How do I get my family back into the church, when church members have been so hurtful to them?

Okay, so this is part evanglization question, part family issues question. The Thing I am wondering is, how can I get my family back to the Church, when so many members of the church have been cold and in some cases hurtful towards us.
Here’s the background. My father died 8 years ago. Up until then, we always went to church. I won’t say we were the most faithful family in terms of doctrine (mom was a typical liberal, dad was more conservative, but still had his doubts) we always went to church and never missed a sunday or holy day.
Anyway, after my dad died things kind of went downhill. My mom had to take a job as a teachers aide because she couldn’t afford to drive to the Catholic School where she was teaching about 50 miles away and lost not only her faith in religion, but in people. Also, it hit me hard because I had some discipline issues (I was 16 and bullied and had threatened kids so they would stop). My autistic brother was affected, but he went on pretty well. My sister was only 13 at the time and besides being picked on, she didn’t really have many friends in our small Catholic school, and it probably hurt her the most (she still hasn’t recovered to this day. She’s extremely shy, has severe depression. Doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t really talk to any people other than us.
Anyway, none of my family has gone to church in about a year or so except me or my brother. I go every sunday and holy day and a few daily masses, while my brother comes with every so often. My mother and sister do not.Besides the loss of faith, a lot of it has to do with where we live.
We live in a small community of about a 100 people, and the next closest town has about 2500. My mom moved to live with my dad when they were married and people didn’t accept her much since she was a convert and my family isn’t the biggest of big shots. Anyway, most of the big shots in our town were Catholic and didn’t really treat us great. Not that they were in your face mean, but more like gossipy small town mean. This not only applied here but at our catholic school. We weren’t a big name. Us kids weren’t treated great not only because we didn’t fit in but because we weren’t big shots. It didn’t help that our elementary school principal didn’t like mentally challenged kids and tried to get my parents to send my austistic brother to another school. Add to that I and my sister were bullied and no one was punished for it (in my case especially it made my mom mad because I had got suspended. She felt the other kids should have too since I got called really bad gay slurs, even though I’m not SSA)
Add to this we had priests who were not the greatest. The first priest she knew out here gave her a book by Bruno Bettelheim about autism after the birth of my brother (for those who don’t know bettelheim was the proponent of the “refrigerator mother” theory which placed autism’s development on maternal coldness) and of course my mom took it as he said it was her fault. Our next priest also wasn’t the warmest individual, but we did have one who was good to our family since like my mom he was a convert, was a similar age, and even convinced my dad to get annointing of the sick when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Our current priest though is another story. He is not only kind of lukewarm towards our family (he’s never asked me how they are doing when I talk to him and isn’t interested in getting them back), but my mom doesn’t like him because as a teacher, she doesn’t like that he uses incorrect grammar in spite of his education and isn’t the most well spoken individual, and of course only seems to care about the big shots in our small parish (we have only 60 or 70 families). She also feels he screwed me over for a few things (I was active in music ministry in college as well as lecturing, while my parish, the music director only allows her family, and even though I took lectoring classes I didn’t put my name on the list until last fall).

Also to add to this, my mom didn’t grow up catholic, disagrees with the church. Was raised in a family that wasn’t observant, though she always went to Lutheran services while young and taught sunday school though this was in the 70’s in the ELCA, which accepted her liberalism. The same thing goes for my sister. She like my mom is very liberal, and has been hurt by people in the church. She was bullied, she has met hypocritical catholics and christians in college (one of her friends supposedly was involved in her college’s Catholic club and smoked dope regularly). She also has never really been accepted by anyone. I tell her to go to different clubs and groups but she is so depressed she has withdrawn into herself, and I worry she’ll just be this loner with no one to turn to. Not even God

