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“Ask a Priest: What If I Never Felt Connected With the Church?”
Q: My mother is a Baptist convert to Catholicism. My father no longer practices Catholicism and is now some manner of evangelical Protestant. Growing up, I was raised in the Church until about age 13, and then my parents divorced. After the divorce, I mostly lived with my mother, but we moved and never really developed any connection to a church community. We went to random Catholic churches on Sunday, and as a kid I was never involved in Catholicism beyond Mass. My confirmation consisted of basically being home-schooled from the catechism by my mom and then being confirmed in a totally different part of the state by a priest related to my mother. After confirmation I had almost no personal interaction with the Church, and to make things more confusing, my mother sent me to a private Protestant school with really pronounced religious education. I feel tremendous guilt for my lack of any real faith to speak of, but my messy upbringing left me with a lot of theological and philosophical inconsistencies, and I’m not sure what to make of any of it. Now I am in my 20s and kind of outside the Church but also feeling as though I was never in the Church to start with. – A.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: I’m sorry to hear about your family situation. It is understandable that you feel disconnected from the Church, having moved around a lot and having parents with diverse religious practices.
If you were baptized and confirmed as a Catholic, you are certainly considered part of the Church. The Church considers you a beloved son. And even though you might not feel connected to God, God is definitely interested in helping you develop a relationship with him. In fact, your own sense of dissatisfaction with your current spiritual state is probably a kind of nudge from the Holy Spirit, deep in your soul, inviting you to take some steps toward a deeper encounter with the Lord: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
It sounds as though it would help you a lot to try to learn more about the faith and to come back to the sacraments and Mass attendance on a regular basis. Jesus gives us the sacraments to help us on our journey through life.
Maybe a few suggestions would help you right now.
First, it would be good to try to find a parish or, if you are in college, a Catholic center where you can attend Mass and speak with the pastor or chaplain. It helps enormously if to live the faith within a community.
Second, it might help to join an RCIA or some other kind of group where you could learn more about the faith. A Catholic should keep studying about the faith throughout the whole of life.
A few books might help here. Among them: Youth Catechism (or YouCat); Surprised by Truth; The Case for Catholicism; and Theology and Sanity.
Third, it might help to try to network with other young Catholics, perhaps through volunteer work. This builds community life and can put you in the company of people who are serious about their faith.
Fourth, it would be helpful to dedicate time each day to prayer and a bit of Scripture reading. At the heart of the Catholic faith is Jesus, the Son of God who suffered and died for our redemption. You want to get to know him through the Gospels and to speak to him in prayer. He is your best friend.
A book that might help you “pray” the Gospels is The Better Part.
And stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary through the rosary. She will guide you.
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