Reverting Catholics to the faith

What is a good approach to ones who have some faith, were raised Catholic, but live their lives as the faith were something secondary or non important?
I have some cases of Catholics who moved in together before marriage. How do you engage them? I tried to reason with them, as they are my friends, and they do agree that it is not normal, but still they did it, they moved in together.

My fear is, for the vast majority of people in the situation you speak of, its too late to change their minds…and it is likely more will follow.

To turn things around, we need continued and creative catechesis for those already in the faith. There are generations of Catholics, who only know what other un-catechized Catholics (usually well intended family members) have taught them (or failed to teach them).

This is one reason, when speaking of other Catholics (or even ourselves), I hate the terms “cradle Catholic” and “convert”…In my mind, the only two types of Catholics are catechized and non-catechized.

So, to make a short story long…I would say, get involved in starting up an adult catechesis program in your parish…kind of a refresher RCIA. Taking a prospective or concurrent approach to catechesis is always more effective than a retrospective approach.

Peace and all good!

First, Prayer - pray to the Father that he will wait for them and welcome them when they return; pray to Jesus that he continue to call them "The Kingdom is here, repent and believe this Royal News (this Gospel), and to the Holy Spirit that he display the reality and goodness of Christ to them in a desirable light, so they want it. And when you see them, before you say hello, pray to their Angels and your Angel for inspiration for yourself and for them. Your Angel and their Angels have a vested interest in all of you participating in Christ.

Second, love Jesus and the Church yourself - recognize the importance for you, that when you say, “I am Catholic”, it is what you truly hold as your identity and you love it. Know in yourself that “I am Catholic” is the true description of you, such that words like “I am American” pale into insignificance and don’t really say anything about your identity compared to “I am Catholic”. This will aid you in your attitude when interacting with them. You will bring up things Catholic in your small talk: You might find you have to leave from a visit with them, telling them, “I have to go now so that I can prepare for Mass tomorrow”. They may wonder what you mean, and you can explain that you have to go to Confession to let go of some sins you remembered and feel badly about, then you would like to read through the scripture lessons and pray to be ready for Mass. There is excitement and goodness in being Catholic - let them see the desire for it in you. Let them see it pull you away from them, so they see themselves left alone, outside, but also, invite them to come along to be in the presence of the King.

John Martin

Use love and whatever gifts God has given you. The most important thing is to work within the relationship you have with people. It’s all about relationship!

I have some good friends that I visit with who are living together but not married – when I leave their home we embrace and tell each other “God bless you.” And then I add “and go to confession!” with a smile :smiley: In that relationship, my comment is understood as loving, and they aren’t offended by it.

I have another couple friends who told me they haven’t been to confession in 30 or more years. Because of my relationship with them, it’s fitting for me to occasionally mention that I’m going to confession and nudge them in the ribs with a great big smile and say, “Wanna join me? I’ll take you to dinner afterwards!”

Another friend is living with her fiancee, and has other things she’s doing, while returning to attending mass – thanks be to God. When I talk with her, I occasionally mention different Saints and their words or experiences as a means to encourage her in what she’s doing right. We’re not very close, so I’m not talking about confession…yet.

Anyway, it’s all about relationship and operating within those relationships. Root yourself in prayer and Sacraments, and trust in the Holy Spirit’s guidance :thumbsup:

God bless you!


Thank you for all your answers! But, the persons know that they cannot receive the sacraments, and they still did it. They are quite aware of the teaching of the Church. I cannot tell them to go to Confession, since they know they cannot receive absolution. It boggles the mind that one, knowing the faith, would reject it, or place it secondary to other concerns, knowing full well that they are in a state of mortal sin. I’m sad because they persist in mortal sin and refuse to love God, with full knowledge and consent.

Just a note, tell them You are going to confession - let them hunger for something they feel uncomfortable to do, but still have some hidden hunger for it and they know you are having your hunger satisfied.
Let them know You are going to Mass - again awaken a hunger for something they feel awkward about but might secretly want to happen, and knowing you are being satisfied.
And if they would go to Mass, they can wait in their pews without embarrassment, yet again have a hunger working in them. It has to do with a desire to be walking with Jesus, whether from a distance looking on, or in intimate communion. There is a hunger to be walking with him.

There were many people at Jesus’ time in Nazareth who watched him from afar until finally they had to get close to him and give up their secret reasons for staying at the distance - Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, to name two.

John Martin

Do not let this boggle your mind.

Think of those 2000 years ago that walked and talked with Jesus Christ in the flesh! Knowing Jesus personally, hearing his perfect words, feeling his hand touch their hand and looking into His beautiful eyes. Now remember those that rejected Him and placed him secondary…MOST of them!

Judas himself is an example to us. If someone can turn away from Jesus in person, how much more easier to walk away from Him 2000 years later.

Do what you can to turn your frustration with them into compassion, they are lost and are seeking happiness in the wrong place. Remember too to be grateful, because it is only because of God’s abundant grace that you are not living the life that they are. God bless and I will pray for your loved ones.

They go to Mass regularly on Sundays. So, no problem there. They are very much aware of their situation. And, I really don’t see a hunger in them for Christ. At least, his objections of the faith are numerous. It’s the I know better then the Church attitude. And the attitude of the pastors isn’t that great. Not even the bishop is a Catholic raw model. And all of this has led to a severe diminishing of their faith, and of others. So, how do you address this kind of behavior?

I often think about this too because of the way St JPII, Mother Teresa and now Pope Francis demonstrate relationship with others who aren’t in sync with the Churchs teachings.

There is a limit to what we can judge of another person with regards to their soul. We can impart rules to them but we can never guarantee them that following all the rules will get them to heaven. The most important transformation happens within the heart of a person where he meets with Christ. Jesus used the example of Pharisees to illustrate how following rules with too much emphasis on show, is poison.

I feel that my three mentors above demonstrate most clearly the value of your presence to a person where they are at. I’ve always been intrigued by peoples ‘presence’ in that mystical sense. I’ve always loved weekday Mass from a very early age and in trying to explain what I liked about it, I once came up with the analogy that it made me feel similar to how I feel having a cup of tea with my Mother. It’s like a small thing that’s really big in terms of what another persons mere presence brings to your life. This makes me really value the reality of presence in making a welcoming space for someone to meet with Christ in their own way.

That’s a bit of a waffle, but it is something that Pope Francis seems to be strongly guiding us to engage when we meet with others still feeding from the illusions of the world we live in.

When I was young, I had this feeling about my Dad, that he knew God; it was not mindless repetition with him, but he had some contact. And I did not. And I think I searched and kept wanting it, either consciously or other times buried in my soul. But church, the Bible, and study were always important to me because he knew what (or whom) I only knew in theory.
While they have their objections, if they see someone in love with God, knowing God, and happy, they have a light shining near them. God really wants you to be happy in knowing him, - that way you are EVIDENCE that he is true and his Church is true with its teachings.
That is the best I can say, I guess, because I have several people that I know with the same “I know better than the Church” opinion. And I haven’t broken through that. Many people think that the Church teachings are an opinion just like their opinions, and “no one knows truth for sure”.

I am working to “manifest” my delight in the truth; I DO believe in the Holy Catholic Church and the Holy Spirit which guards it from false teaching. It is delightful knowing that Christ is in the Tabernacle and on the Altar in sacrifice at the Mass, and that I am given to eat and drink. I don’t know if you can see my joy in my posts, but it is there.

John Martin

  1. Try talking about how awesome Catholic Answers Live is
  2. for Christmas, order them a subscription to Catholic Answers Live magazine
  3. invite them to a Catholic Bible study
  4. sit with them at mass and on occasion refrain from communion yourself, showing that it’s OK not to receive
  5. buy then a good Catholic book, etc

Just do it with love and patience. When they have questions about Church teaching, focus on the Theology behind the “why,” tying it back to The Father, Son and/or Holy Spirit.

Often people think Church teaching is based on a “bunch of old guys” and not on Christ’s teaching. Cafeteria Catholics are basically Protestants, so you have to evangelize them the same way you would a Protestant… With love and patience.

God Bless

It is really the Holy Spirit who has to touch them inside…turn on that light bulb so they see.
They are in the dark. So, though it may be a tiring thought, pray. For the Holy Spirit is the only one who can reach them at this point.

