Suggesting Parents Come Back to the Church

My MIL left the Church shortly after my husband started college. She “church-hopped” for a while and eventually settled on a non-denominational, contemporary music style place that was just starting up and had a very charismatic pastor (who had broken off from a more mainline Protestant faith and felt called to start his own church). My FIL, who is not Catholic and had never practiced religion at any time since knowing my MIL, saw her enthusiasm and eventually began attending with her, and they got really involved with it, overseeing different ministries, etc. Both of them were “re-baptized” there (we were invited but declined to attend.)

Well, as we expected might happen after a few years, they have gotten a bit disillusioned with it, attendance has dropped off, there’s not a lot of money coming in, and they’re not happy with the pastor anymore. So they’re church hopping again. We’ve become aware through some conversations that MIL was really poorly catechized as a Catholic growing up and even though she continued attending Mass while DH was growing up, almost all of her non-Mass faith life was done through Protestant devotionals and TV evangelists, so it’s not a surprise that she ended up where she ended up. I’ve never really explicitly evangelized her because I felt it wasn’t my place, although I talk about the activities we do through our parish (one of her big complaints is that there’s “nothing for Catholics to do” besides sit in the pews and listen to the priest…which IMO is funny because on the one occasion we attended their “church” all we did was sit and listen to a very long sermon, with a contemporary song at the beginning and then at the end) and the faith practices we have as a family.

My husband would like to encourage his mom to return, but isn’t sure how to do so within that family dynamic. Our parish has materials on encouraging family members to return to the faith, but it’s very “parent encouraging child” oriented and here it’s switched. Of course we know that at this point whatever theology they’ve been getting where they were going could have given them some very strange ideas about Catholic beliefs and practices, and we can defend those on an intellectual level, but he also wants to be sensitive to the fact that he is talking to his mother.

(On a practical level, it boggles our minds that they are now travelling over an hour away from home to attend another non-denominational place when there are five Catholic parishes within twenty minutes of their home, that we go to all the time when we visit and are very good.)

MIL can’t be completely opposed to Catholicism because she gives us Catholic items as gifts (some she buys herself, some were things that belonged to her mother who was a very devout lady). She talks about all of us worshipping God and that she knows that Catholics are Christians (which was apparently a controversial position for her to old at her old “community church.”) So we feel like there is some opening there, but are just stuck on how to start a conversation.


Praying to the Holy Spirit to give your family members guidance & direction back to the Church.

I would just start to invite her to attend Mass with the family and then I most likely would start to attend “adult faith formation” classes and invite them to go to. Usually when I’m trying to get someone to do something I want them to do I offer a dinner invite to or ask them to keep me company. Then they feel like they are doing me a favor!

My husband and I have been encouraging several lapsed cradle Catholics. Mostly reminding them of their baptism, confirmation. They admit not really knowing their faith or anything about the Bible. They share memories of years of Catholic schooling and religious education that didnt answer their questions and priests who wrongly assume since they are now adults, they know their faith. We have gotten two to go back to confession and communion, however. Lack of priests and those who offer spiritual guidance has lead to many lambs left to wander the wilderness. Someone has to go back in search of them, feed them and bring them back to health, into the fold.

Remind your MIL of her Catholic baptism, her confirmation and that Christ is waiting in the Eucharist.

A simple invite goes a long way! I would not suggest inviting her to mass first but rather some other parish activity. I have seen noncatholics or lapsed catholics have profound experiences at adoration. It started with an invite that was done out of charity. Keep fighting the good fight of faith (1 Tm 6:12).

I agree on the invite. Perhaps ease her in by inviting her to a Church picnic or potluck if she seems reluctant to go to Mass.

Just to clarify, they do not live very close to us. It would not make sense for them to visit us at our parish. We have invited them (and other non-Catholic or non-practicing family) for events like baptisms and they do come to those.

When we visit them overnight (which is rare but it happens more often than the reverse) we will attend Mass at a parish close to them, so we’re not members at any of those parishes, but DH did attend them growing up. I don’t think MIL really “gets” what Mass is (and isn’t), but we do know even from those brief visits that the parishes are vibrant and active.

Are you and your husband and little ones going to visit your in-laws before your new bundle of joy arrives? In that case, you can schedule to go to mass and ask your mother in law to accompany you for child care help. The other option is to wait until the christening of your son/daughter and then they HAVE to get inside a Catholic Church! I’ll pray for them to return.:slight_smile:

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