What can I say to my children who don’t practice their faith?

Children, siblings, parents, friends, nieces or nephews—we all have loved ones who have fallen away from their Catholic faith. This can be a difficult cross to carry, and can cause division between loved ones. How can we address this problem in a loving and thoughtful way?

Frances called from Santa Maria, California, for some advice about her daughter and her family. “They’re calling themselves Catholic and they don’t practice in what they do and how they think … and it hurts my heart. My daughter took me to one of the Masses over Christmastime and I reminded her, please don’t take Communion but you can cross your arms and get a blessing. And I asked her, ‘Do you want to go up?’ And she rolled her eyes and gave me a sort of ‘hmpf’. I don’t know what more I can say or do.”

“Have you told them that it hurts your heart that they call themselves Catholics but don’t practice their faith?” responded Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go As Your FatherTM on Relevant Radio.

“No, I have not. I’m very timid to bring up the subject,” said Frances.

“You’re their mother and you have a very best friend, the closest friend you can possibly have. Someone who is central to your life and is an intimate part of every part of your life in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, correct?”

“Yes.”

So, what your children are doing is rejecting your best friend. And it hurts mom when they will not love and be in friendship with your best friend and when they treat Him so shabbily.”

“Oh, yes. I understand that now.”

“I think they might understand why that hurts you, too. And of course, you tell them you love them and you’ll always be their mom, you always will be there for them. But that this really hurts that they’re so rejecting or dismissive of your best friend.”

“That’s a beautiful way… I would feel very comfortable saying that to her,” agreed Frances.

“And now you can say, ‘But let me tell you, you should really be friends with this friend—He’s a great friend. He’ll never fail you; He’ll never leave you; He’ll never hurt you. He only wants what’s best for you.’ And you can go on and on about all the great things about your best friend who is their best friend, too, even if they don’t know it. And I assume if they call themselves Catholics they still, on some intellectual level, know this to be true. They just haven’t allowed their hearts to be converted,” said Msgr. Swetland.

“I once heard a homily when I was very young that said that some people are convinced of the truth of Christianity but aren’t converted to be Christians because they don’t love Jesus, they haven’t given their life over to the Lord,” continued Msgr. Swetland. “And so, we want to help people who are convinced to also be converted by that grace of Christ. And tell them how you’re praying for them and sacrificing for them that they come to know the friendship that you have with the Lord. To know the Lord as best friend; as brother, really, He’s our brother, our big brother. So He’s part of the family and you want the family to be whole, you want the family to be complete.”