The second in our series on Evangelization here at the NCSS Blog comes from a blogger who wishes to remain anonymous. Thank you for your contribution!
We often hear the term “cradled Catholic” thrown around referring to those of us who have grown up with a practice of the Catholic faith as a part of our family life. It is a beautiful thing when parents of a newly baptized baby take seriously their responsibility to raise their children in the faith. These families are the ones that glow at mass – you know who I am talking about.
But the reality is, if we take an honest look at what’s going on in our generation, fewer and fewer Catholics are raised to love Jesus and the Church. This translates to fewer and fewer couples who allow God into their families and home life.
But something beautiful is happening in the midst of these trends – young people – you and I, are being invaded by grace. Many have encountered the love and mercy of God and have discovered that the Catholic Church as the true source of life and love. What a great mystery and miracle this is!
However, where does this leave us in our relationships with our families? For those of us who feel like the black sleep among their closest relatives, I have a message for you: you are not alone. There are many out there who have encountered Christ and desire to share how He has made “all things new” only to experience resistance, difficulty, arguments, misunderstandings, and great emotional heartache when encountering our families. This can be truly painful because it is in our families where we desire to be accepted and received most deeply.
Here are some tips (by no means exhaustive) to help you navigate these rocky waters:
- A paradigm shift: We can often come from the perspective of “Why don’t they get it?” or “Why don’t they see the goodness of what I have decided to live for?” – the reality is that you chose something different than what was chosen for you. Your parents are confused because you aren’t walking in their footsteps and they are likely wondering why (with varying levels of frustration, expressed or not). Feelings of humiliation, failure or shame come to the surface and these are not easy to deal with, even on a good day. We need to accept this difference, and be gentle with our families, while recognizing that God has a plan that we can hope in, even if we can’t see it in the immediate future.
- Don’t hide: The easiest thing do when a Sunday rolls around is to slip into the car and head to mass without telling anyone. My thought process: “Don’t tell anyone you are going to church = less likely to have an awkward conversation later.” Makes sense to me. Um, no. Don’t hide!If you are going to mass or just came from mass – or you had a great night at a Catholic event, just share a little about it! You might not get into the same depth you would with your Catholic friends, but it doesn’t hurt to show your joy! When we are living in the spirit, we magnify the Lord – so don’t let your fears stifle the Holy Spirit in you. It can be an opportunity that God uses to touch someone’s heart, often without you knowing it.
- Talk things through with a confidant:We all need support. Just like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, we need to lean on others along the way. Ask for prayers from your friends when you are struggling, talk through the experiences you have with a faithful mentor or priest. Don’t let things fester in the darkened areas of your heart – but bring them to the light and let others help you make sense of it all!
- Let go and do what love requires. Let go of your expectations. Don’t grasp at a reality that has not presented itself, but do what love requires moment by moment. Wash those extra dishes without being asked, call home to tell your mom where you are, do something thoughtful for each family member just because, expecting nothing in return. This selfless charity requires great humility and trust – both of which we are invited into as Christian disciples – especially when it costs us our pride.
- Be easy on yourself. Just so you know: You will mess up. Why is it that the ugly sides of ourselves come out around our family?! They do, don’t they? And when they do, and you are not the angel you envisioned yourself to be, don’t beat yourself up. Admit your wrongs, ask the Holy Spirit for grace and help and try again. Apologize. Seek reconciliation and get in there again. It feels rocky sometimes, but it will get better as you continue seeking after the Lord’s guidance.
- Pray for your family: I once had a wise women tell me, “pray for your family every day – one Hail Mary each day.” And I’ll be honest, it’s not easy; it’s hard to pray into situations that are difficult and expect God to do seemingly impossible and great things. But God calls us to such faith! Another thought is to entrust each of your family members to a particular saint – saints are prayer machines! They want nothing more than to pray for us here on earth – so get the saints working for you and your family!
And lastly, know that you have a Father in heaven that is making up for whatever you need in those areas of your heart that need it most. He is on the sidelines watching you play and can’t wait to debrief with you when you the whistle is blown at the end of the game. He is longing to have you call him “Abba, Father” and let yourself be adopted by him as a son or daughter. Let yourself be fathered by God.
Take some time to repeat and pray:
- Father, father me.