a devout Catholic, but my adult children have fallen away from the Church.
I pray for them, but is there anything else I should be doing?
omeone once sent a question like
this to a columnist in one of those diocesan newspapers, and his response
was something like this: Children have free will, and this sort of
thing happens. Its not your fault. Just pray for
Well, an answer like that misses
the point entirely. Things dont just happen. Everything
we do with our free will has an
motivation, and if we are to live genuine Christian lives we have to discipline
ourselves through sacrifice, obedience, and prayer
so that unconscious motivation does not draw
our wills away from Gods will.
Drawn Away from
Christian parents have a prime
duty to raise children to love and to fear God. And one of the parents
prime obligations is to teach their children to do Gods will and to
protect their children from being drawn away from Gods will.
In the times of the early Church,
Christian families tended to live in Christian communities, and, because
of general lack of mass communication, these communities tended to be relatively
insulated from the pagan influence surrounding them. Therefore, children
lived well-protected within the communities. Still, Christians had to be
vigilant; their faith became their real protection
from the hostile world around them, and children learned by their parents
example to put their trust in a living faith.
But, over the years, as societies
became more and more Christian, and as Christianity became more and more
incorporated into secular politics, individual Christians tended to let their
guard down. No longer threatened by a hostile non-Christian environment,
their faith tended to become less emotionally intense and more intellectual.
In essence, faith was gradually taken for granted. Faith began losing its
identity as a personal battle against
evil, and it started to become a mere social
identitya requirement, as it werefor social status and
Now, in recent years, because
previous generations have allowed their Christian faith to become lukewarm
and hypocritical, anti-Christian ideology has had ample space to grow. The
secular world, with all its weapons of
entertainment, has been attacking the Church
as an angry reaction to the social effects of Christian values having taken
on secular political power. Children are being assaulted and brainwashed
by anti-Christianand especially anti-Catholictelevision, movies,
music, video games, and sports, along with
When so much of the world today
is based in such evilthat is, opposition to
Gods willCatholic children need to be protected from this evil.
They need to be given a living faith that teaches them clearly, yet
compassionately, what evil is. They need to
be given a living faith that protects them from being drawn away to their
destruction in an evil world. Children need to learn true, heartfelt trust
Full trust in God is composed
of two separate but interrelated components: trust in Gods justice,
and trust in Gods providence.
Gods Justice. We have all encountered
individuals who commit offenses and seem to get away with it.
Although the irritation that we feel is justified, we can also be drawn into
the desire to take matters into our own hands and get revenge. If we remember,
however, that every crimeevery sinevery
offense against lovethat a person commits is
an offense against God that will be accounted for during his or her judgment
at death, and will be paid for either in Purgatory
or hell, then we can understand that no one can evade
Gods perfect justice. To trust in Gods justice, then, is to set
aside our anger for the injuries inflicted on us and to let God administer
His own justice according to His will.
Gods Providence. Some individuals
have the mistaken belief that trust in God means to sit around
doing nothing in the expectation that God will do everything for us. But
this false belief is based in an avoidance of our taking full
responsibility for living holy
lives that bear spiritual fruits.
To trust in Gods providence, therefore, does not mean that we do nothing;
it means that we believe that, in answer to our
prayers, God will guide, protect, and encourage
us as we take responsibility for developing and using our talents to serve
With a fully-developed trust
in God, children will be protected from everything that can assault their
faith. To develop this trust in God, however, children need the example of
parents who themselves trust in God. But if their parents lives do
not reflect trust in God, the children will see the fraud and will end up
trusting in nothing but their own power of manipulation.
What Your Children
So, lets be honest here
now. What unconscious motivation has led your children to fall away
from the Church? Well, maybe you see yourself as a devout
Catholic because you attend Mass daily. Maybe you
even go out of your way to attend a traditional Latin Mass. Maybe you pray
the Rosary daily.
But what do your children
Do they see a both parents
with a living faith engaged in an all-out
battle with the evil of the world? Do they see both
parents living in constant contemplative love for God and awareness of His
presence? If they did, they would look to their parents faith and, like
Peter looking to Christ (John 6:68), would say, Where else can we go?
This is the real thing.
No, your children dont
see living faith. Your children dont see protection from
evil. Your children dont see genuine,
fruitful devotion. Your children dont
see genuine love for God. Instead, they see your
external acts of devotion as meaningless because they see all the
other things you do, or your husband or wife does, that contradict
the true faith. Thus you lose credibilityand when the parents lose
credibility, the children will become frustrated angry
teenagers who turn to the secular social world around them for
identity and acceptance. They will have
more concern for gaining their friends approval than for loving God.
How You Lose
Are you or your spouse
overweight? Do you or your spouse eat junk food
throughout the day? Does ice cream call for you or your spouse late at night?
Do you or your spouse secretly look with lust at muffins come midmorning?
Ding! You lose credibility.
For many, as I have
often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies
of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach;
their glory is their shame. Their minds are occupied
with earthly things.
Are you or your spouse a
smoker, enslaved to nicotine? Ding! You lose
For freedom Christ
set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
Do you or your spouse come home
from work and say, Get out of my way! What a horrible day! I really
need a stiff drink! Ding! You lose credibility.
