Evangelizing Adult Children

September 23, 2022 | NEW METHODS

It is heartbreaking for faithful Catholic parents when children abandon the Church and God. Parents can easily succumb to frantic worry when they start to witness their young adult children’s faithfulness to Mass begins to wane. It can quickly turn into a battle as parents attempt all ways to penetrate the soul to bring them back to church. Parents will pull out all sorts of good old-fashioned Catholic guilt— Or out of depseration, parents may even try to use the fear factor:

“What must your grandmother be thinking?”

“You’re breaking my heart!”

“The only thing I want for my birthday is for you to go to Mass with me.”

“God must be so sad.”

“I spent all that money sending you to Catholic school!”

Or out of depseration, parents may even try to use the fear factor:

“Do you want to go to hell?!?”

“Have you read about God’s wrath in the Bible?!?”

“Missing Mass is a mortal sin. Do you know what happens when you die with a mortal sin on your soul? YOU GO TO HELL!”

Fear and guilt do not yield a faithful Catholic. Going to Mass does not make one faithful Catholic. Only a conversion of heart sparked by a personal encounter with God will make one open to a faithful relationship with God and His Church. God does not take away our free will nor should we take our adult child’s will through methods of force. Imagine if the only reason your child spent time with you was out of fear or guilt. Would that be a relationship? As parents, we want our children to desire to be with us. Why would it be any different with their Heavenly Father? An invitation is always better than force. A gentle invitation speaks louder than guilt or fear. Brandon Vogt in the book, Return, lists five mistakes that will almost certainly keep your child away:

1. Force him to Mass

2. Criticize his lifestyle

3. Nag him

4. Dismiss his objections

5. Assume you can change him

Now that we’ve discussed some non-productive methods of bringing your adult children into relationship with God, let’s look at a better battle plan. It may sound cliché but begin by praying and don’t stop. Jesus tells the parable of the persistent friend.

"And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ 7 and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence."

Luke 11:5-8

Most parents pray for their children at some point. Far less utilize two other powerful practices to enhance their prayer: fasting and sacrificing. Most Catholic are familiar with the practice of fasting and sacrifice because of Lent, but many don’t know the power behind the practice. In Scripture, we hear about a boy plagued by an evil spirit who the disciples could not drive out. In some manuscripts, when they asked Jesus why they could not heal the boy of the evil spirit, He tells them, “But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.” Mt 17:21

Contrary to what many Catholics believe, fasting and sacrificing does not only involve food. One can offer to make little fasts and sacrifices from anything that is favored…a favorite show, activity, or little luxury. Parents can also offer their big and small sufferings of daily life as a form of prayer for their children.

Giving a spiritual book, a holy card, or other sacramental is an easy way to plant a seed without being too pushy. Gently plant seeds of faith as the Holy Spirit prompts. Listen not only to the Holy Spirit, attentively listen to your child. Listening may open a door to a future conversation where at the right time, you can walk through the door together.

In the end, remember all this is done out of love for your child. Just as God offers His unconditional love each time we stray, so too should parents offer unconditional love as they work to bring them back into the embrace of God and His Church.




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