Many devout Catholic parents are shocked to hear a son or daughter declare that they’re leaving the Church. This leads the parents to wonder what went wrong: “We took them to Mass every Sunday, shared God’s love with them and taught them the faith. Why did this happen?”
No matter how much you love your children, there’s nothing you can do to make their faith foolproof. Not even solid catechesis guarantees that — although it helps.
If your children do leave the fold, there’s no reason to give up hope. Follow these steps instead.
1. Pray the rosary.
The rosary is one of the most effective prayers. There are many stories of people reverting back to the Church through our Lady’s intercession. Remember, Mary was a mother. Yes, her son was God and perfect, but she can still relate to a parent’s distress.
Many Catholic parents don’t put as much effort into praying for their children as they should. Ultimately, it’s God’s grace that will bring them back to the faith. But God wants you to be part of this process by praying for your children.
2. Let your tears flow.
Don’t be ashamed to weep over your children. Just make sure you do it in the presence of God. Otherwise, your weeping will fuel your despair.
God sees your suffering in its full depth. He loves your children even more than you do. Remember St. Ambrose’s words to St. Monica as she wept over her wayward son, the future St. Augustine: “It is impossible that the child of so many tears should perish.”
3. Forgive your children and — if necessary — apologize to them.
It hurts when children leave the faith, but remember that God commands us to forgive all who have hurt us. This includes your children. Don’t forget how many times God has forgiven you!
While it’s hard to admit, it may be that your behavior played a part in your children’s decision. Some loving parents are too lax and neglect their children’s religious education. Others are too rigorous and cause their children to view religion as nothing more than arbitrary rules and regulations.
If you fit one of these models, make sure your children know you are sorry. Don’t pretend to be a perfect parent — none of us are! A little humility goes a long way.
Above all, remember that conversion is ultimately the work of God. The best we can do is plant seeds in our children’s hearts. It will be the Holy Spirit who waters those seeds in His own good time, which is not always as quickly as we would like!
We’ll leave you with the words of St. Padre Pio: “Pray, hope and don’t worry!”