We were that “Church family.” House decorated for liturgical seasons, seven children, family service projects, music lessons, chore charts, family meetings and retreats, on our third copy of Prayers for the Domestic Church.
We loved and celebrated the sacraments that nourished our family life. We imagined we could handle whatever came our way by transforming obstacles into achievements. We had the plan and followed it: Work and do our part. Hope for the best and share hope with others. Pray that God would guide and bless our efforts. Why did we think vulnerability and suffering would not be part of our life story?
We were slow to realize the extent of our son’s illness. Early-onset schizophrenia is rare. Yet the challenges presented by his escalating illness gradually took over our family life. We read books and sought help everywhere.
Despite all our efforts, our son’s condition worsened, and hospitalizations and medications were required. He was admitted to a juvenile residential facility for severe mental illness. We were happy for the respite but longed to have him home with us.
“He can’t come home,” stated his doctor. “You have to think of your other children and your little girl. She has grown up with this chaos.” At that moment, the contagious quality of his disease was laid bare. Indeed, three of our children have been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of their brother’s psychotic episodes and expressions of paranoid delusions and hallucinations.
The plan we had long been using, “Work – Hope – Pray,” was not working. We were in a new and unexpected place, unsure of where to turn. The words of Simon Peter became our anchor: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68).
The surprising answer was a change in the order of our plan.
Pray – Take our joys, gratitude, fears, and pain to God and trust that God is in control in ways we are not. We now make time to read Scripture, reflect, listen, and share the deepest yearnings of our hearts with the Lord.
Hope – Our prayer helped us to have the courage to hope for that which is unseen and invisible. Hope is an act of imagination and courage, allowing us to see beyond what is and to see with our inner eye what might and what ought to be. Christian hope guided us into that place where we had not yet been, and into becoming the persons we have not yet become.
Work – Our prayer and hope informs and directs our work in a way it had not before. Moral clarity requires that when you have the tools available to lessen the suffering of others that you must take action to do so.
There are still tremendous needs for our son and all who suffer from mental illness. Rooted in prayer and anchored in hope, we work together to do God’s work on behalf of all who suffer.
Greg “Dobie” Moser, D. Min, is the Executive Director, Youth and Young Adult Ministry and CYO in the Diocese of Cleveland. He holds an MA in Family Systems Counseling and his doctoral work focused on leadership development within the family. He and his wife, Lisa, are proud parents of seven children.Sign Up for Our E-Newsletter!