“I don’t pray!” my son retorted lightly to what I’d said to Fr. Jun.
“We’re praying for you, Father,” I told our Archdiocese’s Exorcist, who rolled down his window when he saw me and my 18 year old son walk along the traffic of the G Park in the neighborhood of our Cathedral.
“I talk to God, Ma, I don’t pray,” continued my son, “I go to the Chapel at Loyola and rant to God. I even use cuss words when I talk to him.”
I tried not to wince when he gave me an example in the vernacular.
At least he has a relationship with God, talking to him like that.
It’s been twenty-five days since that night.
Everyday, I decide to forgive my mother for the two things she did that night:
- She accused my son of stealing her bedroom keys.
- She reinforced my son’s resistance to attending activities religious in nature. Since then, my son has stopped attending Sunday mass with me. He could no longer be talked into attending religious seminars and the like.
Five days before that, I found Fr. Jun at the Finance Office of the Archbishop’s Palace. I sought him out for deliverance prayers for our family.
On the surface, things have been “just fine” for all of us.
Business was the same as usual: my mother lived comfortably on the fruits of her labor – a preschool she had put up 20 years ago. This is where I am employed.
My father still struggled with his finances, but was otherwise getting by with his second family.
My brother was content with his family life, though things could be better – namely finances.
My sister just went through the motions of her partying ways, perhaps happy at least adjusted, and in a relationship with a single mother.
My son struggled with school, listless, lacking in direction, needing guidance, needing connection.
I, on the other hand, have long been battling my depression, feeling stuck, lost, brimming with purpose but paralyzed.
“The Good Spirit will not stop disturbing you until you move out of that miserable state towards freedom.”
Teacher Love said this the day after the night my son had a breakdown after my mother accused him of stealing her bedroom keys.
On that night he cursed me, he cursed the Church, he cursed the Lord, he cursed the life he was born into.
Fr. Jun, whom I texted, told me to pray the rosary with my family. My son refused, my mother refused.
She attempted damage control by reinforcing my son’s rebellion against attending religious talks and activities.
It seems to me that the miserable state I have always been in is my family of origin.
As a single mother to an eighteen-year-old son, I was adjusting to his developmental needs of individuating from a predominantly female family. Me.
His version of this was going to a club with a vape shop two small blocks away from our house. Ten days before his breakdown, he came home at four in the morning, breaching our agreement to attend Fr. Francesco’s talk at Loyola.
I was making my adjustments of tolerating his nocturnal activities despite my worries. What if he’d get into drugs, meet misguided young girls, get carried away with his hormones, be a father at a young age, be planted with drug evidence, get arrested, jailed, killed? What if he’d get into moral decay, what would happen to his dreams? Our dreams? His life?
And I was battling this without emotional and financial support.
I had no one to turn to despite the ironically large family and social circle I “belong” to.
It was just me, my son, and my God and I had to pretend my life was all great. Status quo.
And then my mother does this.
My deliverance session with Fr. Jun was moved ten days ahead of schedule to accommodate my panic over the incident.
He gave me assignments of wearing a blessed St. Benedict Medal, daily deliverance prayers, the Holy Rosary, Holy Mass, and sprinkling Holy Water and exorcised salt while praying over our property.
Three days after our session, a Ford Expedition that fetched a student had brake troubles as it was about to leave our frontage. Just as a mother with her twins in tow was about to cross the street, she had to go back into the building for something she forgot when the Ford rammed into the bumper of my mother’s Peugeot SUV which was parked next to the pedestrian lane.
I started out the assignments given me, especially sprinkling Holy Water in my son’s room, the classrooms and the frontage of our property.
The day before my second session with Fr. Jun, my son, who still asked me to wake him up, went on a vitriolic tirade against the church, the Holy Mother, the Lord. There was no triggering factor except that I woke him up as requested. In the middle of this all, he stopped in a brief stupor. “What’s the matter with you?” I asked stoically. “I’m thinking about this insanity.” I did not reply.
Fr. Jun’s reply to my text, “He is your greatest trial. It is the enemy harassing you. You know how to combat him steadfast with your faith and firm and constant with your prayer life.”
