Originally posted at www.setonmagazine.com

Saint Anthony of Padua loved to preach about God, yet on one occasion, no one in a certain town wanted to listen to him. Sad about the fact that the people had rejected the word of God, but undeterred in a way that saints can often be, St. Anthony went to the shore of the sea and began preaching to a different audience: the fish.

As Anthony began speaking, the fish lifted their heads above water—the small fish coming near the shore, the larger fish staying in deeper water, but all of them attentive to his words.

There, Anthony delivered a wonderful sermon to his audience. He marveled to them about the wonderful seas, rivers, and oceans that God had made them for an aquatic home. He spoke about the role that sea life had played in salvation history. He told the fish of the whale that swallowed Jonas and helped serve the will of God. He spoke to them about Jesus obtaining the coin from the mouth of the fish so He could pay the tax. He spoke about the fact that Jesus ate fish with the Apostles after His Resurrection. When Anthony spoke, it was as though the fish listened in careful attention. There they remained, until he had finished his sermon.

I wonder if some Catholic parents often feel like St. Anthony felt that day before he preached to the fish. Back in the thirteenth century, Anthony wanted to teach people about the love of God, yet they were disinterested. Perhaps they felt as though they had better things to do than hear about the love of their Creator from the lips of a Doctor of the Church. Today, some Catholic parents who have devoted their lives to teaching their children about God find that their sons and daughters have become disinterested as they have grown older. Perhaps some children believe that the world offers them something richer than the promise of eternal happiness.

There’s no doubt that many good Catholic parents are suffering because their children have stopped listening to them about divine things. For whatever reason, the words of the parents have not clicked in their children’s minds. And so—being good parents who hunger and thirst for the salvation of their sons and daughters—they blame themselves that their words failed to reverberate in their children’s souls.

Of course, children have free will. They can fail to recognize the value of “the pearl of great price.” They can listen to you or they can ignore you. They can approach the shore or they can swim away. But either way, as Saint Anthony illustrates, your job remains the same.

Keep loving. Keep communicating. Keep praying. And hope. Because as Saint Anthony quickly discovered, the fish were instrumental in producing another miracle of sorts. As it turns out, the fish weren’t the only ones listening that day. Many of those in the town heard about the miracle of the fish, heard his sermon and converted to the Catholic Faith. Saint Anthony refused to give up, and the message got through.

As many Catholics know, Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lost things, and Catholics will often ask for his intercession by praying:

St. Anthony, St. Anthony,
Please come around.
There’s something that’s lost,
And needs to be found.

Any saint who goes to the sea to preach to fish understands the pain of a Catholic parent whose child has lost his way. If your child is in that boat, Anthony is a pretty good saint to have on your side with the following prayer:

St. Anthony, St. Anthony,
Please come around.
My child is lost,
And needs to be found.

Some of you Catholic parents might feel like you are oceans apart from your children right now, which causes you considerable anguish. But don’t lose hope. Sometimes sound waves take a long time to arrive at their destination. Be confident that they will arrive. Remember that we have a Savior Who walks on water, and if He needs to go out into that ocean to retrieve a lost sheep, He will go.

Our job is to keep looking at Him, instead of looking at the waves, especially when He seems most distant. If your child is lost in a sea of confusion and sadness, confidently ask Jesus to walk on water again, and bring him home.