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 | By Sister Mary Judith O’Brien, RSM

A Mother’s Love

Fostering Fortitude

St. John Bosco’s father, Francesco Bosco, died suddenly when John was two. Francesco’s death plunged his widow Margherita into utter poverty as she reared three young sons. An author describes the importance of this mother’s reliance on God as a foundation for her son:

“A mother of this mettle, of this quality, was the mother John Bosco had to have. The innate vocation of the saint from childhood cannot be explained without her. He brought much; she gave him more.”1

I love this brief description of John Bosco’s mother, as the words hint at the important qualities which she fostered in a future saint.

Parents often want so much for their children, looking through the bright lens of success in education, athletic skill, dedication to family life and job security, as well as personal characteristics such as kindness and truthfulness. Yet, some adults have a dulled lens in valuing faith and moral judgment, considering these of secondary or even minor importance both for themselves and for their children. I wonder whether a parent’s expectations for strong spiritual and upright behavior can diminish to the point of reinforcing despair, rather than interior strength, among some young people.

The special relationship among parents – father and mother – and their children is challenged by many factors. A teen may even question whether a parent can intervene in decisions which are life-altering.

These are challenging times for parents seeking the eternal good for their children.

Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life.2

In 2023, may we all pray for fortitude, the disposition nurtured often from our youth, to conquer worldly fear in order to seek the greatness of God for ourselves and our loved ones.

1 Henri Ghéon, The Secret of Saint John Bosco, New York, Sheed & Ward 1936, p. 24.

2 Catechism of the Catholic Church, ⁋1808

Sister Mary Judith O’Brien, RSM is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma. She serves as chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.