The #1 prayer request we receive at Relevant Radio® is parents asking us to pray that their children come back to the Church. Millions of people who were raised Catholic no longer practice their faith, and this is a heartache for their loved ones who want them to have all the graces found in the Church.
Now, there is a bright side. Here at Relevant Radio we also hear of countless listeners who tell us of their return to the Church or how they entered the Church for the first time. But why do some people return to the Church while others don’t? Many who are praying and sacrificing year after year may feel that God is not answering their prayers, even while He answers the prayers of others.
Recently on Go Ask Your Father™, Msgr. Stuart Swetland responded to a call from a listener asking this question of why God seems to answer some prayers but not others.
“First of all, God answers all our prayers,” he said. “It’s just not always in the way we want them to be answered. And when it comes to praying for other people, we have to recognize that even God will not force a person to love Him. He always respects their freedom.”
“And so when we pray for someone else to convert, God will do everything He can, and He asks us to do everything we can, to see that the person has the grace available to them to come back to the Lord. Or, if they’ve never known the Lord, to come to know the Lord.”
We can pray for someone to turn to Christ, but because God has given us free will it is up to each of us to accept the invitation of grace and friendship with the Lord.
“The one thing God will not do, because it would be a contradiction to His loving nature, is he’ll never force Himself on someone,” Msgr. Swetland explained. “So that person has to cooperate, at least minimally, in their coming to grace for there to be that relationship with God. In other words, they have to say yes to God’s offer of relationship.”
Msgr. Swetland also pointed out that praying for someone’s conversion is hugely important, but that alone is typically not going to work on the heart of someone who has closed themselves off from the Lord. Using the example of St. Monica and St. Augustine, Msgr. Swetland acknowledged that St. Monica’s prayers were truly helpful in the conversion of her son, but that God also worked through other people to convert Augustine and help him become a great bishop and saint. So if we want someone to come back to the Church we should pray, and also enlist others to help guide our loved ones back to the Lord.
“It wasn’t just Monica’s prayer and sacrifice, though that was huge, in making sure that grace was available to Augustine at the various stages he needed it to come to know Christ,” Msgr. Swetland said. “It was also the preaching and teaching of St. Ambrose. You see, saints come in bunches because we need each other. And holiness of one helps holiness of others. So that’s why we’re all called to be saints, because in doing so we build up the Kingdom.”
“When we pray and sacrifice for others, and we want to get our friends to do the same, we also should be working out a pastoral plan of how we are going to efficaciously give witness to the truth, to introduce that person to Christ or reintroduce them to Christ and call them back. I think as family and friends we should, with each of the people that we’re working on to come back to the Church or come to know Christ, that with our prayers we also have a pastoral plan of how to give witness to Christ to that person.”
Listen to the full conversation below: