How many of us have family members who have left the Church? I would guess that most of us have at least one or more relatives who are no longer practicing their faith. A Pew Research Study reports that 10% of all Americans are ex-Catholics.
How can we encourage these fallen-away Catholics to return to the faith of their childhood?
The most effective ways to positively influence our family members to return to their faith are to pray for them and to live out our Catholic faith in our lives.
St. Monica did both. She prayed for nearly twenty years for her son, Augustine, to return to his faith. He had been baptized, but once he went off to college, he began to live a corrupt and immoral lifestyle. He later lived with a concubine and had an illegitimate son. Monica wept and prayed for years on end.
Does this sound familiar? Do you find yourself praying day after day and feel like God isn’t really hearing your prayer? You are not alone in your frustration. St. Monica felt the same way. She cried out in her misery and a bishop named Ambrose consoled her with the words: “Don’t worry; it is impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost.”
As a revert to the Catholic faith, I can tell you that your prayers for your children or your relatives are never wasted. They are precious to God and He hears every one of them. Every tear that falls from your eyes is like a precious jewel to Him. God may be preparing their hearts to be receptive to Him.
God gave each of us a free will, which He will not violate. It is up to the individual to make the decision as to whether or not he will accept the Truth. However, prior to accepting the Truth, he must be receptive to it.
What motivated me to being receptive to the Truth was seeing the light and love of God in action in my life. I witnessed God in my life through the actions of both my parents as well as other faithful Catholics who drew me back into the faith. It was then that the floodgates of grace opened for me.
My mother prayed for my return to my Catholic faith for fifteen years. It was her prayers, as well as those of my father, that brought me back Home to Catholicism. It was also the way they lived out their faith in their lives that made me realize that they had something special that I was missing.
They evidenced their faith in the way they handled trials and suffering. There was no anger, but a sense of peace and joy in the midst of suffering. They lived simple lives, which was centered on their love for God. The love between them was an unselfish, self-sacrificing love, focused on serving the needs of the other. Their relationships with others were similar. They put the needs of others before their own in their family, in their work outside the home, and in their service to the Church.
Witnessing their deep love for God and devotion to the Blessed Mother and the saints made me focus on what was really important in life. It wasn’t my “high status” job, my brand new red Honda Prelude, my education, or anything else. God had been absent from my life and I wanted Him back.
The first time I saw Jesus in the Eucharist I could not stop crying –I craved Him so much and yet knew that I needed to go to Confession first to restore my soul to a state of grace. The first time I received Him was on Christmas – and what a glorious Christmas gift He was!
In order to effectively evangelize family members, there are three things we need to do. Like Monica, we need to be persistent and patient in prayer. Next, we need to live out our faith in our lives, by manifesting Christ’s love to others. Lastly, we need to remember that everything works out according to God’s timetable, not our own.
Trust in God, for “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the one that seeks Him” (Lamentations 3:25).
Copyright 2014, Jean Heimann