A Lesson in Letting Go {Lent Book Series}

Today the Lent Book Series features Mary McKean, who’s written here before about her love of Fulton Sheen.


I never used to worry until I had kids.

Now I worry all of the time.

I suffer when they suffer. If they are sick, I want to make them better. If they have troubles, I want to alleviate them. I want to make their lives less difficult. I want to spare them the sufferings of life.

One of the most difficult things, for me, about being the mother of adult children is to realize that I am not in control. Never was. Never will be. What I would choose may not, in the end, be the best thing anyway.

Being a mother is a lesson in letting go. It’s a difficult one to learn.

Amazingly, the number one thing that has helped me in this journey is a book I read with my Catholic book club, He Leadeth Me by Father Walter Cisek.

No other book has changed my outlook and perspective as much as He Leadeth Me. The funny thing is, I would never have picked it up on my own. It’s about suffering, Russian labor camps in Siberia, and untold hardships. Not usually my cup of tea. But, it grabbed my attention from the very beginning, and I could not put it down.

He Leadeth Me is autobiographical, and tells the story of an American Polish priest who felt a calling to serve the people of Russia. He trained in Rome and found his way across the Iron Curtain. Disguised as civilians, he and another priest went to work in a factory in hopes of reaching the workers there, and perhaps uncovering any remnants of Faith that might still be present in Russia. They were discovered and separated. Fr. Cisek spent years in solitary confinement at an infamous prison before finally serving fifteen years in the hard labor camps of Siberia.

Fr. Cisek’s first book, With God in Russia tells the grueling facts of his life there. He Leadeth Me, essentially a sequel to that book, answers the questions that everyone asked afterwards….How did he survive? What was his strength? How did he face such hardships day after day?

The answer touched me beyond anything I expected. It is simple in its telling, beautiful in its theology, but incredibly difficult in its execution. The answer: to trust and embrace the Will of God. What that means I found penetrating to the core. Conformity to the Will of God was learned “only through the constant practice of prayer, by trying always to live in the presence of God, and by trying to always see everything as a manifestation of His Divine Will” no matter what.

Father Cisek went on to say, “No matter how close to God the soul felt, how blessed it was by an awareness of His presence on occasion, the realities of life were always at hand, always demanding recognition, always demanding acceptance. I had continuously to learn to accept God’s Will—not as I wished it to be, not as it might have been, but actually as it was at the moment. And it was through the struggle to do this that spiritual growth, and a greater appreciation of His Will took place”

What that meant concretely, was that this humble priest could see God’s hand in everything. God knew his situation. God loved him, and cared for Him so much so that He was willing to allow these sufferings to cleanse and purify his soul. Fr. Cisek let go of his worries. He let go of his desire to control his destiny. He placed his life and his future in the hands of God, and was happy in each moment, knowing that he was where God wanted him to be. He tried to do everything he did with perfection, as an offering to God for the Russian people. Because of Fr. Cisek’s obedience and embracing of the Divine Will, many were able to receive the sacraments and to know the love of God.

Life is a journey, and I struggle to let go and see everything through the same lens. As Our Lord once asked St Catherine of Siena, “Why will you not put your trust in Me, your Creator? Because your trust is in yourself.”

Exactly. Sometimes, I even want to tell God the details of how He might go about accomplishing all the many things I ask of Him. I am learning. Each day I learn a little more. Each event which occurs requires me to relinquish my will a little more. I have learned what little control I really have in the end. My adult children are free and independent.

Life and death is not up to me. Suffering and pain is not up to me. Like Fr. Cisek, I am trying to embrace God’s Will, even in the smallest aspects of my life. Unlike this holy man, I still have a long way to go. But at least now, I have a vision. I know where I need to be. In the end, it is a great sense of relief and joy to know that I can turn my life over to One who loves me with so great a love, and wants what is best for my eternal soul.

Mary McKean and her husband, Pete, have been married 35 years and are the parents of  eight adult children. and grandparents of 22 (and counting), where they are members of St. John the Baptist Parish in Bradford.  

Mary’s been a parish organist for more than 40 years (she started as a young teen).   Mary and Pete were Peace Corps volunteers in Ecuador as newlyweds in 1977.