This may be helpful information, but how do we actually identify these “C & E” Catholics? Is Christmas and Easter the only time we will see them? No! They are all around us. They work with us, they are our neighbors and we probably see them at our kid’s sporting events. However, we will never know about their faith unless we ask. Sound intimidating? Start by talking about our own lives, where we work, our families, the parish we attend, etc. Transparency invites transparency and by sharing first, we can draw them into a meaningful dialogue which involves faith. Our parish Priests and Deacons may also be able to direct us to people who are struggling with their faith or left the Church. From here we can jump into the five actions listed above.
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Pray – Let’s include in our daily prayers a prayer that every Catholic who has fallen away will begin to actively practice their faith, just as we pray for other critical areas in our lives.
Make the way to Christ and the Catholic Church attractive and inviting – This one really hits home because we have to look inside ourselves and ask some difficult questions. Do people see the light of Christ when they look at us? Do we live out our faith in such a joyful way that we make the Catholic Church welcoming and appealing? Are we actually doing what we are asking them to do?
Stop judging… Engage, listen and love more – Let’s not stand with our arms crossed and a scowl on our faces when we encounter Catholics who have fallen away from the Church. We are not perfect and have no right to judge. Let’s engage them at every opportunity and simply listen. Based on what they share we need to offer a loving response and help them find their way back. CAUTION: We may hear some very difficult and angry responses. If so, help connect them to a knowledgeable Deacon or parish Priest for help and guidance.
Extend an invitation – This seems obvious, but when was the last time we invited someone we know who has fallen away from the Church to attend Mass with us? If they are not ready, start with a bible study or prayer group or simply keep investing and praying until they are ready to make this important step.
Direct them to the Catholics Come Home website (www.CatholicsComeHome.org) – This ministry’s sole purpose is to help people come back to the Church. The website provides outstanding Church resources and answers to difficult problems. If at all possible, get them to watch any of the powerful world-class videos on the website about the Catholic Church, especially EPIC.
I know this is not easy, but I promise you someone from a Protestant church is likely talking to a Catholic about having a personal relationship with Jesus even as you read this. They are describing the incredible music and wonderful sermons as they extend a warm invitation to attend their churches. Meanwhile, here we are in the Church Christ founded, possessing the fullness of the Faith and the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (the most personal relationship you can have with Christ!)… and we are making a mediocre effort. Let’s do something about the Disney-like longing Christmas and Easter Catholics may be experiencing and help them return to an active practice of our beautiful faith. We haven’t even addressed those who have left the Church and never come back or the billions of non-Catholics in the world. We are called to help everyone we encounter get to Heaven. Let’s reflect and pray today on how we are responding to that call.