Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thorny Mercy

I am pleased to introduce Heidi Bratton to you today at "Catholic Moms Talk." Heidi is amazed to have found her niche as a wife and a mother of six children ranging in age from 4- to 22- years old, the author and photo-illustrator of fifteen Christian children’s books, a Catholic columnist and speaker, and a professional photographer all at the same time.  She’s not amazed to be in constant need of an uninterrupted nap!  To learn more about Heidi’s newest book, Homegrown Faith; Nurturing Your Catholic Family which is endorsed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and all Heidi’s Christian family resources, please visit her website at

You know, I’ve got an unruly family tree.  Actually, it’s probably more like a family bush; an oversized, wild rose bush which produces both massive thorns and massively beautiful flowers. The flowers are gorgeous to be sure, but the thorns can cause such wounding and pain that I’m regularly tempted to avoid contact with whole branches of the bush. A recent conversation with one family member, however, convicted me of the need to remain engaged.  

Calling to try to reconcile a hurtful string of events, this family member said, “You know, it was easier for me to hang out with all those friends of mine who, - I know, I know, so, you don’t need to remind me - weren’t good for me, than it was to hang out with you.   They didn’t care if I missed Mass on Sunday.  They didn’t care if I drank too much.  They didn’t care what language I used.  They didn’t expect me to be “better” than this or that, or to try to see the glass as half full.  They accepted me as I was, but with you it is always this need for more of God’s grace or for seeing the glass as half full.  I’m not perfect, you know, and neither are you!” 

Of course this was a sword-like thorn piercing my heart, and my whole body began to tremble. I do not want those that I love to avoid me or to not feel accepted by me. My fight-or-flight instinct kicked in big time, screaming for me to either hang up or jump to my own defense immediately. Mentally submarining my biology, I forced my mind to recall the contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 2447, which lists the ‘bearing of wrongs patiently’ as one of the spiritual works of mercy. As soon as I did this, it became clear to me that our conflict wasn’t about acceptance, but about the nature of love. 

“Look, I am sorry you felt more comfortable hanging out with those friends than you did with me,” I replied in a somewhat shaky voice. “That is not how I want our relationship to be, but you, yourself, just identified the essential difference between them and me.  You said your friends didn’t care, and from what you’ve said, they still don’t. And not only didn’t your friends care about your actions, they didn’t care about you!  Where are those all-accepting friends now? They are out there somewhere, still not caring about you, what you did or do, or how it affects what you are going through today. But I am here taking your phone call and getting stuck in this tangled and hurtful conversation. Why? Because, I do care.  I do love you.  And, I know you don’t want to hear it, but it’s because I care, that I still want what’s best for you, not just what’s easiest.”  I hated being in that thorny conversation, but if I had hung up or tried to fight against how they were feeling, from where else was this person going to hear even the tiniest bit of truth spoken in love?

Love cares. Love doesn’t turn a blind eye. Love bears wrongs patiently by waiting for the right moment and praying for the right words to speak the truth in love. For Catholic moms this means not taking the easy ways out when interacting with family members, if those ways are not also loving. Love wants not only what is easy or good for now, but what is best for now and always. In order to enjoy the flowers on my family bush and for the privilege of influencing their growth positively, I am learning to embrace and patiently endure the unavoidable piercings from the thorns. In this choice I have the ultimate example of “him who was pierced for our transgressions,” and I hang onto the promise that “it is by his wounds that we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3). 

~Heidi's newest book, Homegrown Faith; Nurturing Your Catholic Family, (Servant Books) is a great companion for busy moms (and dads!) in this Year of Faith.


  1. Heidi, so nice to meet you and glean the wisdom from your words. I have a similar mix of thorns and flowers in my family. It gets messy. But you're right that perseverance is so important. That hard work will pay off. Glad the Catechism came in handy in such a difficult moment! I generally read it more for information than consolation. I'll have to rethink that. :)

  2. Roxane, Thanks for chiming in with your experience! The more I read the Catechism, the more practical and wonderfully supportive of biblical teaching it seems to get, so that encourages me to keep reading! Of course, with family, the need to speak truth in love is an unchanging challenge, no? :) And courage as well as caring are so needed, at least for me, but I don't always have both at the same time within a single conversation. For that I need to pray, pray, pray even more! Blessings for you and your family! <>< Heidi