You did everything right as a parent. You took your child to Mass each Sunday, holy days of obligation, and sacrificed to pay a Catholic School tuition bill. Now, your child is an adult and no longer wants anything to do with the Church. Where did you go wrong? What do you do now? Put on your gear, you’re heading for war. Let’s be clear, you are not warring or battling against your child – but rather for your child. Are you prepared?
Like it or not, you were drafted into a war. “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. (I Peter 5:8 NAB) Your opponent is out to destroy you and your family. He is not sitting idly by on his hands waiting for someone to walk into his path before he tries to attack. He is “prowling” as St. Peter says. He is searching. He is moving. He is working….and so should you be.
As a military spouse and daughter, one thing is certain when you go to war. You cannot win without the proper equipment. St. Paul gives us the armor we should use on the front lines if we want to be victorious. In Ephesians 6:10-18 he gives us our battle plan.
“Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” (vs. 11) He does not say we might be able to win. He does not say this is a “good plan” that “could possibly work”. He says we WILL be able to stand firm if we use the right equipment.
“your loins girded with truth” (vs . 14) It’s important to understand that we must stand on the truth. The truth from the Word of God and from the Church must be part of our armor. If your child asks a question or raises a challenge you do not know how to respond then seek the truth from the Bible or Church teachings before answering. Bishop Robert Barron warns us to not answer if we are not certain of the truth. “Don’t rely upon half-truths or lies just because they might help you ‘win the argument’; don’t make stuff up to avoid looking ignorant or wrong; don’t sacrifice truth for the sake of the ‘win’. Lying is losing.”
“clothed with righteousness” (vs . 14) If your life is telling your child that Mass and your faith is just a ritual, an item on a weekly to-do list, or something other than a relationship then you will lose. “The most effective armor that you have in this fight is holiness.” (Bishop Barron) Your faith needs to be more than an addition to your life. It must BE your life. If your child only sees you fighting with others, being negative about everything, and making your career or other things the most important thing in life then you cannot expect your child to view faith as important. In other words, you must walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
“your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace” (vs. 15) Do not force your child to attend Mass. Do not harp or nag your child about their lifestyles, choices, or “bad decisions”. Instead, show your child by example and by loving conversation there is something better for their life. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:29) There is nowhere else your child will find peace other than Jesus. Use opportunities that arise in their life where they are stressed or anxious to simply guide them toward Jesus. When they are facing anxiety, fear, stress, or worry simply remind them to pray about the situation. If they’re facing unemployment, tell them to pray about a new job and tell them you are asking God to open a door for them.
“hold faith as a shield” (vs. 15) Protect yourself from the darts of the enemy. Read the daily scripture readings, then go back and read the context in your Bible from where the readings are taken. Spend at least 30 minutes a day in prayer and Bible readings or readings from the saints. You must stay grounded in your faith and never give up. Never lose hope. Never start believing you have been defeated and your child will not return to the Church. Remember St. Augustine and pray to his mother, St. Monica for her intercession. Pray to St. Augustine for intercession. Study the lives of the saints and be encouraged God wants your child to close to Him more than even you want it.
“the helment of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (vs .17) Let’s take a brief look at what Jesus did when Satan tried to tempt him to sin and give it all up. In Matthew 7:1-11 we see where Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness and he uses everything from hunger to power to tempt Jesus. Satan even used scripture to do it! You must start by learning scripture. I’m not talking about memorizing scripture and being able to quote it like the lyrics to your favorite song. It’s about knowing the Gospel and making it personal. You must have a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer, receiving the sacraments, regular confession, weekly Mass (daily if possible) and rely on God.
Prayer and the Word of God are your greatest assets when it comes to bringing your child back to the Church. But, stop focusing on bringing them back to Mass and to the Church and turn your focus into helping them have a personal relationship with Jesus. You can’t introduce them to someone you do not have a relationship with. Cultivate your relationship with Jesus, strengthen it, and shower your own spiritual life in prayer along with praying for your child and you will soon see victory.