If I may suggest, give them a blessed green scapular so they may put it in their wallet or purse.
Then pray the prayer, “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.”
This must be prayed everyday for each person you give it to.

For this blessed green scapular to be effective, Mary said the person who says the prayer must have trust in her to enliven their faith. In other words, believe that she wouldn’t tell a lie. Sounds pretty easy to me.

I will just tell you that I gave it to someone who was in a bad relationship, and I told Mary, “it is in you hands now Mary and am I ever glad. Thanks.” I say the prayer for them everyday. And guess what, I told Mary she had a tough case on her hands and I was looking forward to seeing just how she would break them up. It took just a few months for Mary to do the impossible…they broke up and now this person is interested for the first time in years, in the church.

Just trust her. Once you give it to them, just relax because it is a done deal and leave the rest up to Mary, and say the prayer for them as Mary asked. And give it time.

May God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine on you. May God be kind to you and give you peace.

This was enlightening, and a very good starting point.

I am already praying to her. I know she can do miracles, but I wanted some other, more apologetical answers. I know prayer comes first, always and in everything.:signofcross:

The world is much afflicted with secular humanism, but that would indicate they cared nothing for going to church or receiving the sacraments. The Church is much afflicted with apostasy as well, so it is a puzzle why they would continue to receive the sacraments. Perhaps habits are stronger than faith, or the loss thereof.

There are some people that I believe you can only commend to the mercy of God. Until they become convicted by the Spirit, they will not be open to evangelization. And of course, scripture describes the state of the soul that has hardness of heart so that eventually their understanding becomes darkened.

Want to save the world? We (all of us) now, can become saints and make reparation for those who appear lost.

When I said they did it, I meant they moved in together. I didn’t mean they received the sacraments. Knowing full well they will have to abstain from sacraments, they chose a sinful life style.

My rule of thumb is to first ask the lapsed catholic friend or relative to accompany me to Sunday Mass. My experience has been that those that do not take me up on my offer will also be reticent and hostile to discussing anything about the Church. So all one can do is pray for their conversion.

This is only tangentially related to this topic, but I would love someone to show me where living together is a sin.

I have looked and looked and have found nothing. Having sex before marriage is a sin. But living together?

I know everyone will say it’s a “near occasion of sin,” but if you know you’re both strong enough to do it (or not to do it, i guess :rolleyes: ) – or even more so if you had a 2-bedroom apartment and could each have your own room, let’s say – where does it say that sharing a house is wrong?

I guess my point is, do you know for sure that your friends are having sex? Maybe you do. But if not, how do you know they’re not in keeping with the church right now? Aren’t we supposed to give people the benefit of the doubt?

  1. You pray for them;
  2. You offer them (silently) the witness of your own life;
  3. You continue to be their friends and love them as your brothers and sisters as if Christ Himself dwelt in them (hint: He does, we all have His image imprinted on our hearts).
  4. You wish them well but when things inevitably fall apart, you be there for them, non-judgmentally, offering them a sympathetic ear, perhaps even offer to take them to a monastery for a silent retreat to help them get back on their feet.
  5. If they do open the door and want to learn more about the faith, or learn why you seem so serene in your life of witness, you gently guide them, answer their questions, and humbly point them in the right direction (i.e. a priest, monk, friar, etc. who can help them).

Reason, cajoling, arguing, etc., will have zero impact and may in fact even backfire.

Well that’s optimistic. :stuck_out_tongue:

Placing reason, cajoling and arguing on the same level is more then unreasonable. I will certainly not cajole them. I don’t do that, it’s beneath human dignity. As for reason, I think you need to think in order to even considering applying the points from above. And for arguing, it depends what you mean by arguing. Do you mean arguing as in fighting? Then I completely agree with you. But if you mean by arguing you mean using reason to get to a rational conclusion, then I don’t agree. As strong as personal example may be, you still have to give a reason for the hope within you (1Pt 3,15). And I quite enjoy using this great gift from God, called intellect. :wink:
No argument is without impact. It can backfire, as you said, but it can also shed light. But an argument, done calmly and with respect, always has an effect.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit