So what does one do if their child, spouse, or sibling has left the faith? In proper form let us first say what one should not do (As a disclaimer, I would say that the following are drawn entirely from personal opinion based upon pastoral experiences and my own acquaintances who have left the faith): We should not call them repeatedly asking if they went to Mass on Sunday. As a general rule, this tends to be counter-productive for most. We should not come to Mass with our children on Sunday, gossiping about others all the way there and all the way home. We should not “talk” the Catholic faith, all the while “walking” the walk of pornography which we naively think our children are unaware of. We should not send our children to PRE or Catholic schools to learn the faith, without actually taking the time to know it and live it ourselves.
Vis-à-vis these elements of what should be avoided, there are some things we should do: Show healthy affection and deep respect for one’s spouse and allow your children see it from time to time (this is a tremendous catechesis on marriage and faith). We should allow our children to see us standing in line at least a few times a year for confession (as a priest I do the same thing). They won’t forget it.
Finally, we should actually learn our faith. Ask yourself the following questions: What are the four marks of the faith? What are the mysteries of the rosary? How did we get the rosary? Why is it important that Mary was virginal? What is the difference between the Assumption and Ascension? What do the individual liturgical colors mean? What are the four cardinal virtues? What are the two liturgies that compose the Catholic mass? What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Why are priests celibate? What is the difference between an occupation and a vocation? What is the difference between the Catholic bible and the Protestant bible? What are the four parts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Does hell really exist? While most Catholics believe these basic facets of the faith, few can actually articulate them. As the apostle Peter noted, learning our faith, explaining our faith, and living our faith are prerequisites to helping those considering leaving our faith: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1Pt 3:15).
Moral truth and personal holiness are inextricably linked. As the Christian adage asserts, “Integrity is the best catechesis,” so too is the personal witness of love, prayer, and obedience to the faith pivotal in helping to secure our fellow Catholics and children in the faith as well. In his typically frank and non-assuming manner, Pope Francis has consistently reiterated this point during his brief tenure as Pontiff. If we genuinely believe then that “all reform begins with reform of self,” then the first step in bringing back a “fallen away” Catholic is to take a long hard look in the mirror.