This is the story of Nene (not her real name). She was one of the many young pupils I facilitated for their recollection in one school in Manila. In one of their final activities, I asked them to write their parents and expressed all the words of thanks in their hearts. They were all excited as they poured all their hearts out into writing.
To their great surprise, I told them: “Now, you can bring that home and give it to your parents.” They did not expect it. But I saw that the thought of giving their parents a thank you card seemed to be a very interesting idea. I had high hopes that they would be inspired to give it to their parents.
Then reality struck me. Nene approached me after the recollection and handed me a sealed thank you card.
“Is this for me?” I asked her.
“No Frater. That is my thank you card for my mother.” She said.
My mother. That rang a bell for me. Why her mother only?
“You can open and read it,” she said.
So, I opened her thank you card and this is the content: “Ma, thank you sa lahat ng pagsisikap mo sa akin. Sana po ipakilala mo na sa akin ang tatay ko. Simula kasi ng magkamalay ako, di ko alam kung nasaan siya. Puwede ko pa po bang makita siya?”1
“Kasi po Frater magagalit po sa akin ang nanay ko pag nabasa niya iyan. Ayaw na ayaw po kasi niya na magbabanggit po ako tungkol sa tatay ko. Sa inyo na lang po iyan. Tanggapin niyo na lang po iyan”2 Then she ran away and vanished in my sight. I was left alone in the classroom.
That moment evoked a feeling of pain in me. Nene’s story is not a rare, one-of-a-kind story. There are many children nowadays who were born without their fathers at their side. I do not mean that they are less of a person but I want to stress that there are already many homes nowadays only composed of a child and a parent. In the case of Nene, it was only her mother and her. The painful part is, from the very beginning, her mother deprived her of the identity of her father.
This made me to reflect about the role of mothers in the formation of their children. I remembered my own mother. I knew very well that my father has many flaws and is far from the perfect father image but my mother was proud of him and she loved him. Our family experienced many troubles and trials because of him and we his children almost reached the point of disowning him, but she remained firm in telling us that he is our father.
Now, I am confronted with a daughter wanting to see his father but her mother suppressing all the necessary details about him. It’s a sad reality she has to grapple with.
The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes, 52) exhorts that children need the care of their mothers. It is a sacred duty. I do not discount the fact that her mother may truly love her. In fact, the thought of sending her to a Catholic school was already a shout-out of love to Nene. But does it justify that she has to keep the things Nene deserve to know? Or will it boil down to me or to us not knowing the whole story?
The Decree to the Apostolate of the Laity (30) also refers to parents having the task to “train their children from childhood to recognize God’s love for all.” But Nene simply felt it hard to recognize the love of God from her mother. There was so much angst in her heart, no wonder.
Today, more than ever, we in the Church circles are all the more encouraged to appeal to families to make it “a school of deeper humanity” (Familiaris Consortio, 21). That is, to build a home where love, care, openness to family members and sharing of joys and sorrows reside. It is always sad to see children like Nene surviving each day with prayer in her heart that one day, her mother will reveal her all she needs to know. That day would surely make her complete!
For now, the letter she gave me is still with me. I keep it. I know that I might keep the letter with me forever. Perhaps we will also see each other in God’s time soon, when things are already perfect enough for her to have the courage to confront her mother. That time, the unsent letter will already be sent. God bless her.
1 English Translation: Mother, thank you so much for all the hardships you endured for me. I hope you will soon introduce me to my father. I have no whereabouts of him ever since. Is it possible for me to see him?
2 English Translation: Frater, my mother will get angry with me. She doesn’t want me to talk about my father. Frater, please accept that card…please.