Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - Out of compassion for parishioners who have seen loved ones lose their faith, Father Jay Buhman has started a devotion project under the patronage of Saint Monica called “Masses & Tears.”
It all began years ago, when Father Buhman was associate pastor of a parish that had perpetual adoration. Toward the end of his holy hour in the middle of the night, a doorbell would ring, signifying the arrival of the next person.
“Each week I would answer the doorbell to let in an elderly gentleman who had been making a middle-of-the-night holy hour for about 50 years,” Father Buhman wrote on his Masses & Tears blog.
The pair would chat for a few moments before Father Buhman left. In time, he learned that the gentleman was devastated that his adult daughter had left the Faith.
One night in particular, this man described his daughter’s “scathing entry on her blog about how the Catholic Church wouldn’t welcome her to receive Holy Communion.” As the gentleman wept and begged for advice, Father Buhman could offer little more than a supporting embrace and the encouragement to keep praying for her.
Father Buhman said that throughout his priesthood, he has encountered parishioners who are concerned about loved ones who have left the faith. He has come to understand their anguish in a very sincere way.
“I think the pain and the hurt and the frustration and the sadness comes from a different place for different people,” he reflected. “Some parents worry about the salvation of their child. I think some really worry that it could be their fault somehow; something they did or didn’t do.”
Then there are those who have found so much joy and peace in their relationship with Christ, it pains them to see somebody they love reject Him.
To each, Father Buhman had only the same general advice to offer: be a good example of the Faith, and keep praying. Dissatisfied with his own words, he found himself dwelling on their pain and sadness… and he began to think more about Saint Monica.
Saint Monica tearfully prayed for her son Augustine to become a Christian for 17 years without a glimmer of hope. Not only did God reward Saint Monica with the experience of seeing her son unite himself with Christ before she died, Saint Augustine eventually became one of the greatest Catholic theologians of all times, and a Doctor of the Church.
Inspired by Saint Monica, Father Buhman determined he had to come up with more than simply telling these anguished parishioners to keep doing what they were already doing.
“There have been just so many people who come to me asking, ‘What more can I do? What should I do?’ They are just looking for something,” he said.
Father Buhman has since written a prayer that answers that need.
“The devotion is written from the perspective of a parent, but it could be prayed for anyone,” he said.
With ecclesiastical approval from the diocese, he is making the prayer available online and in printed form, featuring an image of Saint Monica weeping for her son by artist Sondra L. Jonson of Cambridge.
“I think Catholic art, stained glass windows and statues, are so powerful and have always been so powerful,” said Father Buhman. “The image conveys words quickly and easily.
The process of getting the image in Father Buhman’s head to come out on Ms. Jonson’s sketchpad was not an easy one. With more than 200 miles between them, there were many emails and telephone calls as the image was revised over and over again.
Now Father Buhman has had the image printed on holy cards – with the prayer he wrote – Mass cards, and a brochure that explains the image’s symbolism in detail.
“I presented it to the priests [of the diocese], and they were grateful to have something,” Father Buhman said.
The printing costs were paid for in part by his own savings, but also with the help of generous contributions from his parents, brother priests and other donors.
These and additional materials, including note cards or a canvas print of the image are also available through the Masses & Tears blog.
Someday, Father Buhman would like to see this devotion help enough people to justify the building of a shrine. He envisions a small chapel located where priests would be available to offer Masses. There might be stained glass windows depicting parent/child or sibling saint pairs, and a bronze version of the Saint Monica image set before the Tabernacle. It’s a beautiful plan… but a $250,000 one.
“That’s a long, long, long way off,” Father Buhman sighed.
In the meantime, he hopes that people will find his devotion and its accompanying image helpful. To use the devotion, order printed materials, or contribute financially, visit the Masses & Tears blog at massesandtears.wordpress.com.