Non-Catholic family


I’m the only Catholic in my family. I just recently converted, in fact. My parents didn’t support my decision the entire process of RCIA, but allowed me to do as I wished, seeing as I was 18. Then, randomnly, on the actual day of Easter Vigil, they became extremely supportive and happy for me. What a blessing!

Yet, three months later now, they have begun to sink back into their unsupportive stance. It’s not necessarily that they tell me I can’t go to Mass or anything like that… but they definitely have that tone, if you know what I mean. They don’t vocal it or anything, but I can sense it by their reactions when I say I’m leaving for Mass or other subtle things.

What is more, they don’t particularly care for me really “getting into” my faith. They seem to think that I should only be doing the minimal: church on Sunday. That’s it. But I want to be involved and I want to grow deeper in my faith. I love going to daily Mass, Adoration, youth events, etc. Yet I have to be so careful on what I tell them I’m going to do and which ones I’m going to ask to go to, so that I don’t go overboard with them and not be able to do anything.

I suppose my inquiry will be to all the parents on this board… If your child was branching out in a different belief system than you, how would you want them to approach you about it? What are the best ways to make sure that I don’t hurt my parents’ feelings, but still am allowed to practice my faith as fully as I should like?

Most importantly: How do I show that my believing a certain way does not mean that I think lowly of my parents?

Because I almost wonder if these feelings are behind their unsupportive behavior.

By the way, my parents are not religious at all. My father is agnostic and my mom is a Christian (not really practicing of any sort, but believes in God).

I dont really know what to say but wanted to offer my support at least! That has to be so hard but you are such a couragous young adult!! Its hard to go through the convertion process without support of those you love most.

You have to be truthful to them about your whereabouts and since you are 18 I can’t believe that if you said you were going to Mass, yet again, that they would actually tell you you couldnt go. Let the comments or negative body language roll off your back. You cant let it get you down. Believe me its hard to keep the fire alive and if you give in and stay home or hide your enthusiasm you risk letting the devil temp you into being a lukewarm believer and thats just as bad as not believing at all.

Take heart that you are doing what is right, and always be loving and honest with your parents. maybe someday some of your believes will rub off?

Hi Vittorio,

I, too, am the only Catholic in my family (the one I grew up in, anyway.) I converted when I was 22 and didn’t receive support from my parents at all. They said that the only reason that I was converting was my boyfriend. Which, isn’t true at all. I just knew it was something I had to do (although it took me several years to begin to see the beauty and the fullness of our Faith, and the rosary, adoration, fasting, etc.) They tolerate my decision now that we (the boyfriend-become-husband) have children. But, they still have a hard time setting foot in a Catholic church.

All I can say is that you should not hide anything about the Faith from them. At a minimum, pray daily for them (especially the rosary) and have masses offered for them. Also, fast for them and offer up your holy hours for them. No matter what they say or do that may hurt you, keep choosing to love them. One day, you will notice a difference in them. Even if you don’t, all of your prayers and mortifications will give you the strength to endure.

As a parent, I honestly cannot say what I would do if my children decided to switch faiths (the oldest is only 4 right now.) I know I would feel like a failure at doing my job as their mother, even though the decision is an individual decision. What would I do? I would pray and fast for their conversion back to the Church that Christ established. I would also offer my Holy Communions for them and have masses said for them.

Hopefully that is something I will never have to deal with. No matter how they would approach it with me, it would break my heart. I have watched many Catholic mothers go through much suffering of children who have left the Faith.

Vittorio - you are wise beyond your years.

Stay stong in your faith and continue to be respectful of your parents. That is wonderful.

Perhaps you could balance your time with your zeal for church activities with time spent with your parents. Perhaps they feel a little left out as you continue your faith journey without them.

Parents like to feel connected and share things with their kids, so try to spend some time with them - not church related - and enjoy their company, conversation, and share some laughs. They probably just miss having you around. Balance is the key.

I don’t know what I would do if my child moved in a different faith direction. I would like to think I would be supportive, but it would definitely depend on the faith and motives behind them. Again - parents like to feel connected especially spiritually. If your parents have none - they are even more disconnected to begin with. Good luck and God Bless to you and your family.

What a beautiful example you are setting for your folks!

I have 4 children, and I cannot imagine what I would feel if they decided to switch faiths. But it sounds like that isn’t at all what is happening in your family. Dad has no religion, and Mom doesn’t go to any church despite her claim of being a Christian.

It sounds like honesty is the best policy. Be honest, and answer any questions they have. If you don’t know the answer, find out or take them to somebody at your church who can answer their questions.

I would also say that this will take time time time. If you continue to go to church and get more and more involved (which by the way follow your heart and DO get more involved!) and after time you are becoming a better person for it, your parents will see this without your saying anything. It is what you will do and who you will become over time that will lead them to be more comfortable with your decision, and then more impressed with you decision when they see the fruits of your coming home to Catholicism! Who knows, maybe in some years down the road, you will be able to stand by them as they come into the Church one wonderful Easter.

Don’t be discouraged. I received some hostility from family and coworkers after my conversion. I was really surprised at a so-called Catholic who got hostile and catty behind my back at work. It turned out that me living my faith abundantly shined a light for her on how she was not really living out her faith. It made her look at herself and she didn’t like what she saw.

I just kept on participating in Catholic things that I like including retreats and seminars. Most everyone has come around to at least not being openly hostile at this point.

I would suggest building yourself a strong support network within your faith community while not neglecting your family either. They may be afraid of “losing” you to something that they don’t understand. It can be really hard for someone with little or no faith to believe that someone with strong faith is not being “brain-washed” or something similar. They see our behavior and interests changing and they get uncomfortable or even fearful.

I have built a network of friends in my parish with whom I can share things about my faith and even my life in general (which of course is guided by my faith now) that I cannot share with my family yet.

Many prayers for you. Stay on course and go deep into your faith. The Lord will make a way for you even if the path seems rocky right now.

They may be afraid of “losing” you to something that they don’t understand. It can be really hard for someone with little or no faith to believe that someone with strong faith is not being “brain-washed” or something similar. They see our behavior and interests changing and they get uncomfortable or even fearful.

I’m betting this is a big part of it, Vittorio. I was Confirmed this year as a convert at the Easter Vigil, and I’m only 19. When I talk about ‘the future’ and stuff around my mom she sometimes gets a little upset. I can recall one time where I was talking about being able to find godparents for my kids one day and she suggested my sisters. I said the godparent has to be a Confirmed Catholic. We started talking about my getting married someday and I said I had to get married in the Church by a priest, and that I really wanted a mass. “Will I even get to be the grandmother?” she asked.

We have a really close relationship, but I think she just feels like she’s being left out; a lot of positions in a Catholic’s life have to be filled by fellow Catholics. At this age our parents are just getting over the fact that we’re not little kids anymore (in my case at least!) and that we can survive and make decisions without them. It’s probably a lot for your parents to handle.

Good to know there are other young converts out there!

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