So how do I get my family back to the church. A lot of it is simply because a lot of Catholics haven’t been charitable towards them. I don’t blame them. We’re in a small town and its hard to get accepted, but at the same time, most people are “devout” but couldn’t care less about those who are struggling or don’t fit in and it saddens me. I often tell my mom how it is so different in a lot of places but she turns a blind eye. She keeps telling me “the only good people around here are the non-catholics” and brings up how the church "hates gays, mexicans( don’t know where she got that) and poor people) and just has a general dislike. Same with my sister. My brother though he doesn’t go as much, is probably the most likely to return. Mostly because he is easy to convince though I wonder how much his disability affects him (thats another question though). So how do I get my family back to the Catholic Church. I would love for them to be Catholic, but I don’t want to try and push my faith on them. They’ll just think i’m some biblethumper or like those people who aren’t so nice to us. What do I do?
I know it’s a long question but any help would be appreciated
God Bless:)


Catholics don’t follow priests. I’m sure there are plenty of lousy priests. But Catholicism is not about priests.

The main thing that sticks out to me about the Catholic Church is the Holy Eucharist. I don’t think that anyone who believes in the Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence of Jesus, His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, can ever leave the Church for good, at least not without a guilty conscience. Once a person has that belief he’s done for-- it will always nag him to return, because it’s not about charitable Catholics or decent priests, it’s about a gift from God that transcends all that human stuff. Let’s hope your Mom had that belief in the Holy Eucharist.

The second thing that stands out to me about the Catholic Church is it’s being free from error in its teaching. This to me is very important. Every Protestant church has its own twist on things, but I want to know that I can depend on the whole truth when I need it. I have this kind of faith in the Catholic Church. Catholics don’t alway follow the teachings, sometimes not even the priests, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Church teaches the truth. That’s another reason, if a person believes it, that they will not leave the Church for good, or as I said before, not without a guilty conscience.

Underlining all this is the Catholic Church’s high esteem for Holy Mary, the Mother of God. This means more to me than I can tell you in a small space, and it keeps me tightly held to the Church.

Maybe as your Mom says, the only Christian people around that town are the non-Catholics, that doesn’t change the things I said above. It does mean that you have a heavy cross to bear to remain in the Catholic church in that town-- in fact, from what you described, many crosses to bear. You may find it difficult to understand, but I see those crosses as a sign of God’s special love for you and your family. People treated His Son shabbily, too.

I hope you are still going to the Catholic church. You seems to have a pretty good grip on things and wish your family would see things your way. But a lot of hurts have been experienced and its hard for people to let go of these injustices and uncharitableness by others. It’s not always easy to forgive. And it’s hard to stay in the same environment where these things are happening. If there was no other church nearby, I think I’d continue to go to the same church, but try to keep a low profile. I’m not a glutton for punishment.

I would pray to our Blessed Mother and put your family members into her care, and hand over all these problems to her and ask her to help with them, Of course, it would help if you continue to attend Mass and grow in your faith yourself. Other than that I can’t think of anything you can do other than what you have probably already done. Maybe when they see you continuing to attend church it will cause them to question what accounts for this faith of yours despite what you suffered in that church. If they ask you, you can tell them.

  1. Pray

if your family is willing to read a book I would suggest getting them to look at maybe

also this website is helpful -

Hi there♥
Im speaking from experience. My entire family left the church, myself included. I was a ring leader at one point…I was so anti-“religion” at one :heart:With respect. Protestant, non-denominal churches were bible reading and showed me verses that I thought was proof that all religions had it wrong.

My Mom also had a bad experience with a priest that turned her away running. Last year, I personally had a bad experience with a priest.

With that said, and not getting into a lot of detail (feel free to PM me if u have questions)…

My entire family has come back. We have all been back at seperate times. We were all away for over ten or more years and we now have been back for over 15 years now.Glory to God.

The beauty of God is He uses people places and things to give us guides back home. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. Scott Hahn book “Home Sweet Rome” will be a blessing to you, I would have loved that while I was searching for truth.

Try your best not to argue. Respect what they say. The biggest influence in bringing me back was my grandmother, she reminded me of mother Teresa. She didn’t say a word about converting me. She LIVED LOVE♥ she would pray her rosary. In morning and night. And out of respect I would take her to church. Still I would go to my bible study and attend the other non-denominational church.

My journey back moments were: finding out the bible was put together from the catholic church, the real presence of Jesus in the eucharist.

People that spoke a lot didnt bring me back, it would usually turn into a debate. Looking at someone LIVING the catholic faith spoke volumes to my soul.My grandmother, bless her soul, I guarantee she prayed for me. She died before I came back. And let me tell you, her walk and devotion, unconditional love she poured out DAILY. had more affect than all the aunts who tried to tell me about the catholic church…

So much I could share. I just wanted to atleast share that with you♥

I will be praying for you♥

Yes. Showing others is usually better than telling others. And praying is the best. But sometimes a little logic is needed. Are ALL non-Catholics so safe and sane? I’d say they run “neck to neck” with those errant Catholics in your town. Remind your mother about human nature. Our human “dark sides” occur in all humans; when it happens in someone from our own church or background, it makes us more angry and disappointed.

Hi James and everyone else - loved your replies!. What you said is very true - we do not follow priests - however there needs to be some sort of outlet for speaking out about bad behaviour - and acknowledging that this is not what we’re all about - or importantly, that this is not what Christ is all about! Not communicating about the faith to anyone is difficult - the faith is spread by communication - the right communication. Reading the lives of the saints and their writings of encouragement and their stories of hardship - God has given us their example for a reason! There is a lot of support coming from them. I am sure there is a saint just for you, who you will really identify with - or maybe a few. What about St Augustine?

It is very difficult to not have a family member who is all for the church - the true church, and who is not a hypocrite - if you don’t have one of those in your family, it is very difficult and no one can judge you. Many people are in church due to the strong influence of their family - so really what credit is that to them? - they had that influence - they have probably not really made a very difficult choice - have had it all served up on a platter = easy.

the Real Presence is, as James said, the drawcard - He will draw you, even though you are a sinner. Maybe if it gets too tough - can you move? Remember what Jesus said - if something causes you to sin (or leave the church) - cut it out! Better to remain in church somewhere, than not at all.

Also St Therese of Lisieux - her wonderful words that said that where ever we are at the moment, is exactly where God wants us to be!! Maybe you are in this situation because God wants you to learn something - maybe about yourself, maybe about God - let God teach you from your situation. He brings good out of evil. Apparently in suffering, you are never closer to God. Pray to Our Lady - He will turn water into wine for you.

You are not alone, oooh no!
Bless you in your very desire.
Saint Monica, Saint Augustine’s mother, would be most sympathetic. She gave her life in prayer to save her wretched, wayward son.

I took this of :

Dear St. Monica,
troubled wife and mother,
many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.
Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,
you prayed daily for the conversion
of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine;
your prayers were answered.
Grant us that same fortitude, patience,
and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for us, dear St. Monica,
that God may favorably hear our plea for
WildCatholic’s family and intentions,
and grant us the grace to accept His Will in all things,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.


It helps to look at the lives of the saints and see what the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ can do for a person! Sadly there is sin in the members of the Church, which, at times, causes others to despair. Hope springs eternal, and it can start with us!

And, firstly, to focus on Jesus and what He did for us. Our Blessed Mother is a model for us, and she intercedes for us. Ask her for her intercession!

Our Lord uses weak human beings in the Church, we need to pray for the sanctification of all priests. Meanwhile, we can be the best we can be with the help of the grace of God.

It is good to surround yourself with other believers, as we are community and encourage one another.

Ephesians 6: 10 and following helps much! PUT ON THE ARMOR OF CHRIST!

These are all wonderful answers, thank you. My problem is that my mother would not read any sort of religious book. Also, its hard, even for me to live out my faith. I go to mass yes, and live a fairly good life, but she’s so entrenched in the whole live and let live culture. I’ve even said to her something to the effect of “I go to church and i’ve turned out okay, your daughter doesn’t and she cusses all the time and is very disrespectful towards you, in spite of being morally okay since she doesn’t drink or smoke or any of that nonsense” I know its hurtful but its true.

Also, she still would not go to churhc because of so many hippocrites. I mean we even had neighbors who were church big shots who cheated us out of land or dump garbage on or near our property. She can’t reconcile with them, and of course they don’t think they’re wrong since they go to daily mass and lead the rosary before mass every week.

Anyway. Wonderful answers. The prayer ideas are especially helpful

FYI: the title of the book that is still to this day, sooo powerful!!

“Rome Sweet Home” by Scott Hahn

Sorry I had title wrong above♥

Story about him and his family…very anti-cathlolic at one point, coming home to the Catholic church♥

His testimony is amazing♥


Wow, there are a lot of issues going on there. My heart goes out to you. Pray always. Go to Eucharistic Adoration if it’s available in your area. If not, just pour out your heart to Jesus about all of this. Pray the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Be kind and charitable with your family even when it’s difficult - lead by example.

Remember that Our Lord Himself, and many of His Saints, went through persecution and rejection. A prophet is not welcome in his own country. And often Saints were treated terribly by their own religious orders, falsely accused, and other trials - but they used the trials to let their faith be refined by fire into pure spiritual gold! :yup: So no need to get discouraged! Read the Lives of the Saints and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

The “hypocrite” issue is such a lame, yet popular excuse. And I wouldn’t get snarky with your family about it, but if you get a “teachable moment” you might gently point out that: 1) Even if everyone around you is a hypocrite, should you throw in the towel, or take it as an opportunity to be a better person in humility yourself?

And 2, guess what, WE ARE ALL HYPOCRITES. Yes! This was a point made by a priest in a memorable homily that’s stuck with me for years - we are all hypocrites simply because we all fall short of what we say we believe in. There’s even a joke floating around: “The Church is full of hypocrites!” “No it isn’t, we can always scoot over and make room for one more!” :smiley:

But guess what - God is MERCIFUL - even to us hypocrites! So no need to give up! Just keep going on the spiritual path. When the Devil tries to remind you of your past, remind him of his future! Great advice for all of us. If you can somehow convey these ideas to your family . . .

Also - forgiveness. Letting go of past wrongs. Resentment only imprisons the resenter. Grudges weigh us down. Forgiveness = freedom.

You won’t be able to get all of this across at once, but in bits and pieces. How do you eat an elephant - one bite at a time.

Take care and God bless you and prosper your efforts to bring His love and hope to your family. :blessyou:

Another book also by Patrick Madrid that might help on how to talk with them and approach the whole issue is Search and Rescue:

Answer #11 is beautiful

Ah, that stinging judgement of those who are offended by the judgemental. How dare they judge me, those awful Catholics! Those horrible sinners! That Church must not really “work”, if it’s full of such awful sinners!

Sick people in a hospital, where people are supposed to be made well?! Shocking!

Or, as Groucho Marx said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member!”

My point is, as long as your family wants to pretend they’re better than all those rotten sinners in that awful Catholic Church, they’re never going to realize they need to be in the hospital with all us other sick people. Granted, the remedy takes longer to work on some than others, and some don’t take their medicine as they should, and the Doctor doesn’t force us to follow our treatment, but that doesn’t mean the treatment doesn’t “work”.

Now, I do think that these examples you’ve given of horrible treatment by other Catholics are truly heinous. And they may very well be in much greater danger of hellfire than your lapsed Catholic family because they “should” know better, whereas your family has been scandalized.

I think that if you do not acknowledge that there are hypocrites in the Church, you can’t make any progress. Your family will just think you’re blind and that’s why you’re Catholic. So you can’t pretend it’s not happening, or that it’s not a big deal. If you can say, “yes, i’m aware of that data, yet I still have other data that leads me to embrace the Church, despite it’s being populated entirely by fragile human beings”, then you may have a better angle.

Obviously you’re aware that the Church is full of sinners, and yet you ARE still a Catholic. So, why are YOU Catholic? What is that other data you have that leads to the faith? Sharing that, but more importantly, praying for them, and for all of us Catholics to give better examples, are the best ways, in my opinion.

As far as some of the things you said are among your mom’s issues:

  1. “The Church hates gays”. Read: The Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. I think you can find it online for free. It was written in 1986 by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. It’s awesome. Don’t try to make her read it - you read it. And know it. And have it in your mind to share with her when that comes up again.

  2. “The Church hates Mexicans”. That is certainly interesting. Mexico hated the Church for a time. Spain exploited the Missions in order to exploit the native Mexicans. Perhaps the election of a Latino Pope will help with this misconception?

  3. “The Church hates the poor”. Maybe it’s the myth of the Rich Church that’s got her here. The Church’s riches aren’t liquid - they’re in schools and churches, works of art, etc. The Church is the oldest and longest running charitable organization in the world. has awesome info on this. Again, you go look at it, learn it, and then share it when the subject comes up organically. Something to think about is this: you can see the impact of the Church in its absence after Henry VIII shut it down in England. Before then, the monasteries, whatever their excesses might have been, took care of the poor, the sick, the infirm. When the monasteries were suppressed, who was there to do that charitable work, which the Church, even in a time and place when it was certainly far from its best, still had carried out? The Tudors punished the poor and then the Elizabethan Poor Laws resulted not in relief and return to industry, but the poorhouses and workhouses familiar to us from Dickens. Does your mother think that hospitals, universities, orphanages, and science are worthwhile endeavors? The Church created the first three and has contributed more to the fourth than any other institution.

Hopefully the way our new Pope Francis lives will help her see the love the Church has for the poor. Is she familiar with St. Francis or with the work his followers still carry out today? Maybe in Nebraska the Church isn’t doing so great with this, but where I live, Fr. Joe Carroll is a local hero, who created the biggest and best system of services for the poor around here. How about Cross International? How about Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity? The Catholic Church invented missions and I’m unaware of any order in which a vow of poverty is not part of religious life. We aren’t a church that ministers to the poor - we are the poor, and we become poor to help the poor. Even us laity are supposed to give until hurts. Examples abound among the saints of those who’ve dedicated their lives to helping the poor.

Anyway, for me, I judge the Church by its merits, not by the demerits of us sinners who populate it. And those merits are many, and have been the greatest force for good the world has ever seen.

Humans mess up everything we touch - yet the Church has endured for two thousand years and has somehow, despite our sinfulness, managed to do more good than any other organization. That is proof to me that the Catholic Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and sustained by the Eucharist and this is all real.

Hi Tijeras - great replies! However, I find myself offended - I am not sick!.. I do not think that I go to Church because I am sick and need to be in the hospital, with the other ‘sickos’… :o

I always think the problems occur when people start focussing on people, instead of what we all should be focussing on - Christ in His Church and in His sacraments and in the Eucharist and in the prayers of the Mass and in the gospel. Any minute people start focussing on people (except maybe the saints) - everything will naturally fall apart; because people are not God, they are not Jesus and they are not His church. Basically God comes to us in the many and varied events of our lives, and not via one particular person or experience (except Jesus of course); and so…, the path of wellness.

So, why is your name Tijeras?

Thanks again for the answers. Now on to your answer Tijeras. You got to remember, when my mom says the church, she means its members, not the organization. My mom was raised Lutheran, so to them, a church is just a group of believers. So in that sense, she feels that if certain members believe it the church must believe it. This is especially true with the Mexican thing. Since we live in an area not far from large packing plants, more Hispanics are coming. Well most old white people are not going to like them. So therefore the church must not like them.

As for the poor, I think she just says this while accidentally contradicting herself. She grew up in Omaha, which is a wonderful Catholic city. They have great Catholic hospitals and two decent Catholic colleges, and of course Boys Town, which was founded by a priest who is now under investigation for Sainthood, Father Edward Flanagan:gopray2: So I don’t think thats the issue.

Our own diocese, Lincoln isn’t too bad. Catholic Social Services was helpful to me while I was going through some mental health issues. We also have good charities that we have participated in. I think the problem is that a lot of members in our parish don’t support them. They have other things they are involved in (not a sin), or more commonly have the “screw you I 've got mine” attitude and make only a token donation to please our priest.

And Lastly (this is addressed to everyone who answered). My mom is a very perfectionist type of person, but is also someone who believes in “niceness”. By this i mean, she acts nice to people’s faces and doesn’t want to offend people and in fact rarely stands up for herself. However at home she complains about people she works with and says how she doesn’t like how they act.

I’ll give an example. We went to a wake for a teacher friends husband in a nearby town. We saw a lot of my old teachers. Many were friendly. However one, who had been good to me, but hated my autistic brother (he said he’d never amount to much and that my mom was a bad parent) didn’t say hi to us. My mother mentioned how he was a jerk for not saying hello to us. I find it sad because my mom could have said hello and put him on her terms. But because she’s this fake nice type of person, she can play the victim and think he’s such a bad person That’s just my take anyway.

Thanks and God bless. You are truly helping

Sin is the sickness - like when Jesus cured people with illness He always forgave their sins. That’s where the Church-as-hospital metaphor originated. :wink:

Spiritual wellness - exactly! :slight_smile: Jesus Himself said it - the well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do.

To the OP - one thing that has helped me in my own spiritual journey was becoming aware of some of what the psychology field calls “cognitive distortions” - ways we misinterpret things that cause us unnecessary mental anguish, which then we act on in self-defeating ways. Here’s a list of what I’m talking about:

When I was younger, I was guilty of many of these - and no doubt there are a few on the list I’ve yet to overcome. I used to take things really personally and want approval too much, for instance. Over most of that - and what a relief to be! :coolinoff: (Except for worrying about Facebook flamers - working on that :smiley: ). But at least knowing these tricks of the mind gives one some pause. When one is ready (some don’t want to hear it, and I was also one of those when first introduced to it, I admit), one can develop the internal self-correcting awareness to counteract some of these lies our minds tell us.

I’m sure in past generations spiritual writers addressed these within spiritual contexts. St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life is one who comes to mind. Some of his writing helped me with some anxieties, for instance.

Hang in there and keep on loving your family as you are so courageously doing. :thumbsup: You may be the only Jesus they see, as the saying goes.

Joy2Day - oh I am sorry if I offended you, not my intent at all. My point was actually made by 3Doctors in reply to what you posted: sin is the “sickness”, and we all have it.

I agree with you completely, Joy2Day, that we need to focus on Jesus and what He teaches and offers and requires of us through His Church. Just like a hospital, your focus is on getting yourself better, paying attention to the prescription the Doctor has for you, not poking your nose into everyone else’s diagnosis (“hey, what are you in for?” “sin” “oh, right, me too”).

But I think what people are looking for is “does it work?” and when they see mean people who claim to be devout Catholics, they may think that it’s the Church that isn’t working.

What I think though, is how much worse off those “mean Catholics” would probably be if they were not part of the Church, where hopefully something is getting through to them. While they may be stingy with their donations, as the OP pointed out, maybe they wouldn’t give anything at all if they weren’t at least trying to look Catholic. While they may be rude, maybe they’d be even worse if they didn’t pray the Rosary, which hopefully makes them stop and think sometimes. I know I’m not perfect yet, far far from it, but at least my participation in the life of faith and sacraments makes me stop and examine how I’m doing, check in with Jesus, examine my conscience, and receive some grace while I’m at it. I may still be a jerk sometimes, but I think I’m less of a jerk than if I weren’t trying to be a Catholic at all. Like a person on a diet may still struggle with their weight, but they’d be worse off if they weren’t trying at all.

All of this said though, OP, I think it’s important not to push your family. Educate yourself so you can provide accurate insights into the Church as the subject arises, but it sounds as though your mother and sister are actually anti-Catholic at this point, so you’re just poking the bear if you bring up the subject and may entrench them further in their stance as well as alienate yourself from them. Be ready to defend your beliefs in truth and charity (I think this is in the Letter to Timothy) and then just pray pray pray for them. i had a friend whose mom was at her wits end about him, and a friend of hers told her, “stop talking so much about Mary to him, and start talking about him to Mary”, meaning, stop preaching at him and pray. As much as you’re worried about the destiny of their souls, God is even more concerned, so put it in His hands. “Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry”, as St. Padre Pio said.

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