Help with talking to family members about the faith


#1

I am a 17 yr. old cradle Catholic who has been practicing his faith for one year now. I never really learned anything in my CCD classes when I was younger so I was really uncatechized. However, I always had an openness to the faith, probably because of baptismal grace, and I have really come to love God and my Catholic faith. I absolutely love Holy Mother Church and I think I may have a vocation to the priesthood but I am not sure.

The rest of my family, however, is not devout. My 2 sisters (both younger than me, 12 and 15 years old) don’t really know anything about their faith and don’t really care, but they are not hostile to the faith as far as I know. My parents have been divorced for a few years (no annulment, and I don’t think there are grounds for one.) My mother is friendly to the faith and somewhat traditional, but isn’t really that devout and isn’t that catechized herself. She knows that the divorce was wrong, was very much hurt by it, and has no intention to be with other men or remarry. Also, our parish isn’t that orthodox and is the type of parish where, even though there are no liturgical abuses by the priest, nobody goes to Confession but everybody goes to Communion. Catechesis, as I mentioned before, is really poor.

My father is a whole different story all together. He is the one who initiated the divorce and is now living together with his girlfriend, and there are indications that he was with her before the divorce, but either way it doesn’t matter when it comes to Catholic doctrine since he is still married to my mom in the eyes of God.

My sisters and I spend most of our time with our mother, except every other weekend when we stay at our dad’s. I go to Mass every Sunday, and my mom goes every weekend I am with her but sometimes doesn’t go when my sisters and I are at our dad’s because she “feels lonely.” My sisters go once in a while but don’t feel compelled to go (and neither my mother nor my father makes them go.) If they go they go with my mom. My father never goes. When I am at my dad’s, I walk to the parish near his house (it’s only ten minutes away) for 7:30 Sunday Mass.

I really want to bring the faith to my family. I love them all very much and I believe that none of them deserve the faith any less than I did before I had my conversion. (I know I said I was a cradle Catholic but coming to really know and believe the faith felt like a conversion, and as I understand it conversion is an ongoing process for all Catholics.) I have tried several times to tell my sisters that going to Mass on Sunday is not an option, but my mom, while she thinks they should go, tells me something like “nobody should force others to go to Mass because faith is a personal choice.” Another time I tried to get everybody to say grace before meals but again my mom told me I shouldn’t be forcing my sisters to believe.

I really don’t know what to do. I feel that I have a duty to do something and say something, but this is really overwhelming and I fear messing up and making them hostile to the faith. I do not think it is wise to say anything to my dad, because he gets easily offended and would probably accuse my mother of “setting us against him” as he has done already in an unrelated matter. Also, I don’t want to get my sisters caught up in an ugly family fight that. However, I feel guilty and partly responsible for his sinful lifestyle because I do not speak up against his sin.

Please understand. I am not trying to make excuses and I do pray about this often. If anybody has any advice on how I can go about sharing the faith to my family, it would be GREATLY appreciated!


#2

You are showing great strength just in going to Mass every Sunday, by yourself. Sometimes the only thing we can do is set a good example and pray for those people. (Like St. Augustine’s mom…boy did that woman have a LONG wait!) I know I have done that for many years, with no apparent results, for my Mom, who introduced me to the faith but then left it herself. Other members of my family have become active members of other churches, so while I sometimes pray they may return to the Catholic church, I know there is VERY little chance of that.

My story is much like yours: Baptized but poorly catechized, made it as far as First Communion before my mom decided she was mad at God. Parents divorced, Mom wouldn’t take me to Mass even if I asked, though for a time I went on my own, but it’s kinda hard for a nine year old to walk through the snow all alone for at least half an hour each way and keep that up, and when I went back to my Dad he was still in his atheist stage, and though he said we could go to church if we wanted, we knew he looked down on religious people and thought they were stupid and weak so we never asked. I also started my journey back as a teenager, and it really took off when I met my husband. He led me back to my faith…I consider him my own personal incarnation of the Good Shepherd. The call was there in my heart, and sometimes I would feel it very strongly, but I was too young, too immature to stand up against the prejudice in my family, until he gave me a good enough reason and the strength to do it.

However…the moral of my story? My husband, children, and I are still the ONLY practicing Catholics on my side of the family. My mother’s family of origin, several states away, still has some members who practice the faith, but I don’t know them well. On my husband’s side, we are regarded as the “most serious” Catholics in the family. I have even been called “devout” by my mother, which makes me laugh, because I am so far from where I should be in my faith… At least the people in the family who might be hostile to Catholicism (there are some Pentecostals) have not said as much to us, so they have been forced into that level of respect. If we get into a discussion, we will each stand our ground, but we all try to be respectful and not start religious war. It’s hard when it comes to naming godparents, though. :frowning:

Maybe someday some of the people in our lives will come back to the Catholic Church, where ALL of them started, but maybe none of them will. All we can do is to keep being good examples and good ambassadors for the Catholic faith, pray, and hope.


