The #1 prayer request we receive at Relevant Radio® is for listeners’ children who have fallen away from the faith. With 13% of Americans identifying as “former Catholics,” there are millions of parents across the country who are wondering what they can do to bring their children back to the Catholic Church.
Of course, the most important thing a parent can do is to pray. But how should you interact with your child who has fallen away? Should you push the issue, or let them make their own choices?
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ reflected on some of the most important things that parents can do when their adult children consider themselves “former Catholics.” He said:
“Let’s realize, first of all, that you can’t go back and change the past. You can’t turn back the clock and undo a lot of these things. You have to work from the present moment.
I know there’s that temptation you have, to want to talk about the faith to your children all the time, to want to reprimand them for not going to Mass, for not cultivating their faith the way that they should. But as our children get older, in my opinion, they need a different example. We instilled that in them when they were children and adolescents by strictly telling them this is what they had to do, they had to come to Mass even if they don’t like it. And children will oftentimes accept that, and that will become part of the framework of their life.
But as our children grow, something different starts to emerge. Instead of needing to hear about it, they need to see it. They need to witness the faith in their life. And all of a sudden, instead of talking to them about the faith, you need to start demonstrating it with your life.
That is to say, you have to bear witness to the joy your faith gives you. Not in a way that’s telling them, ‘You should do this too.’ But simply in a way that shows them that it’s because of your faith that you’re joyful. It’s because of your faith that you’ve found peace. And it’s because of your relationship with Jesus that you have discovered that pearl of great price.
This is really hard, isn’t it? Because when we witness our faith it is a different experience. It’s vulnerable. We’re putting ourselves out there and we’re sharing our experience. Now you’re not just the authority figure in their life, you’re a witness of Jesus to them.
And they might still choose to reject. They might not accept completely. But you still have to do it, you have to witness. And maybe not talk about it as much.
When the opportunity arises, when they start to open the door, or when you see a little window, you might mention it. But I think far more important than that is for you to demonstrate by your actions how much you love Jesus, and to share that with them.
Eventually they’re going to want that. They’re going to want that peace, they’re going to want that joy, that zeal that you’re demonstrating in your life.
But in all of this, don’t forget that God is in charge. You’re not the one in control, and I think that’s a big part of what this is all about. When God allows our children to stray, He’s trying to teach us a lesson too. Because, as you know, He uses every experience that we have for our growth in holiness. Or He can use it, if we allow Him to. He invites us to give control back to Him, to trust in His providence, to trust in His designs and allow Him to be in control.
I know you’re worried about the eternal destiny of your children. And you should be. You’re worried where they’re going to spend eternity, and I’m glad that you’re concerned about that, and that it’s on your mind. Pray, and redouble your efforts in prayer, and give witness – but ultimately we turn it back over to the Lord. We entrust our children to the love of the Father, who cares about them even more than we do.
Our Father in heaven loves your children, and He wants their salvation too.”
Listen to the full reflection below:
St. Joseph’s Workshop with Father Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio.