“Ask a Priest: What If My Loved Ones Don’t Live the Faith?”

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Q: A number of my loved ones, including my parents and godmother, live lives contrary to Catholic teachings and never go to confession. They haven’t been in over 20 years and don’t believe they have done anything mortally sinful. I know for a fact they have missed Mass without reason, used birth control, and honestly just need a good confession. My best friend does go to confession occasionally, but she also uses birth control and doesn’t believe it to be sinful. In my own life, not counting NFP instructors, I only know one Catholic who didn’t use birth control. I am sorry for the rant but my question is this: Is there any hope for my loved ones? Can they be saved despite the lack of going to confession and repeatedly committing mortal sins? It breaks my heart to think people I love will go to hell. I have tried to convince them to go to confession. It falls on deaf ears. I pray God will have mercy on them. – A.V.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I’m sorry to hear about your friends and family members. Unfortunately, your family situation is not unique.

Many Catholics have drifted from the practice of the faith. The reasons vary. Even some Catholics who attend Mass regularly don’t always embrace Church teachings.

So what to do?

First, it’s good to remember that God alone knows the heart and mind of each person. Many people might suffer from inculpable ignorance. They are clueless about the faith. It might not be completely their fault, given the poor catechesis they received and possibly the bad example they have seen in other Catholics.

Second, there is always hope that they will see the light and return to the sacraments. This is where you own prayers and sacrifices and example might help immeasurably. You might not see the fruit of your prayers right away. That’s OK — the Holy Spirit has his moment to work in souls.

Third, you can start to look for way to catechize your relatives gently. You might leave books and pamphlets around your house that catch their eye. You might share with them (again, gently) how much confession and the Church’s teachings have helped you. Maybe you can share resources about the Church teaching on contraception, such as:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yBPmQDF5iI

https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/264/contraception-whynot.htm

You might also pray to St. Monica and offer up Masses for your loved ones’ conversion, and let them know that you are interceding for them. This might prompt them to ask themselves, “Why is she praying so intensely for us?”

Helpful, too, might be to think about how you can help catechize young people. Perhaps you can volunteer for CCD classes or offer a theology of the body course for teens at your parish.

Above all, be hopeful but realistic. God is still in charge. But people change slowly. Try to focus on being the best Catholic you can, and don’t get discouraged if it seems as though the folks around you aren’t quite on board with the faith. We are called to be faithful, not successful.

To maintain your own spiritual life, think about using our free Retreat Guides. Count on my prayers.

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