LadySerenityMage asked a question about ex-Catholic Relatives on our old discussion forum and received some insightful answers from the Coming Home Network community. We’ve curated the topic for you here. Feel free to continue discussion in the Disqus comment box below.
My mother is an ex-Catholic, and so is my father. I became interested in the Catholic Church as a result of two interesting things: a funeral and a wedding. My beloved grandmother passed away and was given a very traditional Catholic funeral. That got me curious about death and purgatory. And sometime after that, beloved friends of mine planned a Byzantine Catholic wedding. In between those events, I had also gone to a Triduum Mass (Maundy Thursday, actually). When I went to the Triduum Mass, another friend started immediately praying for my conversion. Well, God answered my prayers — and hers — in a very interesting way, that involved a deepening love for tradition, something of a Eucharistic miracle, and an awesome experience involving the Communion of Saints. (They really are the best cheering section one can have!)
Somewhere in the middle this, I made the decision to finally talk to the local Catholic parish RCIA director. [RCIA = Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.] My mom exploded when I casually announced that I was thinking about becoming Catholic. She said that it was a “rule based religion” and spouted a bunch of half-truths that a decently catechized Catholic would not have spoken. I have a feeling that she was badly catechized, because she always seemed to say that the priests didn’t show her much attention and that they didn’t teach her in a way she could understand. The priests and catechists at my current parish are awesome when it comes to homilies, advice, and catechesis. My mom seems to have relented somewhat, now that I’ve been in RCIA for several months, but it’s still difficult. There is a widening rift between us. I will try to reach out to her by inviting her to parish events, but I haven’t had much of an opportunity yet.
The Monsignor at our parish advised me to focus on the fact that it was my own personal journey, and not my responsibility to drag my family members (both mom and dad) back into the Church. He advised me to read the book Rome Sweet Home. Anyone have a similar experience?
Welcome to the forum, LadySerenityMage.
Yes, a lot of us do with family members whether they’re ex-Catholic or not. I converted almost eight years ago. I am the only Catholic in my family. My family isn’t anti-Catholic, in the sense of rejecting me because I am Catholic. But they’re not interested, and sometimes I get the “rule-based,” anti-authority, “the Church is a man made institution” stuff. Most of them profess to have a relationship with God, but for the most part, I’m not sure where they’re at with Him.
I get the same stuff from ex-Catholic and non-Catholic Christian friends. So I pray for them and try to live the faith. My family sees a change in me for the better as a husband, father and now grandfather. They know it is the result of becoming a Catholic. But no one has expressed an interest in the Church at present.
I had to convert. I couldn’t stay outside. I desperately needed the channels of grace the Catholic Church provided that come from Jesus Himself.
Proper catechesis is important, and it plants a seed, but God has to make it grow and bloom. He has to do the inside job on the mind and heart.
That’s where prayer and living example come in. They have to want what we have. It has to become a hunger and thirst in their hearts. When that happens, they will begin to ask questions and start to check things out. But often it can take years, like Saint Monica praying for her son, Augustine.
Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world, have mercy on us. Saint Monica pray for us and our loved ones. Amen.
Fortunately, I had no ex-Catholics in my family (although I did teach my own children to be anti-Catholic), but when I announced that I was becoming Catholic to my evangelical Protestant friends, I had no idea how many ex-Catholics there were among them! They came out of the woodwork rather loudly. By the time I announced it, I was well on my way and very sure that I was indeed going to take the step, so I was very sure of my theological and historical grounding at that point. But it didn’t matter how I answered their arguments, they would not listen.
The comment that baffled me the most was that Catholics didn’t even use Scripture at Mass. Huh? You gotta be kidding me! I remarked that the entire first half of the Mass was straight from Scripture and that we had four selections of Scripture each Sunday, as well as the homily focused upon it, and that most of the prayers and recitations were from Scripture in the rest of the Mass. Nope, they weren’t buying it. I suspect that many of them were Catholics as children and never went to Catholic school, that they were poorly catechized, and that their parents were equally ignorant.
What it proved to me was that the only person who can convince a Protestant of the truth of the Catholic Church is God himself, and we must let him do his job. By all means, speak the truth and always have an answer at the ready, but never argue with them if they are not willing to listen. I now just smile at them and say, “I know what you are saying, but unfortunately you have no idea what you are talking about,” and then I change the subject. Arguing just gives room for the devil to make a move, to get you upset, to make you doubt, and gives your Protestant family a rotten reason to feel very proud of the historical nonsense they are spouting off, even if they don’t realize that it is nonsense.
You must discern between those who are speaking to you out of a real concern for your soul — go very gently there because they speak error with great love — and those who are just out to hammer you down because “they know so much better” — give those ones no quarter.