A Father’s Story

by Joe Pinto, a friend of Madonna House

When I was a child in Karachi, Pakistan, one of the practices at my Catholic school was that once a month, the whole class would walk to the parish church to go to confession. A word of instruction that stuck in my mind was to pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten my mind to reveal my sins.

This I did, and it worked well for me. So I was comfortable with the Holy Spirit from an early age.

Then years later, when I was an adult living in Ottawa, I took a Life in the Spirit Seminar* in our parish and, over a seven-week period, I was brought to the point where I was able, with some trepidation, to surrender my life to Jesus. Then I was prayed over for the release of the Spirit.

One of the first fruits of my commitment to a life in Jesus Christ was the Holy Spirit convicting my heart of sin in my life. Before this, I thought I was a pretty good guy. As a matter of fact, I felt that after this seminar, I would be well on my way to sainthood!

Imagine my surprise when the Holy Spirit began revealing sins in my life that I was not even aware of! For example, I discovered that I had been using and manipulating others and was self-centered.

When I went to confession that week, I could not memorize all my sins, so I wrote out a list and read them out to the priest. I was truly and deeply sorry for my sins.

Other changes happened as well. Before the Life in the Spirit Seminar, my wife would sometimes read aloud to us a passage of Scripture just before we went to bed. This was a sure recipe for me to fall asleep. After the Life in the Spirit, the words in the Bible spoke to my heart, and I felt called to make changes in my life.

One example is that the Spirit taught me how to deal with my teenage child.

Essentially, the two of us, this child and me, had clashed on several occasions, and I was most unhappy with our relationship. The truth was that the two or us were very much alike. I had a sharp tongue to retaliate against any opposition, and so did this child.

The challenge was that in order to have peace in our relationship, I, being the dad, had to change.

One fall day, we took a family trip to a park. It was a beautiful sunny day and the leaves were full of color, but my heart was heavy.

At one point, I veered off on my own, sat on a rock, and talked to God. I told him that it was not fair for me to go through this experience especially since I had surrendered my life to him, and I was in a prayer group.

After talking my heart out to him and being teary-eyed in the process, I was quiet. Then in the quiet of my heart, I heard God say, “Joe, if you give me ten minutes of your day in prayer each morning, ask any question you want, and I will give you the answer.”

So, I said, “Fine, I will do it.”

The following day, my question to God was, “How do I get into a conversation with this child without it breaking up into an argument?” I stayed quiet and waited for an answer. His response was, “Write this child a letter.”

I said, “What? This child lives in the same house as I do!”

His response was, “So what? You can say what you have to say in love, and this child will have to read it.” I think I also heard Him say mischievously, “You will save yourself a postage stamp.”

I did it, and it worked. Well, it was a start. The letter had a positive result.

My next question was, “What next?” The response: “Make time for this child on a regular basis.”

On pondering this suggestion, I decided I would meet with this child three or four times a week for half an hour at a certain time and place.

When I proposed this to the child, the child said, “What will we talk about?”

I had to say honestly, “I don’t know. Let’s see what happens.”

Our first meeting was strained to say the least. At first, we both looked into space and said nothing, but towards the end of the half-hour, we each said a few words.

In subsequent meetings, we spoke more, and the outcome was that we became more and more comfortable with each other.

All I can say is that I was faithful in prayer and the Holy Spirit was faithful in guiding me step-by-step in restoring our relationship.

But I wondered about something. I knew how I felt about this repaired relationship, but I had no idea how the child had experienced it. It took a while to find out, but I finally did.

About fifteen years later, I ran into a friend of my child. This friend said that he was having trouble with his teenager, and this child of mine had encouraged him not to give up since I, this child’s Dad, had not given up on his child. I was touched to the heart and shed a tear in gratitude at God’s faithfulness in answering my prayer.

* A Life in the Spirit Seminar, usually taken in the context of a Charismatic Renewal prayer group, has two main objectives: renewing and igniting the power of the Holy Spirit that we received at baptism and confirming and promoting an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord.

Joe and his wife Joan have four grown children.