the next. Amen.

St. Ambrose, you were sent as an answer to the prayers of St. Monica for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine. I now humbly plead for your intercession to send someone, like you were to St. Augustine, into the life of my loved one. May they be led to know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the truths of His most holy Church. I pray that I may be a fit instrument in and not an obstacle to their conversion, and that I may have the wisdom to see the difference. Amen.