#3

duskyjewel - Thank you so much for your advice and God bless you. I think you are right. It just frustrates me and makes me sad that they don’t understand and don’t care.:frowning:

I will keep praying for them and I should pray for them more often. I sometimes am guilty of trying not to think about my family’s situation because it can be depressing, but I know I have an obligation to pray for them and share the faith with them.


#4

Hey, we’re all human, and sometimes these defense mechanisms kick in. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Use those times to rest and then go back to praying for them when you feel ready for it.


#5

I just posted this to someone else that was going through this as well.

Try listening to and read www.patrickmadrid.com in his series Search and Rescue!


#6

Thank you for your suggestion, Mirror Mirror. I like Patrick Madrid and I will definitely check out that series.

I have another question. If I do not tell my family members not to go up for Communion, is that a sin on my part? I’ve been thinking about whether or not to tell them for a while, but I fear that if I tell them they will resent it and not be open to anything I have to say. Ironically, I sometimes find myself sitting in the pew because I haven’t gone to Confession while the rest of my family goes up (with the entire parish, of course). I was hoping they’d get curious and ask me why I remained in the pew, but they didn’t. At least then they wouldn’t view it as hostile.


#7

Hi Francesco!

Wow! You are an inspiration. I have a 17 y.o. son who doesn’t show a fraction of the interest in the faith that you have. You give me hope in the next generation! So many people feel teenagers cannot possibly care about matters of faith, church, etc. And yet, some of the great saints were barely out of childhood themselves. I teach religion to 9th graders who could not care less. It can be depressing. But yet I don’t want to give up! I can’t complain about the poor state of catechesis if I am not willing to jump in and help out!

Anyway- I think we all feel as you do some times. I am the only
Catholic in my family… I mean in my family of origin. My husband and his family are all Catholic. Anyway… I tiptoe around the issues all the time with my parents and siblings, and sometimes they are openly hostile. It’s tricky with family. You can propose certain ideas, live as an example, and then let it go and put it in God’s hands. You can remind your sisters and mom about confession prior to communion, but you can’t really know if they are in a state of mortal sin or not. Pray for all of them.

It is sad to say that formal catechesis is often mediocre at best, but there are SO MANY excellent resources out there to really learn your faith. Scott Hahn’s books are wonderful! I just finished Reasons to Believe and loved it! As you mature in your faith, you will know when it is right to approach people with Catholic stuff and when to hold back and really pray. I work in a very multicultural office and must always respect other people’s right to believe as they wish. It is not my place to prove them wrong… but I will happily share if anyone asks me about the faith with sincerity. I also try to be an excellent worker and friend, with my faith as a very well-known fact of who I am. That way I represent the Church in a positive way.

I pray that your faith will continue to grow and deepen as you go through life. Be careful not to “burn out”- it can sometimes happen when people immerse themselves in faith stuff and forget to do other things, too. Seek balance, always putting God first.:thumbsup:


#8

I don’t think any of us can say for sure but it seems to me that what your are doing by praying for your family and going to Mass are the best “things to do”.

One of the hardest things about practicing your Faith is learning that most of us are not called to verbally preach the Faith to family members other than minor children and possibly a spouse. Sometimes God has the job saved for some other person. Also, God has a different timetable than we do. He may yet bring your parents and your sisters to a closer relationship with the Church but it may not be anytime soon.

Your actions are a much greater witness than anything you can say will ever be. I’m saying this mainly because it’s true but also because you may have already or probably soon will have friends (particulary evangelical protestants) who will tell you that it is your duty to spread the Christian Faith by verbally sharing it. But whether for family, friends, or strangers, words usually ought to be the last resort.

Your example is the greatest witness of all. Of course it typically takes years for it to have an affect.


#9

JudieK, SMHW - Thank you for your responses! I will take your advice to heart and I feel much peace about my family’s situation now.


#10

May the Lord be with you!:slight_smile:


#11

To me you sound wise beyond your years. I would like to recommend the green scapular as a devotion to help convert your family members. You buy them, they are maybe $1 each, and have them blessed by a priest. Place the scapular in the house/room of the person it is for and say the prayer “Immaculate Heart of Mary pray for us now and at the hour of our death, Amen”, for each person, every day, for the intention of their conversion. It sometimes seems like I am here to help my parents get to heaven, not the other way around so I can relate to your situation. God Bless, Michelle


#12

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