Being a Catholic parent is very much like being a radio transmitter. If parents are not broadcasting their faith to their children through their actions, words, and acts, then how can they expect their children to carry on their faith? A very popular thing for people to say today is “I used to be Catholic”, or “I grew up Catholic”. I recently heard this exact conversation happen between a few people I was speaking with about my faith. One lady said, “I grew up Catholic, but I just go to a non-denominational church once in a while now”. The other woman I was speaking with instantly chimed in with, “well, at least you are still going to church, and it’s the same God anyway”.
We’ve all heard someone say they are not going to a Catholic church anymore. Why is the natural response to try and appear impartial to someone that says they are no longer Catholic? I have been in countless conversations throughout the years with people all over who tell me they “used to be Catholic”. My one and only response is to ask, “why aren’t you still going to a Catholic church?” It may appear very forward to some of you who are reading this…and guess what?…it is! We are designed to communicate about our faith to one another. I try my best to get anyone and everyone I meet to church…a Catholic church!
Right now, you may be thinking this sounds very judgmental. Well, yes and no. No, I am not judging the person who is struggling with their Catholic faith. No, I am not condemning them to hell because they have moved away from being Catholic. No, I am not saying I am better than they are because I am still Catholic. If that is what you are reading, you may want to become a better active listener and read it again. What I am saying YES to, what I am judging, is their actions. I AM judging their actions about moving away from their Catholic faith. I just want to know why they are no longer Catholic. And why do I want to know why…why don’t I mind my own business and “live and let live”? For me, that’s an easy answer. I believe that we are all called to help sharpen one another with the Truth of Jesus. The truth is that Jesus asked us to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. That doesn’t happen in a non-denominational church. Yes, it can be a good prayerful experience and some of these preachers at non-denominational churches are very charismatic. However, we are not doing as we are asked and sharing in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Many times, people who move away from the church do so because they are not actively engaged and involved in their faith. Usually this happens because they don’t understand something about their faith, and instead of searching for an answer, they search for another church that they can understand easily. They look for something that is not as hard to comprehend. Jesus’ teaching about the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood divided his followers from the get-go. You may not agree with my next statement, and it may rub some of you the wrong way, but truth is truth and it needs to be said. We are part of the problem! If we, as current practicing Catholic men and women, do not encourage others to explore their Catholic faith and understand the reasons they may want to turn away from the faith, we are not doing our job and transmitting our faith to one another. Does that mean we should run up to people we know that are no longer Catholic and wag a finger in their face, telling them to get back to being Catholic, or else…? Definitely not. We are asked to meet people where they are with their journey of faith and encourage them to grow deeper in their faith. Be loving, and speak the truth with love to one another.
The Catholic church loses more members after the Sacrament of Confirmation than any other time frame. Young adults between 16-24 are more likely to be drawn away from being Catholic and practicing the Catholic faith than any other age group. Why is that important? Who cares? Isn’t it just important for these people to attend any church, and isn’t any church better than no church at all?
Great questions, I’m glad I asked them! First, the future of our Catholic faith is determined by our actions today. Not our actions of the past, but from here on out, the success or failure of the Catholic faith is our responsibility as parents, teachers, teens, and adults. We need to broadcast proudly the fact that we are Catholic, and despite the imperfections of some of the people within our faith, our faith is completely perfect in every way because it is created by God. So the answer to “who cares” is…me! And you should care about your faith and be proud of it as well. More than it being something you “should” be proud of, it really is something you “need” to be proud of in every way.
As far as attending any church and it being the same…it’s just not. Let’s compare it to consuming food. Sure, you can eat tofu all the time, but you are never going to experience true satisfaction. You are never going to experience the full flavor, and benefits that truly enriching foods can bring to your body. The same goes with church. If you are not experiencing the Body and Blood of Jesus each and every time you attend Mass, then you are just going to a prayer experience in a different building. I do realize this is rubbing people the wrong way, but truth is truth and is neither intended to be pleasant or unpleasant…it is simply the truth. No apologies here!
When the truth rubs someone the wrong way, the natural reaction is to pull away from it, but that’s just a prideful reaction. We don’t want to be “wrong” as humans. We don’t walk around thinking we are wrong, I don’t think anyone does that! But when the Truth is spoken, we need to be able to recognize it and adapt our lives to live within the Truth. And the truth is simply that if you used to be catholic, you need to get back to the Catholic faith now! We don’t know the time of the Lord’s return, so live every second from this moment forward transmitting the Truth of our Catholic faith loud and proud!
So what’s your next step? Who do you know that used to be Catholic but isn’t any longer? Why not invite them to come to church with you this coming Sunday. Why not take some time to understand why they are no longer Catholic, and walk with them in their struggle to help gently guide them back to the Catholic faith. You may actually learn something about being Catholic yourself! So what are you waiting for, get on the phone and make it happen now!