With nearly 13% of all Americans describing themselves as “former Catholics” and only 25% of Catholics attending Mass each week, it is likely that someone in your family has left the Church or is no longer practicing their Catholic faith. And many Catholics wonder whether it is their duty to point out that their family members are endangering their souls by not practicing the faith they have been given.
Recently on Go Ask Your Father, Msgr. Stuart Swetland tackled this issue when a listener called in asking if she has a responsibility to tell her extended family they are living outside of the Church’s teachings. Msgr. Swetland gave his perspective as a shepherd of souls and a convert to the faith himself, saying:
“I think you have a situation where you really have the vocation of St. Monica, whose extended family was not even baptized. Through prayer, through sacrifice, through a lot of penance, and through her witness, she was able (through the grace of God) to convert her husband, her mother-in-law, her son.
So your vocation is that of someone who has to pray and sacrifice for this extended family, and hope that they will see in you and your husband that joy and peace. Quite frankly, if they are not living the Catholic life to the full, they are going to be missing some of the joy and peace that is possible for us.
I’m a convert, and one of the things that led me into the Church was that, when I was studying at Oxford University, I saw my contemporary graduate students who had joy, who had peace. They knew who they were and why they were. They had such great peace and joy – they had something I didn’t have. And when I inquired about what it was, then I started to hear the stories of our faith, and I realized that’s what I needed. I needed the fullness of truth that comes to us in Jesus, I needed the Gospel, I needed to be healed, I needed my sins forgiven.
All of that, though, was made possible by the witness of men and women living their faith with joy, living their faith with peace, knowing the answers to questions when those questions came up. So that’s the vocation you have, to imitate St. Monica.
If you’re trying to follow in the footsteps of Monica, you’ll be amazed at what God can do through you, and you’ll be doing everything you can to bring them into that fullness of faith that you have discovered, through the grace of God.”
Listen to the full conversation below: