According to Pew Research, more than half of U.S. adults who were raised Catholic leave the faith at some point. Some return, but others don’t. Here at Relevant Radio® we pray for the return of those who have left the faith, and rejoice when a listener tells us that they have returned to the Church after being away.
Some parents experience great heartache when their children leave the Catholic faith. They pray for their children daily, but don’t see any apparent fruits from their prayers. For these parents, hearing about someone returning to the Church can actually increase their pain. Why does God work miracles in other people’s lives, but not in the life of their child? Does God have favorites?
Recently on Go Ask Your Father™, a listener called in whose son had left the Catholic faith. He has recently started going to an evangelical church, but the caller shared the sadness she is experiencing because it seems that God isn’t answering her prayers, while He works miracles for others. She felt that God was playing favorites, and her prayers were in vain. Msgr. Stuart Swetland responded:
“That’s a temptation from Satan. God doesn’t play favorites and ignore others. He may give some people gifts that He doesn’t give others, but God loves all His children, and will do everything He can to help them be saved.
But as St. Augustine said, while God created us without us, He will not save us without us. In other words, we’ve got to cooperate with God’s desire to save all men and women. And you’re doing your part through prayer and sacrifice for your son and others, but one thing that every person has is free will. And there’s nothing on earth that can force someone else’s free will to do what they don’t want to do.
Now, a torturer may get you to do something, but you’re not doing it freely because your free will has been vitiated by the torturer or torment. So it’s only your son’s freedom that is keeping him from returning to God. He has to make the choice for friendship with God.
God loves him with an infinite love. God is doing everything He can to call your son back to intimacy with Him. Now, He’s told us that it’s helpful that we pray, we sacrifice, we do those things that help the Body of Christ, that help others, and make grace more readily available to them, and to make a community that’s more friendly, more attractive, more indicative of just how much people are loved.
So you’re doing everything right, but he’s got to cooperate. And if the first step back for him is an evangelical church, that’s the first step. But hopefully it’s just a first step back to the fullness of truth.
Every good act is done with grace. No good act is done without grace. So, the fact that your son has come as far as he has means that your prayers have been part of the means of his conversion – though it may not yet be a full conversion.
The fact that he went from a ‘rebel’ to someone who is doing great things as a teacher and instructor – that’s a sign already of grace at work in his heart and his life. Remember, every good deed is done through grace. So God is at work in his life, and you have evidence of it. Now, we’re hoping that process keeps going and that eventually he will come to see what is behind all this – which is your prayers.
So you might just want to have that straightforward conversation with him. To say, ‘I won’t bother you with this, but I just want you to know how much God loves you. And I hope that someday you see that too.’ And then just keep going on and giving a good example with prayer.
Don’t give in to that temptation to think God’s not listening. You’ve got great evidence that God is answering your prayer in part, because you see the change, the transformation in your son. And when we get on the other side, I think you’ll see how much your prayers and sacrifices has made that possible already. So God bless you and keep praying for him.”
Listen to the full conversation below: