“Ask a Priest: What to Do About Wayward Relatives?”

Q: How do you know when a person is full of evil? How do you protect those around you from this evil, especially in your family? For example, I have a family member who is an atheist and is extremely materialistic. What do you do with someone who has that influence among the younger members of the family? There is another member of my family who is extremely narcissistic and who is trying to take control of an elderly person in my family, using religion as a basis for their evil doings. How do I deal with such evil? -C.M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: There are no easy solutions to the problems that you mention. Atheism and narcissism and materialism are rampant nowadays, and people who dabble in them can, unfortunately, influence others. Whether they are full of evil or just badly misguided, I leave to Our Lord’s judgment.

A short (though not easy) answer to your questions could be twofold.

One, it might take a lot of prayer and sacrifice on your part to help convert your relatives. So be prepared for the long haul. One thing that can help you is to try to see them as Jesus sees them. He suffered and died for each one of your relatives. In the eyes of Jesus they aren’t “the enemy.” They are beloved sons and daughters of his Father in heaven. If you can see those relatives with the same eyes of love, it will be easier for you to pray for and sacrifice for them.

Two, and this is linked to the first step, is your own example of holiness and zeal for the faith. You need to model the faith as best you can. Your prayer life, your life of charity — all this can make an impact on others.

Let’s face it: Atheism and materialism and narcissism are ultimately dead ends. When people reach them, they either despair or they look for an alternative. Your example of Christian living can be that example.

But be realistic and patient. People don’t change quickly. And some might not change much at all, at least it might seem that way to us. No matter. Keep up the prayer life, the sacramental life, the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the life of charity. “Be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient” (2 Timothy 4:2).

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