What do I do with a 14-year-old who has lost her faith?


#1

I have an issue concerning my daughter and I don’t know how to handle it. My daughter has been out of town for two or three weeks visiting family. In addition, my brother-in-law has had a recent “St. Paul at Damascus” type of religious experience and has made a hard core conversion to the Christian faith. His faith is not Catholic, nor is it even mainline Protestant. It would be more along the lines of Evangelical Fundamentalist.

Anyway, after my daughter returned home she announced that she was “saved.” She no longer is Catholic nor does she feel good about attending Mass. Much of the usual anti-Catholic thinking has been put in her head. She doesn’t believe in purgatory, doesn’t believe in the Eucharist, doesn’t believe in confessing sins, etc. I try to talk to her as unbiased as possible, share her my experience of converting to Catholicism, tell her that she needs to study these issues deeper, and that many great minds have tackled with these issues: trying to imply that a 14-year-old can’t be so certain with her answers. It is difficult having my 14-year-old daughter charge me with “facts of certainty” as if it were new news to me, without her having the understanding or appreciation of my own religious path that has tackled and studied these issues myself.

In a way, I am happy for her. I am happy that a 14-year-old even has an interest in Christianity. At the same time, to be honest, I am horrified, and felt like I have left my daughter in “good hands” only to have her returned permanently damaged. My own daughter is now a victim of an epidemic that is a plague to the Church. I just don’t know what to do.

Thank you for any help.


#2

It sounds to me like you’re going to have to take a firm hand with your daughter. It is true that you cannot “force” her to have faith again, but you can and should set certain rules and expect her to follow them. Here are some suggestions:

1. Pray for your daughter. If she has a patron saint, ask that saint for intercession. If not, choose one. St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, prayed for her son’s conversion for many years.

2. At fourteen, your daughter is still under your authority. I recommend requiring her to attend Mass with you on Sundays, even though she will not be able to receive Communion unless and until she recovers her faith. If she is not already confirmed, you cannot force her to be confirmed, but you can require her to attend religious education classes. Assure her that whether or not she is confirmed is her decision but that attending the classes is just as mandatory for her as attending her regular school classes. If she is already confirmed, you can still require her to attend a religious education class for teenagers if there are any available in your diocese.

3. Require your daughter to treat you and your faith respectfully. Assure her that she is welcome to ask questions, with which you will help her find the answers, but insist that she not “charge” you or denigrate the Catholic faith in any way. You must insist that she state her questions politely and only if she is interested in finding answers. In fact, if you are unable to find for her a local religious education class, you might create one at home by requiring her to study materials answering her questions and to write essays on the topics in question.

4. For the time being, you may have to distance your daughter from your brother-in-law and his family. That your brother-in-law used your daughter’s visit as an opportunity to proselytize her without your knowledge and consent is reason enough to closely supervise any future visits between the two of them.

5. Most of all, your daughter needs that you not be cowed and intimidated by her wandering from the faith. You must, of course, respect that she must do as her conscience informs her that she should (insofar as that is not used as an excuse for ignoring religious obligations or treating you and the Church disrespectfully), but you can also insist that she continue to learn from you the Catholic faith until she is out on her own. What she does with that education in the faith at that point is her decision.


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