“Ask a Priest: How Should We Help a ‘Lost Sheep’?

Want to rate this?

Q: Many of us suffer greatly when our loved ones have strayed away from the faith and taken a less-than-attractive path. In addition to our prayers and sacrifices, how can we avoid going “overboard” in our efforts to encourage a conversion of heart? What is the best way to discern when to speak and when to be silent? -E.D., New England

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: This problem is painfully all too common today. Even the best of Catholic homes have their members who drift from the faith. Many parents and grandparents and siblings are heartbroken to see a loved one who lives far from the faith.

This is where the virtue of hope is so vital. We should never give up on a soul. Christ loves each and every person, and he is anxious to have everyone with him forever in heaven.

That said, we need to recall that conversion, like faith itself, is a gift of God. It is beyond our power. We simply can’t force anyone to convert. Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten a darkened heart and lead it back home.

To avoid going “overboard” in our efforts, first we need to commit ourselves to intense prayer for a soul. Prayer keeps us close to Jesus, reminds us of how much we need him, and how much he loves the person that we love. So offer up your Masses and your rosaries.

Second, offer up sacrifices for your loved one. Sacrifice helps make prayer that much more effective. A video on sacrifices appears at http://rcspiritualdirection.com/blog/2013/02/18/what-does-it-mean-to-offer-it-up.

Third, look for the right moments to share your own experience of faith. That is, let your loved one know how much your faith helps you. In a word, be a witness. Let the loved one process that data: He might not understand your faith, but he will be faced with the fact that it has deeply impacted your life.

Fourth, keep loving the other person. Christ certainly does. And don’t lose hope. The grace of conversion could come at any time.

As you do all of these things, trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you as regards knowing when to say what, and how much to say. God is even more interested than you are in bringing his straying sheep back to the fold.

When you feel your helplessness, throw yourself into the arms of the Good Shepherd and exercise your trust in his goodness. In the end, it is not up to us to save the world; it is up to Jesus. We are just junior partners.

Average Rating

What did you think?

Share your review! Just log in or create your free account.

  1. Oh how I love this question. I have been raised Catholic and so have my 4 brothers (I am the lone sister) I was called ‘shy’ in childhood, quiet in working adult life. I heard often, ‘you should talk more.’ Then, by the grace of God (actually grace that was always ‘slo-wly’ helping me ‘connect the dots’ between the Sunday School ‘facts’ and the FAITH ACTS (Sacramental life)

    I always was growing in faith… maybe not fully perceived by myself, much less others in my life. Then, due to a ‘bad working experience’ (called bullies) a priest suggested Spiritual Direction, the lay spiritual director spoke of Lectio DivinIa (meditative reading of bible verses) One phrase that popped out often was ‘pick up the cross and follow me’ (follow the Lord)

    Anyway, I wanted to share the AHA moments with relatives I thought would be SO HAPPY for me. They were not. They basically said ‘get a life’ ‘move on’ or sometimes blocked my email. ??? Confusing it was. If I spoke at table (to they who said I should talk more) I was rebuked, busted, or ‘talked through’ as though invisible.

    What’s it all about? It’s about SECULARISM that began mid 1960s. ‘do own thing.’ And FEELINGS that became ‘subjective truths’ for even ‘the degreed educated.’ It’s OK if it makes a person happy. (WHATEVER)
    Certainly all have different hobbies, work goals, and life goals… BUT… some take the pleasure seeking a bit far.
    OFFENDING ‘THE GOD’ and becoming ‘their own god.’ NO NEED FOR RELIGION . . . no one will tell them what to do. BASICALLY, trying to speak SPIRIT, RELIGION, HEAVEN . . . to such folks and expect resistance.

    Don’t take it personally… take no offense. . . the ‘game of this secular society is ‘to GET THE FAITHFUL mad, and thus claim: ‘see see she is not a Christian’ Christianity has become nothing but a ‘smile nice’ and ‘be popular with the most persons’ . . . aka ‘let it be, let it be’ (as went a 60s song) If they can rile the emotions of the one claiming to be of faith… they then can WALK AWAY… with their ‘halo’ shining (so they think)

    Live a quiet life, listen to ‘them’ . . . if they state ‘their truths’ . . . IGNORE it but see the Grace of God that now we know how to PRAY for them. Don’t imitate their ways. Be a ‘content worker’ . . . with average income and show how AVERAGE WORKERS live well . . . SLOW AND STEADY. The secular won’t care about hearing our good ways… but don’t think THEY DON’T NOTICE ‘our GO(O)D life’ of personal responsibility to self and
    others (quietly)

  2. ps: those who claim its all about FEELINGS… only care about THEIR FEELINGS, never how their ways and feelings they call truth… effects others. In the psychological field, it is called ‘narcissistic tendency’ if not full blown narcissistic disorder. Simply put: it is SELFISHNESS. (we all hear it expressed in actual children, cute as little children are, they express the narcissistic tendency as: WAAAAAAAH I WANNA I WANNA I WANNA!

    LITTLE CHILDREN need to BE LOVED, by the RESPONSIBLE ADULT PARENT who feeds, clothes, gives a toy for a special occasion, AND as child ages…. giving JOBS for the child to do around house: dusting furniture, vacuuming rug, making their bed, keeping room organized. AND with such asking… THE CHILD REALLY BEGINS TO ‘FEEL LOVED’ . . . and not just a dependent on mommy and daddy.

    So too with God, Father. He LOVED US even as His first creation disobeyed…. IN LOVE, He made his creation, ‘work out their salvation’ . . . . IN SERVICE TO GOD AND NEIGHBOR… but by reason of the Baptism waters that cleansed the soul… THE SPIRITUAL CHILD is ‘back in God’s good graced DIVINE FAMILY’ . . . with THE LIFE OF GOD’S ‘ONLY’ Divine Son there to guide in how we are to go… by reason of the HOLY SPIRIT (LOVE) … HOLY SPIRIT: The Father and The Son.

Leave a Reply

Get the Answers!

Get notified of future Ask a Priest answers via email

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Skip to content