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“Ask a Priest: How Can I Help a Non-believing Sibling?”
Q: I come from a family of deeply committed Anglican Christians. My great aunts never missed church and at my request began taking me to Sunday services from time to time as a child. Unfortunately, my mother and father who lead good lives influenced by Christian values never really took a great interest in either mine or my brother’s spiritual development. This didn’t bother me greatly — until around two years ago. Since then I have become increasingly more aware of my beliefs. My feet are itching, and I feel that Christ is making himself known to me in so many ways. I find that I am almost constantly thinking about God, theology, morality, what I can and should be doing for others, and just wanting to learn more about the faith. I am not part of any church, nor was I baptized, which I feel puts me at some disadvantage. My question is about my younger brother, who is 17 and a non-believer. How can I help guide him? I feel that reciting Scripture would make him feel alienated and as if I was being judgmental. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. -J.C.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is very clear that God is at work in your life. The “itchy feet” are, I surmise, a result of his own pursuit of you. He created you, redeemed you, and has a wonderful dream for your life. You are not indifferent to him. As Francis Thomson wrote, the Lord is like the “Hound of Heaven” who pursues us, out of love, “down the nights and down the days.” I hope you keep seeking to respond to all that he is doing in your life.
As regards your specific question, there is an old expression, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” What that means in practice is that, in order to give your non-believing brother something about Christianity, you need to have a grasp of it yourself.
Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God to man. That is why Christianity has a lot of the answers to the questions that unsettle the human heart. The gateway into Christianity is through baptism.
You might want to work on your own spiritual life first, and in the meantime pray for your brother and continue to be for him what you believe a big brother should be. This means building a relationship with God. This is the same as building a relationship with Jesus, the Son of God who took on human nature and suffered and died for us.
So you want to get to know Jesus better. One way is through the Gospels. Another would be to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament in a Catholic church. The Blessed Sacrament (also called the Eucharist) is Christ truly present.
You might consider doing a few of the online retreats at RCSpiritualty.org. Further suggestions include making time for prayer each day. The Better Part, by my colleague Father John Bartunek, is a good book to help you learn to pray.
Moreover, you might try looking at the Catechism of the Catholic Church or its Compendium. These give excellent overviews of all the important facets of the Catholic faith.
At some point, you might want to consider asking for baptism. In the Catholic Church that would normally come for adults after the RCIA program.
Take some of these steps, and the Holy Spirit will guide you. Then you might find that you have more to offer your brother.