Returning to the Church After a Long Absence? Here’s What to Do

By pintswaquinas October 28, 2022

If you’re just returning to the Church after being away for a while — or you know someone who is — it can be daunting.

Maybe you now realize how far away from the Lord you’ve wandered and wonder whether you have what it takes to live a truly Catholic life. Maybe you realize how much Catholic teaching and practice you have to catch up on.

Be at peace. You’re not alone! Many former Catholics are returning to the faith after having left for many reasons — such as being scandalized by the priest abuse crisis, not putting enough effort into their prayer lives, or never really understanding why the Church teaches what it does.

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To help you ease your way back into the Church, here are a few things to do.

1. Go to confession
If you’re returning to the Catholic Faith, you’ll want to receive the Eucharist as soon as possible. But if you’ve been weighed down by sin — especially serious sin — you should first go to confession.

Going to confession after a long time can be intimidating. But let the priest you’re confessing to know how long you’ve been away and that you’re nervous about confessing again. Many priests are more than happy to gently lead you through your confession.

If possible, try to call the parish to arrange a confession time rather than going to the regularly scheduled (and often short) confession period right before Mass. That way, you won’t feel rushed.

2. Join a parish and get to know the people there
One of the many beautiful things about Catholicism is that our religion is not a solitary practice. Every baptized Catholic is incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ. We are called to worship God together at least once a week at Mass.

Many parishes have events to bring people together outside of Mass. One type of event to consider attending is an adult religion or theology class. Many parishes or diocesan centers have these, and they can be a great way to dive deeply into the rich teachings of the Church.

3. Be patient with yourself and trust in God
Above all, don’t be discouraged by how much you have to do to get back into the rhythm of Catholic life. You’re not going to turn into a perfect Catholic overnight. It’s a step-by-step process.

Put your trust completely in God and start moving forward. As long as you persevere, God is going to give you the grace to grow into a more faithful Catholic.

To close, here’s what Jesus had to say about those who return to Him after having been away: “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).

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