Christs sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our
encouragement also overflow.
2 Corinthians 1:5
Do you or your spouse ever shout
and cheer for a sports team? Ding! You lose
But may I never boast
except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has
been crucified to me, and I to the world.
When you or your spouse are driving,
do you swear or honk at other drivers? Ding! You lose credibility.
Finally, all of you,
be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble.
Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary,
a blessing. . . .
1 Peter 3:8-9a
Do you or your spouse sulk or
complain when others mistreat you? Ding! You lose credibility.
Consider it all joy,
my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing
of your faith produces perseverance.
Do you or your spouse file
complaints, participate in protests, or start lawsuits?
Ding! You lose credibility.
When he was insulted,
he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he
handed himself over to the one who judges justly.
1 Peter 2:23
Do you or your spouse worry about
things to the point of anxiety or insomnia? Ding!
You lose credibility.
Do not worry about
tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Do you or your spouse gossip
about friends or coworkers? Ding! You lose credibility.
Do nothing out of
selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important
than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but everyone
for those of others.
Do you or your spouse raise your
voice or argue with your children? Ding! You lose credibility.
Do not provoke your
children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of
Do you or your spouse turn your
back when beggars ask for money? Ding! You lose credibility.
Give to everyone
who asks of you.
Luke 6:30; Matthew 5:42
When you or your spouse hear
of some person in the news who has done something despicable, do you say,
Scum like that should be wiped off the face of the earth! Ding!
You lose credibility.
For the judgment
is merciless to one who has not shown mercy.
To be fashionable, do you or
your spouse dye your hair, paint your face with make-up, or wear
immodest clothing that invites others to lust
for your body? Ding! You lose credibility.
Your body is a temple
of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and . . . you are
not your own.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you or your spouse overlook
sins, in the belief that the ends justify the means,
as in saying, Sure, theres foul language and sexual references
in this movie, but it has a good message. Ding! You lose
So I declare and
testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the
Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds;
darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their
ignorance, because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and
have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind
of impurity to excess.
Do you or your spouse crave
eroticism? Do you or your spouse keep a secret cache
of pornography on your computer or in your closet? Ding! You lose
They exchanged the
truth of God for a lie and revered and worshipped the creature rather than
the Creator, Who is blessed forever.
Do you or your spouse ever say,
Lets skip Mass today. Theres just
too much to do today. Or do you or your spouse arrive at Mass
late (after the priest begins with the sign of the cross) or leave
early (before the dismissal)? Ding! You lose credibility.
Make no mistake:
God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the
one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one
who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit.
Do you or your spouse ever skip
the blessing before eating because
youre in a hurry or because people might look at you? Ding! You lose
. . . for although
they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead,
they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were
Have you or your spouse allowed
atheistic, anti-Catholic public
education, television, movies, rock
music, video games, magazines, websites, and chatrooms to highjack the moral
development of your children? Ding! YOU HAVE LOST
Whoever causes one
of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him
to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths
of the sea.
Now, this list could go on and
on. And it does. And its not pretty. Many persons who call themselves
devout are, even as you read this, tripping over several of these
things. And if they arent doing it now, they did it in the past, when
their children were younger.
Thats why the children
didnt see devotion when they were younger and dont see it now.
They see hypocrisy and, to their eyes, empty,
superstitious rituals. Though they might
claim to be angry with the Church, they are unconsciously
angry with their parents for living a
fraud instead of a true Christian
lifestyle that bears tangible
spiritual fruits. And their anger is directed
to one purpose: to expose the fraud.
the childrens unconscious motivation is to show the world, through
their own wretched behavior, that their parents are lacking in
compassion and true
What You Can
So what can you do, now that
you have lost your childrens faith? Is there no hope?
Well, there is always hope, as
long as you are not afraid.
So, first, admit your mistakes,
and the mistakes of your husband or wife, honestly and openly. Tell your
children that you were wrong. Tell Christ that you were wrong. With a sorrowful
heart, repent and confess your
Only one thing,
though, has any chance of reaching past your childrens apathy and
resistance: your tears of contrition. Weep. Weep for the damage you
have done to your children. Weep for their souls. Weep for your mistakes.
Let your tears speak from your heart.
Then begin to live the
Faith as it is supposed
to be lived. Live the suffering, self-sacrificial
love that Christ taught and that the Catholic mystics
have experienced through the ages, so that it fills you from the inside and
envelops you from the outside, becoming the entire reason for your life.
Let this love manifest for both you and your spouse as a
chaste life of
sacrifice, obedience, and prayerfrom your
heart, not intellectuallyevery moment of every day. Live it with
humility, seeking Gods blessing for everything
you do, giving thanks for all you receive, and bearing all trials with absolute
trust in God. And, with emotional honesty and
tears of contrition, demonstrate that faith to your children.
Its relentless hard work
for both parentsa true spiritual battle. But
when your faith becomes your life then maybeeven though it may
take 10 years or 20 years, or moreyour children will take you
Then, maybe, once your children
take you seriously, they will see that their anger
can be healed.
Then, maybe, they will want the
Good Shepherd to find them. What greater hope
is there than that?