As Catholic parents, our goal is to bring our children back to God by raising them in the Faith. Children grow up, as they often do, they will make their own choices and they may choose from turn away from the Faith.
As heartbreaking as that is, we are blessed to have a saint to model our faith and lives after in Saint Monica. As friends or family members who have fallen away, we can join this not so exclusive club and learn to pray as St. Monica did to save her son, St. Augustine and her husband. The Saint Monica Club, by Maggie Green, outlines the steps St. Monica followed to grow her own faith which in turn brought her loved ones back into God’s arms. Here are a few ways to begin.
It’s not quick
We are a society of “instant ratification.” We want things and we want them now. And when we don’t get what we want now, we grow impatient or weary, and may even completely give up. There is no quick “flip of the switch” prayer that we can pray or ask for the intercession of St. Monica which will convert their hearts immediately. We instead must remain faithful and steadfast in our own prayer life and faith, which may stir something in the family member we want to bring home.
It’s not an even exchange
Green explains she tried to negotiate with God to bring her prodigal home. She fasted and prayed and even tried “No bread but the Eucharist until she returns.” God doesn’t negotiate like that. She writes, “prayer isn’t a bargain; it’s an act of love. Devoted I might have been, but my prayer and fasting weren’t a gift. They were a bribe I hoped would win God over.”
Be kind, not nice
When there are tensions or estrangement in our family, we may try to avoid those “hot topics” that can lead to further conflict. Green writes, “We cannot be witnesses to our faith if we fear rejection, nor are we to go about using our faith like a battering ram.” We must remain kind in all occasions in order to show an uncompromising principle of love. We must be a source of peace, even when it is tempting to fight or fire back.
Be an example
Many times people have a vast misunderstanding of God’s laws and view them as hindering their freedom, God’s laws are actually a boundary to allow us the freedom to stay safe from sin and its consequence, death. “If you cannot stop someone from being a slave to whatever appetite has that person in the grips of addiction – be it fame, pleasure, honor, wealth, power, or glory – then be a reminder of what a life without addiction to sin looks like,” Green says. The easy of life without addiction will look more attractive when a sin causes someone who is constantly struggling to make ends meet or keep good friends, whatever the issue may be.
Find every excuse, any excuse to keep inviting them back to the Church. Even if it is as superficial as, “Your sister is singing at Mass, can you come support her?” While you may receive rejection, there will be times when they will come. Don’t give up! The worst thing that we can do is view them as a “lost cause.” God never gives up on his children, and even Jesus tells us of the parable of the ‘lost sheep,’ that he will leave the 99 to save the one! Keep calling, keep praying, don’t close the door or don’t ask because you don’t want to get on their nerves. The worst they can do is say no, which is when you can start finding the next way to invite them back.
Patience has never been a strong suit and waiting for a loved one to come home and back into the Church can be a long a painful journey. Maggie Green shares her own journey and knowledge in calling upon St. Monica to help us all bring back our own prodigals. The Saint Monica Club gives us encouragement and helpful ways to gently call friends or family back from being lost. It is a lonely club that none of us want to be apart of, but we can feel strengthened knowing that we are not actually alone. As Jesus said, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance,” (Luke 15:7) we too will rejoice in heaven when we are successful as St. Monica was bringing back her son into the Church.
St. Monica, pray for us.