While having brunch with friends, the conversation turned to parenting, grown children and the agony parents feels when their adult children disengage from the Church. My friend expressed admiration for a father of eight grown children, all of whom have remained faithful Catholics. She compared herself to this man, feeling as though he’d somehow done everything right and she’d somehow done everything wrong.

I beg to differ, and I told her so.

First, those who appear to have model Catholic families are by no means perfect. Every single family has its faults, failures, and trials. I know many sets of parents who project an image of the ideal family when in fact they’re hiding some dark secrets.

Second, I don’t think it’s fair to compare ourselves with other parents – for our own sake, but for theirs as well. Pedestals can weaken over time and occasionally they tumble. My set of circumstances is far different from your set of circumstances, is far different from the set of circumstances of every other parent in the world.

We do the best we can with what we have.

I’m not saying that model families don’t deserve their blessings – they most certainly do and I have no doubt they’ve worked very, very had for it. I’ll be the last to begrudge them of that comfort.

Rather, I think it’s counterproductive for parents who have wayward children to beat themselves up about it. Unless, of course, they’ve intentionally or negligently done a rotten job of it. I think those are rare cases.

We can tend to paint parents of “ideal” families as heroes, looking up to them as if they are all that we are not and as though we should feel guilty about it. Perhaps we did mess up in spots, and its normal to have regrets about that. Then we pray, surrender to Christ, and do what we can to set things right.

Parents of “ideal” families definitely deserve honor, but do you know who I think are the real heroes?

The weeping women.

By that I mean that I honor as heroes the mothers and grandmothers who weep over their lost children and who day after day after day live their own faith as best they can and pray fervently for their children. They’re the ones who rise every morning, weep their tears, put on the face of courage, and start a new day for the sake of their loved ones. They never lose hope. They’re the ones who hang on for dear life even when there appears to be no life to hand onto. They may be sad, but they never, ever give up on their children.

I think often of the women that our Lord met on his way to Calvary.

A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?” (Lk 23:27-31)

Jesus did not tell the women to stop crying, He did not judge them. He did not suggest that they judge themselves. He told them to weep – for themselves and their children because trials will come and all will be affected. Our Lord knew that in their weeping they’d also been praying.

Satan hates our children. He will rip and tear at them, trying with all his might to drag them away from us, from the Faith, and from God. He will stop at nothing to destroy every family in existence. That any of our children have gone wayward should not surprise us but rather determine us not to give up, no matter what.

My heroes are not the “perfect” parents of “perfect” children. No, my heroes are the modern-day Daughters of Jerusalem who weep and pray tirelessly for their children, uniting their suffering with the suffering of Christ.