What should you do when your child leaves the Catholic faith?
One of the most painful experiences a Catholic parent can have is for their child to stop practicing their Catholic faith. As parents, we try to raise our kids to the best of our ability and teach them the beauty of the Catholic faith and its truths.
Yet sometimes our kids turn away from the faith.
What should we do?
It is so tempting to take them by the arm and drag them to church! But is that the answer?
I’ll say right off the bat that I don’t have all the answers! Our oldest kids that are now young adults are not practicing their faith. I can share with you what advice we have learned.
When your child leaves the faith, pray. Pray. Pray. And pray some more.
I am sure you saw that one coming! The best first thing we can do as parents is pray for our children. We don’t just pray for our children when there is an issue-we pray for them from the moment we know they exist.
How do we pray for them when they have left the faith? We can pray for their protection from what distracts them from God. Pray for them to come back to the faith. Pray for them to be who God calls them to be. We can pray for them to see God for Who He is and develop a close and abiding relationship with Him.
When we pray for our children we are doing three things:
- We are praying to God for them.
- We are entrusting God to take care of them.
- We are letting go.
1. We pray to God for our children.
When we pray to God for our children, we are asking God to take care of them and bring them back to the faith. We know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He leaves the 99 sheep to find the lost one. He is after the hearts of our children. He loves them so much that He died for them. He sorrows when they turn away from Him.
God is so good. He loves our children so much. We can trust in God to look out for them and care for them.
2. We are entrusting God to take care of our children.
When we pray for our children who have left the practice of their Catholic faith, we are trusting in God to take care of them. We know that we are not alone in our concern for our kids or alone in our sorrow.
We are asking God to bring their hearts back to Him. We know He alone can orchestrate this work in the way that our child will respond. God knows the hearts of our children intimately. He knows why they are no longer practicing their faith and why they might no longer even believe in Him.
God is the One Who can help them the best. Trust in Him and in His timing, and keep praying!
Remember that St. Monica prayed for her son St. Augustine for YEARS (20 or 30 or so). She never gave up praying for him.
3. We are letting go.
When we pray for our children we are letting go. We come to understand through our persistent prayers that God is their Father and He is working in their lives. We can let go of some of our sorrow or even regrets and put our own focus on God, trusting in Him to help our children.
Remember that your child has free will.
Oh, yes. Our kids have free will. We have known this since they were two or three and first told us, “No!” when we told them to do something they did not want to do. Perhaps it was not, “No!” but “No. No. No. No. Nooooooo.” and then they ran away.
We have free will, too. looking back on our own lives, how many times have we done something we regret? Have we been away from God for any period of time in our own lives?
We want so much for our children to share in our rich, amazing faith. That is why we brought them up in the Catholic faith to begin with! Yet, they need to own their faith themselves. They need to want to encounter Jesus in the Sacraments. They need to choose to have a relationship with Him.
Jesus wants us all to come to Him because we love Him and desire to be with Him. He wants the same from our children; He wants their hearts to be freely given to Him.
We can pray for this to happen.
Keep living your faith to the best of your ability.
When our oldest child stopped going to Mass as a young adult, my husband and I had a very hard time. Our parish priests said it happens all the time. They see it so often in families. They said to not push our child to go to Mass. This was hard for me. Our child was still living under our roof, so my thought was: If our child lives in our house, our child needs to follow our rules-go to Mass!
Yet, as I thought about our pastor’s advice, I did understand it more. God gives us free will. We have the free will to love Him or not. We have the free will to follow Him to not.
My husband and I kept following our faith. We never deterred from that. We still invited our child to go to Mass with us and to other events, like Rosary groups or special events at church.
We also kept our communication open so we could talk about anything with each other.
Trust in the truth that your children are God’s children.
God loves our children so much! He created them out of love and He calls them to Himself. He will never give up giving them opportunities to return to Him.
One of my brothers who had been away from the Church returned to the faith right before He died. He chose to be restored to the Church and the Sacraments-to receive Jesus again.
Our children are marked with the signs from the Sacraments. They are children of God since their Baptism and are sealed with the Holy Spirit in Confirmation. These marks cannot be erased. God claims them as His own.
As much as we love our children, God loves them even more. He loves them with a perfect love that we as humans cannot experience. We can completely trust in God to do all He can to bring His children (the children He entrusted to our family) back to Him.
When your child leaves the Catholic faith, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”
St. Padre Pio is quoted as saying, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” We should not despair when our child leaves the faith. It can be easy to do, though! We can put all our faith and trust in God.
We should never stop praying for them. We should never give up hope that they will be reunited with God-even if it is at the last minute. We can decide not to worry about our children and put our energy into praying for them.
When we put our trust in God, we have peace in our hearts and we treat our kids differently. We approach them with peace instead of with a graspy, frantic energy.
We want to have peace, joy, and faith in God to bring our kids back to the faith.
We can pray for ourselves, too, for wisdom and for guidance with them. We can also pray for ourselves to be the best Catholics we can be and to set a beautiful and faithful example for our children.
And we should also never stop praying for our children who still practice their Catholic faith, that they remain close to God and continue to increase in faith as they get older.
May we live our lives and practice our faith to the best of our ability. May we fully trust in God, pray for our children, and work to “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”
Share your tips and resources!
Do you have tips or resources that have been beneficial to you in keeping your kids in the Catholic faith or helping them to come back if they have left? Or helpful advice if they have left the practice of the faith?
Please put your comments and suggestions in the comments below. Thank you.
May we all prau for and help each other.
Resources to help when your child leaves the Catholic faith
When Your Child Leaves the Faith by Fr. Sebastian Walshe, O. Praem.
Some resources for when your kids are young: