Coming Back to the Church, Part 2
How to Encourage Loved Ones to Come Back to the Church
Last week, we talked about how to come back to the Church if you have been away. But there is another situation that can be just as painful for faithful Catholics: when our loved ones have fallen away from the Church. Perhaps you have a parent or sibling who abandoned their faith after a personal tragedy, or maybe you have a child who stopped going to church after making their Confirmation. Whatever the reason or circumstance, it is a source of sorrow when we are not in communion with our loved ones in the Eucharist and the Body of Christ.
Sometimes, we blame ourselves when those close to us are away from the Church, especially if they are our children. However, the decision ultimately belongs to them. Your role is to witness to a beautiful faith in the best way you can. They can choose to accept or reject the faith. Even if they reject it, you can keep witnessing to the truth of the Good News in your life. By God’s grace, that will eventually convert their hearts.
Here are some ways you can encourage your loved ones to come back to the Church:
1. Pray for them.
Praying for your loved ones is the single most important thing you can do to help them come back to the Church. You can take hope in the example of St. Monica—she prayed for the conversion of her son, Augustine, for years, and he went on to become a saint and doctor of the Church. You can pray novenas for your loved ones, make personal sacrifices, fast, or offer up other prayers. The important thing is that you pray consistently and with the confidence that God will hear your prayers and answer them according to his will.
2. Invite them to Mass.
Some people stay away from the Church for the simple reason that no one has invited them back. They might feel that no one has noticed that they left, or if they have noticed, that they don’t care. The next time you are on your way to Mass, invite your loved one. Let your invitation be free of any judgment or obligation. If they say no, offer a standing invitation that you renew from time to time.
3. Share books, articles, and movies with them.
If you have been trying to convince your loved one to come back to the Church for a long time, they might be so accustomed to your voice that they are no longer listening. Bring some new voices into the equation. Offer your loved one a spiritual book that has inspired you, an article you think will speak to them, or a movie or video related to the faith. Take care to use media that you are familiar with—you will want to share things that are of high quality and that will speak specifically to your loved one.
4. Listen to them.
Listening to the concerns, complaints, and even anger of a person away from the Church can be challenging. But it is essential to understanding where they are coming from and how you can help them come back to the faith. When you start out, don’t try to change your loved one’s mind right away. Simply let them get their thoughts off their chest, and assure them that they have a listening ear in you. This will help you to work with your loved one with love and compassion. Your goal, after all, is to invite them lovingly back to the Body of Christ, not to win an argument.
5. Develop your own spiritual life.
When you are encouraging another person in their faith, it is important that you don’t neglect your own faith. You should always be nurturing your faith, no matter where you are in life. But this is especially important when you are trying to be an example to your loved one, and when you are depending heavily on prayer to convert their heart. Try reading Scripture and apologetics books to help you strengthen both your conviction and knowledge.
6. Be ready to answer their questions and walk with them on the journey.
When you commit to helping someone decide to come back to the faith, you should be committing to the whole process. If you are concerned about the state of their soul, then you should be ready to be a spiritual companion. This means reminding them to go to church, helping them learn how to return to the sacraments, answering any questions they have, and supporting them through all moments of struggle and doubt. In addition, you should continue to pray for them. Spiritual companionship for your loved ones might sound like a big task, and it is—but the rewards are bigger than you can imagine. It is your loved one’s soul that is at stake.
Bringing your loved ones back to the Church is a process that is a blessing to everyone involved. Even if you are not successful, and even if you feel like you are not getting through to them, persevere in prayer and trust that God’s plan will be fulfilled. In this month of July especially, join Pope Francis in praying for those distant from the Christian faith.