“Ask a Priest: Should I Enter the Church Secretly?”

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Q: I am 15 years old. I was raised in an evangelical Protestant family. However, last year I was exposed to Catholicism through a Catholic friend, and after thorough research and lots of prayer, I came to realize that the Catholic Church was the One True Church. After asking my parents if I could convert, I was given a firm no. My mother is extremely anti-Catholic, seeing as she was raised Baptist. She shoved in my face the commandment that said, “Respect your parents,” and for a while, I accepted this commandment and decided to wait until I was 18 to enter the Church. Later that year, though, I came upon Matthew 19:29, which calls those who forsake their parents, for the sake of the Lord, “blessed.” This really made me think, why should I place respect for my parents above respect for God? Should I truly listen to them over listening to God? And I concluded that the answer was no. I guess what I’m trying to ask is, should I enter the Church secretly? And if so, how would I do this, could I approach my local priest and ask him to bring me into the Church without going through RCIA? I really want to do what is best in this situation, I long for the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Please help me. –N.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is wonderful to hear that you feel so drawn to the Catholic Church and that you are willing to pursue it despite the opposition from loved ones.

There is no contradiction between honoring your parents and honoring God. It’s just that God must always come first. By following him, you will actually be in a better position to love your parents, since your prayers for them could have more power.

Honoring one’s parents doesn’t mean going along with their mistakes. In this case you are old enough to make your own decisions about religion. In this case your parents’ authority is limited. This is what Jesus implied when he said that his followers should be willing to forgo parents in order to follow him (see Luke 14:26).

Now, as for entering the Church secretly, that is a more delicate issue. In principle I wouldn’t recommend doing anything momentous like entering the Church without your parents’ knowledge. They do love you and should know what you are up to, especially in big matters. Besides, to enter the Church secretly would only reinforce their mistaken idea that Catholicism is something bad, that it is “stealing their daughter.”

Moreover, your public entry into the Church would be a powerful witness of your faith. It could help and inspire others. The process of joining the Catholic Church, if undergone patiently and courageously, could even be an instrument that God uses to move your parents’ hearts in the Church’s direction.

The best thing would be to speak with a local pastor and explain your situation. He could recommend ways to proceed.

This process, out in the open, would allow you to live in peace, in the sense that you won’t be trying to live a double life at home. True, you might face continued opposition, but at least you will be honest and forthright about where you stand.

Remember, too, that if God wants you in the Church (and I’m sure he does), he will give you the grace to do it. Feel free to attend Mass. Jesus knows that you want to receive the Eucharist, and your decision to wait and follow the right steps is pleasing to him. You might also seek out a Catholic youth group who could give you support at this time.

For your continued spiritual growth you might consider using resources such as The Better Part and the online retreats at RC Spirituality.

In the meantime keep praying for your parents. Ask the Spirit to enlighten their hearts. And stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She will intercede for you, her beloved daughter.

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