“Ask a Priest: What If My Grandkids’ Faith Is Shaky?”

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Q: I have five beautiful grandchildren, ages 16 to 24. The two oldest are in college and live with their mother in an upstairs apartment above me. They have been a big part of my life for the past nine years, ever since their parents’ divorce. I love them both very much and am concerned about their spiritual well-being. Their attitude about church and moral teachings shocks me, and I have talked to my daughter about this. She seems to be OK with whatever they think and doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. I am being accused of not loving them enough because they don’t agree with how I view our Catholic faith. Needless to say, this has created a rift between us. I don’t regret expressing my beliefs but am not sure that this is the way I should have handled it. I want us to be whole again. Please advise. I need guidance. – S.M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about the grandchildren’s position. It must be adding to the heartbreak the family has already suffered over the divorce.

It is not uncommon for young adults to rebel against Church teaching. They are at a stage of life when they are trying to find their identity and to figure out things for themselves.

Sometimes they think they need to dump the things they learned in childhood in order to start over fresh. And if they identify the Church and its teachings with their own parents, the divorce could have especially impacted their faith.

This isn’t to justify their rejection of the faith. It’s just that at this stage the best you might be able to do is to intensify your prayer for them, to be as good a witness of the faith as you can be, and to look for ways to show your love for them.

In practical terms, this means looking for opportunities to share what the faith has meant to you. The idea here is not to lecture them, but to give witness to the good things God has done in your life.

You might also look to have good books and magazines around the house — publications that catch the attention of curious eyes. This could include books like the Youth Catechism (or YouCat), the Compendium of the Catechism; and the Surprised by Truth series and other works by Patrick Madrid.

Helpful too would be having publications such as Catholic Answers magazine on the coffee table (though you’d want to read it yourself!).

If you hear dissent on certain issues of the faith, you might want to do some research in order to be able to answer objections. The Catholic Answers site has a lot of apologetics material that could help you.

And consider tuning in to Catholic radio if it’s available in your area. You could check the websites of Relevant Radio and Catholic Answers to see where they broadcast. Or download their apps. By tuning in a few times a week you can pick up a lot of knowledge of the Church and get suggestions on how to defend the faith.

Also, don’t get discouraged about the grandchildren. With God’s grace (and a grandmother’s prayers) they might come back to the faith.

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