When he came home that afternoon, he offered with all the resolve he could muster, “I sincerely apologize for my behavior this morning.”
The day after my second session with Fr. Jun, he came over to our place to bless our property which was the location of both our home and small school. He came at my request after the freak accident (which thankfully did not hurt any people). My son was there while the prayers were said. Fr. Jun asked him to sprinkle exorcised salt in the corners of the rooms we entered. Jove, the driver was instructed to cross the doors with blessed oil. I led the group holding the candle while Fr Jun led the prayers while sprinkling Holy Water.
My son did not make signs of the cross but he did as he was requested.
Fr. Jun observed of him, “He seems to be a responsible boy. Talk to him. Not authoritatively, but talk to him. Give him my number, tell him he can text me when he wants to ask anything.”
Fr. Jun told me that our next session would be in August. He added that I should go barefoot at home, as an exercise in humility, in addition to my daily assignments.
“Can I watch telenovelas, Father?”
“Of course, go ahead. We also have to socialize.”
I’ve been doing my daily assignments religiously. No pun intended. I’ve been saying my prayers for my son – for deliverance, healing, and protection. I’ve been pleading to the Lord to find openings wherein my son would respond to His call, to His Love, to His mercy.
Of course, I’ve been praying for everyone else too.
Especially my parents for whom I have strong feelings of hurt. Everyday, I decide to forgive.
Meanwhile, life went on… it goes on. Work, activities with extended family.
Just recently, my son and I have been sharing meals more frequently.
When he stopped going to mass with me, he was averse to sharing meals with me as well. But in the past days, things have loosened up between us.
We’ve been spending time together. He’d open up 18 year old guy things with me. I don’t say a lot. I just listen and comment lightly.
I have refrained from lengthy pontificating save for asking when he’d wear the St. Benedict necklace I had blessed for him. Here and there, I’d gently insert how I’d keep praying until he’d join me to hear mass – that he’d be surprised one day. To which he’d smirk and say, “No, thank you.”
He’d tell me, “I’m not an atheist or an agnostic. I do believe in God but I don’t believe in religion.” When asked why he doesn’t believe in religion, he’d say he doesn’t know. I’d end it by saying, “God believes in you.”
I find myself in tears at times. I have become nothing. Nothing without the Lord. I pray for that freedom Teacher Love was talking about. I pray for my son’s soul. I pray for a happy, contented, simple life together – serving the Lord through our work while enjoying the fruits of His blessings.
Yesterday, I was on the phone the entire afternoon with my aunt, my father’s youngest sister. We talked about many things, mostly the extended family. We talked about each other’s lives. About that cousin who recently got engaged. About our sons who are about the same age.
In the evening, after Mass (alone), I was with the younger sister of the cousin who got engaged. She’s a year older than my son and they used to be together a lot as young children.
Now, we dream together of getting away. Living in Thailand. Living lives away from the drama of our families.
It was a fun night. My son and I had supper at the neighborhood carenderia. My cousin arrived. Then we proceeded to McDonald’s. We took pictures. My son left to go clubbing.
“You don’t have to worry, Ate,” my cousin said, “he just goes there to listen to music and chill. Nothing to worry about.” For some reason, I was reassured.
My cousin and I adjourned at past eleven in the evening. My son sent me in FB messenger: “I’m in my room already, Ma. Going to sleep.” 6:45 a.m. Ended clubbing at 4 and waited for the start of the Ignatian Run at 6.
I woke up. Got depressed in the middle of the morning. I wonder if it was because I spent too much time with my father’s side of the family, getting reminded of all the bad and sad stuff that happened in the past.
My financial worries didn’t help.
I decided to get out of the house and write.
My son and I headed to the Old Biz District. He invited me to try “proven”, a notorious street food. I did. Delicious as it was, I didn’t like it.
“I go to the Chapel and just rant to the Lord. Yawa, unsa man ni, Lord? I say.”
I am appalled at his choice of words. But I just tell him, “God will meet you where you are.”
And I feel hopeful. I choose to feel hopeful.
God is meeting us where we are.